St Petersburg to Moscow on the Volga Dream

Embark on an epic journey through Russian history and culture as you trace the mighty waterways of Russia, from imperial St Petersburg to the awe-inspiring capital city of Moscow.

Begin in St Petersburg, where Emperor Peter the Great and his Romanov successors transformed a wild marshland into one of Europe’s great cities of art, music and architecture. Then, cruise aboard the luxurious MS Volga Dream through the broad fields and landscapes which stirred the soul of Tolstoy and other literary masters.

In Moscow, reach the apex of ancient and modern Russian culture as you explore a city of colourful churches, solemn bells and exquisite art and music.

Benefit throughout the tour from the insight of three subject expert tour leaders: art curator Alan Dodge AM, classical music broadcaster Christopher Lawrence and Russian literary expert Irina Dunn.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.

Suggested departure from Australia or New Zealand on Qatar flights to St Petersburg via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

Overnight in flight.

Arrive in St Petersburg in the afternoon on suggested flights and transfer to the hotel by private car (included in tour price).

At 18:00, join Alan, Christopher, Irina and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by a special welcome dinner.


Begin with a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress, built by Emperor Peter the Great in 1703 to defend Russia from Swedish attack. Within the fortress, see the impressive Peter and Paul Cathedral, the burial place of all the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to Nicholas II.

After lunch, visit the lavishly decorated Yusupov Palace, once the primary residence in St. Petersburg of the immensely wealthy Yusupov family. The palace was the site of Rasputin’s (eventually successful) murder in 1916.

This evening, enjoy the best seats in the house for a performance at the Mariinsky Theatre or similar (pending performance schedules; performance details announced 1-2 months prior to travel).


In the morning, take the hydrofoil to Mon Plaisir Palace, part of Peter the Great’s sprawling summer residence of Peterhof. Mon Plaisir is the only palace of Peter the Great that retains its original 18th century character. Visit also the Imperial Bathhouse used by Empress Catherine the Great.

After lunch in the Orangerie, return to St Petersburg and visit St Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city.


This morning, visit one of the most spectacular collections of art ever amassed in human history, the State Hermitage Museum. Enjoy before-hours access to the main branch of the Hermitage housed in the Winter Palace, the former principal residence of the Romanov Emperors. Then visit the newly-opened second wing of the Hermitage, located in the former Imperial General Staff Building.

After lunch, visit the Alexander Nevsky monastery and cemetery, a complex of Baroque churches founded by Emperor Peter the Great to commemorate Grand Prince Alexander’s victory over the Swedes on the Neva River in 1240. The cemetery is home to the graves of a large number of famous artists, composers and writers, among them poet Vasily Zhukovsky, writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, and composers Modest Mussorgsky, Alexander Borodin and Pyotr Tchaikovsky.


In the morning, visit the Chaliapin Apartment Museum, dedicated to the phenomenal self-taught singer Fyodor Chaliapin, who rose from peasant origins to become one of the most brilliant, powerful and charismatic bass singers of the 20th century.

Then visit the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, erected between 1883 and 1907 on the site where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. Built in the flamboyant Russian Revival style, both the interior and exterior of the church are richly decorated with colourful mosaics.

After lunch, continue to the State Russian Museum. Opened in 1898, the Museum today houses the world’s largest collection of Russian fine arts from the 10th to the 20th centuries.

This evening, attend a concert at the St Petersburg Philharmonia or similar (pending performance schedules; performance details announced 1-2 months prior to travel).


This morning, check out of the hotel and depart St Petersburg for the country.

After lunch, in the town of Pushkin, visit the Pavlovsk Palace, built in the 1780s and 1790s on the orders of Empress Catherine the Great for her son, Grand Duke Paul – later Emperor Paul I. The ornate interiors of the palace include an Italianate Hall and a Greek Hall, and the palace is surrounded by an English-style landscape garden.

Then in the late afternoon, embark upon the luxury river cruise ship, the MS Volga Dream¸ our home for the next six nights.


Today, visit Svirstroy, a typical Russian village in which you will be welcomed into local homes to enjoy traditional Russian food, drink and hospitality. Locals will show you their scrupulously-maintained homes and their kitchen gardens growing the very food which you will eat, including pirozhki (small meat- or cabbage-filled pies) and tea with jam stirred through it.

