What is the best season in Russia? This completely depends on your expectations from the trip and what you want to do in Russia. In this article we provide a comprehensive guide to Russian seasons across Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, and even Siberia.
HIGH SEASON: SUMMER IN RUSSIA
No other time can beat the summertime in Russia in terms of cultural travelling and sightseeing. The weather in Moscow and St.Petersburg finally becomes tolerable, and even pleasant. You can calmly admire the architecture and historical sights without thinking where to go to get warm. Some places, like Peterhof park, are worth visiting in summer, mainly because fountains are operating.
The downside is that many travelers think the same. As a result, hotel prices go up and the most popular sights can get very crowded.
To avoid the crowds in Moscow, choose a more local-style activity: go skating or biking in the Gorky park, hold a picnic in Kolomenskiy park, visit an open-air "Sky park" in the Planetarium, or go for an outdoor dancing masterclass.
If you are brave enough to visit more of Russia, than just Moscow and St. Petersburg, it's best to do it in summer. Shabby and depressive as Russian province can get, at least it has some charm when there is sunshine and lush greenery.
Classic route from Moscow leads to Golden Ring cities, which can be easily reached by train. You can visit just one of them, or make a round trip. Other interesting options are romantic Nizhny Novgorod (4 hours by train from Moscow), toylike Smolensk (5 hours by train from Moscow), and Tatar Kazan (12 hours by train from Moscow). If you want to suprise everyone - go to the tiny city of Elets, which is the historical sight itself. An overnight train from Moscow will get you there in 7 hours.
If you are a sea-lover, you will be happy to know that Russia has it's own seaside. The most popular city on the Black Sea coast is Sochi, which hosted Olympic games in 2014. Visit Olympic Village, which is said (proudly) to resemble a European city. Sochi is unique in terms of the combination of sea coast and mountains, which are just 2 hours away from each other. In fact, you can even do surfing in Sochi and in other cities along the coastline! (Just keep in mind, that waves are available mainly in fall and winter time).
If you adventurous enough, explore several small cities moving from one to another by bus. Head to picturesque Janhot, famous for its pinewoods, or champagne-making Abrau.
Another beautiful season in Russia is fall, when the trees are dressed into many shades of yellow. This is the period from mid-September to mid-October, which is by English-speaking people usually called Indian summer. Days are still rather warm, but weather is becoming more capricious with larger chance of rains. However, most of the sun-loving tourists have departed home, and cities become much more quiet. Besides, the beauty of "golden fall" will add extra charm to your visit to Moscow, St. Petersburg or Golden Ring towns.
What's important, the ballet troops return back home in September, therefore you can enjoy the legendary Russian dance performance. Make sure to book the tickets in advance as they sell off very quickly. Ballet performances are usually staged from September to mid-June.
Christmas Time in Russia
Everybody loves Christmas, and Russians are no different. In December and January Moscow becomes a glowing snow globe with splendid decorations, trees, and Christmas markets. You have to see the Red Square in winter: St.Basil's Cathedral and GUM store look iconic adorned by all the holiday brouhaha.
Winter is the perfect time to visit Moscow, if you want to experience cold and snowy weather. Just make sure to have the right clothes, and you will be able to explore all the Moscow sights. After a long freezing walk, it is extremely pleasant to spend time indoors in one of the numerous Museums or Art Galleries, or to have a slow-food Russian gastronomic adventure.
One of the most favorite winter activities in Russia is ice-skating: locals go to the rinks to socialize, to exercise, or to show off. Ice-skating rink in the Red Square is the top choice for newcomers. In case you are looking for something more spacious, head to VDNH, the biggest ice-skating rink in Russia. Another great option is the rink in Gorky Park, which is a bit closer to the city center and easier to access. Skates rental is available on each site.
You cannot call yourself a traveller until after you have visited the world’s oldest and deepest lake – Baikal. With a surface area bigger than Belgium, Baikal contains 22–23% of the world's fresh water and famous for its unique bio system of endemic flora and fauna. If you are ready for your Siberian adventure, check the flights to Irkutsk – the closest city to Baikal’s shores. It became the starting point for great geographical discoveries in the Russian Far East and Russian America.
Winter is definitely the best time to go and discover the spirit of Baikal and explore the lanes of Irkutsk. In December, when the temperature goes subzero and snow reaches half a meter in height, the fun time with huskie riding, mountain skis and ice swimming begins.
January and February are the months of national holidays. Apart from New Year and Christmas, there is also the Epiphany Day, which Russian Orthodox celebrate by sousing head and ears in cold water of rivers and lakes. Plus, don’t forget about our favorite Russian festival – Maslenitsa, where you can eat as many pancakes as you can. Finally, in March – well, March is still winter in Siberia - when Baikal’s surface freezes, the air is dry, and the skies are sunnier than ever, you can enjoy the quiet on the snowy shores of the lake without being overwhelmed by crowds of tourists.
RUSSIA OFF SEASON
If you don't care much about the weather, or want to save money on accommodation and travel, come in March-April or November. This is also the perfect time, if you have a particular interest, and it can be fulfilled without spending much time outdoors. For instance, if you are a history geek, you'll find plenty of places to enjoy, such as State Historical Museum, Museum of Russian Modern History, or GULAG History Museum. To art lovers we recommend Tretyakov Gallery, both main building and XX century gallery, Pushkin Art Museum, and relatively young Museum of Russian Impressionism.
What is more, nightlife in Moscow is active every month of the year, so you can make partying your particular interest during off season time in Moscow.