Real Russia Blog

Why you should go to St Petersburg this summer!
7
February
2018

Why you should go to St Petersburg this summer!

Is St. Petersburg on your bucket list yet?

No secret that White nights season in May-June is the perfect time to visit St. Petersburg. Be captivated by the lavish palaces and fountains and enjoy the scenic panoramas whilst strolling around the city. Study the majestic surroundings or take a trip on a river boat to admire the city from its waterways at night underneath the stars. But there’s so much more to do!

Russians highly appreciate culture, arts and traditions, and the beginning of the summer season is the best time to immerse yourself in a constant flow of cultural events and celebrations alongside the locals.

Here are the special events taking place in St Petersburg between May and June worth seeing!

Victory Day on 9 May

Victory day has always been a great celebration in Saint Petersburg, as the city survived an 872 day siege during WWII. The traditional Victory Day parade which consists of a concert, tulips for the veterans, joyful tears, and, of course, grand fireworks; all of these make this holiday very special. Read more about Victory Day in Russia.

Peterhof Fountains opening on 19 May

Every year the park of Peterhof hosts a special event, when its famous fountains are turned on after a long winter break. An all-day festival is held with a fanfare, classical music performance, fireworks and many other thrilling events.

The Museum night on 19 May

Straight after a busy day at Peterhof embark on a museum tour at night. Every year the Petersburg museums, libraries, Zoo, Planetarium and other venues join this international event and prepare many surprises, master classes, special exhibitions and original excursions. Take this great opportunity to take part in the special night programme of the Hermitage, explore the collection of the Russian Museum or set off to Pushkin to enjoy the midnight stroll in Ekaterina Park. The museums event programmes will be available later.


Peter and Paul Fortress at white night

City Day on 27 May

A tradition of Russian cities is to celebrate the day of the city’s founding. On 27 May 1703 Peter I founded a fortress on the Neva river, the Peter and Paul Fortress, that laid the foundation for the splendid city of Saint Petersburg.

The programme of the festive events is very intense: exhibitions, concerts, folk festivals, and, of course, the opening of the city fountains as a symbol of summer and new life. The celebration of St Petersburg 315th anniversary ends with a huge multi-colored burst of fireworks in the night sky.

Summer Garden – the most famous garden in St.Petersburg

‘The White Nights Stars’ Cultural Festival in May – July

The International Ballet and Opera Festival with over 20-year history takes place annually at the acclaimed Mariinsky theatre. It is one of the most interesting and largest musical events in the world. Every year, the Mariinsky Theatre delights lovers of opera, ballet and classical music with the best performances, great symphonic works, masterpieces of chamber music and theatrical premieres performed by the world stars.

Day of Russia on 12 June

St. Petersburg will celebrate this great holiday on a large scale – there will be many special events, various concerts, interesting exhibits and fireworks to complete the celebrations.

The annual festival “Scarlet Sails” on 23 June

​ A ship with scarlet sails on the Neva river

This celebration, organised in honour of alumnus and graduates, attracts up to 3.5 million viewers annually! Wonderful ships with scarlet sails, the symbol of hope and faith in the future, will sail on the Neva river accompanied by music, light show and fireworks, all making an incredible spectacle!

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Contact our friendly team to find out more about any of these events and get a true insight into St. Petersburg history and everyday Russian life. Start planning your dream tour today with a range of excursions we offer in St. Petersburg!

Real Russia Blog

Chinese New Year
19
December
2017

Chinese New Year

It is the most important annual event in China and a great opportunity for visitors to experience authentic Chinese traditions!


There is no better place to experience this unique Chinese festival than China itself. Immerse yourself in the colourful Chinese culture and celebrate this special time of year alongside the locals: with fireworks, family and a whole lot of dragons. This year China will welcome the year of the dog.

Date: from 15 February – 2 March 2018
Place: China.

Chinese New Year falls on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, which is 16th February 2018 in the Gregorian Calendar. China adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1911 so Chinese New Year was renamed the Spring Festival to mark the end of Winter and welcome Spring. However, the ancient traditions of the day remain unchanged.
Traditionally, the end of the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year, is the Lantern Festival, where beautiful lanterns are displayed everywhere, and sweet rice dumpling soup is eaten. This celebration symbolizes the wish for a bright future.

