Most tourists that travel to Russia only visit Moscow and St. Petersburg, but there are so many interesting cities to visit besides these two.
Next time you visit Russia, take a trip off the beaten path and see some new exciting places!
You’ll be amazed at all the culture, history, and adventure you find there.
Here are twenty suggestions to get you started. Hope you’ll enjoy!
- 1. Kazan
Although you may never have heard of it, Kazan is probably the third most popular tourist city in Russia, after Moscow and St. Petersburg.
It’s hardly a typical Russian city; it’s a mash of all things both east and west, Orthodox and Muslim, Europe and Asia (remember, that Russia is part of both).
You’ll love the diverse culture here, and find more to do than you could try in just one trip. A good place to start is a visit to Kazan’s Kremlin and Kul Sharif Mosque.
- 2. Sochi
Sochi made it debut to the world of fame when it hosted recent Winter Olympics.
The climate of Sochi is actually subtropical, which may come as a surprise to anyone who viewed the frigid weather as skiers flew through past winter backgrounds during the Games.
This makes it a great place for resorts by the Black Sea. If you’re not heading to the tropics this year, visit Sochi for some rest and relaxation.
- 3. Kaliningrad
You actually don’t have to travel east of Europe to visit Kaliningrad, Russia. This city is located within Kaliningrad Oblast, a strangely-placed Russian excl-ave bordering Poland and Lithuania.
It was given to Russia after World War II, despite its distance from the rest of the nation. Along with a rich history, Kaliningrad has much to offer in the way of architecture, culture, and food.
- 4. Vladivostok
People love Vladivostok for its views. The city is located near the sea on the eastern side of Russia, and it is stunning for a variety of reasons. Its natural surroundings are filled with pristine islands, rare animal life, and pure, undefined nature.
It is also a distinctively Asian city, with a touch of European flavor that makes it perfectly Russian.
- 5. Volgograd
Volgograd has the distinction of being formerly known as Stalingrad. Since the fall of the Soviet empire, it has gladly retaken its original name.
The city’s infrastructure is fairly new – for Russia, at least – it was entirely rebuilt in the late 40’s after a bloody and devastating World War II Stalingrad battle leveled its buildings.
- 6. Veliky Novgorod
Veliky Novgorod is a city, but it might as well be considered as a museum. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish museum from city in this beautiful old settlement!
The city contains dozens of historic artifacts as part of its infrastructure: churches, monasteries, walls, monuments, and ruins of all kinds. You can take a walk through the city and see fingerprints of the ages at every turn.
- 7. Ekaterinburg
Also known as Yekaterinburg, this city is Russia’s fourth largest. The most interesting thing about its geography is that it is located precisely on the border of Europe and Asia.
The city is home to over 30 museums, among them the one housing the Shigir Idol, which at over 9,000 years old is the oldest wood carving in the world. The city is also a Russian center of art, literature, and music.
- 8. Nizhny Novgorod
For years, Nizhny Novgorod was known as Gorky, after the Russian writer Maxim Gorky. During communist rule, it was a closed city. When it reopened, it received its old name back and was once again open to the traveler.
Now, you can journey to the city and learn about its long and colorful history, from medieval days when princes sat enthroned there to today’s river tourism industry.
- 9. Ulan-Ude
Ulan-Ude is a Buddhist city located on the Trans-Siberian railway. It has a uniquely Asian feel to it, which means that you can get some great Asian food in the city! It’s also near to Lake Baikal, which is definitely worth a trip if you’re in the area.
- 10. Samara
Samara’s riverfront is the main draw for tourism to the region. It’s a beautiful place to stay and find romance. The city was founded in the 16th century as a small fortress along the Samara River, and today it is a major political, academic, and cultural center.
If you are looking for a nice Russian vacation with good views and lots to do, this is a great choice.
