Moscow or St. Petersburg

Old Jan 9th, 2007, 06:55 AM
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Moscow or St. Petersburg

If you could only spend a week in russia, would you choose moscow or st. petersburg? how do they vary in price?
thornyroses is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2007, 08:13 AM
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I remember in the late 1970's a friend who went to both Moscow and (then) Leningrad--he enjoyed what is now St Petersburg, but felt that Moscow was unique. After spending much time over the years in both cities, I still think he was right. Clients of ours usually consider St Petersburg as a more interesting tourist destination (if they haven't been to Russia before), and I know people who bought apartments in St Petersburg through us (just to attend the White Nights' Festival each year) who have never visited Moscow.

Moscow is more than twice as populous than St Petersburg (it is the biggest city in Europe), and is the political, economic and cultural capital (notwithstanding the Hermitage and Kirov being in St Petersburg, the center of the art market, opera and ballet world is in Moscow). Moscow is truly a bridge between East and West; the architecture of all periods (from St. Basil's on Red Square to the constructivist buildings of the 1920's to the Stalinist buildings of the 1950's) will immediately strike the astute viewer.

Also, because so much of the economic activity is concentrated in Moscow, the city has a dynamic quality about it equaled only by New York.

St. Petersburg has many qualities: the historic center is beautiful, the museums (especially the State Russian Museum and Hermitage) rank among the world's finest, and it is, to me, a bit more 'accessible' than is Moscow. We have people coming to us to visit both cities, and they already know what they want to see in St Petersburg--in Moscow, they know they want to visit the Kremlin and St Basil's Cathedral, but that's all they know.

That being said, Moscow is, generally, far more expensive than St Petersburg for hotels and for dining (Moscow is considered by most experts to be the costliest city for hotels in the world). The only slow times for Moscow hotels are January, May 1-9 and parts of August. We have many clients rent apartments in St Petersburg, which reduces the cost greatly, but there really isn't much of an alternative in Moscow.

Many clients go the visit both cities in the space of 7-10 days--such a trip can be rushed, but is a way to see the two capitals of Russia in a brief time (because most leisure travelers think that they will go only one time to Russia).

Ultimately, it comes down to what you want to do, when you want to go, what your budget is, and if you will go back to Russia again. Either city is a wonderful place to visit.
Marc_David_Miller is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2007, 09:59 AM
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<< how do they vary in price?>>

I am spending a week in each later this year. Based on my exhaustive research to date, Moscow seems about twice as expensive as St. Petersburg.
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Old Jan 9th, 2007, 10:19 AM
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I do find Moscow to be more expensive for lodging and dining (except, in the case of hotels, during the summer tourist season, as St Petersburg gets more expensive); on the average, 25-50% if comparing similar hotels and restaurants. For guides, admissions, drivers, etc. they are very similar. Someone who knows the travel market in Russia can often plan around dates to reduce the lodging cost.
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Old Jan 9th, 2007, 10:23 AM
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Which one is safer...friend, Russian friend who has flat in St Petersburg says crime is now rife there - is one safer than other or is this just a bunch of bunk?
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Old Jan 9th, 2007, 10:31 AM
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I don't find much difference in the cost of St Petersburg to Moscow. There are expensive places to go to or you can go there on a more modest budget.

As for the crime question, I've heard about it and know it exists but in the 20+ years of going to Russia I have not experienced it. I don't feel unsafe in either place.
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Old Jan 9th, 2007, 10:37 AM
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Tough question... I've been to both in the last year and both have their good and bad points.

Moscow is huge, busy and fascinating. It is like New York in terms of crowds, traffic, and pace. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of the world's largest cities consider Moscow. You'll get all the urban amenities you could want: great dining, convenient public transport, nightlife, shopping, museums, plus throw in great historical sites and tons of culture. But be prepared for breathing exhaust, waiting in lines, tourist rip-offs, and spending lots of cash. I've loved it but after a week I want out.

St. Petersburg is more tourist oriented but somewhat less dynamic. It is sort of like Washington DC as compared to New York. Yes, it's crowded and yes, traffic can be horrible but it seems somewhat more pedestrian oriented and has great views from street level as you walk around the canals and rivers. St. Petersburg is heavy on palaces and the trappings of royalty with incredible museums mixed in. Tons of good restaurants, shopping, bars, cafes, etc are along main tourist routes. Be ready for rain or drizzle and higher humidity than Moscow in the tourist season.

Both are great to visit and if you've got 8 or more days both are doable. If you've got to choose just one and you think you might not get back to Russia, I'd pick Moscow. It is the heart of Russia, everything important in Russia happens there... where else can you get a better sense of today's Russia? St. Petersburg (for tourists)represents Russia's imperialist past... fascinating but not what is going on today.
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Old Jan 9th, 2007, 11:36 AM
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My thoughts are from many years ago (1997 - wow that dates me!), so they are general impressions. I was part of a tour and this was pre-wall falling down, so we didn't stray much.

Moscos - big, gray, industrial. Definitely feels like a government city from the big gray buildings. The Kremlin is amazing and Red Square isn't a square, but a few football fields. St. Basil's - wow! We ventured onto the subway ourselves (I didn't realize how deep - took multiple escalators to get down), which was somewhat intimidating, but pretty neat. When we were there, there was no 'shopping' per se other than tourist stores and a few places on Namesky Prospekt (I think?)

St. Pete - it was still Leningrad when I was there. The use of color was impressive especially contrasted with the 'grayness' (is that a word?) of Moscow. The importances of the imperial family is felt here. Beautiful canals. I remember hearing about the bridges that went up at 2am (until 6am), so if you were out *really* late, you were stuck. Not a problem for us, since we tended to stick close to our group.

We did them both in about 8 days - with a train ride in-between the cities. It was definitely rushed, but I enjoyed the contrast between them.

good luck!
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