What comes to mind when you think of Russia? You might think of the Kremlin, Matryoshka dolls, ballet, or even vodka – but you’d be missing some of Russia’s best attributes: their beautiful cities.
Everyone knows that Moscow and St. Petersburg are some of the most beautiful places in the world, but there are many other cities in Russia that are just as dazzling, and much less visited.
If you’re planning a trip to Russia, read on to discover the 15 most beautiful cities this stunning country has to offer.
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The majestic city of Moscow easily tops the list of the most beautiful cities in Russia.
There are a plethora of impressive landmarks around this ancient city, including the world-famous Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Other captivating sights you shouldn’t miss include:
- The Red Square, the largest square in Russia.
- Sparrow Hills
- Bulvar Ring
- The metro, which is a masterpiece in itself.
This capital city is truly timeless, and you’ll be able to see architecture dating back to medieval times, as well as the modern skyscrapers that are found in nearly every major city today. There are also over 600 churches located around the city, with tree-lined streets and plenty of verdant parks.
St. Petersburg certainly lives up to its reputation for being one of the most beautiful cities in Russia. As the former seat of the Tsars, there’s plenty of history in this laid-back city. You might be surprised to learn that it once hosted the Communist Revolution, and was later seized by the Nazi party.
Nowadays, St. Petersburg is a fairly quiet city, especially when you compare it to lively Moscow. It’s filled with impressive cathedrals, royal palaces, and an abundance of museums and monuments. This former capital city is now known as the cultural capital of Russia, in part due to the large collection of fine art located at the Hermitage.
St. Petersburg has a very western feel to it, with European-inspired architecture, lots of green space, and bridges crossing over the canals and rivers that cut through the city – earning it the title of The Venice of the North.
Russia’s very first capital in the ninth century, the ancient city of Veliky Novgorod, is known as the “birthplace of Russia” and considered to be the oldest city in the country.
This stunning walled city is located on the banks of the Volkhov River in Western Russia, just a few hours south of St. Petersburg. The Kremlin of Veliky Novgorod is the oldest in the country, and was dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1992.
The city is full of beautiful, ancient buildings and, after you see the Kremlin, you can continue to the Cathedral of St. Sofia, the oldest cathedral in Russia. St. George’s Cathedral is also located within the city and is the oldest monastery in the country.
Located on the banks of the Black Sea, Sochi is home to Russia’s most famous beach resort. The city was host to the 2014 Winter Olympics and got a nice facelift in preparation for the games. Nowadays, it’s a popular getaway for tourists and citizens alike.
Sochi has a beautiful waterfront promenade, lush green parks, and a nice, balmy climate in the summertime. The city is close to the Agura Valley, which is great for hiking. If you’re visiting in the winter, you can head up into the nearby mountains to ski.
Situated on the crossroads of the Volga and Oka rivers, Nizhny Novgorod is an industrial town with a rich history.
The most beautiful area of the city is the Upper City – and up you’ll certainly have to go. The longest stairs in the country will get you to the Chkalov Monument, and from there you’ll have a fantastic view of the river and city center. The Hilltop Kremlin is a sight to see, as is the pedestrian street of Bolshaya Pokrovskaya. The view is impressive, so it’s really worth the long climb.
Enjoy a scenic river cruise or get a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants this city has to offer.
If you’re traveling along the Trans-Siberian Railway, stopping at the beautiful city of Irkutsk is a must. Just an hour’s drive from the biggest lake on the planet, Irkutsk is the perfect place for nature lovers looking to explore.
It’s also a great spot for history buffs, as it was formerly the place where the exiled were banished into snowy wilderness. There’s also a breathtaking collection of old, wooden Siberian buildings that are impressively carved, and colorful.
The city is full of trendy bars, restaurants, and cafes, so no matter what time of year you’re visiting you’ll be able to pop in and warm up or cool off.
The city of Vladivostok is a prime example of a beautiful, modern and contemporary city in Russia.
Vladivostok, translated as “the ruler of the east”, is located on Russia’s Pacific coastline and is the final stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The bays, islands, and hills dotting the scenery and the Russky Bridge, the longest cable bridge in the world, are part of what makes this city so picturesque.
Take in the views from the Eagle’s Nest observation deck, or hike your way through the city’s hills to see it from every angle; there’s a reason they call it the San Fransico of Russia and it has nothing to do with the bridge!
