Russia - Itinerary

Day 1-Moscow
Arrive in Moscow. You will be escorted to the special V.I.P. lounge for expedited passport control. Transfer by private car and guide for a 4-night stay at the deluxe Ritz Carlton Hotel in a deluxe room. The remainder of the day is at leisure.

Day 2-Moscow
Morning panoramic city tour by private car and guide gives you an overview of the most important sites in the city including: the University of Moscow, the Bolshoi Theater, Olympic Stadium, and the G.U.M. Department Store, one of the largest in the world. Continue to impressive Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral, with its vividly painted onion domes. Visit the impressive Romanov Chambers, a branch of the State History Museum. The Chambers represent the typical interior of a Russian Boyar's estate from the 17th century. Time for lunch. Afternoon visit to the Tretyakov Art Gallery, officially opened in 1892 as a public state museum thanks to a successful young Moscow industrialist, Pavel Tretyakov. In pursuit of this high-minded goal, he began to purchase paintings, drawings, and sculpture, adjudged both on high artistic merit and on their place within the various important canons of their time. A visitor to the museum today will find works spanning the 11th to the 20th centuries, from sacred icons to stunning portrait and landscape art; to the famous Russian Realists' paintings that culminated in the wanderers' group; to the splendid creations of Russian Symbolism, Impressionism, and Art Nouveau. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Or visit to Stalin's Bunker Museum located in Izmailovo. In the 1930's an entire underground town was built under a stadium and was used by Stalin as an emergency command center during the years of WWII. See the fascinating collection of Stalin's personal belongings, orders and awards. See conference rooms and items used during that historic period. You will enjoy a private lunch with delicious Georgian cuisine and be entertained by the world famous military orchestra which makes for a truly unforgettable impression. Evening private boat ride on the Moscow River including champagne and caviar.

Day 3-Moscow
Full-day tour by private car and guide to Sergiev Posad (or still better known as Zagorsk), one of the most interesting old towns of Central Russia, situated 70 km from Moscow. The town was built in the 14th century as a settlement around the St. Trinity Monastery, established by reverend Sergius of Radonezh. He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church and became one of the most honored of Russia's Saints. The St. Trinity Sergius Monastery was one of the largest monasteries founded in Russia in the 14th - 15th centuries. In 1774 it was elevated to the status of Lavra, i.e. the monastery of the highest rank. Today it is considered to be the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church and has one of the most interesting historical museums, which displays Old Russian icons, ancient church plates, needlework, embroidery and Church books. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Or, take a tour to the Kuskovo Estate, often compared to Versailles for its exquisite beauty and elegance. Built in the 18th century, Kuskovo is a typical countryside residence of the Russian aristocracy. Enjoy hors d'oeuvres at the Italian Pavillion.

Day 4-Moscow
Morning tour by private car and guide with special "Early Entrance" to the 15th century Kremlin and its imposing Cathedral Square. You'll see palaces, cathedrals and the infamous Ivan the Terrible bell-tower. The highlight will be the special visit to the famous Armory Museum, which includes a vast collection of Imperial Russian treasures. Continue to the Diamond Fund, a world-famous collection of precious stones, masterpieces of 18th and 19th century Jewelry and platinum and gold nuggets. The treasures of the Diamond Fund are part of the national state heritage. Time for lunch. The highlight of the day will be a backstage tour of the famous Bolshoi Theater (closed July and August). The 19th century auditorium has been recently renovated to its original glory. See the personal belongings of world famous ballet dancers, opera singers and stage directors, including some dressing rooms. Another unique highlight is a visit to the Moscow Metro, a system of public transportation and a work of urban infrastructure. The Moscow metro is an unparalleled example of architecture and design. The most grandiose architectural phenomenon of the Stalinist era, the vast system maps not only the huge ambitions of the Soviet State under Stalin, but records in amazing detail the ideological and artistic shifts that characterize the period. Today, with construction continuing, the Moscow Metro covers over 200 kilometers of track and serves 10 million people each day.

Day 5-Moscow - St. Petersburg
Today, enjoy a half-day tour by private car and guide to Novodevitchy Museum. Its white walls, towers topped by festive coronas, the magnificent Smolensky cathedral and a beautiful bell-tower attract the eye of both Muscovites and tourists. Tranquil and charming today, this museum was often the center of many events in Russian history. It recalls Boris Godunov, Ivan the Terrible, Nicholas II, Napoleon and of course many Russian princesses and tsarinas who were imprisoned or took the veil here. Behind the south wall is the most venerated cemetery in Moscow. It is the resting place of some of Russia's most outstanding writers and poets, including Checkhov and Gogol. Nikita Kruschev, former leader of the communist party, was given a famous memorial gravestone, crafted in black and white marble symbolizing the ambiguity and contradictory nature of Kruschev's period in power. A special treat today are reservations for lunch at the famous Café Pushkin. Enjoy wonderful and authentic Russian food such as borscht, Beef Stroganoff and caviar at this gorgeous turn-of-the-century mansion, complete with costumed waiters who will transport you back to pre-revolutionary Russia. Transfer by private car to the rail station for the departure on the express deluxe day train in a first class private compartment to St. Petersburg. Arrive in St. Petersburg. Transfer by private car to your hotel for a 4-night stay at the deluxe Grand Europe Orient Express Hotel in a Belle Chamber room. The remainder of the day is at leisure.

