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Russia's vast size, the enormous differences in living standards of its people and its tumultuous history make it a mystifying place for outsiders. However much you've read up on the country as a traveller you're still probably going to be surprised by what you find. And whilst most people imagine that the best places to stay in Russia to experience all of this are Moscow and St Petersburg, there is plenty to explore beyond these ever popular destinations.

Moscow is rife with the remnants of Communism, but it's also littered with wonderfully ornate churches and brightly coloured palaces - some of which are now the best places to stay in Russia.

St. Petersburg feels more European, and looks more elegant.

And beyond those two mythical and magical cities are the vast expanses of the interior, the famous steppes, the icy tundra, the impressive mountains, or unexpectedly beautiful beaches - Russia's national parks and reserves cover the same landmass as the whole of Germany. So this is a destination for wilderness explorers as well as cultural ones.

Linked by the wonderfully romantic Red Arrow train, Moscow and St. Petersburg house many of Russia's most famous sights, so if this is your first time in the country you won't want to miss Moscow's:

  • Cathedral of St. Basil,
  • Bolshoi Theatre,
  • Pushkin Fine Arts Museum,
  • Tomb to Lenin - and they have Stalin's memorial as well,
  • Gorky Park
  • and The Kremlin, Red Square and the Boulevard Ring with its wonderful old wooden houses.

The treasures of St. Petersburg, Tsar Peter's 'window on the west', include:

  • the incredible Hermitage Museum,
  • the Peterhof with its Summer Garden to rival Versailles,
  • the Catherine Palace,
  • and the Peter and Paul Cathedral and Fortress.

Outside the cities most visitors are also interested in visiting vast and mysterious Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake and home almost one fifth of our planet's liquid fresh water. You need to understand that Baikal is vast by Russian standards - there's no road around the lake here, there's just a limited hydrofoil service, so you need to plan your visit carefully.

If you want to see something of Siberia transit in and out of Irkust, the largest Russian trading post before Mongolia and China.

If you fancy an active Russian adventure then explore the Urals Mountain Range - in which case Yekaterinburg might be the best place to stay in Russia. Yekaterinburg is also famous for being place where the Romanov family were executed.

If the idea of Russia having beautiful beaches has come as a pleasant surprise then the Curonian Spit is for you. This region is also where you'll find Kaliningrad, Russia's Prussian capital. Once a part of Germany this is arguable Russia's most western feeling city.

Best Places to Stay in Russia

For a Moscow city break

Moscow has accommodation to suit every pocket, from budget hostels to hotels worthy of a Tsar or an oligarch. But if you want to stay near the country's heart then some of the best places to stay in Russia are close to Red Square and the historic centre.

  • Just across the river from The Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral, the Hotel Baltschug Kempinski is perfectly located and extremely luxurious.
  • The Ritz Carlton is another seriously opulent option.
  • But if you're after hip then the Barvikha Hotel & Spa, in one of Moscow's smartest suburbs, is a haven of minimalist chic and a spa break for the serious connoisseur.
  • Moscow isn't a great destination for those on a budget, but the super hip Golden Apple comes with a more reasonable price tag.

For St. Petersburg's Historic Elegance and Charm

Romantic in both snow-white Winter and blue-skied Summer, the mansions lining St. Petersburg's meandering canals are some of the best places to stay in Russia. After the museums, palaces and galleries, hit the ballet, the theatre or the bars.

  • The Kempinski Hotel Moika 22 is a restored Romanov style property, and though large, certainly packs a punch. Interiors have been furnished with antiques galore, and the emphasis is on understated luxury and elegance.
  • The Astoria has been St Petersburg's grandest address for years, but with the Rocco Forte makeover you can now expect smart modern bedrooms alongside grand and glamourous public spaces.
  • Great for shopping and the sights, The Corinthia on Nevsky Prospekt boasts ornate 19th century facades alongside tasteful public areas with an art deco feel.
  • Grand Hotel Europe is Orient Express's five star offering in the city. Also on Nevsky amongst St Petersburg's great architectural treasures and great for all attractions. Here interiors are modern yet undeniably classic and excellent food is to be had in L'Europe, Russia's oldest continually serving restaurant.

Still not sure which to book? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Russia, or contact, one of our friendly gurus for advice.

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The best hotels in Russia

See all » 10 hotels in Moscow

  • Golden Apple


    A glaringly colourful hotel in a very central location. Contemporary rooms awash with primary colour have all the mod cons. Good restaurant and lively bar. Excellent value for its location.

    92 rooms from $128
    Sights nearby  -  20 mins walk from the Kremlin and Red Square
    Lively  -  Hip and happening.
    Local markets  -  Good for local colour.
    Recommended by  -  CN Traveller, Fodors, Tablet
  • Hotel National


    A fantastic Five Star hotel in a central location. Historical architecture and traditional opulence create an air of royalty. Palatial rooms and suites in pastels with lots of gilt. Excellent restaurants, bars, and spa. A time capsule for the luxury traveller.

    202 rooms from $168
    City Style
    Romantic Break
    5* Luxury  -  Very high service standards.
    Sights nearby  -  A stone's throw from Red Square
    Recommended by  -  CN Traveller

See all » 9 hotels in St Petersburg

  • Hotel Rachmaninov

    St Petersburg (Nevsky Prospekt)

    Warm and welcoming hotel with a 19th-century feel. This cosy spot is minutes from the cultural and historical monuments, theatres and museums of the Northern Capital. Simple clean rooms with antique style furniture on a quiet street, plus a charming contemporary art gallery. Ideal for a city break.

    24 rooms from $64
    Value chic  -  An arty boutique hotel in a great central location, just steps from Kazan Cathedral and Nevsky Prospekt.
    Sights nearby  -  Within walking distance of Petersberg's main sights including, Saviour on the Blood, the Hermitage and the Kazan Cathedral.
    Great walks  -  The hotel arranges interesting cultural walks around Saint Petersburg.
    Full of character
  • Pushka Inn

    St Petersburg

    A riverside mansion with an elegant facade. Airy rooms with large windows and some featuring balconies. Fantastic family apartments. The cosy restaurant serves up local cuisine and has a bar for chilly evenings in. Ideally situated for local exploring.

    33 rooms from $108
    Local exploring  -  A great locality within walking distance of the main cultural attractions, restaurants, shops and bars.
    Families  -  Large family suites make this an easy option for people travelling with children.
    Sights nearby  -  The gold spiralled Peter and Paul Cathedral are within walking distance.
    Views  -  Great views from hotel
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