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They are Russia’s two largest cities and are usually the highlights of any trip to this massive country. Though what was once an arduous land journey between Moscow and Saint Petersburg can now be experienced in less than 4 hours on Russia’s highest speed railway.

Moscow is the capital and most populous city of Russia. There is definitely no shortage of things to do here and it makes a great base for taking day trip excursions to intriguing places beyond the cosmopolitan center.

Saint Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great, is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and for this reason has become so popular with tourists. It is the cultural capital of Russia and is a sleek modern city steeped in history, and home to one of the largest art museums in the world.

While your instincts may be to book a flight between these two iconic cities, it’s actually faster to travel by the high speed express train known as Sapsan. While the flight itself is only about an hour and a half, once you factor in travel time to and from both airports, checking in, waiting for take-off, and collecting bags, it works out faster by train.

And, the best thing about taking the Sapsan is the convenience of departing and arriving in the heart of both Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Make sure you include these highlight on your itinerary. Remember to complete your Russian e-Visa application in advance of your travels.

Discovering Moscow and Saint Petersburg via Russia’s Highest Speed Railway

Highlights of Moscow

The highlight and starting point for any trip to Moscow is quite obviously the Red Square where you will find the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, with its iconic multicolored domes.

Enjoy some of the world’s best classical performing arts, stunning historical architecture, numerous museums, buzzing nightlife, and delicious restaurants.

Witness Russian treasures in the Armoury Chamber and the Diamond Fund as well as visiting the final resting places of Russian notables such as Anton Chekhov and Vladimir Lenin.

Must visit museums include the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum, WWII Museum, State Historical Museum, Gulag Museum, Tolstoy House Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary History of Russia.

Be sure to get take advantage of the 540m tall Ostankino TV Tower for panoramic views of the city and head underground on a tour to explore the Neglinnaya River and Moscow Metro.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral Moscow Russia

Catching the Sapsan from Moscow to Saint Petersburg

About the Sapsan

Travelling from Moscow to Saint Petersburg by car or average train would take you over 9 hours. The ultra-fast Sapsan however will get you there in as little as 3 and a half.  Before the Sapsan went into service in late 2009, the fastest rail journey between the cities was two hours longer.

The Sapsan train, Russia’s fastest, is named after the Peregrine Falcon which is the fastest member of the animal kingdom. The train is aptly named, as it has no problem matching the speeds of the falcon which can clock 320 km/h.

While the train generally travels at a pace of around 200-250 km/h, it has the capability of reaching speeds of around 350km/h which puts it in line with some of the trains on China’s high-speed rail network.

High-speed EMU train EVS «Sapsan» on Moscow — Saint-Petersburg railway line

Photo credit: Shilpy Arora

The Sapsan Experience

Russian weather can be brutal but somehow the Sapsan manages to safely get it passengers to their destination even in -50°C temperatures! Inside you’ll find modern comfortable seating that is arranged by classes similar to what you would see on an airplane, such as economy, business, and first class sections.

Enjoy panoramic windows, toilets in all coaches, and plenty of room to store your luggage. Should you need assistance booking hotels, taxis, or tours in Saint Petersburg, they can arrange that for you onboard as well.

Wi-Fi is available onboard and may be free of charge depending on your seating class and entertainment as well as a dining car is offered as well. Feel free to bring along your own meal as well if you wish.

Although the economy seating is more than comfortable for the short 3.5 hour journey, the business and first class options provide the ultimate in relaxation. Enjoy a lot of extra space with the ability to recline (almost horizontally in first class) along with included meals and Business Lounge access at the train stations.

Of course if you find yourself starting off in Saint Petersburg, you can make the journey from here to Moscow on the luxurious Sapsan as well.

Highlights of Saint Petersburg

Clouds over the Church of our savior on spilled blood.

Image credit: mzagerp

St. Petersburg is full of cultural, historical, and architectural landmarks. Situated on the Neva River, with its numerous bridges and canals, Saint Petersburg has acquired the nickname “Venice of the North”.

Founded by Catherine the Great, the Hermitage is the second largest art museum in the world. Located in Winter Palace, the official residence of the Russian monarchs, the museum contains literally millions of masterpieces including the largest collection of paintings in the world.

Explore the seafront Peterhof Palace, also referred to as the “Russian Versailles”, with its beautiful gardens and fountains or pay a visit to the preeminent musical theatre in modern Russia known as The Mariinsky Theatre.

