Russian Cities

If Russia is the country of your expat dreams but you’re not sure where to settle then read all about its top three cities!


Moscow has been Russia’s capital city for centuries (apart from a period where St Petersburg was the capital). It has been an influential city from the days of the Russian Tsars, throughout the years of the Soviet Union right up to the Russian Federation. In fact, last year Moscow celebrated its 864th birthday. It is an important urban centre economically, scientifically, politically and culturally. Moscow is the 5th largest city in the world and by the far the most populous city in Russia.


Moscow is the largest city in Europe.

There are more billionaires in Moscow than in any other city in the world.

Every year Paratrooper’s Day is celebrated in Moscow and men dress up as ‘blue berets’ for the revelries.

Famous tennis star Maria Sharapova is one of Moscow’s wealthiest celebrities.

The second largest library in the world can be found in Moscow. The Russian State Library is second only to America’s library of Congress.


The Kremlin is one of the most famous buildings in Moscow. This ‘citadel’ was originally founded in the early 12th century by Prince Yury Dolgoruky. Although it started life simply the Kremlin evolved, eventually growing into the mammoth structure we know today. The twenty star-topped towers are one of the fortifications most recognisable features.

Towards the close of the 18th century the Bolshoy Theatre was founded. It was commissioned by Catherine the Great in 1776 and financed by wealthy Englishman Michael Maddox. After a shaky start to the 19th century (it was damaged by fire three times by 1853) it was rebuilt by Albert Cavos and with a capacity of 3,000 it remains one of Europe’s largest theatres. World-class ballet and opera performances are held in the Bolshoy Theatre throughout the year.

Moscow’s Red Square is not only one of the city’s best known landmarks in its own right but is surrounded by other famous sights. In centuries past the Red Square was used for general gatherings, announcements and even executions. After the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks used the square as a parade ground and memorial cemetery. The embalmed body of Communist state founder Lenin was even laid to rest in a mausoleum on Red Square.

Not many cities would list a university as one of its top attractions but the Moscow State University features some famously imposing architecture. The central building is a huge gothic skyscraper commissioned by Stalin. Its spire is 240 metres tall and is topped with a 12 ton star! It has even been said that the building contains over 20 miles of corridors.

The Tretyakov Gallery is home to one of the most culturally important collections of Russian art in the world. After having 2,000 pieces of artwork donated by the gallery’s financier in the 19th century the collection grew until it encompassed every facet of Russian art. The gallery’s impressive collection of Soviet art is now housed in its own building, the colossal Central House of Artists.

St Petersburg

St Petersburg is one of Russia’s largest and most important cities. It was founded at the beginning of the 18th century by Tsar Peter the Great and was even the capital of Russia from 1732 until the Bolsheviks intervention in 1918. The city was renamed Petrograd in 1914 and Leningrad in 1924; it didn’t become St Petersburg again until 1991.


St Petersburg’s birthday is celebrated every year on the 27th May.

Because of St Petersburg’s swampy foundations its underground transportation system had to be carved out of solid rock at a depth of 70-80 metres.

Russia’s tallest Cathedral is in St Pertersburg. The Petropavlovsky Cathedral is 112.5 metres tall and is the final resting place of the Romanov Royal Family. It is located inside the Peter and Paul Fortress.

St Petersburg has 80 theatres and 200 museums.

St Petersburg has been called the Venice of the west because of its huge amount of canals and villages. It has 135 miles of canals and over 580 bridges.


For a relatively young city St Petersburg has a surprising amount of religious buildings. One of the most famous of these is St Isaac’s Cathedral which was Russia’s largest cathedral until the building of the Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. St Isaac’s has a distinctive domed top and features huge granite columns, made of single pieces of red granite. Although it was closed as a Church during the 1930’s it remains open to the public as a museum.

A significant monument in St Petersburg is The Bronze Horseman. It was commissioned by Empress Catherine the Great to commemorate her royal predecessor, Peter the Great. As the name suggests the imposing monument features Peter the Great on horseback.

A host of important Russian royal residences are located in St Petersburg, including the striking Winter Palace. There have been Imperial residences on the site of the Winter Palace since 1708 and the present design has been in evidence since 1762. Planning regulations have meant that at 22 metres the Winter Palace remains the tallest building in the city.

Many have argued that St Petersburg is Russia’s cultural capital and locals even describe the city as the ‘Gorod Muzei’- the museum city. Particularly popular museums in the city include those focused on History and Politics or Science and Technology.

Vasilesvsky Ostrov is the largest of St Petersburg’s islands and holds several of the city’s most famous buildings. Before St Petersburg was founded the island was known as Vasilii’s Island and the Finnish Khirvisaari.


Yekaterinburg is a place drenched in history. It is also Russia’s fourth largest city and an area renowned for heavy industry. It was founded in the early 1700’s and named after the wife of Tsar Peter the Great, Catherine I. Although there are many good points about Yekaterinburg it will always be remembered as the place where Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were massacred. Although they were murdered by Bolsheviks in the Ipatiev House in 1918 the bodies of Nicholas, his wife, their five children and their servants were not all discovered until 2007.


Yekaterinburg manufactured the metal which made the frame of US icon the Statue of Liberty.

The Guinness world record for the biggest consumption of mayonnaise per capita is held by Yekaterinburg.

Yekaterinburg is a key logistical and transportation juncture on the Trans-Siberian railway.

The previous name for Yekaterinburg was Sverdlovsk.

Yekaterinburg is known for many industries including pharmaceuticals, gem cutting, chemical manufacturing and metallurgy.


The impressive Yekaterinburg State Circus big-top was erected in 1980. It has a seating capacity of almost 3,000 and is famed for being one of Europe’s best circuses. The Russian Circus performs in the Yekaterinburg big-top on a regular basis and its acrobats, juggler’s animal acts and clowns are world renowned.

The Church of the Blood might seem like a morbid attraction but it certainly pulls the tourists in. It was built at the beginning of the twenty-first century on the site where Russia’s last Tsar and his family were murdered in 1918. The current building stands on the site where the Ipatiev House (the place in which they were imprisoned and killed) once stood. Inside the church there are large photos of all the Romanov family members who lost their lives so brutally.

Connected to the attraction above is the Ganya Pit. It stands as an unusual monument architecturally, being a collection of 7 uniquely built wooden churches. This is also the place where the bodies of the Tsar Nicholas and his family were burnt and buried.

An attraction children will particularly enjoy is the Yekaterinburg Zoo. The three story building holds an impressive 40 species of exotic and rare animals. The zoo also has a natural history study group for under 16’s and an educational centre.

Being on the border between Europe and Asia makes Yekaterinburg an interesting location as it’s physically possible to step from one continent to another. Standing with one foot in each world is something anyone visiting Yekaterinburg has to try.