Russia, the world’s largest country, stretches across Europe and Northern Asia and spans 11 time zones. As such, it’s natural landscape is vast and filled with a range of environments from deserts to arctic tundras.
Russia is also home to many spectacular man-made landmarks such as imposing castles and palaces. Here are 20 landmarks in Russia that should be at the top of your list if you are planning on visiting this incredible country.
- 20 Landmarks in Russia
- Historic Russian Landmarks
- 1- Moscow Kremlin
- 2- Red Square
- 3- St Basil’s Cathedral
- 4- Lake Baikal
- 5- Olkhon Island
- 6- Kungur Ice Cave
- 7- Elton Lake
- 8- Altai Mountains
- 9- The Lena Pillars
- 10- Chegem Waterfalls
- 11- Golubye Ozera
- 12- Sarykum Dune
- 13- Caucasus Towers
- 14- St Nilus Stolobensky Monastery
- 15- The Winter Palace
- 16- Kizhi Island
- 17- Catherine Palace
- 18- Mayakovskaya Metro Station
- 19- Bolshoi Theatre
- 20- The Valley of Geysers
- Historic Russian Landmarks
20 Landmarks in Russia
Historic Russian Landmarks
1- Moscow Kremlin
The existing features of the Moscow Kremlin were built between 1485 and 1495 by skilled Italian architects.
Traditionally, the Kremlin was the home of the tsar, until Peter the Great assigned St Petersburg, named after himself, as his seat.
The Kremlin has a turbulent past; in 1917 the Bolshevik Uprising stripped Moscow of its capital status, and during the Soviet period, 28 of the original 54 buildings were destroyed.
Today, the Kremlin opens its doors to the public, with museums housing important objects and artworks opening in 1961.
The Kremlin features many important historical monuments and artefacts, including the Tsar cannon and Tsar bell, both of which are the largest in the world.
The Kremlin is currently the residence of the Russian president.
Read this post about a Russian river cruise.
2- Red Square
The most famous place in Moscow is Red Square, which forms an important base for Moscow’s history.
Red Square connects St Basils Cathedral and the Kremlin and is named after the brightly coloured bricks that pave the square.
Construction on the square finished in the late 19th century.
The square itself has had many purposes, inclining a market place and a Soviet parade ground.
As the square links two of Moscow’s most important landmarks, a stroll through the bustling square to absorb the breathtaking architecture is a must.
3- St Basil’s Cathedral
St Basils Cathedral lies to the south of Red Square.
The cathedral, built in 1555 under the orders of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, was designed to symbolise the Heavenly City.
Its walls are bold and colourful and feature many precious stones.
The cathedral is actually nine churches in one, and each section is connected internally by galleries and passages.
The cathedral does come with a grizzly legend.
Ivan the Terrible did not want his cathedral to be replicated anywhere else, and so blinded the architects so they could not recreate this place of worship.
The cathedral has been threatened by many forces.
In 1812 French troops retreating from Moscow had plotted to blow up the cathedral, and in the 1920s the Soviets decided to pull it down.
Luckily the cathedral was saved and is now a world heritage site.
4- Lake Baikal
Located in the south-east of Siberia, Lake Baikal is the oldest existing freshwater lake at approximately 20 million-25 million years old.
More than 330 rivers and streams flow into this body of water.
Due to the lake’s location, many hot mineral springs can be found due to breaks in the earth’s crust.
The lake contains many islets and islands including Olkhon and Bolshoy Ushkany.
The lake and islands are home to the Baikal seal, the only freshwater seal in existence.
The pups are born on the icy surface when the lake freezes over between January and May, making this a popular time to travel here for tourists and scientists.
Travel here in summer to view the waters at their deepest blue overlooked by towering mountains.
5- Olkhon Island
Olkhon Island and Lake Baikal on which it sits, are sacred to the indigenous Buryat people who adorn parts of the island with colourful totems of their Buddhist faith.
Olkhon Island is a rugged landscape of mountains and deep forests and is home to only 1500 people.
The houses here are built in a traditional style, made from wood, and often painted in bright colours.
On the shores of the island, sandy beaches make it easy to forget that you are staring out over a lake and not the sea.
Herds of wild horses roam freely here through the forest.
