Russia's Tourism Industry

Russia is the largest country in the world, covering over an eighth of Earth's inhabited land surface. Stretching from Europe to Asia, and with coastlines on the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, the country spans twelve time zones. Only a few decades ago, Russia was a country that had few foreign visitors, but since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia's tourism sector has grown rapidly. In 2012, the country was ninth in the global world tourism rankings, with 25.7 million international tourist arrivals. Russia had the biggest increase in visitor numbers of all the top ten rankings, with a growth of 34 per cent. Over half of all inbound visitors to Russia come from the surrounding ex-Soviet countries and the Baltic States.


The most visited tourist destination in Russia is the capital city, Moscow. The attractions in the city that have the most foreign and domestic visitors are the Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral and Red Square. Other sights in Moscow which attract large numbers of visitors are the Bolshoi Theatre, the Lenin Mausoleum, Gorky Park, and the Yusupov Palace, where Rasputin met his death. Moscow is home to the oldest art gallery in Russia, the Tretyakov Gallery.

St Petersburg

Another city that attracts many tourists is St Petersburg, which lies to the north of Moscow. Standing on the Neva River by the Baltic Sea, it is built on hundreds of small islands, and is often called the 'Venice of the North'. St Petersburg was home of the Tsars and contains many historic Baroque and Neoclassical buildings. The city has numerous historic monuments, including the Winter Palace of Peter I, which houses part of the Hermitage Museum. This vast museum was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 and has the largest collection of paintings in the world. The centre of the city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains many notable cathedrals, churches, museums and palaces. Many foreign tourists in St Petersburg arrive by sea, as a recently opened passenger port attracts many cruise ships, and these visitors are allowed a three-day visit exempt from visa requirements.

The Golden Ring

Lying to the northeast of Moscow is a collection of thirteen historic cities that have preserved Russia's cultural and historic past, particularly that of the Russian Orthodox Church. The cities contain cathedrals, kremlins, monasteries and churches, many dating back to the twelfth century.

Southern Russia

Tourism in the south of Russia is mainly concentrated in the beach resorts that border the Black Sea, in a region that is often called the 'Russian Riviera'. With a subtropical climate of mild winters and hot summers, it has been a popular resort area since the late nineteenth century. Sochi is the largest resort city of the region. It was a favourite place for the Soviet elite to take their holidays and Joseph Stalin had a dacha, or holiday home, in Sochi. The city is undergoing much development to improve the infrastructure for visitors, prior to hosting the Winter Olympics and Formula One Grand Prix in 2014 and the FIFA World Cup in 2018. Near to Sochi is the ski resort of Krasnaya Polyana, lying in the Caucasus Mountains. These are part of a vast national park; the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve. The mountain ranges contain Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe. Elbrus is a dormant volcano with a permanent icecap; the names means 'White Mountain.' It attracts many climbers and sightseers, although special permits are needed to visit this area.

Far East

While most of Russia's tourism is concentrated in the west of the country, the east contains many spectacular natural attractions which draw adventurous visitors. Kamchatka, in the far east, is known for its geysers, volcanoes and acid lakes, and Sikhote-Alin and Sakhalin are mountainous regions that are home to tigers, bears and other rare, wild animals. Also in the east is Lake Baikal, the deepest and oldest lake in the world, which lies in the isolated region of Siberia. There are several resorts around the lake, and the Trans-Siberian railway has a station here. This historic train route attracts many tourists who wish to experience the longest rail journey in the world. It travels from St Petersburg all the way to Beijing, with the option to detour via Mongolia. A non-stop trip will take over a week. There is generally very little transport infrastructure in the wild areas of Russia, and access for visitors can often only be gained using helicopters.

Future Tourism Developments

There are several major cultural and sporting events taking place in Russia over the next few years, which are expected to boost tourist figures. These include the Winter Olympic Games in 2014 and the FIFA World Cup in 2018.