Chinese New Year is the most important annual event in China and a great chance for visitors to experience authentic Chinese traditions!

How locals celebrate the New Year in China.

Preparing for the New Year celebrations, people clean their homes, buy gifts, clothing, food and items to decorate their house. Chinese people put New Year pictures on their walls and decorate their homes with red papers and couplets for happiness, wealth and longevity, and hang beautiful red lanterns.

In the evening of the Spring Festival Eve, many people set off fireworks and firecrackers, hoping to cast away bad luck and bring in good luck. Many people will wear new clothes and send Chinese New Year greetings to each other. People joyfully participate in various festivities, such as beating drums and striking gongs, dragon and lion dances.

​ The Lion Dance

It is a time to reunite with and visit relatives. A festive dinner is held on New Year’s Eve where families will gather to celebrate, normally in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very large and traditionally includes meaty dishes, such as pork, chicken and fish. Most reunion dinners also feature a communal hot pot to signify the family gathering for the meal. Meals on this date have a big significance, certain foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune.

During the dinner family members exchange red envelops, which often contain money in certain numbers that represent good luck.

The first day of Chinese New Year is a time for younger people to honor their elders, families will visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The second day of the Chinese New Year is the time when married daughters visit their birth parents, relatives and close friends. Some believe that the second day is also the birthday of all dogs and give them special treats.

Most employees in China have at least seven days off work to celebrate the Spring Festival. However, the festival lasts for 15 days, from the Chinese New Year Eve to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. Various traditional customs and activities are held during the Lantern Festival that appeal to people of different ages, including watching lanterns and fireworks, guessing lantern riddles, performing folk dances, and eating yuanxiao (a rice ball stuffed with different fillings).

Symbols of the holiday.


The Chinese believe that while red is a symbol of happiness, gold is a symbol of wealth. Traditionally, red envelopes are passed out during the Chinese New Year’s celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors and children. Red envelops almost always contain money and, sometimes, chocolate. Interestingly, the amount of money in the red packets should always be an even number, as odd numbers are associated with money given during funerals. The numbers six and eight are considered lucky so they are commonly found in the red envelopes.

Small gifts, usually of food or sweets are also presented to friends and relatives during Chinese New Year, for example, oranges cakes, biscuits, chocolates, candies, or other similar gifts.

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Did we inspire you to experince the greatest annual event in China? It’s never too early to book your trip! Contact our travel specialists to get assistance in planning your dream journey.

Real Russia Blog

The Camel Festival in Mongolia
27
November
2017

The Camel Festival in Mongolia

Your Must-See Experience

The Thousand Camel festival takes place annually between the end of winter and beginning of spring in Dalanzadgad. Participating in this spectacular 2-day event is an amazing and unique opportunity to interact with the two-humped Bactrian camels and Mongolian camel herders. Every year the festival gathers more than a thousand camels, and over a thousand participants and spectators. The camels are especially pretty in winter when their fur becomes thick and lavish to stand the cold temperatures.

The Role of the Camel in the Nomadic Lifestyle.

The festival celebrates the endangered two-humped camels (Bactrian) and the role it played, and continues to play, for nomads in the Gobi. These amazing animals carry everything that a Mongolian needs to build and live in a ger (also known as a yurt). Camels are much tougher than horses and can cover 50 miles in one day, and run very quickly.

Nowadays camels have been replaced as a means of transportation by cars, but the popularity of camel racing reflects the admiration still given to them. There are approximately 500,000 Bactrian camels in the world, and 300,000 of them habit in Mongolia.

Mongolians eat camel meat, similarly to goat, and use camel wool for making clothes like jackets and socks, and blankets.

The Festival



Camel riders before the start of races

This exciting and fun event takes place in the Gobi during the time of the year when the desert is covered in snow and temperatures drop below zero. It features traditional music, costume competitions, dancing, polo competition and camel racing. After the festivities, the spectators can ride the camels and visit some of the Gobi’s unique sights.

