TOP WINTER DESTINATIONS IN RUSSIA FOR 2017
Russia attracts many tourists due to its changeable seasons - in spring it’s fresh and sunny with celebrations to mark the end of winter, summer is green and warm and people make the most of the nice weather, autumn is cooler but the nature turns to beautiful shades of reds, oranges and yellows and of course winter is snowy and cold – which is how many people picture Russia. In fact visiting the same city in summer and in winter is often like visiting two different cities.
Summer is often considered to be the main tourist season in Russia as the days are long and usually warm (although this cannot of course always be guaranteed!). But Russia is a northern country and so winter tourism is also well developed and the country offers a wide range of winter sports, including in Sochi and at Mount Elbrus - the highest mountain in Europe. For the less active tourists there is the opportunity to travel around the winter wonderland of the Golden Ring cities or to travel across frozen landscapes on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Unstable global events affecting tourism in countries which traditionally offer some winter sun for Russians and the weak Russian rouble mean that for the winter of 2016 many Russians will remain in Russia for their holidays. Therefore it is best to plan your winter holiday in Russia in advance as even though Russia has a wide range of winter destinations, not all have sufficient tourist infrastructure and hotels and train tickets will sell out quickly especially during the public holidays.
We have prepared for you an overview of some of the most interesting destinations in Russia for winter 2016 where you will be able to enjoy a real Russian winter.
Local Time: MSC + 5 hours
Distance From Moscow: 5100km
Average Temperature: -20C
Lake Baikal, as the world’s deepest and purest lake, needs no fancy advertising. But not everybody realises that Baikal also makes a great place to visit in the winter and not just in summer. You can’t experience Baikal’s beauty anywhere else – absolutely see-through ice a metre or more thick, sunny weather and crystal clear air – and it can’t fail to make an impression. The main activity here is travelling on the frozen lake, either on foot, on skates, by hovercraft or even by car. The thickness of the ice reaches between 1.5 and 2 metres and so it is quite safe to travel on. At the beginning of March Lake Baikal hosts the world’s only international marathon on ice, where participants run 42km over the frozen lake.
Many types of winter sports are possible around Baikal, including dog sleighing, riding on snowmobiles, skiing and skating. In addition horseriding, fishing trips, cross country skiiing and excursions around ecological routes are also possible here.
WHEN TO GO TO LAKE BAIKAL
Because of its size and geographical location, Lake Baikal has its own climate. Although it consists of pure fresh water, it usually only freezes over in the second half of February. However the climate around the lake is rather unstable and sometimes it freezes over as early as January and as late as the end of February. Therefore in order to ensure you will be able to go out on the ice it is best to plan your trip for the last week of February or in March. If you just want to see snow and go on a snowmobile, ski or go dog sleighing, and are not too concerned with seeing the lake frozen, you should have enough snow by the end of November.
WEATHER AROUND LAKE BAIKAL
Like most regions in Siberia, Lake Baikal usually enjoys sunny but freezing weather. This is especially true in March when the difference in day time and night time temperatures can even range between 15C and 25C degrees. The Baikal sun could even give you a winter tan!
HOW LONG TO GO TO LAKE BAIKAL FOR
There is not much point in flying to Baikal from Moscow or St Petersburg for just a weekend as it is too far, with too big a time difference (five hours) and with too large distances between sights. It is therefore best to come for at least five days to see the main sights the lake has to offer (such as Olkhon Island and Listvyanka) and to enjoy some of the winter activities available.
HOW TO GET TO LAKE BAIKAL
The closest airport to the lake and the largest railway station is located in Irkutsk, which is around 5,100km from Moscow. You can travel this distance either by train or by plane. The closest point of Lake Baikal from Irkutsk is at Listvyanka which is 75km away.
- By train it takes around 80 hours (about three and a half days). As Irkutsk is situated on the Trans-Siberian Railway it is possible to visit the world's deepest lake as part of a trip on the world's longest railway.
