Real Russia Blog

The Most Popular Museums in Europe, According to Instagram

The Most Popular Museums in Europe, According to Instagram

Four Russian museums in the top 50!

Here at Real Russia we pride ourselves on being experts in travel specialising in Russia and the Trans-Siberian railway, with our knowledgeable and experienced travel team always on hand to provide assistance, travel advice and recommendations to travellers.

We do this by travelling extensively ourselves, as well as listening to feedback from fellow travellers, and checking out new research and travel trends.

We know that one of the most popular activities for travellers when visiting a European country such as Russia is checking out the vast array of museums the continent offers; covering everything from art to history, science to music, and everything in-between! And, of course, Russia is renowned for having some of the best museums in the world!

On this basis, we decided to research the most ‘Instagrammed’ museums in Europe, to find out which museums are the most popular, and maybe even get a better understanding of what travellers are looking for when trying to find that perfect trip.

Our research

As Instagram is one of the most popular ways to document travel experiences in the current age, this platform offered us an excellent and in-depth insight into the most popular European museums.

Having brought together a list of over 100 major European museums from various sources (see ‘Methodology’ below), we tracked all Instagram posts tagged at each of them. From this we were able to create our ranking of the most popular museums in Europe.

We had a feeling that Russia, with its incredible number of world-famous museums would feature highly, and we were right.

The results

The Louvre took the number one spot with an astonishing 4.3 million posts, taking the crown as Europe’s most Instagrammed museum by a substantial amount.

Coming in at second place is the equally iconic Vatican Museum in Italy, which has been tagged an impressive 1.8 million times on Instagram.

We were thrilled to see one of Russia’s best museums taking the third position, with the Moscow Kremlin proving to be one of the top three most popular museums in Europe with a massive 920k posts.

It was interesting to look at the spread of cities and countries which appeared most commonly within the top 50 results.

It was no surprise to us was the fact that Russia was a repeat performer with four Russian museums featured in the top 50; split evenly between Moscow and St Petersburg. As well as the Moscow Kremlin, the other Russian museums featured are the State Hermitage Museum ranking ninth with 490k posts, The Tretyakov Gallery with 59k posts and the Kunstkamera with 36k posts.

Other countries coming out on top for museum-goers include Germany with eight museums in the top 50, France with seven museums featured, and Italy who also feature eight times. The UK also appears to have a great reputation for museums with eight museums included within the top 50.

EN:We're kicking off a new hashtag, #VaticaninFocus, to share the best glimpses of this sacred place that's so full of history. Use it as well when you share your own pics of the Vatican! We'll publish the best on our @VaticanNews account. ES: Hemos pensando este nuevo hashtag para compartir con ustedes imágenes de lugares bellos y significativos del Vaticano: #VaticanInFocus. Úsenlo también ustedes para compartir sus fotos del Vaticano; publicaremos las mejores en nuestra cuenta @VaticanNews. PT: Pensamos numa nova hashtag, #VaticanInFocus, para contar os ângulos mais belos e densos de história e sacralidade do Vaticano. Use você também para compartilhar suas fotos do Vaticano, publicaremos as melhores na conta do @VaticanNews IT: Abbiamo pensato a un nuovo hashtag, #VaticanInFocus, per raccontare gli scorci più belli e densi di storia e sacralità di questi luoghi. Usatelo anche voi per condividere i vostri scatti in Vaticano, pubblicheremo i migliori sull'account di @VaticanNews

A post shared by Vatican News (@vaticannews) on


To compile our research, we first looked at a number of resources including visitor numbers, TripAdvisor reviews, museum size, and trusted expert travel recommendations, to compile a list of over 100 of Europe’s major museums.

We then used the Instagram location function to track all posts tagged at each museum’s location, before crawling this data to find how many posts were tagged per location.

Using this information, we ranked our list by popularity and cut the results down to the final top 50 most popular museums in Europe.

The top Russian museums

If you are interested in visiting some of Russia’s most Instagrammed museums you can find out more about each of the museums featured, below.

Moscow Kremlin, Moscow (3rd – 920,280 posts)

The Moscow Kremlin is one of the most recognised museum complexes not only in Russia or in Europe, but in the entire world.

