Traveling To Russia In The Winter
Harsh winters are what Russia is world famous for and no wonder a lot of people are trying to travel to Russia during this time of the year. Traveling to Russia in the winter is a lot of fun and it gives you a chance to really see and understand what is Russia all about. I feel like there are a special charm and atmosphere all around you (even when it’s freezing out), which makes the experience of your visit so unique and unforgettable. Let’s talk a little bit more about the winter in Russia: specifics of visiting the country during this time, the best places to see and must things to do. Let’s roll!
It’s Going To Be… Freezing!
It gets really cold in Russia during the winter and for it to enjoy your time, you must be prepared (mentally and physically). Harsh winter helped Russians in the wars to defeat a French invasion of Napoleon in 1812 and Hitler’s in 1941 and it is not a joke. In Moscow, for example, the temperature can get to as low as -30C (-22 F), but the weather may vary and it might change day to day. In St. Petersburg winters are usually a little bit warmer, compare to Moscow.
How about the weather in Siberia and the Russian North? There it can get to as cold as -50C -60C, which is extremely cold! The lowest temperature in Russia was officially recorded in Verkhoyansk in 1892 -67.8 C or -90F.
A Few Things to Remember
- Won’t likely you’ll have a good time in Russia if you not going to dress accordingly to weather. Warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves should be your must have items.
- Keep in mind that there is less daylight in the winter time. In the European part of Russia there is sufficient daylight after 10 am and it gets dark at around 4 pm. The shortest day of the year is December, 22 and after that the days get longer.
- The great thing about traveling to Russia in the winter is that there are no crowds of tourists around. Its perfect time to go to museums of Moscow and St. Petersburg and avoid the waiting in lines.
- You can also save some money by going to Russia in the winter. It’s considered as an off tourist season and you’ll most likely get a cheaper flight and best hotel rates, compared to the summer period. Before getting your flight to Russia, I recommend you to take a look at this article; you’ll find there some useful tips on flying to and within Russia.
Where to Go?
Moscow and St. Petersburg are must go to cities in Russia, but there are many more interesting towns that deserve your attention.
Cities in the European part of Russia
Arkhangelsk is a city located in the north of the European part of Russia, it is a very first seaport of the country. It’s also named as the “Russian gate” to the Arctic. The most popular sights of Arkhangelsk area are Severnaya Dvina embankment, Gostiny dvor (the oldest building in town) and The State Northern Sea Museum.
Kazan is a very unique city where mixed up the culture and religion of the East and the West. It’s a Muslim capital of Russia and the center of the world Tatar culture. The heart of the city is the Kazan’s Kremlin, which should definitely be in your list of places that you must visit in Kazan.
Murmansk is one of the largest Russian ports. There are not many historical places in the city, but Murmansk still has its unique look. The main reason to visit Murmansk, Russia in the winter is to see the northern lights.
- Veliky Novgorod
The town has a very rich history – it is one of the oldest towns in Russia (over 1100 years old). At one point in the history (14th century), Veliky Novgorod was one of Europe’s largest cities. No wonder the town was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site – there are a lot of history saved in the walls of an old Veliky Novgorod.
- Veliky Ustyug
Veliky Ustyug is one of the most beautiful cities in the Russian North and it is one of those places that you must visit in the winter time. In Veliky Ustyug is located the residency of the Slavic version of Santa Claus – Ded Moroz. Around the New Year there are a lot of festivals and events are going on in town.
Cities in the Russian East
Irkutsk is a city in Russian Siberia and it is mostly famous because of its location near Lake Baikal. Irkutsk was built in the middle of the 17th century and there still are a lot of buildings from this era. Overall, it is a typical Siberian town.
Krasnoyarsk is one of the biggest cities in Siberia with the population of over 1 million people. There are quite a few interesting sights in Krasnoyarsk. In the city center you must check out the railway bridge across the Yenisei River and the Chasovnya Chapel at the top of Karaulnaya Hill. From there you’ll be able to see some great views of the city.
Outside of Krasnoyarsk is located, its most popular sight – Stolby Nature Reserve, which is in my list of 40 most beautiful places in Russia. It’s a cool place to visit in the winter – just to hike around, get some fresh Siberian air and to jump in the snow :). Fans of skiing and snowboarding should check out ski resort Bobrovy Log, which is located just below the Stolby.
Tobolsk is the oldest town in Siberia (founded in 1587) and its historic capital. Tobolsk remained to play an important role in the region until the end of the 19th century, when the Trans-Siberian railroad line between Tyumen and Omsk bypassed it to the south.
The #1 sight of Tobolsk is the Kremlin, which was built in 17th-18th centuries. But the city is famous not only for its history – there is something that will get an attention of the hunting/fishing fans. The area around Tobolsk is one of the best in Russia for those kind of activities.
Tyumen is an important industrial center in the region, it’s an unofficial oil and gas capital of Russia. You would think there is not much too see in the city, but Tyumen is actually a pretty cute town. The most interesting architectural building is Znamenskiy Cathedral, which was built in 1786. In the city center is a very popular Sweethearts bridge – it’s a pedestrian bridge across the Tura river, very romantic place!
Yakutsk is located in the Sakha Republic of Russia, very far East and North of the country. And won’t be surprised, -50 Celsius in the winter here is a normal thing. But despite this, it’s a pretty popular place to travel among adventurous travelers. Yakutsk has gained a lot of attention for being one of the coldest cities in the world, but I think it’s worth more for the great natural beauty. From Yakutsk you should take a tour to the Lena Pillars – one of the most beautiful places in Russia.
So, who is going to experience a real Russian winter?!