Average price: USD300 | Second class and USD545 | First Class | one way
- A flight from Moscow to Irkutsk takes about 5½ hours and most of these are night flights there and day flights back. Flights to Irkutsk leave from all of Moscow's airports.
Average price: from USD400 in economic class | return ticket
- From St Petersburg it is only possible to fly to Irkutsk via Moscow or Novosibirsk.
Average price: USD350 in economic class with a stopover in Novosibirsk | return ticket
Local Time: Moscow time
Distance From Moscow: 900km
Average Temperature: -20C
Veliky Ustyug is the official residence of Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost - the Russian equivalent of Father Christmas. His actual residence is located in the forests outside the city of Veliky Ustyug and it is here where he lives, receives letters from Russian children and prepares their presents (if they have been good of course) and where he receives guests, wishes them a happy new year and poses for photographs with children.
In addition to its connections with Grandfather Frost, the city is worth visiting to see a traditional historical Russian provincial city which has presevered a large part of its 19th century architecture and town-planning. In the city there are many historical buildings and museums dedicated to various themes surrounding the everyday life of locals and the traditional trades and history of the city. It is a pleasant city to walk around and children love slegding down the high banks of the River Sukhona.
You can also visit master classes in woodcarving or icon painting; the city has a strong history of icon painting and a 12 century icons from the city are now on display in Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery. It is also definitely worth visiting the Museum of New Year Toys which has an enormous and unique collection of decorations for Christmas trees from various periods of time. In addition you can also ride snowmobiles through the thick forests surrounding the city.
WHEN TO GO TO VELIKY USYUG
Between December and February Veliky Ustyug is an extremely popular destination for families with young children who want to visit Grandfather Frost, therefore at this time you might have problems in finding a hotel or even a restauarant as they are usually closed for group events. The very peak of the season is during the long Russian New Year holidays in the first two weeks of the year. Therefore it is definitely best to avoid Veliky Ustyug during this period as you won't be able to fully enjoy your visit due to the amount of tourists.
It is best to visit in Feburary or March, as then there are a lot less tourists and you can enjoy the sights and charms of Russian winter in a provincial city in more peace.
WEATHER IN VELIKY USYUG
Winter in Veliky Ustyug is normally not that cold for Russian standards. The average temperature in February is around-10C or -15C, although temperatures as cold as -30C are not unheard of, so it is best to make sure you bring lots of layers of clothing. You should also bear in mind that even though in February the days are already getting longer, the daylight hours here are nevertheless still rather short and so you should try and fit in as many activities as possible in the morning and early afternoon while the sun is still up.
HOW LONG TO GO TO VELIKY USTYUG FOR
If you go to Veliky Ustyug with a child then we recommend staying there for three or four days. This will be enough time to walk around the city, look around the many museums, visit Grandfather Frost and attend various master classes. You can also combine a trip to Veliky Ustyug with a trip to Vologda and Yaroslavl, or if you want to go deeper into Russia you can combine it with a trip to the beautiful historical city of Solvychegodsk where Stalin was exiled and where there is now a museum to him.
HOW TO GET TO VELIKY USYUG
Veliky Ustyug is located rather deep in the provinces of Russia. Only special tourist trains come here around the New Year period especially to take children to see Grandfather Frost. The closest railway station with good train connections is located in Kotlas 71km from Veliky Ustyug.
- From Moscow it takes around 18 hours to get to Kotlas, leaving Moscow in the afternoon and arriving in Kotlas in the morning.
Avarage price: USD45 | Second class | one way
- From St Petersburg the train takes almost a whole day, leaving in the morning and arriving the following morning in Kotlas.
Avarage price: USD45 | Second class and USD85 | First Class | one way
There are flights between Moscow, St Petersburg and Veliky Ustyug, but these are generally operated by older Russian planes, so you are probably best to stick to the train.
