Russia recently switched to a free e-visa system. Picture: GRÄFENHAIN GÜNTER/SIME-4CORNERS IMAGES.

If Russia has been on your bucket list but the visa requirements deterred you from visiting, worry not. The country recently switched to a free e-visa system. 

If you are planning a trip, make sure these five cities are on your itinerary: 

MOSCOW 

This is the capital of Russia and one of the most vibrant European capitals. The Kremlin and Red Square are a marvel to explore. With more than 600 churches, you will find gold-plated domes dominating your peripheral vision. The city has an enchanting mix of history and culture. The Kremlin comes highly recommended by the way. 

It overlooks the Moskva River to the south, with the Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square to the east. To the west, you will find the Alexander Garden. Lenin’s Mausoleum is one of those love-it-or-hate-it landmarks. Here you will find the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin, a legendary Russian revolutionary. Opened since August 1924, this place attracts around 2.5 million visitors a year. 

The Usachevsky Market is a must for foodies. Established in 1932, it was once home to a few street market lanes. Today, it’s a massive gastronomic delight. If you’re keen to soak up some culture, be sure to check out the Bolshoi Theatre, where you can witness some of Russia’s finest ballets and operas.

ST PETERSBURG 

The city has a Western European feel. Here you will find majestic palaces, impressive cathedrals and plenty of rivers, canals and lush parks. The city is ideal for shopping, dining and partying. The Hermitage (The Winter Palace) is one of the famous attractions and renowned for being one of the world’s greatest treasuries of art and antiquities. 

For those in the mood for a more relaxed outing, especially if you are visiting between May and October, indulge in a guided boat cruise tour. The architectural beauty of the place will seduce you. Set aside half a day to explore Peterhof, which comprises a series of palaces and gardens. 

The place is partly modelled on the Palace of Versailles by Louis XIV of France. The Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood is one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks with its colourful and gaudy exterior. 


KAZAN 

Bauman Street is the place to be if you want to soak up the local culture. It’s bustling day and night. There are plenty of souvenir shops, coffee shops, museums and street performers to keep you entertained. At night, there is a vibrant club scene. But if you are looking for something more relaxing, a stroll through the lesser-known Hermitage Kazan Centre is perfect, especially if you are an art lover. 

For those looking to sample the local flavours, the place is a haven for foodies. The dishes are influenced by Russian and Eastern cuisine. The chak-chak is a must-try if you have a sweet tooth. 


YEKATERINBURG

 

This is Russia’s fourth-biggest city. The architecture, sculptures, cultural activities and historical buildings – not to mention thriving nightlife culture – will leave you wanting for nothing. Sporty types are encouraged to consider exploring the city by going on a self-guided Red Line Walking Tour, which will take you past 35 key attractions. 

For a more hands-on experience (and this is something everyone should try), visit the Pelmeni Club, where you can cook like a local. If you have the kids with you, there are workshops for them, too. For a more upmarket experience, why not dine while enjoying the skyline of the city from the Vertikal at the Vysotsky tower. 

You can enjoy live music and a choice of Russian, European or Asian cuisine. If you are on a budget, visit Vietmon. This is Yekaterinburg’s first Vietnamese restaurant and it is family-run. 

VLADIVOSTOK 

This major Pacific port city in Russia overlooks Golden Horn Bay and is close to the borders of China and North Korea. The Pacific coastline is filled with delightful little islands and bays. It’s a city on the move with new theatres and cultural attractions. And it has a pumping nightlife. Designed as a cube in a cube with glass walls, the Russian Opera House is a sight to behold. 

On the food front, this city offers everything from Russian, Italian, Czech, Georgian, Chinese, Japanese and North Korean cuisine. If you are in town, do try the sea urchin. A favourite spot with the locals is the Sportivnaya Market. It’s a fish market but you can also buy anything from music, and films to kitchenware, clothes and toys. 

If you are famished, try the Kamchatka crabs, king prawns or small crayfish, on one of the benches overlooking the waterfront. Eagle’s Nest Hill is where you will find the best breathtaking views of the city. Travellers looking to relax should try the Russian Banya, a steam bath, which is one of the oldest and most famous Russian traditions.