War and Peace: The 5 Best Tours to Tolstoy's Russia

by Trisha Andres, The Daily Telegraph, January 14, 2015

Follow in the footsteps of the War and Peace cast and visit St Petersburg for stops at the BBC One drama's opulent film locations, including the Catherine Palace, Yusupov Palace and the State Hermitage Museum.

St. Petersberg
Photo by Freeimages.com/Witek Burkiewicz

BBC One’s adaptation of War and Peace casts St Petersburg in the most glorious light. A number of operators, both mainstream and specialist, offer several itineraries which take in some of the film locations used in the drama, such as the Catherine Palace – the summer residence of the tsars – and Yusupov Palace, as well as the candy-coloured State Hermitage Museum, as the Winter Palace is now known.

From the best value tour to the best trip for single travellers, we handpick different ways to explore this endlessly fascinating city, with plenty of time to visit Moscow .

Best for insider info: Trafalgar

Trafalgar’s eight-day Wonders of St Petersburg and Moscow visits these two glorious cities. In St Petersburg, there is a tour with a local historian who will share insider stories behind the city’s key landmarks, such as the Tsar's Winter Palace, Nevsky Prospekt, St Isaac's Cathedral and the Hermitage Museum, with time to explore on your own. Meanwhile, in Moscow, the tour takes in Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin Walls, with an optional excursion to Trinity Lavra monastery in Sergiyev Posad, the largest religious and cultural centre in Russia. There’s also a special small group visit to the Hermitage Museum as well as a chance to watch a private dance performance onstage from students at the Theatre of Youth in St Petersburg. Departures between May and September, from £1,193 including some meals but excluding flights. Trafalgar (0800 533 5619; trafalgar.com ).

Best for solo travellers: Cox & Kings

A Majestic Russia tour from Cox & Kings has been created especially for single travellers with benefits including single occupancy of double or twin rooms at reasonable prices. The seven-day tour takes in St Petersburg’s imperial palaces including Catherine’s Palace at Pushkin, alongside Nevsky Prospekt, Vasilievsky island, and the Hermitage Museum, home to an extensive collection of European and Russian masterpieces, as well as Moscow's gems, viewing Red Square with St Basil’s Cathedral, the Moscow State University and Novodevichy Convent. There’s also an optional tour of selected Moscow metro stations, opulent underground ‘palaces’ adorned with marble and chandeliers. Departures between April and September, from £1,145 including international flights with British Airways and some meals. Cox & Kings (020 3642 0861; coxandkings.co.uk ).

Best general tour: Saga

This 10-day St Petersburg to Moscow voyage along the Russian waterways travels through Volga, Svir and the Moscow Canal and stops at Moscow and St Petersburg, with visits to the Hermitage Museum and the Red Square, the Kremlin and Armoury Chamber. The trip also takes in Mandrogi, a reconstructed traditional village; the monastery of Kirillo-Belozersky and the open-air museum on Kizhi island, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The price includes nine excursions as well as onboard activites, such as Russian language lessons, traditional dance classes and folklore courses. Departures between May and September, from £1,099 including flights and all meals. Saga (0800 300 400; saga.co.uk/rivercruises ).

Best for luxury: The Ultimate Travel Company

Tania Illingworth (née Tolstoy) – a linguist specialising in Russian who is also a distant relative of Leo Tolstoy – leads this five-day St Petersburg: Treasure of the Russian Tsars tour run by The Ultimate Travel Company. The itinerary, which explores the architectural and artistic legacy of the Tsars and Tsarinas, visits the beautifully-preserved palaces of Pavlovsk, Yusupov, Winter Palace and the treasures of the State Hermitage with curator Alexei Leporc. The tour price also includes tickets to an opera or ballet performance at the famed Mariinsky Theatre and a private viewing of the newly opened Fabergé Collection. February 14, from £2,295 including flights and some meals. The Ultimate Travel Company (020 3131 5588; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk ).

Best value for money: Regent Holidays

A five-day whirlwind tour of St Petersburg from Regent Holidays offers great value for money. Starting with a city coach tour, in the company of a knowledgeable local guide, you will visit key sights, including St Isaac’s Cathedral, the Hermitage Museum, the Catherine Palace with its restored Amber Room and the grand estate of Tsarskoye Selo in the town of Pushkin. There’s also a stop at the 18th century Peter and Paul Fortress, one of the oldest buildings in St Petersburg and the resting place of Peter the Great. Departures between January and December, from £790 b&b including flights. Regent Holidays (020 7666 1244; regent-holidays.co.uk ).


This article was written by Trisha Andres from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.