Russia offers both the seasoned and inexperienced traveller plenty to explore. From the monuments and museums of Moscow, to the natural beauty in the east of the country, there is plenty to delight travellers of all kinds. As the biggest country in terms of land mass in the world, there is much to see in Russia.
The capital of Russia is known for its numerous historical sites and culture. Said to date back eight-and-a-half centuries, it was built on the curve of the Moskva River and was originally a hunting village.
Moscow eventually grew into one of the biggest cities in the world and visitors will not struggle to fill their time. In terms of sightseeing, there are the notable attractions such as the Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral and the Lenin Mausoleum.
Travellers seeking more cultural attractions are advised to pay a visit to the Tretyakov Gallery, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts or the Bolshoi Theatre. As the national theatre of Russia, Bolshoi has held many notable ballets and operas in the past. Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev are just two of the shows that have been enjoyed in recent seasons.
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, meanwhile, has a fabulous collection to satisfy all tourists, from art connoisseurs to the casual observer. It opened in 1912, founded by Professor Ivan Tsvetaev, head of the Department of Theory and History of Art at Moscow University, who was its first director. Some of the more famous artists to feature in the gallery include John Constable, Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh.
Moscow is also a great place for shopping, boasting large department stores as well as independent boutiques. The shopping districts within the Garden Ring are of particular interest, while Arbat Street is the place to go for souvenir and antiques shops. The main department stores are located in the Red Square area, with the most famous being the State department Store, GUM.
As the second-largest city in Russia, St Petersburg also has a lot to offer travellers. The State Hermitage Museum is a major draw to the destination, with more than three million works of art and artefacts from the cultural world on display.
The museum has more than two million ancient and early medieval items, with some objects dating from the Palaeolithic and Iron Ages. It also houses a selection of Renaissance and impressionist masterpieces with works from Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Michelangelo, among others. In addition, there are displays from a variety of cultures, including Italian sculpture and oriental art.
Another major attraction in the city is The Kirov Ballet of St Petersburg, while the Mariinsky Theatre is also frequented by visitors. The theatre features a Concert Hall which was unveiled in November 2006, but only opened to the public in April 2007. Since it first opened its doors, it has seen performances from top musicians such as violinists Vadim Repin and Maxim Vengerov as well as pianist Lang Lang.
The imperial palaces on the outskirts of St Petersburg are a must-see for any tourist and a stay in the city is not complete without a visit to at least one of the estates. The Tsarskoe Selo in Pushkin and Peterhof in Petrodverots are the most famous. The latter is a breathtaking example of the Russian imperial rulers' extravagance comprising two huge palaces constructed in the 18th century.
Catherine Palace was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the architect of St Petersburg's Winter Palace, and was built for Empress Elizabeth. It is the estate's top attraction and the Amber Room is particularly stunning element of the house.
There are a number of sites of religious importance in the city. Among these are St Isaac's Cathedral, the Church on Spilled Blood, Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan and Alexander Nevsky Monastery.
Visitors that want to enjoy a little souvenir shopping will not be disappointed. Most of the shops are situated around the city's main streets such as Nevsky, Kamennoostrovskiy and Bolshoy Prospekt.
Novgorod is one of the oldest cities in Russia and has some interesting sites, both from a religious and a historical perspective. For a start, there is the Kremlin of Novgorod which dates back to 1044.
Here, holidaymakers will find an example of Gothic architecture in the Faceted (Archbishop's) Palace, which was constructed in 1433 with help from German masters. St Sophia's Bellfry can also be found in the grounds of the Kremlin. It was built in 1439 and features a set of bells dating back to the 16th and 18th centuries.
Also in the Novgorod Kremlin is the Millennium of Russia monument, a bronze construction seeking to immortalise politicians of Russia who contributed much to the development of the country. It was designed by Mikhail Mikeshin and built in 1862 - something that may appeal to architecture fanatics.
The city also boasts the oldest surviving Russian stone monument, the Cathedral of St Sophia. It features ancient mural paintings as well as national relics of Russia, such as the Virgin of the Sign.
Other religious sites include the Cathedral of St Nicholas in Yaroslav's Court and the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady in St Anthony's Monastery. Here they will find old fresco paintings and carved iconostases.
The Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands
The Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands in the east of Russia offer a tranquil alternative to the busy cities of Moscow and St Petersburg. Sakhalin resembles a giant fish in its shape and is a popular winter sports destination.
From December to April, the Russian National Tourist Office runs skiing tours as well as ice fishing on Sakhalin, which offer spectacular views of the island's impressive landscapes.
The tourist office also organises rafting tours in May and June when nature on the Sakhalin truly comes alive. From June through to October, hiking, speleological tours and trips around the lighthouses of the island are also on offer. During this period, journeys to the Kurile Islands are also run and trips to the Moneron and Tyuleny Islands can be taken as well.
With so many places to visit and with such variety on offer, Russia can cater to all tastes throughout the year.