- 11. Derbent
Near the country of Azerbaijan sits Derbent of the Caspian Sea. The city claims to be the oldest in Russia, supposedly dating back several centuries BC.
You’ll find the claim believable when you see the ancient fortresses and buildings in Derbent. It’s almost overwhelming how much history is packed into the city, but the adventure is in unraveling it all. Of course, local museums and tours can help you do this.
- 13. Krasnoyarsk
The Stolby Nature Reserve defines the city of Krasnoyarsk. Tourists visit this lovely city because of its stunning natural surroundings (it’s one of the most beautiful natural places in Russia).
There is so much to keep the explorer occupied here, from hikes and rock climbing in the summer to skiing in the winter. You can even take a sightseeing tour around the national park.
- 14. Vladimir
Vladimir was a capital of Russia in medieval times, and today it contains part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the White Monuments. Vladimir’s contribution to the site are two cathedrals and a monastery from ages past. One of them, the Dormition Cathedral, is one of the most beautiful churches in Russia.
You can come see these beautiful buildings and marvel at the architectural genius of our ancestors. The buildings were made with white stone, which was painstakingly carved into a beautiful design.
- 15. Pyatigorsk
Pyatigorsk is famous for its natural springs. For many years, the springs have been the foundation of health spas and a health resort, which put Pyatigorsk on the map.
The resort draws many thousands of visitors annually. The name of the city is derived from the Russian words for “Five Mountains”, after the five peaks that give the city its distinctive horizon line.
- 16. Vyborg
This lovely city used to be a part of Sweden, and the touch of the Swedes is still on the town.
The most notable building in Vyborg is Vyborg Castle, which was built at the end of the 13th Century. The castle and its city have belonged Sweden, Finland, and Russia over the years. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction and historical center worth traveling to see.
- 17. Yaroslavl
Over a thousand years ago, Yaroslavl was a small wooden fortress. Over the centuries, it has grown and expanded to become one of Russia’s most historically significant metropolises.
Much of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws history buffs and architecture lovers alike. Among the many stunning churches in the city, the Assumption Cathedral, St. John the Baptist Church, and Church of Elijah the Prophet are definitely worth adding to your bucket list of top places to visit in Russia.
- 18. Arkhangelsk
Arkhangelsk is a city divided in two – literally. The city is split by the Northern Dvina River, which has always been the city’s lifeblood.
Before it was a Russian metropolis, the area was known to Norse Vikings, who buried large amounts of silver by the river. A silver stash was discovered in the 1980’s, about 700 years after its burial.
Who knows what else you might find there by digging? Don’t spend all your money on spades, though – there’s a lot to see in the city and it’s actually a place where you can be seeing the Northern Lights in the winter.
- 19. Rostov on Don
Known as the “Gateway to the Caucasus”, Rostov on Don is an important trading center for Western Russia. Its important location near several bodies of water made ship trade a lucrative business for many years.
Today, it still remains a trading town, although there is also plenty of things to do to attract tourists. Besides attractions like the zoo and the theater, the city is a great place for walking. Street art and many statues will keep your interest as you explore this old city.
- 20. Irkutsk
Architecture is the main draw for tourists to Irkutsk. Of course, like most of Russia, the city contains many gorgeous religious centers. The Prince Vladimir Monastery looks like something out of Cinderella. Transfiguration Church is also beautiful, as is Ascension Church and Our Lady of Kazan Church.
You can also feast your eyes on some magnificent estates, like the Europe House. In winter, head to the central park to stroll through lovely ice sculptures. During the winter, make sure to take a trip to Lake Baikal to drive a car on the frozen lake – it’s an unforgettable experience!
You won’t regret a trip to one of these unique and interesting cities! Design a Russian vacation that encompasses all of Russia’s culture by seeing bits and pieces up close in these special metropolises. You may never get to see them all, but visiting just a few will give you a fuller experience of Russia and its roots.
There is so much more to see in Russia besides Moscow and St. Petersburg!