Russia, often known as the Russian Federation, is a vast country that spans both Europe and Asia.
Over 17,098,246 square kilometers (6,601,670 square miles) in size, it is the largest country in the world and accounts for one-eighth of the habitable land area on Earth. There are eleven time zones in Russia, and it shares geographical borders with fourteen other countries.
Moscow, the capital and largest metropolis, is the largest city in all of Europe. The cultural epicenter of Russia and the country’s second largest city is Saint Petersburg.
Given it’s vast size and history on the world stage it may come as no surprise as to just how many landmarks and monuments exist in Russia.
Russia may not cross your mind as your first travel destination. However, it is a state of wonder for travelers visiting its famous landmarks.
Famous Landmarks in Russia
1. State Hermitage Museum
The State Hermitage Museum has the most gallery space in the world. It’s located in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It features paintings from Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky, art that Empress Catherine the Great acquired in 1764. These Gotzkowsky paintings started it all.
The State Hermitage Museum opened to the public in 1862. By that time, it housed Egyptian sculptures and small statues, prehistoric art, decorative jewelry and Russian art.
Pieces in the Russian collection come from the 11th to 19th centuries. The western, eastern and northern sides contain most of it, including the Great Ante-Chamber by Konstantin Ukhtomsky.
One of the most significant sections of the Hermitage Museum is the former state rooms facing the River Neva. It’s called the Neva Enfilade. A fire occurred here in 1837, and Vasily Stasov rebuilt it.
Imperial court proceedings and palace ballroom events took place here before the Russian Revolution in 1917. Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar, had turned the Enfilade into a military hospital.
2. St. Basil’s Cathedral
The St. Basil’s Cathedral, built by 1561, also has a formal name. It’s the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed. This Russian Orthodox church is found in the Red Square of Moscow, and it has made the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
After St. Basil’s Cathedral broke ground in 1555, this ecclesiastical building underwent a series of development phases. It has several significant portions dedicated for different purposes, such as the west column designated to commemorate Christ entering Jerusalem.
The Northeastern annex is a groin vault dedicated to Basil the Blessed. Apparently, he used to steal from stores and give the goods to the poor. After his death, they buried Basil’s body in this cathedral, commonly referred to by his name.
The long name of this church is Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat, or Pokrovsky Cathedral. Before the Ivan Great Bell Tower was built in 1600, St. Basil’s Cathedral stood as the tallest in building in Moscow.
3. The Moscow Kremlin
Kremlin means “fortress inside a city,” so it seems fitting to call this landmark the Moscow Kremlin. It’s next to St. Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square on the eastern side, and you can see the Moskva River south of it.
The Alexander Garden, one of the first urban parks established in Moscow, sits to the west of the Kremlin. It’s current use, as reported in 2022, is for housing the Russian Federation president. It also has an art museum that sees millions of visitors.
Significant architectural portions of the Kremlin include the Seat of Grand Dukes and The Golden Hall. Seat of Grand Dukes used to consist of oak walls, but Dmitri Donskoi replaced them with white limestone.
The Golden Hall is a throne room that has murals on its walls that date back to 1547, which is where the Kremlin Palace later operated. The Grand Dukes’ walls are known for having still stood after a Khan Tokhtamysh siege that took place in 1382.
4. Mount Elbrus
You’ll find Mount Elbrus on the west side of the Caucasus Mountains about 100 kilometers (about 62.14 miles) from the Black Sea. It’s also 370 kilometers (229.907) from the Caspian sea. Nearby cities include Kislovodsk and Nalchik.
The Mount Elbrus western summit has a dormant volcano with an elevation of 5,642 meters (18,510 feet). This makes it the tallest peak of this mountain range.
Mount Elbrus also had earned a title of being one of the most prominent and the highest peaks in Europe. Compared to the rest of this world, its western summit is the 10th most prominent peak.
You can use one of these roads to access Mount Elbrus: The M29, R217 or A158 highway/roadways. If you want to travel south of Baksan to the mountain, you’re going to need a permit.
5. Savior on the Spilled Blood
The Savior on the Spilled Blood is a church that also has a museum. Both still operate on the grounds as of 2022.
