Russia and France are both trending countries this year, but why settle for one when you can easily visit them both?!
Whether you’re interested in the splendid architecture, the intriguing history, or in the delicious food and drinks, there is always something to keep you going in both of the exciting destinations.
So, find a Russia and France trip planner to map out your itinerary, though make sure you carve out some time for the following experiences; iconic cultural pastimes you won’t want to miss!
Experiences Not to Miss on a Combined Russia & France Trip
Dining at a Bistro: France
Paris is an exciting food destination, and people travel here from all over the world to eat like a Parisian in the glamorous French capital. One experience you shouldn’t miss is dining in a French bistro.
A bistro is a small restaurant, usually a neighborhood one. Often, it serves only traditional French cuisine, but there are chefs who have opened small versions of their fine-dining establishments and call them bistros. In this case, the cuisine will be modern.
When it comes to French food there are two types of dish; traditional and modern. Though there has been a general shift away from fancy table settings in recent years; expensive is very much out and simply presented affordable food in a casual unpretentious setting is in.
Drink Like a Local: Both
France is famous for its wine regions: Burgundy, Champagne, and Bordeaux – you’ve probably heard of at least one of those. So when in France, embrace the culture and drink at local vineyards.
If there’s a sign that says Dégustation Gratuit, this means that they offer free tastings, and if you like it, you buy it. You can source local French wine directly from the vineyards, or buy rocking up at the street markets in any given wine region.
Stop by Champagne (located near Reims) if you’re into sparkling wine – you can pick up some Dom Pérignon and Moet, or Burgundy if you’re after an expensive Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Bordeaux is known for its Merlot and Cabernet, as well as it’s incredible food scene (check this Bordeaux food guide).
Russia on the other hand is known entirely for its vodka, though it’s little known that vineyards in Russia’s Krasnodar region and Crimea make for a splendid experience as well.
If you’re hoping to drink vodka like a Russian, the first thing to understand is that this is a social activity. Drinking vodka in Russia is all about the bonding. Locals drink ice cold shots, only, and it’s always consumed over a meal – typically dinner.
Raise your glass and say “Zdorovye” – you need to keep your glass raised until the person giving the toast has finished speaking. It’s rude to put your shot glass down in the middle of a toast.
Meet Locals on the Train: Russia
While your instincts may be to book flights throughout Russia, it’s often actually faster to travel by the high speed express train (known as Sapsan). And taking the train also allows you to see a lot more of the country.
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.
Though Russia also has another incredible train, and if you’re looking for a local experience, and to explore truly off the beaten path destinations, you should think about the Trans Siberian Railway.
At 9,000 kilometers, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world, and one of the greatest rail journeys on earth. It traverses Siberia, connecting Moscow to Vladivostok, and represents a once in a lifetime trip that allows you to explore and understand Russia from the comfort of a train.
The journey usually lasts around a week, depending on your preferred route. And not only are the prices lower in winter than in the summertime, but there are also fewer tourists. That way, you can meet more locals and actually experience the Russian culture.
Peep into Their History: Both
Whether it was the French Revolution for Independence or Russia’s Cold War, these are two countries that are incredibly rich in history. It would be a shame to visit and not incorporate an immersive tour.
Sites not to miss if you’re planning a historic tour in France include the citadel of Carcassonne; a stronghold for centuries worth of warfare, La Cite (the upper town), is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, now a designated World Heritage Site.
There is so much history throughout France that depending on what you’re interested in, you could easily plan a full niche itinerary; if you’re interested in Royal history, don’t miss the Palace of Versailles; if you’re an art historian head to the Lourve; WWII historians should head to the beaches of Normandy.
When it comes to Russia, tours to Saint Petersburg (Russia) include a guide who will walk you through the history of each monument as you go along. One gem not to miss is the Cold War Bunker which was set up as a retaliation to nuclear tests by the Soviet Union and in fact, was once used by Stalin himself.
If you’re interested in art in Russia, don’t miss the Hermitage. Founded by Catherine the Great, this 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.
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