The fortified complex in the heart of Moscow is an iconic symbol of Russia, and along with the adjacent Red Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As stated by UNESCO themselves, the Kremlin is, “inextricably linked to all the most important historical and political events in Russia since the 13th century”.

The Kremlin itself actually contains a number of different museums and cathedrals that together offer a fantastic overview of Russia and Russian history. From the Diamond Fund to the Armoury Chamber, and from the Patriarchs Palace to the Museum of History of the Kremlin Architectural Ensemble, there is an exhibit for every interest.

Simply put, the Kremlin is one of the most important social, historical and cultural experiences to enjoy when visiting Moscow.

State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (9th – 490,326 posts)

The State Hermitage Museum located in St Petersburg is the second largest art museum in the world (based on gallery space) but claims to hold the largest collection of paintings, and we don’t doubt it.

The Hermitage itself comprises a number of historic buildings, with the most famous being the Winter Palace, the former residence of the Russian monarchs. All the buildings fall within the UNESCO World Heritage Site, ‘Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg’, and are as beautiful on the outside, as the artwork is on the inside.

Although it was founded it 1764 by Catherine the Great in what is now known as the ‘Small Hermitage’, it was not opened to the public until 1852, and has gone from strength to strength ever since, with more than 3 million pieces in its collection. In fact, it is said that if you spent one minute looking at each piece, for eight hours per day, it would take 15 years to see everything!

Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (36th – 59,287 posts)

The Tretyakov Gallery is among the the most iconic art museums in the world and is, in fact, known as home to the best collection of Russian fine art in the world.

The layout of the museum is unique in that you are led through the evolution of Russian art from the 11th to the 20th century, with each painting acting as a window to a specific time and place. We would highly recommend booking an expert guide for this journey through Russian history to really help understand and appreciate how Russia has grown, changed and been shaped over the last 1000 years.

Kunstkamera, St Petersburg (46th – 36,180)

The Kunstkamera (derived from the German for ‘art chamber’) was the first museum opened in Russia; born of the innate curiosity of Peter the Great.

Created as a ‘cabinet of curiosities’, the better description for its modern incarnation also happens to be its full name, the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography.

With exhibitions covering North and Latin America, as well as much of Asia and the Middle East, there is sure to be something of interest to everyone. Be warned, though, as many of the items within its ‘First Scientific Collection’ are not for the squeamish, containing as they do a number of natural ‘oddities’ related to Peter the Great’s interest in human anatomy.

If you would like to check out any, or all, of these museums, get in touch with our travel team who can tailor any one of our Moscow and Saint Petersburg tours to your needs.

For more inspiration, follow us on Instagram for some incredible images of Russia and the Trans-Siberian railway.

Real Russia Blog

Real Russia Travels: Dominic Quiney goes to Russia for the 2018 World Cup

Real Russia Travels: Dominic Quiney goes to Russia for the 2018 World Cup

In June 2018, Real Russia’s own Dominic Quiney went to Russia to experience the world’s grandest festival of football. In this short blog, he reflects on his experiences there.

Introduce yourself…

I'm Dominic Quiney and I joined Real Russia in February 2017 and my role at the company is Marketing Executive. I studied History and Russian Studies at the University of Birmingham and lived in Russia twice (once in Petrozavodsk, in summer 2013 and once in Moscow, from 2014-2015).

Why did you decide to go to the World Cup in Russia?

I decided I simply had to go to Russia for this unique experience, because, even though I've hugely enjoyed living in Russia before, I wanted to see the festival of football that this country with its unique culture and highly hospitable people could put on. I told my friends and family beforehand that Russia wouldn't disappoint for this, and I was certainly proven right!

Tell us about your experiences at the tournament

It was spectacular! The tournament was hosted across 11 Russian cities in total, and even though I only managed to visit two cities (Moscow and Volgograd), I could tell that the foreign fans were fascinated by Russia, its culture and its people, while the locals were fascinated by the foreign fans and were very happy to make new international friends.

As soon as I landed in Moscow, I got the train down to Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) and, after making new Russian friends on that train (Russian train journeys are always an excellent way of meeting the locals), I arrived in Volgograd. I spent my days there visiting the FIFA Fan Fest, the awe-inspiring Mamaev Kurgan (the highest point in Volgograd and which saw some of the fiercest fighting of the battle for the city), taking a brief cruise on the Volga river and visiting numerous museums. Oh, there was the small matter of visiting the Volgograd Arena to watch England play against Tunisia too! England won 2-1, courtesy of a very late goal from Harry Kane!

