The overnight “Red Arrow” train from Moscow to St. Petersburg is indeed luxurious. We had bought our tickets before we even left home since rumor has it they sell out. There was an empty cabin in our car (car 16) so I’m not entirely convinced. This is actually a big deal because the Russian train website seems to accept credit cards from every nation except USA. In order to buy the tickets, I had to go thru an English re-seller which tacked on a 40% fee. When asking the attendants at our Moscow hostel to help us decipher which of the three train stations we should head out to, they gasped when they saw the amount of money we had paid. If you’re a bit flexible on your travel dates, you might get away with buying your tickets in person.
An attendant was waiting for us outside the train car to check us in.
We were given toiletry bags, towels, bedsheets and pillows. The boys quickly settled in for the night. In the morning, the attendant came by with a box lunch consisting of a sandwich, crackers, pate, and cookies. There was even coffee and tea. It was pretty nice and we warned the boys not to expect such service on any other train rides.
We arrived early enough to find the Metro practically empty as we made our way towards our next hostel which was located next to the Monji river. What a place! I do not believe I have ever stayed at a nicer hostel and you can read my review here.
St. Petersburg is a very European city: beautiful old buildings, canals traversing the city, museums, churches, and cute little cafes. Since big cruise ships make port here and visitors do not need a visa if staying under 72hrs, it has many more tourists than Moscow did, specially international ones.
Our first visit of the day was the Hermitage Museum, housed in the Winter Palace.
It is beautiful both inside and out.
Again, we had bought tickets online on advice that otherwise standing in line for over an hour is the norm. We got to the museum a tad late, almost 11am and to be honest it seemed that people were just beginning to gather at the ticket booth. If you do decide to buy your tickets beforehand, make sure you don’t miss the booth at the very entrance of the courtyard where you will need to exchange your electronic receipt for paper tickets. We did and had to walk all the way back to retrieve them.
The Hermitage is billed as one of the best art museums in the world and it certainly delivers.
The Hermitage is very much worth a visit; wear comfy shoes and be patient with the big groups of tourists admiring the artwork alonside you.