REPUBLIC OF KARELIA
Local Time: Moscow Time
Distance From Moscow: 1020km
Average Temperature: -20C
Karelia is the closest part of Russia from Moscow and St Petersburg where you can experience a real Russian winter, ride on a dog sleigh through endless forests, cross the frozen surface of Lake Onega on snowmobiles, try national Karelian cuisine and admire the wonderful wooden architecture of the Russian North. Karelia is known as a republic of forests and lakes and therefore the air here is clean and the snow is blindingly white.
The republic is also home to one of the wonders of Russian wooden architecture - the Transfiguration Church on Kizhi Island. The church is built completely out of wood and was assembled without using any nails. The capital of Karelia is Petrozavodsk which is 1,000km north of Moscow. It is one of the most well developed tourist centres of Russia. Close to the city on the shores of lakes Onega, Syamozero and Suoyarvi are many holiday resorts, most of them consisting of cosy wooden cabins.
WHEN TO GO TO KARELIA
From December to March the temperature in the region is around -10C to -20C, although sometimes it can fall even lower. The most comfortable winter weather for a holiday here is from January to mid-March.
WEATHER IN KARELIA
Snow begins to lay at the end of November or the beginning of December but if you plan to go on a dog sleigh or a snowmobile it is better to plan your trip for some time between the end of December to mid-March. Lake Onega freezes over in February and the ice remains until mid-March.
Karelia is one of the most popular winter destinations for Muscovites and people from St Petersburg, therefore it is best to book your trip in advance; tickets sell out for weekend trains especially quickly.
HOW LONG TO GO TO KARELIA FOR
You can go to Karelia for just a short period although it would be best to have at least two whole days there. However there is certainly enough to do there for even a week or more.
HOW TO GET TO KARELIA
Karelia has good transport links with both Moscow and St Petersburg, which is relatively close for Russian standards.
- From Moscow the best way is to get the Karelia premium night train. It has a convenient schedule and runs daily. It takes 12 hours. First and second class carriages are available.
Avarage price: USD85 | Second class and USD140 | First Class | one way
- From St Petersburg it is a little easier as it is much closer to Petrozavodsk than Moscow. There are two trains available – the Lastochka express train which runs in the evenings and takes five hours or an ordinary night train which takes 8 hours. First and second class carriages are available on the night train. Both trains operate daily.
Avarage price in the night train: USD15 | Second class and USD45 | First Class | one way
Avarage price in the Lastochka train: USD15 | Second class | one way
REPUBLIC OF YAKUTIA
Local Time: MSC + 6 hours
Distance From Moscow: 8300km
Average Temperature: -35C
Yakutia (or Sakha as it is also known) is the largest region of Russia and a land of unspoilt nature – moutains, rivers, lakes and tundra. It is the homeland of the people known as Yakuts or the Sakha - a Turkic people who speak a language of the Siberian branch of the Turkic languages and are famed for their skills in animal husbandry, especially reindeers, horses and cattle. In addition to the Yakuts, Yakutia is also home to the Evenks, Evens and Yukaghir people, as well as, of course, Russians. Many of these people have retained their traditional activities of hunting, fishing and reindeer herding.
Yakutsk is the capital of the republic and in winter it is only for the brave as it is one of the coldest cities on earth. The settlement of Oymyakon has the world record for the coldest temperature for a permanently inhabited place on Earth (-67.78C). The record was set on 6 February 1933 and for a settlement with 472 people it is rather large compared to other places on the cold list.
Yakutia is not just worth visiting to experience the cold:
- around 40% of the republic is located in the Arctic Circle
- more than 90% of the republic is covered with virgin forests, lakes and rivers which are completely untouched by industry.
- more than 15% of the world's wilderness is located in Yakutia.
The best examples of mamoth remains are also found here. In addition, you can see in Yakutia ancient rock paintings of ancient humans. Competitions in a tug-of-war involving frozen fish and catching reindeers with lassos are also held here. Finally many interesting pagan rituals are still observed by the native people – including the worship of lightning as a spirit of nature.