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof Palace

Photo credits: Woody Hibbard & Digital Aesthetica

Highlights Continued…

Cruise the rivers and canals of the city, during summer of course, to admire just how beautiful this city is. Cruises take in the Fontanka, Moyka, and Neva River as well as numerous canals along the way.

See St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest orthodox basilica in the world, with its gilded dome that dominates St. Petersburg’s skyline. Equally as impressive is the Church of the Savior on Blood which was constructed on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated.

Be sure to gather with the crowds on late summer nights to witness the raising of the bridges over the Neva River. This allows cargo ships to pass during the summer months and is a true highlight of a visit to Saint Petersburg during the White Nights, where the sun barely sets.

Another exciting way to take in the grandeur of the city is to take to the rooftops. Tours such as the one to the rooftop of the Art Nouveau building at Ligovsky Prospect 65 allow you to take in all the city’s impressive landmarks.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral

Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg

Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg

Photo credits: Ninara & Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy


Lonely Planet Russia

Moscow & St. Petersburg

Moscow & St. Petersburg 


Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



  1. I’ll have to add the Sapsan to my ToDo list.

    • Absolutely Roy – it’s an incredible experience :)

  2. How is the high-speed train did you take it?

    • The train is fabulous, really fast, and really comfortable, lots of room :) Make sure you book in advance though to get the best prices – it can get a lot more expensive if you leave it to the last minute (last minute being like 2 weeks out).

  3. Great place great people.

    • Glad you had a wonderful time!

  4. Saint Basil’s Cathedral has amazing craftsmanship and color.

    • It’s very beautiful in white.

    • Agree with both of you – it’s such a stunning monument isn’t it!

  5. So cool meaning it’s cold in Moscow.

    • Yes, winters definitely get cold! The positive side of that though is that the city monuments look stunning underneath a coating of snow :)

  6. Right now would be a great time to be in Russia for the World Cup!!

    • I thought the same :D!

  7. How much is a train ticket from Moscow to St Petersburg?

    • Hi Edith, the Sapsan can cost anywhere between $70 – $130 for basic economy one way, but prices vary quite a lot depending on the day, the time, the class you choose to travel etc. You can jump over to to get an idea of cost on your travel day :)

  8. Is it actually safe in Russia?

    • Hi Suhanna, Russia is a very safe country in general, especially if you’re traveling as a tourist to the large cities like Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, etc. or if you are making the Trans-Siberian route.

      Like anywhere, there are a number of areas to avoid, in Russia’s case right now, I would avoid the border with Ukraine.

  9. I had no idea there were high speed trains in Russia. Sounds like a very great way to get between the two. We want to visit and have been thinking of cruising in, because you don’t need a visa if you’re only coming off the ship for a day, but our itinerary only visits Moscow, and I would truly love to visit Saint Petersburg too. If we apply for a visa and don’t do the cruise I think we will book the train.

    • Glad we could help with some info before you make your decision Cathi :) Feel free to reach out if we can help out any further. Have a fabulous time in Russia!

  10. Fabulous article as always Megan. The monuments throughout Russia look beautiful. Speaking of Russian trains, I hope to book the Trans-Siberian Express one day.

    • Thanks Isreal, the Trans-Siberian Express is on our bucketlist too – hopefully some day!

  11. No … probably mostly due to prejudice left by the war, from where it found its way to my upbringing as a kid. I do recognize it, but it is really difficult to think about Russia as something else than the country which attacked us.

    Maybe one day. Hopefully one day.

    • Sorry to hear that you’ve had to go through such a devastating period. It’s completely understandable where you’re coming from XX

  12. When I was seven I saw a picture of St. Basils and wanted to see it. 50 years on I did and I couldn’t stop looking at it.

    • So glad to hear it lived up to be everything you had expected Sara! It’s funny how some of those childhood encounters stay with us as a life dream – so glad yours became a reality!

  13. Great article! Thank you for such a good story about our country!

    • Thanks George! I’m glad you enjoyed the post :)

  14. Great blog Would love to do this journey Was the Sapsan expensive ? How easy was it to book?

    • Hi David :) the Sapsan can cost between $70 – $130 for basic economy one way, but prices vary depending on the day, the time, the class you choose to travel etc.

      You can jump over to to get an idea of cost on your travel day – very easy to book :)

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