The modern mingles with the traditional in the Tatar city of Kazan. Asian culture meets Russian here, and the city is truly a melting pot of architecture, language, and religion, making it one of the most beautiful cities in Russia.
Often referred to as the third capital of the country after Moscow and St. Petersburg, Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, a semi-autonomous region located on the banks of the Volga and Kazanka rivers. For this reason, the city is fairly wealthy and is considered to have one of the highest standards of living in Russia.
The city is bursting with breathtaking sights, including the remains of the Kazan Kremlin, the Kul-Sharif Mosque, and the Temple of All Religions, to name a few.
Beautiful architecture and history await you in the western city of Rostov Veliky. Located on the shores of Lake Nero, this beautiful city is sure to stand out with its colorful domes and spires of ancient buildings.
Rostov Veliky has seen its fair share of battles and wars, but luckily, many of the most impressive structures remain. Two of the most remarkable are the Kremlin and the Spaso-Yakovlev and Avraamiema monasteries.
After you’re done exploring this beautiful city, you can learn more about its rich history in one of its many museums.
Located at the base of the Urial Mountains, the city of Yekaterinburg is a must-see on your quest to find the most beautiful cities in Russia.
Mostly remembered for being the place where the last Tsar fell during the Russian Revolution, this city is full of history and lots of impressive buildings. The Church on the Blood is both beautiful and aptly named, as it was built on the site of the 1918 Romanov executions. If you’re interested in learning more about the last royal family, you can see some of their personal belongings at the Hall of the Romanovs in the Sverdlovsk Regional Local Lore Museum.
Other noteworthy sites in this large city include:
- The Sevastyanov House
- The Kharitonov Palace
- The Trinity Cathedral.
Located in the west of Russia near Estonia, Pskov is one of the most underrated and beautiful cities in the country. there is an impressive number of ancient churches located around the city including St. Basil’s on the Hill and the church of St. Kozma and Damian.
Pskov is also one of the oldest cities in Russia – and many of the city’s monuments have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Visit the Pskov Krom, the citadel and fortress dating back to medieval times, that contains many must-see monuments, including:
- The Trinity Cathedral
- The Mirozshky Monastery
- St. Stephens church
Much of the medieval wall surrounding the citadel still stands today.
The verdant city of Smolensk is one of the most beautiful cities in Russia, and is also one of the oldest, having been ruled by various different countries throughout its long history, and it even seeing a few battles with the Napoleonic army.
Today, it’s a charming river city with some breathtaking architecture, including the massive, turquoise Assumption Cathedral and the largest Kremlin in the country – even bigger than the one in Moscow!
You can still walk the city walls for a small fee and, although it doesn’t stretch out to its original 6.5 kilometers, it’s a great way to take in the sights of this ancient city.
Formerly known as Stalingrad, the city of Volgograd was one of the most important places in the Soviet Union during the second world war.
The famous site of the battle between the Soviets and the Germans has been transformed into a large memorial, complete with lots of green space, a huge war cemetery, and a massive statue named The Motherland Calls.
Although the rest of this industrial city is fairly plain, the memorial alone definitely makes it worth a visit.
Though Krasnodar might lack some of the splendor of other beautiful cities in Russia, its charm is all its own – and it is often referred to as “Little Paris”.
There’s plenty of Tsarist architecture to see around the city, though perhaps the most noteworthy is the iconic stadium. The stadium itself is a sight to see, and the area around it is truly spectacular with its intricate designs and incredible landscaping. You could spend an entire day wandering around the park and marveling at its unique, well-thought-out design.
Krasnodar is also in the perfect location to explore the surrounding area of southern Russia.
Located on the Baltic Coast and separated from Russia’s mainland by Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad is a unique city with a distinct European influence.
The city was mostly ruled by Germany until 1946, when the USSR annexed the country and stripped it of its former identity. Unfortunately, a lot of the Prussian architecture was destroyed during World War II. Some iconic figures still remain, including the Brandenburg Gate and the Königsberg Cathedral.
The town has also paid homage to its heritage by rebuilding certain areas, giving it a more German feel. The riverside fishing village recreates some of what was lost in the war and is now home to cozy cafes, restaurants, and hotels.
Although much of the city is filled with drab, Soviet-era architecture, there are plenty of tree-lined streets and parks in quaint neighborhoods that make this one of Russia’s most beautiful cities.