WHEN TO GO TO YAKUTIA
Winter in Yakutia is very cold and long therefore any of the winter months will give you a real cold and snowy experience. The coldest period is from December to the end of February and in this period the temperature can drop to -50. Along with the temperature, flight prices also fall and it is much cheaper to visit during this time.
WEATHER IN YAKUTIA
As you will have gathered by now, it gets very, very cold in Yakutia. The extreme continental climate means that the air is very dry and the termperatures can rise and fall 20 degrees in short periods. Whereas in the European part of Russia the coldness is felt immediately due to the high humidity, in Yakutia you don't realise you are actually freezing at first. But as the Russians say - there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothes; if you dress properly you should be able to be outside for quite a long time.
HOW LONG TO GO TO YAKUTIA FOR
It is best to go to Yakutia for a week or at least five days - it is far away and takes time to acclimatise.
HOW TO GET TO YAKUTIA
- The is no railway line to Yakutsk. The closest station in 800km away in Neryungri (Нерюнгри) which is connected with the Trans-Siberian and the Baikal-Amur railways.
- A flight from Moscow takes about 6¾ hours. Normally the flight there is at night and the flight back is in the morning.
Avarage price: from USD400 in economic class | return ticket
THE GOLDEN RING
Local Time: Moscow Time
Distance From Moscow: 200км
Average Temperature: -10C
The cities on the Golden Ring are great for visiting all year round – in hot summers, fresh springs, golden autumns and snowy winters. But it is in winter when you can see the views people generally associate with Russia: snowy forests, onion domes of churches covered with snow, icicles hanging from buildings and quaint wooden houses with smoke coming out of the chimneys.
The main advantage of a trip around the Golden Ring in winter is of course its close distance to Moscow – in just 200km you are already away from the hustle and bustle of the megalopolis. In Golden Ring cities there are also opportunities to ride on snowmobiles or go dog-sleighing, cross-country skiing through forests or horse riding across snowy meadows. And of course winter is also the perfect time to try out another Russian tradition – the banya (a Russian sauna), which can be followed by a refreshing leap into snow or even into a hole cut through a frozen pool.
WHEN TRAVEL AROUND GOLDEN RING ROUTE
During the Russian New Year holidays hotels in Golden Ring cities are often fully booked with Russian tourists and school groups, therefore it is better to go either before or after the New Year; even then special events and festivities are still being held. It is worth noting that hotel prices on weekdays in Golden Ring cities are usually lower than on weekends or public holidays, so if you wish to save money it is better to go on these days. There will probably be fewer tourists on these days too.
WEATHER ALONG THE ROUTE
As the Golden Rings cities are located relatively close to Moscow the weather there is usually similar to the weather in Moscow, although you can normally expect it to be 1-3 degrees colder. Snow tends to lay longer in these cities than in Moscow where they are very efficient in clearing snow. This is especially true in small cities such as Suzdal.
HOW LONG TO TRAVEL AROUND GOLDEN RING CITIES FOR
The Golden Ring cities can be visited in several trips, for example a particular city on a weekend trip from Moscow. Alternatively you can travel around the main cities in one trip which depending on the speed of your travels can take between five and seven days. If you plan to visit several Golden Ring cities in a single trip you should bear in mind that these cities of Ancient Rus are mainly famed for their architectural monuments: monasteries, churches, frescos, icons, etc, and so on a long journey you might start thinking you have had your fill of churches. However if you have an interest in Russian history you will not be disappointed and we recommend reading about Ancient Rus before you go.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Golden Ring cities are located north-east of Moscow. The closest city to Moscow is Sergiev Posad and the furthest are Kostroma and Ivanovo. As many of the cities do not have railways connections with Moscow, you should be prepared to travel by car for several hours. It is possible to get to Yaroslavl, Aleksandrov, Kostroma, Ivanovo, Vladimir and Sergiev Posad by train from Moscow.