The festival begins with a camel beauty parade where the big, fluffy animals parade in front of the crowd. They then embark on the race, where the herders drive the camels on a 15km race across the steppe. The average speed of camels is about 12 km per hour, which corresponds to the speed of a galloping horse. Racing camels is the most beautiful and popular competition of all the holidays and events of Mongolia attracting many visitors.

​ Un unlimited expanse of steppe

In addition to the race, another highlight of the event is a Polo match. Two riders sit on each camel; one controls the camel, while the second one hits the ball with a stick.

Other highlights of the festival are traditional performances of Mongolian folklore and a fair of products from camel milk and camel-hair.

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If you would like to experience this unique spectacle at the end of February – beginning of March, please contact our travel specialists and get first-hand advice.

Real Russia Blog

World Travel Awards 2017 - we did it!
13
October
2017

World Travel Awards 2017 – we did it!

For the fifth consecutive year we are the best in travel to Russia!

Russia’s leading travel agency for the last five years!

We are delighted to say that with your incredible support, we have been named Russia’s Leading Travel Agency 2017. This is the fifth year in succession we have had the honour of being voted ‘Russia’s Leading Travel Agency’, which is unprecedented. Impressive? Indeed!

Considering that the World Travel Awards are the travel industry’s equivalent of the Oscars, winning an award at the World Travel Awards means so much to everyone here at Real Russia. It provides international recognition for our team of dedicated specialists, without whom Real Russia would not be where it is today. And winning this prestigious award for the fifth time in a row demonstrates that our team are consistently, year on year, exceeding our customers' expectations.

Now the glare of the splendid ceremony has faded, we would like to send huge thanks to our fantastic customers for taking the time to vote for us; also to our partners and affiliates for spreading the word about the nomination and encouraging their customers to speak up. We are privileged to have had your support for the last five years, and we feel it is a big responsibility keeping our services to the highest standard.

In celebration, Real Russia are delighted to make a contribution to our chosen charity, The Life Route. The donation will help the charity to continue their excellent work.

The Gala Ceremony

Talking about the award ceremony, our team, including the Operations Director Eugene Kharisov, Sales Supervisor Alla Menshikova and our Account Manager Natasha Zhukova, attended the prestigious ceremony in St Petersburg on 30th September 2017, with hundreds of giants from the travel industry from across the region in attendance.

The venue was absolutely gorgeous – the Marble Hall of the Russian Museum of Ethnography situated in the neighbourhood of the Mikhailovsky Palace. The Marble Hall is one of the most remarkable rooms of this museum, made in the Greco-Roman peristyle. The cladding is completely made of Karelian pink marble. The inner room is enclosed in numerous columns supporting the ceiling vaults.

The Marble Hall- the venue of the Gala ceremony

The official after party was held in the ballroom at the luxurious five-star Hotel Astoria, one of the most attractive venues, where the national Russian character matches with the luxury of the high-class hotel. The Astoria was where Hitler planned to hold a victory ball after taking Leningrad, as the city was called during World War Two. Needless to say, this never happened.


The guests enjoing the performance on the stage

We asked Alla about the highlights of the event, ‘The venue impressed me the most. The Marble Hall and the lighting that they created looked fabulous. We all enjoyed a terrific performance of the professional artists (musicians, singers), who were very warmly and sincerely taken by the guests.’


​The artists in the traditional Russian costumes

As Eugene Kharisov explained to us, ‘This event was attended by the most successful tourism industry leaders who, through their dedication, got this longed-for reward. Attending there was a good opportunity for us to acquire new contacts and meet the existing partners. The event was organized at the highest level with the participation of local authorities. Guests were invited to a magnificent show with Russian artists and a sumptuous dinner. We hope that our participation in this event will be permanent.’

The interview with Eugene Kharisov

We are especially pleased that the event took place in Russia, for the first time in World Travel Awards history, and that the host city, St Petersburg, in the centenary of the October Revolution, received the award for Europe’s Leading Destination. Famed for its endless canals, baroque palaces and legendary historical figures who called the city home, this eternal city of luxury palaces and fountains, has been the quintessence of Russian history and culture over the last three centuries.