Visit a monument to the Great Patriotic War (as the Second World War is known in Russia), commemorating the long-remembered deprivation, sacrifice and eventual triumph which still sees young Russians greet their grandparents with ‘Spasibo za pobyedu’ (‘Thank you for the victory!’). Then visit a local primary school for an endearing glimpse into Russian childhood.


Explore the island village of Kizhi, replete with old-fashioned wooden churches built in the distinctive onion-domed style of Russian Orthodoxy. Part practical (to keep snow from accumulating on the roof), and part pious (to represent a collection of candles offered in prayer), the church architecture of Russia is one of the most evocative aspects of the country.

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Transfiguration Church, a 17th century wooden church masterpiece constructed without the use of a single nail. Principally constructed of Scots pine, the 22-dome church is unheated, and so is what the Russians dryly refer to as a ‘summer church’.


Discover the tranquillity of Goritsy, a town near the shores of Beloye Ozero (‘White Lake’) which once served as the emperor’s fishing grounds. Attracted by its serenity, monks established a group of monasteries here, most prominent among them the wondrous 15th century Ferapontov Monastery, adorned with frescoes painted by Dionysius the Wise, the most famous icon-painter in Russian history.

The acknowledged master of the ‘Muscovite Mannerist’ school of icon-painting in the 15th and 16th centuries, Dionysius’s series of frescoes in the monastery’s Virgin Nativity Cathedral is notable for the delicacy, grace and solemnity of the depiction of the life of the Virgin Mary. It is likely that Dionysius painted these with his son Feodosy, who also went on to become a notable icon-painter in his own right.


Explore Yaroslavl, the oldest city on the Volga River, and discover the rich murals and frescoes of its elegant churches. In the Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, wonder at murals depicting the Apocalypse (as revealed to St John the Evangelist). Then in the Church of St Elijah the Prophet, stand in awe of its gilded and coloured frescoes adorning its walls and ceiling and its beautiful iconostasis, the icon-decorated screen separating the inner sanctum of the church from the congregational area.

Attend a reception at the Governor’s House, where costumed dancers dressed in all the finery of a 19th century ball recall the grandeur that was Imperial Russia.


Today, visit the town of Uglich, steeped in Russian history, and the site of the Church of St Dmitry on the Blood, named – and indeed positioned – to commemorate the murdered Prince Dmitry, son of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. The blood-red walls of the church recall the importance of martyrdom within Russian Orthodoxy and the violence of the 16th century tsardom, when Russia grew from being a Moscow-based principality to a vast kingdom stretching from Europe across much of Central Asia.

Before the ship departs, attend an enchanting choral concert at the Church of St John. This evening, join the captain for cocktails, to celebrate the conclusion of our cruise.


Arrive in Moscow around midday and disembark the MS Volga Dream.

After lunch, visit the New Tretyakov Gallery, whose collection of 20th and 21st century Russian art and sculpture spans abstract art, modernism, socialist realism and contemporary art.

In the late afternoon, transfer to the hotel and check in.


This morning, visit the Old Tretyakov Gallery, a comprehensive collection devoted to the history of Russian art, ranging from precious Mediaeval icons to the Russian School of the late 19th century.

After some free time for lunch at leisure, enjoy a private choral performance in the church of St Nicholas the Wonderworker.

In the afternoon, travel to the Tolstoy House Museum, where the great author’s wooden house is preserved much as it would have been in his day. The museum contains many of Tolstoy’s personal effects, including the contents of his study and a couple of pairs of boots he made for himself.

In the evening, attend a concert performance at the Tchaikovsky Hall or similar (pending performance schedules; performance details announced 1-2 months prior to travel).


This morning, visit the tranquil enclosure of the Novodevichy Convent and the nearby Novodevichy Cemetery where many famous Russian political and cultural figures are buried (including Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin), and enjoy a panoramic view of Moscow from the Sparrow Hills.

After lunch, visit St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, perhaps the most iconic representation of Russian culture in its combination of art, architecture, history and religion. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to further explore Moscow at your own pace.


