If you’re planning to visit Russia, then you might think traveling during the winter season is a crazy idea.
But the truth is that as long as you don’t mind the cold and you’re well prepared, winter can often be one of the best seasons to visit this country.
There is still plenty to do, and since it couldn’t be further from the high season, you’ll often find that museums, galleries, and other attractions in Moscow and St Petersburg are less crowded with shorter queues. And it’s easier to find tables in restaurants.
But, much like visiting Russia at any other time of the year, you must be fully prepared and know what to expect, so that you can enjoy a memorable trip.
We’ve put together some top tips to keep in mind when visiting Russia’s capital cities during the wintertime.
1. What to Pack: Wrap Up Warm
First, you should pack plenty of warm clothes for your visit to Moscow and Saint Petersburg in the wintertime.
The temperatures here can easily drop below zero, so it’s a wise idea to make sure that you have plenty of layers to wear.
The more layers, the better – after all, you can get warm when you go indoors, so if you can take a couple of layers off when you’re warm, you’ll be able to stay comfortable.
If you’re wondering what to pack, here are some basics.
This one is not to be scrimped on! Investing in a thick, padded jacket is a must before you head to Moscow and Saint Petersburg in the winter.
Even better if you can find a coat that has a thermal base layer, to make sure that you’re well protected from the cold.
Thermal underlayers will be your best friend when you’re traveling in Russia throughout the winter.
You can wear them underneath your regular clothing to lock in heat and act as an extra protective barrier against the elements.
Hat, scarf, and gloves
Warm and cozy accessories are a must in Moscow and Saint Petersburg during the winter.
A thick scarf will ensure that your shoulders are warm, and a hat that protects your ears from the cold is ideal.
Avoid taking leather gloves as these don’t always offer much protection against the cold.
Sturdy, warm boots are ideal if you’re going to be spending a lot of time walking.
Bear in mind that the ground can get icy, so it’s worth investing in good winter boots with a sturdy tread.
2. Get Your Documents in Order
No matter what time of year you plan to visit Moscow and Saint Petersburg, make sure that your travel documents are in order.
You will need to make sure that your passport has at least six months left on it from your date of travel, and you may need to apply for a visa in order to enter Russia.
Even if you’re traveling from a European country, you will need a visa to enter Russia, so it’s worth keeping this in mind.
The rules for visa issuance are similar for all EU citizens. To obtain one, you will need to first get an invitation to Russia.
This could be from a relative or friend who is a citizen there, or you may be able to get an invitation from your tour company.
3. Arrange Your Travel
Getting to and from St Petersburg to Moscow and vice versa can be quite a lengthy journey, so it’s worth making sure that your travel plans are all arranged beforehand.
Use this trusted website to find tickets for Russian railways and make sure that you check the times as these could differ during the winter, particularly around public holidays.
Visit https://www.russiantraintickets.com/en/route/moscow-st-petersburg-railway to learn more about the route between the two capitals and pre-arrange your tickets.
You can book tickets online, but ensure that you have printed them ready for when you arrive at the station.
And, it’s always a good idea to make sure that you are regularly staying updated with travel, as there may be disruptions due to extreme weather.
Don’t forget about travel when you are getting around the cities, too – you can get around in a variety of different ways including metro, bus, trolley bus and tram in Moscow, and metro, bus, trolleybus and aquabus in Saint Petersburg.
You can purchase travel cards for use on public transport in each city.
The easiest way to get a ticket is at a ticket office, which you can find at both major stations.
4. Check the Events Calendar
Finally, it’s worth checking out the events calendar before your trip, whether you want to avoid the celebratory crowds or are planning to get involved.
Several different events are held in Russia throughout the winter.
From late November throughout December and January, there are Christmas markets held in each city.
If you’re visiting after Christmas Day, you’ll be thrilled to know that Christmas markets will still be open as Russian Orthodox Christians celebrate this holiday in early January.
But bear in mind, if you’re visiting around the January 6-7, this is peak Christmas season, and you may find that many shops and restaurants are closed for the week.
New Year’s Eve is also a massive celebration in Russia.
If you want to enjoy the country’s biggest party of the year, then this is the perfect time to go and celebrate with the locals.
If you’re in Moscow, head to the Red Square to take part in the celebrations – concerts, fireworks, and food stalls are aplenty, and the locals hold street parties all night long, waiting for the President’s New Year message to be broadcasted at midnight.
And in Saint Petersburg, every major restaurant will be hosting New Year’s Eve events, with many parties and celebrations to be a part of.
Traveling to St Petersburg and Moscow in Russia during the winter can be a fantastic trip, but make sure that you’re fully prepared!
This story was brought to you in partnership with Firebird Tours.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.