As a little girl obsessed with ballerinas, I had always dreamed of one day visiting Russia. Fast forward to joining Emirates in 2012 and that dream was finally realised! Over the course of 5 years I have been lucky enough to visit two beautiful cities in Russia numerous times – St Petersburg and Moscow.
I have trawled through old emails to to my parents, whatsapp conversations on my old iPhone 5 and searched through thousands of old pictures on my nearly extinct macbook to bring you this post on my travels to Russia. Get ready for some serious throwbacks ahead!
St Petersburg has a certain magic about it. It is hands down my favourite city in Russia because of the sheer beauty and grandeur you witness. It’s nearly impossible to take a bad photo here! An instagram opportunity at each and every turn.
I have been lucky enough to visit St Petersburg twice. Experiencing it once in the middle of winter and last week where they seemed to be experiencing a heat wave – it was 24 degrees and sunny!
The Winter Palace in its brilliant shade of green is by far the standout masterpiece of the city. I adore the Baroque style and was interested to learn that an architect named Francssco Bartolomeo was commissioned to create it in 1731 (maybe that’s why I love it so much!) It originally was the main residence for the Russian Tsars until 1917. It is now home to the incredible Hermitage Museum, the largest art gallery in Russia and renown around the world.
I would highly recommend a visit to the Hermitage but you will definitely need to set aside a whole day to explore the many rooms. My favourites included the palace interiors in particular the Throne Room, Armorial Hall and Nicholas II’s Library which has been preserved in its original English Gothic decor. The Jordan staircase which you ascend on arrival should not be missed. Adorned with marble and gilded in gold a magnificent painting of the Greek Gods on Mount Olympus is visible on the roof.
A short walk from the Winter Palace is another must see sight of St Petersburg – the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The church was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was killed and is a memorial to him.
Modelled after St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow I recommend taking a visit inside as well as it is just as spectacular. The interior including the ceilings are covered in thousands of beautiful mosaics. The church is situated on the Griboedov Canal which on my first visit to St Petersburg was completely frozen. Now that Spring has sprung in Russia and the sun is out people on jet skis were enjoying the warmer weather and riding down the canal!
The great thing about St Petersburg is the fact that all the main attractions are easily all walkable from one another especially during the warmer months. The St Petersburg Mosque is another highlight you should put on your list as it is the largest mosque in Russia. Decorated in beautiful shades of blue, the detail on one of the portals outside is just amazing.
I recommend popping into Katyusha for lunch or dinner albeit extremely touristic I loved it!! The decor is amazing – think lace, shawls and velvet designed to look like you have stepped into a 19th century Cossack house. The menu includes mostly Russian dishes like pies, dumplings, soup and of course caviar. Don’t forget to pick up some delicious Russian Alyonka chocolate during your stay. I stocked up well on my most recent trip so I could enjoy it all back in Dubai. It is delicious!!
I revisited Moscow for the 5th time last month and I must say it does look pretty spectacular covered in snow. I was freezing but experiencing it in the snow was so worth it! Moscow was one of my very first layovers as crew with Emirates and I completed the majority of my flights there during the time I worked in Economy class.
Here I am you young and fresh faced on one of my very first trips in 2013! I definitely had to rug up a lot more on my most recent trip though, it was -4!!. A visit to the Red Square where the colourful St. Basil’s Cathedral is located is a must for any trip to Moscow. It looks particularly beautiful at twilight so try and time your visit for then.
I have never actually been inside which means I am just going to have to do a Moscow flight once more to finally see the interior of this Russian icon! I am sure it is as stunning as the exterior. Check out this picture that one of the crew sent me circa 2013. I had to look through my Samsung phone from 2012 whatsapp chat to find this gem!
The State Historical Museum stands glorious in its red brick. It is located at the other end of Red Square opposite St. Basils. You will find a lot of stalls around the museum selling souvenirs like magnets and ushankas which are Russian style hats. Remember to bargain though and don’t pay too much!
GUM Department Store in my opinion is the most beautiful mall in the world! The building itself is glorious with a marvellous glass ceiling letting natural light flow in. It is now home to many high end luxury boutiques but even if you don’t intend to purchase anything you must pop in and have a look!
It is always beautifully decorated no matter what time of year you visit. I particularly loved the autumnal decorations. Take a visit to the central fountain and enjoy an ice-cream where you can sit, relax and people watch.
The mall is over two and a half football fields long and was built over 100 years ago. The interior looks more like a palace than a mall and the three floors are connected by beautifully arched bridges. There are so many lovely cafes at either end of the mall that offer stunning views, find one and I recommend trying some Borscht soup. I love it!
I never leave Moscow without a few souvenirs – of course some Alyonka (I am addicted) and I even picked up this little hat to keep me warm in the freezing cold!
Have you even been to Russia if you havn’t picked yourself up a matryoshka doll?! I am now the proud owner of this blue 9 piece cutie and on one of my subsequent trips I also ended up picking up the pink version! They’re both sitting pride of place on my dresser.
Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane of all of my Russian layovers. Hopefully I have inspired you to make a visit to one of these beautiful Russian cities!