As World Travel Awards Founder and President Graham Cooke said, ‘St Petersburg proved a wonderful host for our Europe Gala Ceremony, and I am sure the city will go on to take its rightful place as a top ranking tourism destination.’

The State Hermitage and St. Isaak Cathedral

If you would like spend a few days exploring the stunning city of St. Petersburg, the imperial and cultural capital of Russia with a rich and dramatic history, let us assist you. Famed around the world as a city of museums and galleries, this 'Venice of the North' can boast over 100 museums, ranging from the State Hermitage, one of the world's most famous galleries, to small museums honoring some of Russia's greatest writers. Step back in time with our St.Petersburg excursions or tours to discover the world-famous sights, including the Peter and Paul Fortress, Church of the Savior on the Blood and other stunning cathedrals, many magnificent palaces around St.Petersburg, or enjoy a boat tour with incredible views of this unique city.

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Once again we are proud to be a World Travel Awards winner and would like to thank you all who sent us congratulations on the victory.

Our colleagues, Alla, Eugene and Natasha with the 2017 trophy

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Real Russia Blog

Golden Eagle Festival
21
July
2017

Golden Eagle Festival

Take an opportunity to experience old Kazakh traditions and ways of life, and coincide your trip with the fantastic Golden Eagle Festival.

If you are looking to experience a traditional way of life, with a scenic and diverse landscape, and awe-inspiring wilderness, then a visit to Mongolia will give you a fascinating insight into invigorating eastern culture. Why not take an opportunity to experience old Kazakh traditions and ways of life, and coincide your trip with the fantastic Golden Eagle Festival.


Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Event, the Golden Eagle Festival is annually held in Mongolia during the first weekend in October. The festival was founded in 1999 to preserve the Kazakh's unique heritage, a tradition that has been practiced thousands of years, and to protect golden eagles. The Golden Eagle Festival is one of the best opportunities to catch a glimpse into the area’s unique culture.

Place: Bayan-Ölgii, the highest Mongolian province
Location: the Altai Mountains of Western Mongolia
Date: 15 – 16 September 2018, 6-7 October 2018

This province is a home to ethnic Kazakh nomads who train Golden Eagles for hunting. While enjoying breathtaking scenery of the Altai mountains that offers endless opportunities for photography, you can observe an ancient and disappearing art of eagle-hunting.

Mongolian Kazakhs, who honor the tradition of hunting on horseback with Golden Eagles, continue to hunt with trained Golden Eagles today. Once a year, dozens of them, from teenagers to old men, gather in a valley of the Altai Mountains to celebrate the Golden Eagle Festival and to participate in the hunting competition to the view of locals and tourists. The Eagle Hunters compete with each other in catching animals with specially trained eagles, who follow commands of their owners.

What the tourists can’t see, though, it’s the hard work of the eagle domestication that comes before. To tame the eagle, the eaglet is starved of food for days, until it begins to accept food from humans, and then the hunter can start training the eagle. As the bond between the hunter and eagle develops, they head to the mountains, sometimes for days, to hunt their prey – usually foxes, hares or wolves – during the winter months, when it is easier to see the animals against the snow.


Eagle huntsmen compete in the hunting skills, eagles’ agility, speed and accuracy as well as in huntsmen’s clothes: the more extravagant the coat the more respected the hunter is. The hunters are dressed in traditional Kazakh costumes, with fur coats made of marmot, fox or wolf skins which have been caught by their eagles.

The festival includes an opening ceremony, parade, cultural exhibitions, demonstrations and handcrafts taking place in the centre of the town of Ölgii, followed by sporting activities and competitions outside of town towards the mountains. The other activities held during the Golden Eagle Festival include horse racing, archery and Bushkashi, where horse-mounted players attempt to place a goat or calf.

Keeping with the tradition, no women can participate in it. However, in 2014 the 13-year-old Kazakh girl Aisholpan, who was taught to hunt with her eagles by her grandfather, challenged a male-dominated tradition and became the first female to enter and won the competition. It was featured in the documentary ‘The eagle huntress’.

