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Still considered a mystery wrapped in an enigma, a trip to Russia is for many a once in a lifetime experience. Almost 1,000 years old and very wise, Moscow is often misrepresented and shunned in favour of her Imperial rival St Petersburg. In fact a vibrant, dynamic and fascinating city, to neglect Moscow and her charms would be a shame, particularly as they are so complementary.

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When Peter the Great built St Petersburg, he envisaged a city as unlike Moscow as possible, a modern city designed to a plan. The first stone was laid in 1703, and Peter invited architects, masons, artists and craftsmen from every corner of Europe to help create his new capital. After Peter’s death, a succession of empresses and emperors added to the beauty of St Petersburg, each one lending it a new style: Baroque, Rococo, Classical and Russian Revival. Virtually all believe that the inspiration of the City was Venetian, but actually it was far more based on the waterways of Amsterdam. A visit to Peter the Great’s Palace under the Hermitage, shows in detail the architectural birth of the city.

St Petersburg changes dramatically with the seasons. In summer it benefits from long days and white nights, the sun glinting off grand pastel-coloured buildings and golden spires. Winter – when the rivers are frozen and the city lies under a crisp blanket of snow – is stunning, and arguably the most romantic time of year.

You could spend a month here and still have plenty to see, but with limited time taking in the great architectural set pieces and some of the world’s richest art galleries are the priority. Don’t miss the Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace. An absolute must is seeing a performance at the world-famous Mariinsky (Kirov) Theatre.

Explore the surrounding countryside, visiting the glorious summer palaces built by the Tsars. Among the treats that we can arrange, you should not miss a VIP tour to the Amber Room Workshops at the Catherine Palace.