Olkhon is a world away from the bustle of Russias cities and offers travellers a glimpse of pure wilderness, peacefulness and breathtaking views.
Landmarks in Europe
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6- Kungur Ice Cave
Kungur Ice Cave is another wonder of the natural world nestled inside the vast wilderness of Russia.
The cave is always ice cold, allowing ice crystals to form here.
The cave has dozens of underwater lakes, and as such attracts many visitors.
Over thousands of years, the soft rocks inside the cave were dissolved, giving the cave its peculiarly shaped rock inhabitants.
Icicles reach the floor here, filling the caverns with impressive hourglass shaped columns.
The cave was first visited by people in 1914, and since then has been adapted with specialist lighting rigs to allow visitors to enter and be mesmerised by the magic that awaits them.
Tours run through the cave and offer an insight into the myths and legends that fare here.
7- Elton Lake
Elton Lake is a salt lake near the Russian border with Kazakhstan.
With an area of 59 square miles and a depth of only 1 to 2 feet, this lake is the largest mineral lake in Europe.
The lake is so large and so flat, those beautiful reflections of the sky appear on its surface.
Birds flock here as a stop-off during their migration.
As the salt levels are so high here, when some of the water evaporates, incredible natural salt sculptures are revealed in unique patterns.
8- Altai Mountains
Stretching over Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China, the Altai Mountains mark the centre of Eurasia.
Mount Belukha is the highest peak in Siberia and is covered with snow and ice all year long. Within the mountain range, there are 1499 glaciers.
As these mountains span such an incredible distance, the landscapes and animals living there vary greatly.
Within the region, the rare snow leopard, ibex and lynx call the mountains their home.
The varying landscape also opens the mountains up to a range of sports, including pass hopping and kayaking down one of the many rivers that flow through the range.
9- The Lena Pillars
The Lena Pillars are a range of rock pillars stretching as high as 100m that sits along the banks of the Lena River.
The pillars were created by the extreme climate within the region, as temperatures plunge as low as -60°c in winter to over 40°c in summer.
This site is of particular historical interest due to the Cambrian fossils found here, some of which are only found in this region.
The pillars themselves are part of a nature park, making for beautiful walks and incredible picturesque scenery.
The park and the pillars were named as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2012.
10- Chegem Waterfalls
Perhaps one of the most beautiful sights in Russia’s natural landscape is Chegem waterfalls.
The falls vary from small jets of water to wide plumes cascading over the rocks.
Catch the falls at the right time of day, usually between 10 and 11 am, and see the waters turn into the colours of the rainbow as they refract the suns rays.
During winter, the falls freeze over creating pillars of ice and frozen droplets.
The falls are nestled inside the Chegem valley, an ancient settlement within which historical monuments such as the Chegem Burial Houses can be found.
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11- Golubye Ozera
Three lakes form the Golubye Ozera, which means Blue Lakes in Russian.
The name of these lakes comes from the blue hue of the water, which is caused by a blue-coloured mud that sits at the bottom of these lakes.
The lakes are not supplied by any rivers and instead get their water from underground sources.
The lakes are extremely beautiful and are surrounded by idyllic woodlands.
If visiting these magical lakes, you can take part in a number of water-based activities including diving and canoeing over the pristine water.
12- Sarykum Dune
To many, the Russian landscape is harsh and cold, however, the Sarykum Dune would not be out of place some of the hotter parts of the world.
The Dune, a large sand dune in Dagestan, is part of the Dagestan Nature Reserve.
The Dune itself is extremely old and measures approximately 860 feet high.
The Dune is a unique monument in the region and is recognised by geologists as the second largest sand dune in the world.
Sarykum is seen as a natural phenomenon as most dunes are found either in a desert or beach.
Sarykum is on a large flat area of clay.
13- Caucasus Towers
Nestled in the foothills of the North Caucasus region are a collection of hundreds of tall towers.
Built in ancient times by the Ingush and Vainakh people, it is incredible to see these monuments, the majority of which are still intact.
It is believed that the towers were built for defence and for accommodation, and historians believe that each level of the towers had its own purpose.
The ground floor was reserved for stables, first floor for living accommodation and the top floor for defence.