Drive to the famous Kremlin for an early-access visit to the Armoury Museum, with its astonishing array of glittering jewels, robes, thrones and carriages – a telling reminder of the pre-revolutionary opulence of the Romanov Dynasty. Also within the Kremlin, visit the sumptuous Cathedral of the Assumption, the more intimate Cathedral of the Annunciation and the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great.

After free time for lunch in Red Square, enjoy a guided tour of the Russian History Museum, focusing on its extensive collection of Russian Empire art and artefacts dating from 1682 to 1917.

This evening, celebrate the conclusion of our journey through the heart of Russian history, art and culture with a special farewell dinner with Alan, Christopher, Irina and fellow travellers.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

For those tour members continuing with the post-tour to Tolstoy’s estate, Yasnaya Polyana, check out of the hotel and transfer to Tula.

For those tour members leaving Moscow today and not continuing with the tour to Tolstoy’s estate, check out of the hotel and transfer to Moscow Airport, for suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand on Qatar Airways via Doha (transfer to airport by private car included in tour price if departing Moscow today). Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any extra nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.


Per person, sharing from

AUD 15,250

Single from

AUD 19,050

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,500

Tour prices

Single Cabins are subject to availability

Final payment due

12 March 2019

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.

Suggested airline

Qatar Airways
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations. 


Australian and New Zealand passport holders require a visa to visit Russia. The visa will be obtained by Renaissance Tours and is included in the tour price.

Tour price includes

  • Nine nights’ accommodation in St Petersburg and Moscow in comfortable, centrally-located four- and five-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
  • Six night luxury cruise from St Petersburg to Moscow on the MS Volga Dream including all meals on board
  • Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with meals
  • A-reserve tickets (or best available) for all included performances
  • Lectures, talks and panel discussions with your tour leaders, Alan Dodge, Christopher Lawrence and Irina Dunn
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Land transportation on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
  • Airport/hotel/airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
  • Visa for Russia

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, drinks, room service, etc.
  • Airport porterage
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)


Your hotels
St Petersburg – Renaissance St Petersburg Baltic Hotel ****
Moscow – Marriott Royal Aurora Moscow *****

NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted

Renaissance St Petersburg Baltic Hotel

Renaissance St Petersburg Baltic Hotel – Standard Room

Moscow Marriott Royal Aurora

Moscow Marriott Royal Aurora – Superior Room


Welcome aboard the MS Volga Dream

The Volga Dream boasts a choice of staterooms, each beautifully decorated and offering the comfort expected of a fine hotel room. Unlike many other cruise vessels, there are no inside cabins aboard the Volga Dream.
All our staterooms enjoy an outside view. Delightfully comfortable beds are prepared using the finest bed linen with a daily turndown service.

All staterooms have en-suite bathrooms with shower, a spacious closet, air conditioning, direct dial telephone, flat-screen satellite TV, electronic safe, minibar, radio, hair dryer, bathrobes and slippers, 220v outlets, and of course, a fruit basket waiting to welcome guests aboard.

Tour to Tolstoy’s estate
26–28 June 2019 (3 days)

Book the post-tour here

Travel deep into the countryside to the elegant country estate of Leo Tolstoy, where the master of Russian literature wrote Anna Karenina and War and Peace.

Tolstoy deliberately chose to live on his family estate ‘Yasnaya Polyana’ near Tula for most of his life, believing that a lifestyle of intellectual and physical labour best cultivated an authentically Russian literary aesthetic.

Visit Yasnaya Polyana and explore the house and estate. Visit also the home of Vasily Polenov, one of the great Russian landscape painters of the 19th century. Explore the regional city of Tula, which played an essential role in Emperor Peter the Great’s reforms of the Russian state by outfitting his professionalised army.

  • Explore Yasnaya Polyana, the country estate of Leo Tolstoy, where the author lived for most of his life and wrote his masterpieces Anna Karenina and War and Peace
  • Visit the home of 19th century Russian landscape painter Vasily Polenov, built by the artist himself
  • Explore the regional town of Tula, home to a 16th century kremlin and an iron-working industry established by Emperor Peter the Great
  • Visit Vladimir Lenin’s country house on the outskirts of Moscow and see where the first Soviet leader passed the final months of his life