​The day after the match, I got back on the train from Volgograd to Moscow. There were supporters from the UK, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the USA and, of course, Russia, in my carriage of the train, so it had a very international flavour to it! I spent a few days in Moscow and met up with some friends, visited Red Square and Nikolskaya Street during the World Cup festivities (they were extremely busy with fans from all over the world singing, playing musical instruments and celebrating), VDNKH (the huge, Soviet-era exhibition park near the Cosmonautics Museum) and, amongst other sights, the Moscow FIFA Fan Fest. This was held at Sparrow Heights (Vorobyoviye Gory), in the courtyard of the stunning Moscow State University.

Do you intend to go back to Russia this year using your World Cup Fan ID?

Yes, certainly! I'll actually be making use of it again in October!

If you want to start your own Russian adventure, see our wide range of tours and excursions, or contact our travel specialists, who will be happy to assist you.

This is how one of our staff members used his Fan ID to explore Russia. How will you use yours?

Real Russia Blog

Perceptions of Russia

Perceptions of Russia

Why was Russia the biggest surprise of 95 countries Jessica has visited.

It is very easy to get a distorted view of a country, or people, from watching Hollywood movies and following social media. The easiest (if not the cheapest) remedy to this, is to travel and see the world for yourself. Continuing her series of blogs written exclusively for Real Russia, Jessica, creator of travel blog How Dare She, shares with us how her perceptions of Russia and her people changed when she had the opportunity to visit the country herself.
I didn’t know what to expect of Russia. Of Russians. Of Russian food. And out of the 95 countries I’ve been to, I’d have to say that Russia was the biggest surprise of them all. Where I expected ice and snow, I found rolling greens and lakes. When the stereotypes told me to expect Bond villains, I got boisterous, affable friends.

Russia is huge

If you look at a map, this should be quite obvious, but Russia really is huge. It doesn’t sink in fully until you’re planning stops on the train journey. There are so many options, how to choose? I was surprised when I talked with other passengers on the way from Mongolia into Irkutsk – most were stopping in Irkutsk and then going the long haul to Moscow with no stops in between. While the East and West of the country are quite different, surely there were cities in between worth visiting. At least that’s what I figured … I was right.

I stopped in Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Perm, Yekaterinburg, Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Each unique, but with common themes. Tall, beautiful, friendly people, delicious food and interesting architecture.

In Irkutsk you are a few quick hours from the stunning Lake Baikal. I did not give myself enough time there. I wish I had known on the front end that it was so ecologically diverse (known as Russia’s Galapagos) and so massive (it contains 20% of the entire world’s freshwater supply). I also wish I liked fish because everyone seemed to be enjoying it.

Lake Baikal

On to Novosibirsk, where I went to the famous opera house to see my first opera, in the first row, for $4, and the next day went to the zoo and saw my first liger. A lot of firsts in Novosibirsk.

Next up was Omsk, where the Soviet architecture stood out. It’s a big city and I just enjoyed walking around, or riding the (very cheap) busses around when my feet got tired.

Novosibirsk Opera House

Both Perm and Yekaterinburg were great to explore by foot, helped by tourist paths painted on the sidewalk so you don’t miss anything.

Moscow is the main event. So big that it’s almost overwhelming, but with such a great transit system, it’s as if the city shrinks – pro-tip, get the multi-day transit pass, it’s unlimited and cheap. Red Square and the surrounding area is beautiful by day, but even more charming by night. St. Basil’s Cathedral is popular for a reason and an absolute must – not just for its beauty, but listening to a chorus sung in the cathedral gave me chills. Oh, yeah, and the city has a Vodka Museum. So, it’s a winner for me. I could definitely live there.

Inside St.Basil's Cathedral

Red Square

St. Petersburg honestly wasn’t on my radar, but I was going to be going onward to Finland, so it just made sense logistically. I strolled the city, taking in another different, but still clearly Soviet, style of architecture. I ended up on a canal cruise, which was in Russian, but I didn’t mind. I was less interested in the buildings’ history and more interested in a relaxing time seeing the city from the water. By canal or by foot, the city was way more than just a logistical stop. I finished my time in Russia with a local folk show, and it was a fantastic evening to wrap up the experience.

