Palaces, Estates and Dachas of Imperial Russia
Revel in the mid-year summer bloom at Imperial Russia’s most magnificent palaces, estates and gardens in a journey through Moscow and St Petersburg’s most celebrated and lesser known cultural treasures.
Explore the sumptuous gardens of the palaces of Peterhof, Gatchina and of Catherine the Great, as well as both the famous and lesser-known botanical gardens and public parks of St Petersburg and Moscow.
Discover the region of Vladimir, located in Russia’s “Golden Ring,” and spend a day visiting captivating private gardens, as well as a traditional Russian dacha, or summer house.
Enjoy visits to historical sites, cathedrals and museums, including the opportunity for an evening visit to the Hermitage, one of the most renowned museums in the world.
Note: At time of publication (July 2019), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than two to three months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.
Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qatar Airways flights to St Petersburg via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Arrive in the mid-afternoon in St Petersburg on suggested flights and transfer to your hotel. (transfer included in the tour price).
This evening, join Genevieve and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner.
Enjoy a morning orientation tour of this magnificent city, first planned by Peter the Great and later embellished by his imperial successors to become one of the truly great European capitals. See the mounted statue of Peter the Great, which stands outside St Isaac’s Cathedral and admire Catherine I’s Winter Palace, which now houses the Hermitage collection from the banks of the Neva River.
After lunch, transfer to the Imperial Gardens Festival. An annual celebration of landscape art in St Petersburg, the main event is the exhibition of landscape compositions garden installations and objects d’art.
This evening dinner will be in a local restaurant.
In the morning, enjoy a talk by Genevieve before a visit to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. Built in 1907 on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, the church was closed during the communist period and used as a store house for vegetables. Re-opened as a museum in 1997 after 27 years of restoration, the church is now the most iconic site in St Petersburg. The interior is astoundingly beautiful, awash with intricate and colourful mosaics.
Then, discover “The Venice of the North” on a tour of the many canals of St Petersburg. Relax on an open-air canal boat as it leisurely passes by the many palaces, theatres and gardens of the city.
In the afternoon, journey outside the city to visit the private garden and nursery of Marina Shimanskaya, a renowned Russian landscape designer.
This morning, enjoy a visit of the Komarov Botanical Gardens. Situated on the island of Aptekarsky in the delta of the Neva River, the Botanical Gardens are the oldest of their kind in Russia. Originally the herb garden of Peter the Great and founded to grow medicinal plants, the garden is now home to a park, arboretum and twenty-five greenhouses.
Then, travel to a traditional dacha (Russian for summer house) for a private visit to observe life outside the city and to enjoy lunch.
Return to St Petersburg in the late afternoon. The evening is at leisure.
Drive out of St Petersburg to the town of Pushkin, formerly known as ‘Tsar’s Village’ (Tsarskoye Selo), renowned for its remarkable ensemble of palaces and parks. It is particularly famous for its impressive Catherine Palace, the Baroque-style palace where Empress Catherine the Great lived and died.
After lunch, visit Gatchina Palace. The palace was built from 1766 to 1781, and contains elements of classical architecture and themes prevalent in medieval castles. The palace was built for Count Grigori Grigoryevich Orlov, who was a favourite of Catherine the Great, and it was a favourite place for the Imperial family to relax.
This morning enjoy a visit of St Isaacs Cathedral. Dominating the skyline of St Petersburg, the church was dedicated to St Isaac of Dalmatia, the patron saint of Peter the Great. The cathedral was turned into a museum in 1931 by the Soviets, and has remained a museum since. The interior architecture uses pink granite and malachite, cut from the Ural Mountains which form the border between Europe and Asia across Russia.
Then, visit the captivating Fabergé Museum. Housing not only one of the finest collections of Fabergé eggs in Russia, the museum also houses other works produced by the jewellers of Peter Carl Fabergé.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure before a private guided tour of the main branch of the State Hermitage Museum in the evening. The museum is housed in the Winter Palace, the former principal residence of the Romanov Tsars. At the conclusion of the tour there will be free time to remain in the museum to witness Catherine the Great’s elaborate Peacock Clock, which, fortunately for us, chimes only on Wednesday evenings.
Travel outside the city to the magnificent palace and gardens of Peter the Great at Peterhof. Built directly in response to the construction of Versailles by Louis XIV, the palace contains many outbuildings and subsequent smaller palaces as well as sprawling gardens of many different styles.
