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Europe is blessed with more than 40 beautiful countries and each one of them is unique in terms of history, landscape, art and culture. Russia and Finland are two such wonderful gems.

While Finland offers some of the most distinct natural phenomenon like the Northern Lights and spectacular fjords, Russia is known for its picturesque vistas, historical cities and some of the world’s best literature and art works.

Both Finland and Russia share a natural border with easy accessibility, which makes it very convenient for travelers wanting to cover both countries in one trip.

If you’re thinking of visiting both Finland and Russia, the following are the main highlights you shouldn’t miss on your first trip.

The Best Places To Cover On a Finland-Russia Trip

Start: Moscow

The capital of Russia, Moscow is well connected to the rest of Europe, so this is a great place to start your journey. There are no shortage of things to do here, with monasteries, palaces, churches, parks, museums and galleries to explore.

The uniqueness of Moscow lies in its intriguing history mixed with modern culture. The highlight is quite obviously the Red Square where you will find the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, with its iconic multicolored domes.

You can also enjoy some of the world’s best classical performing arts, stunning historical architecture, numerous museums, buzzing nightlife, and delicious restaurants. These are our favorite things to do in Moscow:

Things to do in Moscow

➤ Red Square

➤ St Basil’s Cathedral

➤ Lenin’s Mausoleum (Memorial)

➤ Moscow Kremlin

➤ State Historical Museum

➤ GUM (Shopping)

➤ Arbat Street

➤ Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts

➤ Gorky Park

➤ Sparrow Hills (Park)

➤ Bolshoi Theatre

➤ Tsaritsyno Museum-Reserve

➤ Ostankino TV Tower

➤ Kolomenskoye (Church / museum)

➤ Novodevichy Convent

➤ Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

➤ Losiny Ostrov National Park

Train: Saint Petersburg

Next up, you’ll travel from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. While your first thought might 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.

Introduced in 2009, the Sapsan is an ultra-fast train service that has made in-country travel a lot easier, and much more comfortable. The stations are conveniently located in the heart of both Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and you travel in well maintained cabins with premium seating and other amenities like wifi.

Take our advice, and book Sapsan train tickets for travel between Moscow and St Petersburg; 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.

Once in St. Petersburg, highlights of the city include the Hermitage Museum, which is the the second largest art museum 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.

The imperial capital of Russia is a powerhouse of distinguished art styles and magnificent architecture. Don’t miss St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest orthodox basilica in the world, as well as the Church of the Savior on Blood.

Image: Shilpy Arora / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Flight: Helsinki, Finland

Flights from St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport to Helsinki in Finland are a super quick 50 minutes, and you can usually find deals on Finnair for around $250.

Helsinki is among the world’s northernmost capital cities, and offers a really fascinating range of history, nature, modern culture, and food. The city is best during summer, when the sun shines from 3 am to 11 pm and nights are almost non-existent, though during winter you’ll have the chance to catching the Northern Lights. 

Highlights of Helsinki include the colourful Art Nouveau buildings in the center, the sea fortress of Suomenlinna (easily reached by a 15-minute public ferry ride), and the Design District with its many shops. 

You can enjoy new Nordic cuisine in one of Helsinki’s Michelin-starred restaurants, and then climb Hotel Torni’s tower to watch an endless sunset over the city. Other highlights include the Rock Church (Temppeliaukion Kirkko), the Chapel of Silence (in Kamppi district), and the markets that each summer fill up with fresh berries, sugar peas and mushrooms.

Helsinki is also the gateway to Southern Finland, and you can incorporate trips to places like Porvoo, Turku, Rauma,  Tampere, Yyteri Beach, Koli, and the Åland Islands. Click here for more information on places to visit in Southern Finland.

Image: Giuseppe Milo / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Flight: Lapland, Finland

If you’re hoping to catch the Northern Lights, Lapland needs to be included in your (winter) itinerary. In Lapland, the Northern lights make an appearance about 200 nights per year, which means you have high chances of catching the natural phenomenon.

Though that’s not the only reason to catch a flight north to Lapland – located above the Arctic Circle, Finnish Lapland is an exotic region sculpted by round-shaped rugged mountains (tunturi), extensive pine forests (taiga), treeless flat lands (tundra), pristine lakes and free roaming reindeer.

There are a huge range of outdoor activities here, like joining a reindeer or dog sled tour through the arctic wilderness, or renting some walking skis to explore the National Parks.

The accommodation is unique too – at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finnish Lapland, you can Aurora gaze from the comfort of your own glass igloo. If you’re after some help putting your itinerary together, there are plenty of Finland tour packages that cover the best of Helsinki and Lapland.

Image: Timo Newton-Syms / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr


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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.


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