Savior on the Spilled Blood Church, St. Petersburg​

Russia experiences summer

That Russia does experience summer, is another point that might seem quite obvious. But as someone who doesn’t care for snow, all I was worried about was not putting myself in a blizzard. And on the Eastern shores of Lake Baikal I got scared. Snow. And lots of it. Then we rounded the lake and entered into summer. June and July in Russia are delightful. Blue skies, warmth from the sun during the day and enough of a chill at night to cool back off.

This was probably best exemplified walking around the parks of any of the cities, which were filled with families enjoying the weather, eating ice cream and ambling around on rollerblades. Squares across the country had mini-electric cars that kids could take for a spin or animals to pet. Did I mention the ice cream?

Russians are so Russian

Everyone is so ‘Russian’,” I thought to myself as I got to Moscow. Even upon reflection, I can’t come up with a better way to describe the style. It’s as varied as it is bold and confident. Someone decked out in traditional Eastern Orthodox clothing wouldn’t look out of place sitting next to a woman dressed to perfection for a business meeting, or teens with hair from any color on the spectrum.

By this point, I also knew that being so Russian meant that while someone may not be smiling, it didn’t mean that they weren’t friendly. Whether meeting on a train or in a pub, I found the people to be incredibly warm and genuinely curious.

“What do Americans think of Russia?” A question that I would be asked over and over, and which I would learn my answer for was totally incomplete. They were so curious about what we thought, as if I represented the whole of the USA.

I don’t know what Americans think of Russia, but I certainly know what I’ll be reporting back. Must visit, and I’m sure planning to make use of that three-year visa.
Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your experience travelling across Russia, the largest, and possible most enigmatic, country in the world. Be sure to check out her other, equally fantastic, blogs.
And don’t forget to follow her inspiring travel adventures on her blog, How Dare She, her Facebook, Twitter and her Instagram jess_ismore.

If you want to follow in Jess’s footsteps, Real Russia offer a comprehensive range of tours, taking in the three different ‘Trans-Siberian’ routes, between Moscow and Vladivostok, and Moscow and Beijing.
Click here to take a look and book now!

Real Russia Blog

Meet the team: Yuriy Legepekov

Meet the team: Yuriy Legepekov

Our Travel Specialist in Volzhsky, Russia

Here at Real Russia we have a well-established team of highly experienced specialists, who are happy to give independent, expert advice and assistance with your travel needs; finding your perfect destination within Russia and the surrounding countries, as well as along the Trans-Siberian railway. In our continuing blog series we have been introducing you to the people that make Real Russia special, the Real Russia team.

Today we shall be meeting Yuriy, so let’s go!

Yuriy Legepekov, Real Russia Travel Specialist

Yuriy has been working at Real Russia for more than nine years. He graduated from Volgograd University of Humanities in 2007 with a Master’s Degree in Linguistics. He is married and has a three years old son, Ivan. This year, Yuriy embarked on a trip to discover Moscow and towns of the Russian Golden Ring.

What is your favourite place in Moscow?

The place I enjoyed the most was the area in the centre of Moscow, with the narrow old streets behind the Kremlin, with richly decorated historic houses, stone-block pavement, street artists and musicians, cosy coffee-shops and eateries.

There's a stereotype that you can't have a relaxing quiet evening in roaring and vibrant Moscow … well, I would totally disagree to that! The area around the Kremlin offers tens of atmospheric pedestrian streets and lanes to explore and enjoy – Kamergersky Lane, Varvarka Street, Lavrushensky Lane, Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street, and many more just waiting to be discovered!

Which excursions in Moscow from Real Russia’s range would you suggest to a tourist visiting Moscow for the first time?

Moscow for me is a huge multi-layer canvas with many scenes, neat lines and patterns. If you try to see all what's worth to see there, it will take weeks. And since most of the foreign tourists have only two to three days, I'd recommend the following ‘Crash Course in Moscow’, which includes:

City Tour and visit inside St. Basils Cathedral

The magnificent Red Square with Mausoleum and St. Basil's Cathedral (I bet you'll make at least a hundred pictures of it!), are your first ‘must-see’ places. The changing of the guard at the Eternal Flame is a procession which will make you hold your breath with excitement, stretching your arms and camera up over the crowd. Panoramic views of the Moskva River and monumental Cathedral of Christ the Saviour will pop up before your eyes every time you think of Moscow again. Of course, a visit to the famous GUM on Red Square, a department store, where Soviet-era style goes hand in hand with capitalist glamour, and both shine with happiness. Don't miss the pleasure of tasting the legendary Soviet ice-cream, produced exclusively at this place.