Tourists, coming from all over the world to participate in the Festival, help to keep this ancient tradition alive and thus support the local community, where people still live in harmony with nature, practicing the lifestyle that ancient Kazakhs lived centuries ago.


If we inspired you to visit this spectacular event, contact our travel experts to arrange you visa, tickets and accommodation.

Real Russia Blog

Victory Day in Russia
9
May
2017

Victory Day in Russia

Victory Day commemorates the Victory of the Soviet Union over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945

Russian holidays reflect all aspects of Russian history and traditions. One of our national favourites is Victory Day, which is celebrated, unlike Europe, on 9th May, as Germany’s surrender was signed in Berlin late in the evening on 8th May when it was already 9th May in Russia, due to the difference in time zones.

9th May in Russia is a day of remembrance and joy, but, as the phrase goes, it is a joy ‘with tears in the eyes’. During the four years of war, the USSR lost around 25 million citizens. In Russia and in other countries of the former Soviet Union, there is no family who was not affected by the war with Nazi Germany. So, the social memory about it is still alive and is being kept by virtue of different events and ceremonies, which traditionally take place in Russia on Victory Day.

Public celebrations

On the 9th May, a non-working day, celebrations and commemorative events are held all across Russia, with military parades, fireworks and other ceremonies. One of the most popular events is the tasting of the ‘soldier’s meal’ – made up of boiled barley groats – followed by drinking 100 grams of vodka, in remembrance of the meagre rations given to the soldiers.

Across Russia, a ceremony will take place in which flowers are laid at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, and a minute of silence is held, for soldiers killed in battles, members of resistance movements, prisoners of deaths camps and all the civilians, who perished to the hardships of sieges and wartime.

In the parks and squares throughout Russia, to the sound of the old tunes performed by orchestra, younger generations honour veterans, give them flowers (usually red carnations), thank them and ask for wartime stories.

The main military show of this day – parades – are usually invitation only events, and most people can see them only broadcasting on TV. On this day, before and after the Parade broadcasting, TV channels broadcast well-known, mostly tearful, Soviet films about the Great Patriotic War. People gather around the festive table to remember the passed-away relatives and to express gratitude for the peaceful sky over their heads.

Fireworks traditionally conclude the day of the commemoration.

Victory Parade

The first Victory Parade was held on 24 June 1945 on Red Square in Moscow. Since then, Victory Parade has been an integral part of the Victory Day celebrations, aimed at honouring the heroic sacrifices of the past and demonstrating the might of the country and its latest military hardware.

Military parades take place in major Russian cities, while the biggest parade always takes place in Moscow’s Red Square. Last year the Moscow parade “involved 10,000 military staff, 135 armoured vehicles, and 71 aircraft” (based on information from bbc.co.uk).

The State Historical Museum on the Red Square On Victory Day, Moscow.

Immortal Regiment

The Immortal Regiment movement arose to commemorate the heroical deed and bravery of those who fought in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.

Starting in 2009, this march became so popular that in 2016, in Moscow alone, it comprised of over 700,000 people. Beyond that, thousands of people in more than 50 countries around the world took part in the marches carrying the portraits of their family members who fought on the battlefronts of World War II.

As the founders of this movement say, the new war starts when the generation, who forgot what the war is, have grown up. Therefore, the Immortal Regiment aims to preserve and defend the memory of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War.

Immortal Regiment march in Moscow

If you are keen on Russian history and would like to feel the moving power of Victory Day or other holiday in Russia, contact out travel specialists to find out your best options.

Real Russia Blog

New Year in Russia
30
December
2014

New Year in Russia

An Inside View of New Years Celebrations!

The New Year is the most important holiday on the Russian calendar. To give you an insight into how the New Year is celebrated in Russia, we thought we would ask our teams in Moscow and Volzhsky how they traditionally celebrate.

First, though, a quick introduction. Russians do not celebrate Christmas in the same way that many western countries do, they do not even celebrate it on the same day. In Russia it is celebrated on the 7th January, as it is still very much a religious event, and the Russian Orthodox Church still operate according to the Julian Calendar; as opposed to the Gregorian Calendar that is generally used by people around the world.