TRANS - SIBERIAN RAILWAY
Local Time: MSC +1 | +7 hours
Distance From Moscow: 9100km
Average Temperature: -20C
Although many people think that summer is the time for a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway, winter actually has many benefits. One of the main pluses is of course the price. In winter Russian Railways often has sales and even places in high-class carriages are reduced. There are also a lot less tourists in winter and you can therefore get a more Russian experience and maybe meet locals. All trains are well heated (some are even too hot!), therefore when you are travelling you won’t feel the freezing temperatures outside.
Travelling on the Trans-Siberian in winter allows you to see the real Russian winter with frost, vast skies, little houses with smoke coming from the chimneys and snow shining in the sun. From the window of the train when it is travelling through snowy forests and an endless sea of snow, you will also get an impression of the gigantic scale of the country and observe how ordinary Russians go about their daily lives in the winter.
WHEN TO TRAVEL ALONG THE TRANS - SIBERIAN RAILWAY
In December and January there are only a few hours of daylight, which means it is better to take the Trans-Siberian in February or March when the days are starting to get longer each passing day. If you plan to make a stop to go to Lake Baikal (and we really recommend that you do), then it is better to go at the end of February or the beginning of March when the lake is covered with fairly thick ice and you can walk and travel over it.
You should also remember that a trip from Moscow to Vladivostok without stopping takes almost a week depending on the type of train. If you plan to make stops then of course the trip will take longer.
WEATHER ALONG THE ROUTE
As written above, all trains are well heated so no matter what the weather is like outside you will be nice and toasty inside your train. If you plan to make stops on the way then you need to have the proper clothing: warm boots (or even Russian valenki), a good down-filled winter coat, thick gloves and a fur or woollen hat.
The average temperature in the eastern part of Russia ranges from -10C to -30C. For example the average January temperature in Novosibirsk is -20C, if the temperature rises above -15C then Siberians will be commenting on how unusually warm it is for January. You should also take into account that the air in this part of the continent is fairly dry and so even when it is -20C it feels warmer than -10C in a humid climate such as St Petersburg.
HOW LONG FOR TO TRAVEL ALONG THE ROUTE
If you decide to take a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway then you need to take into account that even a trip with no stops on the fastest premium train will take six full days. But we recommend that you make at least two stops: in Novosibirsk where you can spend a day looking around the largest city in Siberia and in Irkutsk from where you can spend a few days travelling to Lake Baikal or the neighbouring Buddhist Republic of Buryatia.
HOW TO GET THERE
Most Trans-Siberian trains leave Moscow from Yaroslavsky or Kazansky railway stations. The main premium Trans-Siberian train is the Rosssia which leaves from Yaroslavsky Railway Station.
Avarage price: USD230 | Second class and USD390 | First Class | one way
When travelling from St Petersburg you need to transfer trains in Moscow, Perm, Yekaterinburg or Chelyabinsk.
Local Time: Moscow Time
Distance From Moscow: 1650km
Average Temperature: +8C
In 2014 Sochi entered the world stage as the host of the Winter Olympics. A vast amount of money was spent on the games building new sporting venues, including completely revitalising the ski resort in the mountains of Krasnaya Polyana outside the city and connecting it to the city with a railway line. Many believed that after the games the new infrastructure and venues would turn into white elephants which has happened before after many Winter Olympics. However these naysayers have been proved wrong. In the year following the Olympics, Sochi became an incredibly popular destination and skiiers from all over the country, not just Moscow and St Petersburg, came here. Along with the Russians, many foreign tourists also visited.
A trip to Sochi offers a great opportunity to ski or snowboard at a modern, Olympic-standard ski resort, but at the same time you also have the chance to visit a beautiful sub-tropical seaside resort, without crowds of tourists. Of course it will be too cold too swim or sunbathe in winter, but compared to the rest of Russia, winter temperatures in Sochi are very mild. Krasnaya Polyana has four separate ski complexes which also offer skiing facilities for children.