The balconies around the top floor would have been used to pour boiling liquid from in times of attack.
Ingush towers, which can be seen within this region, were built under strict conditions.
The towers had to be completed within 365 days, and each family of means were required to build one.
To the Ingush people, these towers were of great spiritual importance, as they believed the towers symbolised their spirits.
Each tower is adorned with symbols to reflect this spirituality of the builders and their families.
14- St Nilus Stolobensky Monastery
Visiting the monastery of St Nilus Stolobensky on a summers day provides tourists with spectacular views over its cream facade and silver-blue domes.
The monastery is located on a small island in Lake Seliger. Founded by a group of monks between 1591-94, the monastery is a collection of many smaller churches and living areas.
Much of the monastery has been rebuilt and restored over the years following damage during the Soviet period.
Visit the Bishop’s Chambers for neoclassical and Gothic Revival architecture.
15- The Winter Palace
The Winter Palace in St Petersburg’s most famous building.
The palace itself is unmissable, with its vivid green colouring adorned with gilded carvings.
The Winter Palace was completed in 1735, but would be expanded in the years that followed before reaching the size it is today.
The palace houses a museum filled with treasures and priceless art collections named the Hermitage Museum.
The Winter Palace has not served as a residency for the Tsars since 1881, however today it is still used as a place to hold official ceremonies.
The building was heavily damaged during the Siege of Leningrad, however, this tragedy did start the process of returning the original splendour of the palace’s many rooms.
The State Rooms, in particular, are now a favourite amongst visitors.
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16- Kizhi Island
Located in Lake Onega, Kizhi Island is a sight to behold.
On the island are two 18th Century wooden churches and an octagonal clock tower.
The current churches are built on the site of two former 16th Century churches who perished in a fire when lightning struck them.
The churches themselves reflect harmony through the shapes used and showcase complex and artistic Russian carpentry.
17- Catherine Palace
An impressive blue, cream and gold building named after Catherine the First, wife of Peter the Great, Catherine Palace was designed as a rival to the palace of Versailles.
The palace in St Petersburg was completed in 1756 and took over 100kg of cold to decorate the exteriors of the palace, much to Catherine’s dismay.
The palace houses many impressive rooms, including The Great Hall, often referred to as the Hall of Light.
The room occupies the full width of the palace, and large arched windows offer scenic views of either side of the palace, as well as illuminating the treasures within.
The palace is now open to visitors to gaze in awe at the sheer lavishness of the palace. Tours are also available and offer access to the parklands in which the palace sits.
18- Mayakovskaya Metro Station
Many see metro stations as merely a stopping point before their train to and from work arrives.
In Moscow however, the Mayakovskaya Metro Station is a thing of beauty.
This station is often regarded as the most beautiful in the world.
An art deco masterpiece, this station was opened in 1938 and was designed by Alexey Dushkin.
Unlike many stations of the time, Dushkin opted to use a lighter metal; favouring aircraft steel over traditional girders, giving the hall a larger more open feel.
Around the metro station, there are many mosaics, adding to the reputation that Moscow’s metro lines have of a museum underground (Dinamo station features Greek friezes and reliefs).
19- Bolshoi Theatre
The Bolshoi Theatre is a historic theatre in Moscow, famed for its performances of ballet and operas.
The theatre was initially given permission to be built by Empress Catherine the Second in 1776.
Over time, and after two fires that destroyed much of the original building, the theatre was refurbished and officially opened as the Bolshoi Theatre to coincide with the coronation of Tsar Alexander the Second.
Like many historical buildings in Russia, the theatre was in danger of being demolished.
Today, the theatre has been restored to its former glory after being left in a state of disrepair following bombings during World War Two, and a lack of funding.
Performances at the theatre are world-renowned for their beauty and passion and entice audiences with classical ballet performances and modern adaptations of classical literature.
20- The Valley of Geysers
The Valley of Geysers is another natural phenomenon of Russias vast and changing landscape.
The geysers are the only ones of their kind in Eurasia with approximately 200 geysers making up the valley.
Discovered by a local scientist in 1941, the geysers today are a renowned tourist attraction because of the thermal pool, cascading waterfalls and beautiful surroundings.
In 2008 the valley was selected as one of seven wonders of Russia.