Construction for the Spilled Blood first took place in 1883 when Alexander III reigned. Nicolas II reigned in 1907 when this ecclesiastical structure was finished. Both the imperial family and private donors funded it.
Paved roads run along both sides of the Griboedov Canal where the church sits. This site experienced a persecution tragedy in 1881. That’s when a person opposed to this Christian church threw a grenade at it.
The Tsar delivering a speech at the time experienced a scare from the grenade but did not suffer injuries – at least not until the second grenade launched toward him. The second throw was from a suicide bomber who ended up wounding the Tsar.
The Tsar only made it a few hours. Then, he died in the Winter Palace, the section that used to be a hospital before it became one of many portions of a historical exhibit.
The Spilled Blood church took quite a “beating” by the end of the Russian Revolution. Looting occurred, and intruders damaged its interior.
6. Red Square
Red Square hosts some of the most important Moscow, Russia buildings, such as Lenin’s Mausoleum, the GUM, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral. You probably will never hear about many squares as often as you would this one, which sits in the capital of the country.
Pre-18th century architecture left the Red Square open to the Moskva River, which runs through western Russia. The Neglinnaya River, now underground, was also widely visible. This resulted in the decision to build the Kremlin Wall as high as possible.
By 1702, the Nikolsky gate saw its first public theater, but a fire destroyed it in 1737. A currency building was later built in front of where the old building once stood. By 1786, Catherine the
Great ordered improvements to be made to the square. This included the addition of stone on the upper market floor.
Peterhof Palace consists of both palaces and gardens. The original intention of it was to make it a country home. Peter the Great then requested expansion of this property in 1717.
Domencio Trezzini contributed much to the project from 1714-1728. The construction of the Peterhof Palace after this time set the precedent for what was called the Petrine Baroque style.
Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond and Andre Le Notre designed the garden landscapes. Another expansion occurred after 1747 for Elizabeth of Russia. This building has earned a UNESCO World Heritage site recognition.
Significant events occurred before, during and after the Peterhof Palace construction. This includes the signing of the Treaty of Nystad in 2021 and the end of the Great Northern War. Peter the Great had captured Swedish provinces that sat on the eastern coast.
Part of the reason for building the Peterhof was to “modernize and westernize” Russia. This Saint Petersburg home apparently seemed necessary. It matches the same quality level as the Palace of Versailles in France started by King Louis XIV as one hunting lodge.
8. Winter Palace
The Russian Emperor lived in the Winter Palace from 1732 to 1917. One of the Winter Palace’s most notable designers is Bartolomeo Rastrelli from Italy.
It’s shaped like a long rectangle and has a green and white color scheme. It has thousands of doors, windows and rooms. It also has 117 staircases.
The exterior stayed the same after a fire in 1837 occurred, but the inside experienced renovations. The original building became a part of the Elizabethan Baroque style, but the later, more eclectic interior, became a representative of modern Rococo style.
The Winter Palace has seen better days than when that fire occurred. Bloody Sunday also was a major tragedy that occurred here in 1905 when demonstrators marched toward it.
However, the imperial family had relocated to the Tsarskoe Selo Alexander Palace. In 1917, a shift occurred after the revolution before Russia became a Soviet state.
9. St. Isaac’s Cathedral
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral was dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia. St. Isaac is remembered in history as a saint and confessor, and he’s been recognized as a Christian monk.
The Cathedral was built in Saint Petersburg. However, St. Isaac had also founded a monastery in Constantinople. It hasn’t operated as a church since it became a museum in 1931.
A controversy occurred concerning the possibility of transferring the St. Isaac Cathedral back to the Russian Orthodox Church. However, this never happened because St. Petersburg citizens protested the transfer proposal.
10. Bolshoi Theatre
There are two different Bolshoi Theatres. The one in Moscow hosts opera and ballet performances. Joseph Bove first designed it, and it first opened in 1825.
Another Bolshoi theater was built in 1783, but it had burnt down and was restored in 1810. It also held opera and ballet performances, largely catering to the imperial crowd.