The Kremlin and Cathedrals

No Moscow experience will be complete without seeing the inside of the Kremlin (which, in Russian, means ‘fortress’) in the heart of Moscow. It's time to see the star-topped towers and find out through which gate Vladimir Putin drives in to work, and see the place where he sits – the President’s Palace. You won't be able to resist the beauty of the architecture and rich history it hides. The Tsar Cannon, Tsar Bell and Cathedral Square – with glittering golden domes under the blue sky – will reveal hidden El Dorado behind the Kremlin walls on the Red Square. I didn't even mention the diamonds at the Kremlin's Diamond Fund. Not to be missed!

Arbat Street and Moscow Metro

After seeing the head of Moscow, it wouldn't be fair to go without seeing its heart, Arbat Street – the famous Moscow promenade, and subway, one of the most beautiful in the world. Arbat is a wonderful place to feel Moscow's informal life, and buy Russian souvenirs.

The Moscow Metro tour will take you through the most notable metro stations, the inner beauty of which can be compared to a palace or cathedral halls with mosaics, sculptures, stained glass artworks, moulding and chandeliers. Every metro station is unique and themed.

What museum in Moscow would you especially recommend?

Every person to their own taste here! Since I know it, I'll recommend a few to hit yours.

For history amateurs:
The Armoury Chamber. You can do it in one shot with a visit inside the Kremlin. A magnificent collection of artefacts of Russian history, including royal regalia of the Russian Empire, thrones, jewellery and Fabergé eggs.
For lovers of fine art:
The Tretyakov Gallery, one of the most famous in the world, housing an epic collection of the Russian art. If you enjoyed the Louvre and Tate Galleries, it would be a crime for you to miss it!
For tech-geeks:
Bunker 42. The only underground nuclear vault in the world which can be visited as a museum. The exhibition is devoted to the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and includes a mock-nuclear attack. To say it's impressive, is to say nothing.

Which city in Russia is your favourite?

As a lover of history and fine architecture, I'll give my preference to the two most notable cities in Russia – Moscow and St. Petersburg. ‘Too predictable’, you might say. And I will answer, “For a reason!’ So different they are – a big-bellied jolly merchant Moscow, and a tall, mannered aristocrat St. Petersburg, yet so Russian! In our country many people seem to dislike Moscow for being overcrowded and noisy, and tend to think much warmer about St. Petersburg – the ‘cultural capital’.
As for me, I wouldn't prefer one over the other, as visiting each of them is a unique experience, which will make you wonder how different Russia can be.

Also, an honourable mention will go to Suzdal – the essence of the Golden Ring region of Russia. As tranquil and peaceful as a natural reserve, with its roots going deep into ancient Russian times, Suzdal has the atmosphere and charm of a small ancient town. Taste Russian cuisine with vodka at a traditional tavern, and think of the past ages, meditating at twilight on the hill over green fields, patched with old churches and monasteries.

What are your favourite destinations abroad?

So far, I have been to Prague, Turkey and Tunisia. The latter was especially exciting to me, reminding me of the Indiana Jones movies, and raising my interest in adventuring to other exotic places, like India, Tibet and Vietnam.
All lands of Eastern Europe, in the past populated by Slavonic tribes, including Poland, Belarus and Ukraine, appeal to me as well. These cultures have a lot in common with Russia, and I'm always happy to discover the similarities.

Among western European countries, I'm mostly attracted by Scotland, France and Italy. I love travelling and believe that spending money on travelling around the world is the best reason for getting rich!

We asked Yuriy to tell us a little about his hobbies and pursuits, and received a very emotional answer!

I enjoy listening to music, tons of it! Mostly classic and alternative rock (1960’s to the 1990’s), ambient and electronic. In tune with my hobby, I wear headphones most of the time and because of it many people think I am dreamy and withdrawn, which is partially true due to my introvert type. Nevertheless, many friends call me a ‘music guru’, which sounds more appealing to me! Sometimes I listen to styles I don't really like, just to keep myself up-to-date. My second passion after music is playing videogames on PS4.