It makes a great place for an active winter holiday with the additional bonus of there being interesting sights in the city such as the city’s art gallery or regional museum, the oceanarium or the museum located in what was once Stalin’s Dacha.
WHEN TO GO TO SOCHI
The snow at Krasnaya Polyana (Sochi's ski resort) lays rather late in the year and the skiing season officially only opens in the last weeks of December. Therefore it is best to go between January and April. However you should bear in mind that January, especially the first two weeks, is the peak season for the resort as Russian skiiers come here during the long Russian New Year holidays and it might be worth avoiding this period if you want to come when it is a little quieter. Probably the very best time for skiing at Krasnaya Polyana is in February and March when there is usally a lot of snow, nice weather and a little less people than in January.
WEATHER IN SOCHI
The weather is Sochi is unusual. Down in the city the sun is still shining and the sea is still splashing, but up in Krasnaya Polyans there is frost and snow.
The temperature in Sochi remains between +8C and +10C degrees whereas in Krasnaya Polyana it is generally between -2 Cand +3C.
HOW LONG TO VISIT SOCHI FOR
You can go to Sochi for a weekend but if you want to do winter activities and sightseeng it is better to go for a longer period.
HOW TO GET TO SOCHI
- There is a daily comfortable and big premium double-decker trains from Moscow to Sochi. It takes about 24 hours.
Avarage price: USD85 | Second class and USD190 | First Class | one way
- A direct train from St Petersburg to Sochi takes almost 2 days to get there. 1st and 2nd classes are available.
Avarage price: USD80 | Second class and USD180 | First Class | one way
- From Moscow, planes to Sochi leave almost every hour and it only takes about 2 hours to get there.
Avarage price: from USD90 in economic class | return ticket
- From St Petersburg there are 2 or 3 flights a day which take 3 hours. There are also flights between Sochi and other major Russian cities.
Avarage price: from USD200 in economic class | return ticket
Local Time: Moscow Time
Distance From Moscow: 2000km
Average Temperature: -20C
One of the most beautiful parts of Russia is the Kola Peninsular. Here there are no mountains covered with evergreen forests like in Switzerland, no impenetrable forests like in neighbouring Karelia or Finland and the tourist infrastructure for large tourist groups here is much less developed. However, the Kola Peninsular is a place of real unforgiving northern nature – endless tundra and low lying mountains covered with moss and lichen, stoney coasts of the White Sea and the Barents Sea and the pure untouched nature of the Russian North. It is from Murmansk on the peninsular that travellers and expeditions set off for the North Pole, and Murmansk itself is the largest city within the Arctic Circle where darkness and permafrost rules in the winter. But you should not be put off by the location of the city as thanks to the Gulf Stream the city is not as cold in winter as, for example, in Siberia.
On the peninsular there is a wide choice of activities such as riding sleighs drawn by husky dogs, expeditions on snowmobiles and finding out about the traditions of the local Sami people. Kirovsk is one of the most popular skiing and snowboarding centres of Russia; although the infrastructure here is not as modern as in Sochi, the prices are much lower. It was here and in the village of Teriberka that the Russian film Leviathan, which caused somewhat of a scandal, was filmed. And for those lucky enough to see the Northern Lights while in the Kola Peninsular, well their trip will never be forgotten!
WHEN TO GO
Winter in the region lasts from November to the end of March. When planning a trip to the Kola Peninsular remember to take into account that winter here is marked by polar nights - namely the sun never rises above the horizon and at midday only a glimmer of sunlight is visible which subsequently vanishes a couple of hours later. Therefore in December and January it is more or less always evening or night here! The polar nights here last from around 2 December to 11 January and on the shortest day there is only 30 minutes of twilight. However this period has the best chances of seeing the Northern Lights, although they are not usually visible in the city of Murmansk itself.