In the afternoon, board the hydrofoil to return to St Petersburg by sea for afternoon tea at the Eliseyev Emporium, a famous entertainment complex and food hall. Built in 1902-1903, it is one of the most striking examples of Russian Art Nouveau architecture. Enjoy a specialty coffee or sample a macaroon from one of the store’s many colourful displays.
Check out of the hotel and transfer to the train station for the high-speed ‘Sapsan’ train to Moscow (travel time approx. 4 hours). On arrival in Moscow, transfer to the hotel.
This evening enjoy a guided walking tour of Red Square followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
This morning visit the Kremlin with its many treasures, including the sumptuous interior of the Cathedral of the Assumption and the more intimate Cathedral of the Annunciation. Wander through the colourful Taynitsky Garden, the site of which was once home to the Church of St Constantine and Helen, which was destroyed by the Bolsheviks.
Then, visit the Armoury Chamber with its collection of Fabergé eggs and an astonishing array of glittering jewels, robes, thrones and carriages – a telling reminder of the pre-revolutionary opulence of the Romanov Dynasty.
In the afternoon, visit the Alexander Garden. Stretching the length of the west Kremlin wall, the garden is one of the oldest public spaces in Moscow. Consisting of an upper, middle and lower garden, the upper garden contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Eternal Flame.
Following a talk by Genevieve, enjoy a morning tour of Moscow, visit the 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 Sparrow Hills.
After lunch, visit the Moscow Apothecary Botanical Gardens, which now form a part of the botanical garden of Moscow State University. When the garden was established in 1706, the plants grown here were used not only for the preparation of medicines, but also for teaching botany and medical students.
Later, visit the formal and landscape parks of Kuskovo Estate, the former summer country house and estate of the Sheremetev family. One of the few estates of Russian nobility still preserved, the park is a favourite recreational place of Muscovites.
Enjoy a day in the Russian countryside in the region of Vladimir, near the so-called Golden Ring.
First, visit the private garden of Igor Uspensky, a noted Russian gardener and author of several books on coniferous plants and ornamental gardens. Dubbed “The Fantasy Forest”, the garden is closed to the public and features rare plants in an ornamental placement.
After viewing the garden, enjoy lunch at Igor Uspensky’s dacha.
In the afternoon, visit the “Garden of a Fairytale”, the private garden of Larissa Ivanova. The garden features hydrangeas and conifers as well as rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias. Enjoy some home-made Russian pastries in the garden before returning to Moscow.
This morning journey to the southeast of Moscow to visit the former royal estate of Kolomensky. Inhabited since 1339, Kolomensky became a favourite country estate of the princes of Moscovy. The White Ascension Church, built in 1532, was built to honour the birth of a long-awaited heir to the throne, who later became Ivan the Terrible.
Tsar Alexis I had all the previous wooden structures in Kolomenskoy demolished and replaced with a new wooden palace, famed for its fanciful, fairytale roofs. Foreigners once referred to this huge maze of intricate corridors and 250 rooms as ‘an Eighth Wonder of the World’.
Return to Moscow to spend the afternoon in Gorky Park. Opened in 1928, the park complex is a favourite entertainment venue for Muscovites. June will see the park’s gardens in full bloom and a range of seasonal venues and restaurants in full swing, serving everything from Russian pancakes to cocktails.
This evening, enjoy an optional performance at one of Moscow’s world renowned theatres. (Performance details to be announced in early 2020. Optional, extra cost applies)
In the morning, visit the Botanical Gardens of Moscow State University, followed by the Neskuchny Garden. The oldest park in Moscow, it was once the former residence of the Emperor and was created as a result of the integration of three estates in the eighteenth century. It is also home to the “Green Theatre”, the largest amphitheatre in Europe, which can house 15,000 people.
Then, enjoy time at leisure on colourful Arbat Street, before rounding out the tour at the Muzeon Park of Arts for the Moscow Flower Show. See exhibition gardens created by professional landscape designers from Russia and around the world.
This evening enjoy a special farewell dinner with Genevieve and fellow travellers.
Tour arrangements conclude with a transfer to Moscow Domodedovo or Moscow Sheremetyevo airports. Renaissance Tours can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any extra nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
17 April 2020
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness levels definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders require a visa for Russia. The visa will be obtained by Renaissance Tours and is included in the tour price.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located five-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner, A=Afternoon tea)
- Talks by your tour leader, Genevieve Jacobs
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- One-way business class train from St Petersburg to Moscow
- Transfers on arrival and departure
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
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.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your agent for assistance)
- Airport porterage
Moscow – Marriott Royal Aurora*****
St Petersburg – Lotte Hotel*****
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.