Besides these two, I love cross-country biking and travelling. I read quite lot too, preferring historical books and biographies.

Reaching 10 years of working in travel, Yuriy thinks that he has found his dream-job.

What does it mean for you to work at Real Russia?

Many people would get bored working in the same job for that many years. As for me, I think that I'm doing more than a job. Many customers come to me saying that travelling to Russia was their dream. So, what I am doing is helping them to fulfil their dreams. And if making dreams come true is not a ‘dream job’ itself, than I don't know what is! Honestly, it's been (and still is) a fantastic time for me, with a great opportunity to communicate with people from around the world. And for me it is job to boast of!

I always believed that Real Russia is a ‘magic’ company. Don't ask me why, I don't want to spoil your surprise! Just try us and see for yourself.

We are grateful to Yuriy for his fantastic interview, and for sharing his Moscow insights. We hope that you have found some of the answers to question about Russia that you had; if not, ask your questions in the comments, or on our Facebook and Twitter pages. To read other interviews with our team members, click here.

If you wold like a helping hand in designing your perfect travel itinerary, or anything from train booking to applying for a visa, please contact our travel specialists.

Real Russia Blog

TravelSim: The smart way to call abroad!

TravelSim: The smart way to call abroad!

The international SIM card that can save you up to 85% on international calls!

Travelling abroad can be an exciting and enthralling experience. Absorbing the breath taking scenery, sampling local delicacies and viewing historical architecture is only half the excitement. Sharing your happiness with family and friends back home makes it that much more enjoyable.

Introducing TravelSim! Over three million travellers around the world use TravelSim to call, text and use data when travelling abroad. TravelSim is an international SIM card that enables customers to save up to 85% on international calls. With free Skype calls to TravelSim and network coverage in over 200 countries, TravelSim is designed to help the customer keep in touch with family and friends at an affordable rate. There’s no need to worry about international roaming charges and is stress free for the customer. Click here to find out more!

Cheap international calls from the Trans-Siberian

While you are relaxing in your cabin, appreciating the earth’s natural beauty, you can also share this unforgettable experience with family and friends by calling them cheaply. TravelSim allows the customer to call from Russia, China, Mongolia, Japan and other countries at affordable prices. Not only is TravelSim inexpensive, but it is also free to receive incoming calls and there are no monthly fees or contracts to sign.

Free Skype calls for family and friends

When a family member goes on holiday, calling them can be expensive. With free Skype calls, family and friends can enjoy calling their loved one for absolutely free!

TravelSim is now available to purchase from the Real Russia website.

Real Russia Blog

Customer Tales: Trains, and banyas, and exploring! Oh my! (Part two)

Customer Tales: Trains, and banyas, and exploring! Oh my! (Part two)

Through Siberia and on to Lake Baikal!

Part two of this ‘Customer Tale’ takes place as our intrepid customers leave Moscow and head east into Siberia, visiting the beautiful Lake Baikal and the city of Irkutsk.

If you missed out on part one, catch up here!

If you didn’t, let’s continue this tale!

Boarding the train number four

By the time our departure day arrived we had begun to feel a part of Russian life in that area, and knew we would miss it. However we were excited for the next leg which was on the train of course. We were impressed and grateful for Rita getting us to the station and even onto the train with our luggage before leaving us. We would not have managed this alone. A big thanks to her. I have emailed her in the meantime, as well.

Dining car on Trans-Siberian train 4, Russia

Dining car aboard train number four

I had an idea what to expect from the train from pics you had sent me, so was not surprised to find the compartment quite small, but the wooden panelling was nice and we had our own shower hand basin attached and a flask in our cupboard to fill at the samovar. A disappointment that the water came out at a trickle in the hand basin which also meant we could not shower either. I was not too fazed about this, but I think Charles was! We brought along a big supply of wipes and found we did not really get dirty on the train, I liked the fact it was not exactly as we expected and found it added to the adventure, but I think for some that would have been a problem. I needed to unwind from the time before we left on the trip and catch up on some daily notes and just feel all pressures fall away. I loved the movements and sound of the train, which incidentally reminded me of my school days when I attended a boarding school far from my home. We used to catch the train to school each term. I was interested to note that we travelled on both electric and steam trains. The dining car on our first train was nice, and we had a taste of Russian matriarchal dominance, but once Natalia had gotten used to us I think she quite liked us! I was able to take a few pictures on the train through a partially open passage window and was grateful for that. Managed to capture a few nice ones that will forever remind us of this train trip. I enjoyed our neighbours in the other compartments of our carriage, all of them going straight through to Beijing without a break in-between as we were doing. I imagine they may have been a little envious when we got off after 3 days. I think 6/7 days at a stretch without a break could have become tedious.