The peninsular is usually covered with snow from Novemeber until May, so you have lots of time for activities in the snow. We recommend coming here sometime from January until March as the polar nights are already coming to an end, the frost is less harsh and you still have some chance of catching the Northern Lights.
WEATHER ON THE KOLA PENINSULAR
The weather here is not what you would expect for somewhere so north thanks to the influence to the Gulf Stream. The average temperature in January in Murmansk is around -10C but in the mountains and in the depths of the peninsular the climate is more continental and so the termperatures here are around 5 degrees lower. The coldest month is February.
HOW LONG TO GO TO THE KOLA PENINSULAR FOR
As the peninsular is quite far away it is best to come here for at least three or four days but even better for six or seven. This will be enough time to see the main city in the peninsular and its museums and to go on a snowmobile safari, go fishing and try national Sami cusine. But you could also come here for a couple of days to go skiing in the Khibiny Mountains.
HOW TO GET TO THE KOLA PENINSULA
You can get to Murmansk and Kirovsk – the two largest cities here – both by train and by plane.
- The train from Moscow to Murmansk takes one and a half days and from St Petersburg one day. The Arktika premium train which goes from Moscow to Murmansk, passing St Petersburg en route, is the most comfortable train here.
Avarage price from Moscow: USD110 | Second class | one way
Avarage price from Moscow: USD85 | Second class | one way
- There are 6 flights a day between Moscow and Murmansk and 1 direct flight to Kirovsk. It takes about 2½ hours. From St Petersburg there are 4 daily flights to Murmansk and 1 (on certain dates) to Kirovsk.
Avarage price: from USD120 in economic class | return ticket
Local Time: Moscow Time
Distance From Moscow: 700km
Average Temperature: -8C
St Petersburg is a great place to visit all year round and a visit to the cultural capital of Russia in winter has many advantages over a visit in summer when the city is packed with tourists. In the winter you can calmly walk around museums, galleries, palaces and exhibitions without having to push through crowds of people. Hotel prices are also a lot cheaper in winter.
Winter St Petersburg can be cold with the wind from the Neva, but it does have a very cosy athmosphere when there is only a short period of sunlight and its sights are covered in a layer of white snow. And what could be cosier than going to see, for example, the Nutcracker at the Mariinsky Theatre followed by a hot drink in one of St Petersburg's many cafes.
WHEN TO GO TO ST PETERSBURG
New Year lights in St Petersburg are first turned on in December which gives the city a very Christmassy feeling. During the New Year period there are many events and festivals for both adults and children. Many Russian tourists come for this period, especially during the first two weeks of the year when there are public holidays. In February there are a lot less tourists and you'll find the museums and palaces a lot less busy, but dress warmly as this is the coldest period.
WEATHER IN ST PETERSBURG
The winter cold in St Petersburg is felt much more than in, for example, Moscow due to the high humidity, where you get colder quicker even when it the temperatures are not that low. In addition the wind from the Neva is not that pleasant as it blows accross the city.
HOW LONG TO GO TO ST PETERSBURG FOR
In the cultural capital you can spend a weekend, a week, two weeks, a month or even a year and still find something to see with its many museums, palaces, theatres, monuments and exhibition halls. Plus when in St Petersburg you can also go on a trip to Karelia – where you can go on a snowmobile or dog-sleighing trip.
HOW TO GET TO ST PETERSBURG
There are excellent transport connections between St Petersburg and Moscow and you can travel at almost any time of day or night, by plane, bus or train (standard, high-speed or premium). The quickest way is by plane (1½ hours) but you should also take into account the time it takes to get between the city centres and the airports on the outskirts. A convenient option therefore is to take the Sapsan high-speed train which takes 4 hours and takes you from centre to centre.
►Russia in lists ►Top Winter Destinations in Russia for 2016