Day 6-St. Petersburg
Morning private car and guide tour with special "Early Entrance" to the magnificent Hermitage Museum located in the lavishly decorated winter Palace. One of the largest in the world, the museum boasts masterpieces by Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso and Matisse. As the collection is housed in the palace, you will have the opportunity to explore the rooms where Russian royalty lived. Special arrangements made to visit the Gold Treasury Room to see the Greek gold from the 6th to the 4th century BC and the jewelry of the Orient, Iran, Egypt, and South America from the 16th-18th centuries. Afternoon half-day panoramic city tour by private car includes a drive past some of the city's most famous sites: Nevsky Prospect; the bronze statue of Peter the Great; St. Isaac's Cathedral, one of the largest domed buildings in the world; and the extraordinary Winter Palace. Visit Peter & Paul fortress built by Peter the Great along Neva River in 1703, to protect the area from possible attack by the Swedish army and navy. Evening private canal cruise with champagne.

Day 7-St. Petersburg
Morning tour by private car and guide to the famous Yusupov Palace, the most mysterious place in St. Petersburg. It is not only a beautiful palace of the 19th Century; it also has a great historical value. The Palace belonged to the very wealthy family of the Yusupovs - their profit was even higher than the czars'. They had more than 20 mansions all around Russia; 4 of which are in St. Petersburg! The most famous of them is this one on the Moika river embankment, where the murder of Grigory Rasputin happened. During the tour, you'll see amazing rooms in different styles - from classical French to bizarre Moorish, and after a walk around the palace, your guide will take you downstairs to the chambers where Rasputin was murdered. Afternoon excursion by private car and guide to Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo), the splendid town where Catherine's Palace is located. This royal palace ranks as one of the masterpieces of the world for its architecture and art. First built in 1710 by Peter the Great, it was given to his wife - Catherine the Great. Later on, it was enlarged and modified following the exquisite Baroque style of the famous Italian designer Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Until the Revolution, Catherine's Palace was used as the summer residence for the Imperial family. It's grandiose turquoise, white and gold façade stretches 978 feet. And its most spacious room, the Great Hall, covers 9200 square feet. Enjoy a visit to the Amber room, the most famous room in Catherine's Palace. King Federick William of Prussia gave Peter the Great the original inlaid amber panels after Peter admired them in a room in Federick's palace. The Nazis dismantled the amber panels and shipped them to Germany during World War II, and they have never been found. Much mystery surrounds the fate of the amber room panels, and many Russians believe that they still exist somewhere in Germany. Russian artists began recreating the amber panels using the old techniques in the early 1980's, and the room was opened to the public in 2003. After a tour of this fairy-tale estate, stop at Pavlovsk Palace, with its extraordinary park filled with classical statues and temples. The palace was built for Paul, the son of Catherine the Great. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the park followed by reservations at the elite restaurant "Daniel". Return to St. Petersburg. Or, enjoy a visit to the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory, one of the most ancient manufactories in Europe. Famous for its handmade artwork and design, the manufactory has an entire line of products decorated with pure gold and engraved drawings. There are small workshops where you can see the process of making and decorating porcelain. And you will have the unique opportunity to take a china painting master class where you will be taught how to paint a porcelain masterpiece of your own, guided by the best skilled artists. Your masterpieces will be "fired" and delivered to your hotel in 2-3 days.

Day 8-St. Petersburg
In the morning enjoy a visit to the Konstantine Palace, reopened in 2003 after being restored to its original splendor. It is now officially the palace of Congress used to host government functions, such as the Russian EU summit. The Palace stands on a hill surrounded by vast green lawns, ponds, and lime trees. Its northern façade overlooks the windy Gulf of Finland, which is connected to the palace by canals with drawbridges and fountains. The central Marble Hall, used to host official events, lives up to its name with yellow marble pilasters framed by bluish marble walls. A balcony here affords a breathtaking view of the huge park and canals leading to the Gulf of Finland. Opposite the Marble Hall, the Blue Hall has blue walls, high mirrors, and gilt ornamentation. A wine cellar has been reconstructed; it holds Hungarian Tokay wines, as it did when this was a royal residence. The third floor belvedere is a new addition. Styled as a ship's hold, it's made of oak, with a spiral staircase leading to an observation deck with lovely views of the grounds. In addition to the rooms themselves, you can see various permanent exhibits, such as Russian state symbols from the Hermitage, and naval memorabilia from St. Petersburg's Naval Museum. Afternoon tour to Peterhof - the summer residence of Peter the Great - with its palaces and numerous beautiful fountains and statues, a true "Versailles" by the sea. Founded in the very beginning of the 18th century by emperor Peter the Great not far from his new modern capital St. Petersburg, Peterhof was intended to become the most splendid official royal summer residence. Its wonderful parks, 176 fountains of various forms and styles and four cascades, majestic palaces, numerous gilded statues of ancient gods and heroes, remarkable collections of sculpture, paintings and works of the minor arts make Peterhof a veritable gem of Art, often called the "Capital of Fountains." Nowadays, because of the unforgettable beauty of its fountains, parks and palaces, Peterhof has become for numerous Russian and foreign visitors the most attractive suburban royal park and palace ensemble of Russia's former capital. Enjoy the superb complex of lovely gardens, cascading fountains and waterfalls. Champagne and caviar will be served in the Voronihinskaya colonnade pavilion. The remainder of the day is at leisure.

Day 9-En Route
Transfer by private car to the airport for your return flight.