Welcome to Baikal

Our driver was waiting for us with a sign saying MRS ALLEN & 1! And we were whisked away for an hours’ drive through Irkutsk to Listvyanka. I had visualized being right alongside Lake Baikal in what I consider to be a chalet, but equally nice was Nikolay’s Cabin, which is actually a part of his house, and about a kilometre from the Lake. We were well looked after, meal wise, and Erene even did two big laundry washes for us. A lovely setting in a small valley with forests on either side. The front to Lake Baikal and the small town was not terribly interesting except for the Lake itself and the boats.

Lake Baikal, Russia

A walk along the shores of Lake Baikal

Little did we know we were to experience some beautiful views of Lake Baikal and endless birch forests on our ‘Easy Hike around Listvyanka’ – a complete surprise as it was not an easy walk at all, but quite a strenuous hike. Alex was very professional and accommodating and went the extra mile by carrying with him the food and utensils he would need to provide for us what we would consider a 5 course picnic, with typical Russian fare, including soup and tea! We were astounded. And, I was so hot after the 5km hike through the forest that I decided then and there, as we got to the beach that I was going to swim in Lake Baikal, no matter how cold it was. What an absolute highlight for me. How many people can claim to have swum in Lake Baikal! We were very tired when we got back and Alex had said good-bye, almost too late to catch the bus back to Irkutsk. And then that night we experienced Banya – my word! We assumed it would be a regular sauna the way we know it from our gyms over here. Not at all, Nikolay led us through the whole process in great detail. Without resisting we followed through and were quite alarmed to know the temperature was over 90 degrees in the Banya, unheard of in our part of the world. How wonderful to experience something truly, uniquely Russian. Never to be forgotten! I was covered in bright red blotches overnight but did not feel worried, and in the morning it had cleared!

Exploring Irkutsk

Ivan drove us back to Irkutsk and launched straight into our tour of the city. Once again very intense and informative, luckily I can look up names and dates on the internet of cathedrals and statues which were pointed out, as we could never have absorbed all the facts given out. Different architecture and feel to the city compared to Moscow, and we learnt of the importance of Irkutsk in Russian history.

Our hotel was well situated too Alla, thank you. We did a lot of walking in Irkutsk and almost got lost once. Luckily we had a map and Charles was good at getting us to where we wanted to be. Very interesting was the statue of Alexander III who commissioned the building of the Trans Siberian Railway, that was pertinent to me. And the Angara River, deep and faster flowing that the Moskva, was interesting to know that it linked with the Yenetsei, which we crossed while on the train, and then on to the Arctic Sea.

The story continues…

And part two comes to a close. If this has inspired you, why not take a look at the tour that Helen and Charles took through Russia, our Discovery Range Siberian Eye tour.

Check back soon for part three, as the train draws ever closer to China’s incredible capital, Beijing!

Part one can be found here.

Part three can be found here.

Real Russia Blog

All-aboard the Talgo Train

All-aboard the Talgo Train

From Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod and Back

Hop aboard the Talgo trains, better known for operating in countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland and the United States. Talgo have made their first step in to Russia by providing the trains for the Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod route. The trains are set to travel 440km each trip running at a maximum speed of 200km/h, which will complete the entire journey in roughly 3 hours and 35 minutes, and the trains have a maximum capacity to comfortably accommodate up to 414 passengers.

There isn’t an official date set yet, but at some point this year you can also expect several Talgo trains to be launched in Russia that will operate on route from Moscow to Berlin, which will significantly improve the rail links between Europe and Russia. The trains are designed to run on tracks of various gauges, it has the ability to change its bogies automatically, which will cut travel time by up to 30%, potentially shortening the trip from 42 to 28 hours.

