1. Ice skating at Red Square
At the center of Red Square, you will find a lovely Christmas market with an ice rink. From early in the morning on it gets quite full. Ice skating is one of the top things to do in Russia and a quite authentic experience as well. It is an amazing location for the ice rink as it is surrounded by all the historic buildings and the Christmas market itself. This activity is quite cheap, and they have warm installations to get changed and lock your valuables. The price including skates rental is around 700 rubles and it opens daily from November 30th to February 28th from 10am to 23:30pm. Have fun and don’t forget your gloves!
2. Try russian dumplings
We ate dumplings in different cities and restaurants of Russia, but we specially remember two of them. The first one is a rustic restaurant in Moscow called Lepim I Varim. It is situated nearby the Bolshoi Theatre. This cosy place offers a big variety of freshly made dumplings for all tastes. The prices are unbeatable and the food is truly delicious. The second one, Pelmenya, is in St. Petersburg at the east end of Nevsky Avenue. They have all kind of tasty dumplings. Our highlight was the “Gedza” with apples, cinnamon and strawberry marmalade which you can take as dessert. Prices are also quite cheap. For more information you can check their english menu and prices here.
3. Husky & Reindeer Sledding
If you want to experience how life in the Arctic circle is, do not miss Murmansk. It is the biggest city in the Arctic Circle where the sun doesn’t appear in winter for 40 days. Temperatures can drop up to -40 degrees, so be ready for a unique experience. One of the top things to do in the region are the husky and reindeer farms, where you will be able to interact with the animals. Make sure you wear really warm and waterproof clothes since most of the time you are going to be outside. During the tours they usually offer some traditional food and hot tea to warm up your stomachs before the next activity starts.
The approximate price for a day tour including dog sledding, reindeer sledding and visiting a traditional Nordic settlement is around 4,000 rubles per person and it takes around 3.5 hours. Please be aware that most of these tours take place in Lovozero, so you will need a taxi to get there and back which costs around 6,000-7,000 rubles for roundtrip.
4. Watch the Northern Lights
If you go to the Arctic Circle, you can also combine the husky farm with a northern lights tour. It is quite difficult to watch them from the city since you need to be in a dark area with no artificial lights around. In our case, we couldn’t watch them due to big clouds and low activity. However, people who were there two days before were able to spot them. There are many tours from Murmansk offering it for a reasonable price. It usually costs around 2,500 rubles. However, consider that the best time to spot them is from October to March! Good luck with the hunt!
5. Attend an opera or ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre
One of the top things to do in Russia is attending a ballet or opera. There are continuos events running over the year in St Petersburg and Moscow. If you are not willing to spend 10,000-15,000 rubles in a ballet performance, consider a concert or opera which are usually 5,000-8,000 rubles. Tickets for renown performances are sold out quickly months in advance. However, you can always get some last minute tickets for three times the normal price around the touristic places. You can check out prices and upcoming events here.
The famous Bolshoi Theatre has some of the greatest artists in Russia and an interesting history. It had been renovated until 2011, so it is now in a glimmering, beautiful condition. Go there for a romantic night with your partner and you will have a long-lasting experience. Don’t forget to dress up properly and keep in mind that you can change your shoes once you get there. Be smart, do it like the Russians!
6. Visit Rostov along the Golden Ring
The Golden Ring in winter is a rarely visited gem of beautiful old Kremlins and churches. Particularly Rostov has a Kremlin with many stunning onion domes encircled by old city walls. A lake is close by where you can wander along and enjoy the beauty of this location. You won’t have a problem to find cheap and good accommodation during the winter period. In case you are planning to go in summer, we recommend you to book your stay in advance. It is also important to be aware that not many russians speak English and you will need to get around with everything written in Russian.
In case, you want to have an impression of the Golden Circle but you don’t have more than a day, Sergiev Posad is a good choice for a day trip. It is located 1h30min from Moscow by train, so you can easily do a day trip to this historical town and go back to the capital in the afternoon/evening.
✈ Check out our post The most glimmering cities of Russia in winter.