Why is New Year the most favourite Russian holiday?

The New Year equates the importance of Christmas on the west. What many western countries would recognise as Christmas, gift giving, social and familial gatherings, and merriment, actually happen in Russia on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the 31st December and 1st January. Those dates do happen according to the Gregorian Calendar, just to confuse matters.

​Russians receive more than a week off and spend this time celebrating, visiting, giving gifts, setting off fireworks. New Year is time to be with family and friends; and Russians believe that those with whom you celebrate the New Year will be near you for the rest of the next year.

Before Peter the Great's decree in 1699, Russia used to celebrate New Year on the 1st of September, once the harvest has been gathered. Before Communists came to power in 1917, Christmas was more important holiday in Russia then New Year. Communists banned religion in the country, so Christmas became less and less popular with years passing by and New Year replaced it in people's hearts.

Like western Christmas, the New Year in Russia is celebrated with a decorated New Year tree, gifts, Ded Moroz, fireworks and all other attributes. Russian people consider the coming year to be the beginning of new life, a chance to make the dreams come true. This holiday has some nice traditions, like to set a dinner table full of delicious dishes, including Olivier salad, watch the President's solemn speech, which is broadcasted on all the TV channels just before the midnight, or to make a wish and drink champagne while the Kremlin chimes on Spasskaya tower are tolling at 11.59 pm.

Now that you have a little background to the holiday period in Russia, here, curtesy of our Russian team, is an insight into the Russians' favourite holiday – the New Year.


New Year celebrations in Russia.

‘Everything starts in the morning of the 31st of December with cooking and preparing to night's celebrations. Around 10 p.m., all dressed up, people gather around the table, with friends and relatives, to taste all the dishes that they have prepared and say goodbye to the departing year. The festive table is set with different tasty dishes, like roasted chicken, pork, duck or turkey with mashed potatoes, pelmeni, delicatessen, e.g. pickles, mushrooms, cheese, salamy and salted fish, salads with vegetables or meat and mayonnaise.


At 11: 55 p.m., on the TV, our president sums up the past year and wishes all the best to the citizens. At 11:59 p.m. the Kremlin chime beats the midnight, the beginning of the New Year, with 12 strikes. During these 12 strikes most people silently make wishes, the others write their wishes on small pieces of paper then burn them and dissolving the ash in the glasses with champagne drink it in one gulp.

After midnight people go ourside to light sparkles, display fireworks and congratulate the neighbours. Then we come back to the festive table, continue eating and drinking. Nearly at 2 a.m. people start dancing and singing karaoke, or go visiting friends and family. Some Moscovites go to Red Square to watch the fireworks and take take in the mass celebrations.

Celebrations end in the morning. The most famous saying asserts: “As you meet the New Year, so will you spend it”. It explains why Russians pay so much attention to joy, dressing-up and feast on New Year night. After a short sleep, we continue celebrating on 1st of January by visiting our friends or other relatives, making presents for them and wishing all the best.’

How children celebrate New Year.

”The New Year celebrations for children start in the last days of December at schools. Special New Year performances for children also happen during the New Year holidays in January in theaters, circuses and other locations.

All December children get ready to the New Year performances at schools; they learn winter songs and rehearse dances beforehand. The senior pupils do performances for the youngest ones with the Russian fairy tales characters, usually about a fight between good and evil with happy end. Everybody is waiting to see Ded Moroz (Father Christmas) and Snegurochka (the grand-daughter of Ded Moroz), who come to the performance, help the good to fight evil and finally light the Christmas tree up to everyone’s amusement.
All children are taking part in this performance with their songs, winter rhymes, dances and games, all dressed up in different costumes of fairy-tale characters. They sing and dance in a ring around a huge Christmas tree in the centre of the hall. At the end, all children get their sweet gifts from Ded Moroz and Snegurochka.”
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We hope that this has given you a little insight into how the holiday season is celebrated in Russia! All that is left, is to wish you a Happy New Year! С Новым Годом!