The question you should ask your self is ‘What will I do with the extra 14 hours of my time?’ Well, if you happen to be in Moscow, why not use this time to take in some of the city’s incredible sights, take a river cruise along the Moscow River, or visit one of the many Cathedrals. If you’re travelling from Berlin, why not visit the Berlin Wall, take a sightseeing cruise on the river Spree, or visit the Kathe Kollwitz Museum.

So what can I expect? You asked. If the new trains are anything like the ones they have on route from Moscow to Nihzny Novgorod, then you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed. The trains are spacious with tons of room to move around, and if you get hungry it is likely that you'll have the choice between a restaurant and a bistro, the difference between the two? I don’t actually have a clue, but I’m open to experimenting. A bistro serves wine!

The Talgo trains has all the amenities of a hotel and are modern, so if you fancy travelling in style, then this might be the train of your dreams. As an option, I think I would be quietly content living on board one of these trains.

If you want to get the most out of your journey, then what better way is there?

Real Russia Blog

Real Russia Visits Russia!

Real Russia Visits Russia!

A Series of Blogs about Russian Rail Travel

Over the last two weeks, I have had the pleasure of travelling through Finland and Russia, experiencing the people, places, food, culture and, importantly, the trains first hand. Over the next few weeks, I shall be trying to sum up my experiences into a series of blogs in order to give you a brief ‘insider view’ into the good, the bad, and the ugly, of travelling in this region.

Before finding out what I thought, or felt, it may help to have some context. What did I expect to find in Finland and Russia? How did I expect to feel?

Russia ‘is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. The words of Winston Churchill in 1939 hold just as true today as they did 75 years ago. It is unique. Both in the sheer size of the country, and in everything that is within those borders.

What I am trying to say is this, that even though I have been working with Real Russia for 10 months now, I still did not know what to expect. Particularly after the events of 2014.

All of the above?

To find out how I got on, and whether any worries I had were necessary, stay tuned to our social media and follow my blog posts over the next few weeks.

Spoiler Alert: Generally, Russia has been very kind to me, particularly the colleagues that I have met for the first time in our Russian offices, and any worries I may have had were unfounded.

Real Russia Blog

Dynamic pricing introduced for some train routes

Dynamic pricing introduced for some train routes

From 1st March 2013 Russian Railways (RZD) are introducing “dynamic pricing” to some train routes.

Tickets for each train will be for sale 45 days before departure as they are normally. However, with “dynamic pricing” the earlier the tickets are bought, the cheaper they are. So when the tickets go on sale for the first time, passengers will get the cheapest fares possible for that train.

As the seats start to fill up and the demand for the train rises, so also does the cost of each ticket. The higher the demand and fewer seats, the higher the price of the tickets.

The trains first affected with the departure date of March 1, 2013 are:

  • Moscow – St. Petersburg – Moscow
  • Moscow – Nizhny Novgorod – Moscow
  • Moscow – Voronezh – Moscow
  • Moscow – Smolensk – Moscow
  • St. Petersburg – Nizhny Novgorod – St. Petersburg,
  • St. Petersburg – Voronezh – St. Petersburg.

A second stage of “dynamic pricing” will apply to further routes on 1st July 2013.

If you have any questions or require any further information please contact our travel team who will be happy to assist you. Alternatively access our train schedules page to book train tickets.

Real Russia Blog

Moscow to Sochi torch route announced

Moscow to Sochi torch route announced

In exciting news that has captured the imaginations of many Russians, Dimitry Chernyshenko, President of the ‘Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee’, announced details last week regarding the Olympic torch route. Taking place on the 7th of October 2013, 123 days before the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, the Olympic torch relay is set to be the longest in history, spanning 40390 miles by foot, car, rail, plane, and troika.

Amongst the talk about the route was the possibility of the Olympic torch’s first visit in to orbit, stopping off at the International Space Station, before parachuting back down to Earth. The torch is also scheduled to visit the Avachinsky volcanoes on the easternmost tip of Russia, the Curonian Spit on the Baltic Sea, and the very foot of the world’s largest freshwater reserve, Lake Baikal.

Travelling across all 83 regions of Russia, the torch’s route is designed to be received by over 90% of Russia’s population as it passes through more than 2,900 towns. The 14,000 torchbearers from all over the country will be contributing along with the regions to this celebration of Russia’s diverse and colourful background.