In the world’s largest country, there is bound to be lots to see and do. So picking just 31 landmarks is a struggle. For example, almost every major church building is stunning and historically significant.
You’ll also find dozens of monuments dedicated to the country’s rich history, especially to the Bolshevik Revolution, the Czars, and various periods in the country’s volatile history.
All that said, here are just a few of the major places you could visit to grab a snapshot of what this country offers the curious visitor.
31 Famous Russian Landmarks
Table of Contents
- 31 Famous Russian Landmarks
- 1. Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
- 2. Catherine Palace, St Petersburg
- 3. The Caucasus Towers, North Caucasus
- 4. Church on Blood, Yekaterinburg
- 5. Cruiser Aurora, St Petersburg
- 6. Dream Island, Moscow
- 7. Epiphany Cathedral, Irkutsk
- 8. Golden Bridge, Vladivostok
- 9. Golden Mountains of Altai, Siberia
- 10. Gorky Central Park, Moscow
- 11. Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast
- 12. Kivach Falls, Kondopoga
- 13. Kizhi Island, Lake Onega
- 14. Kremlin, Moscow
- 15. Kul Sharif Mosque, Kazan
- 16. Lake Baikal, Siberia
- 17. Lena Pillars
- 18. Lenin’s Mausoleum, Moscow
- 19. Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
- 20. Mayakovskaya Metro Station, Moscow
- 21. Mount Akhun, Sochi
- 22. Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg
- 23. Peterhof Palace, St Petersburg
- 24. Red Square, Moscow
- 25. Russky Island, Eugénie Archipelago
- 26. Sarykum Dune
- 27. Stalin’s Dacha, Sochi
- 28. State Hermitage Museum & Winter Palace, St Petersburg
- 29. St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
- 30. Suyumbike Tower, Kazan
- 31. Tverskaya Street, Moscow
- Final Thoughts on Landmarks in Russia
Theatres, churches, palaces, mountains, and museums – there’s something for every interest in a country with eight official time zones.
1. Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
The Bolshoi is one of the most recognized names to come from Russia, renowned for its ballet. But the theatre itself is so iconic in Russia, that it’s featured on the currency – the 100-ruble note, specifically.
This historic building in one of Europe’s most iconic cities was originally commissioned in 1776, but two buildings that served as the theatre burned down. The current building was constructed in 1821, and modified to the shape we know today in 1825.
World War II also threatened the building to within an inch of demolition. Thankfully, it has been saved and restored.
2. Catherine Palace, St Petersburg
To say that this palace, named after Catherine the First, is beautiful is an understatement. Light blue hues adorn the castle walls and at night, the light emanating from the windows lends a magical element.
Take a tour, and do not miss the splendor of the Amber Room, which was at one point described as the world’s eighth wonder. Rumors persist that it took nearly 100kg of gold to decorate the palace.
3. The Caucasus Towers, North Caucasus
These interesting towers are impressive for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they are all unique. And there are hundreds of them.
The Ingush and Vainakh people built them, presumably for military defense purposes, though they housed people and livestock as well. The towers also reportedly had religious or spiritual meaning to the Ingush. To that end, each tower is decorated with symbols unique to each family.
4. Church on Blood, Yekaterinburg
The full name of this church is a mouthful: Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land. It is the site of the execution of Emperor Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia during the Russian Revolution.
Tall and white, rising above the surrounding land, it’s hard not to be in awe of this piece of Russian history, and by extension, the legacy of the Romanov Empire.
5. Cruiser Aurora, St Petersburg
Decommissioned battleships are fascinating to visit, especially if they saw action. This one participated in the Russo-Japanese War. It also fired the first shot in the attack on the Winter Palace during the Russian October Revolution.
Today it’s a museum where you can explore important maritime and Russian history.
6. Dream Island, Moscow
It might be strange for some people to hear that Dream Island is Europe’s largest indoor amusement park. What makes it even more remarkable is the presence of rides and attractions that embrace traditional Russian fairy tales and folk stories. The park is about 30 mins outside of Moscow.
7. Epiphany Cathedral, Irkutsk
Irkutsk lies to the southern end of central Russia, close-ish to Mongolia. There is a certain amount of Mongolian influence in the city and in the cathedral’s architecture, which makes for its fascinating visit.
Irkutsk may be slightly off the beaten trail, but this cathedral is one of the great rewards awaiting those who venture this way.
8. Golden Bridge, Vladivostok
Golden Bridge or Zolotoy Most is a huge engineering project that reaches across the Golden Horn River. It is also loosely based on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The bridge was completed in 2012, is 2km long, 30m wide, and is one of the largest bridges of its kind in the world.
The bridge connects the center of Vladivostok to the remote Churkin Cape. You can cross the bridge on foot, providing you budget around 30 minutes to do so.
9. Golden Mountains of Altai, Siberia
This UNESCO heritage site spans two countries – Russia and Mongolia. The whole area, but especially the mountains, is sacred to Buddhists. The entire region contains more than just mountains. It is also known for its nature reserves, woodland areas, and the Ukok Plateau with its Siberian grasslands.
10. Gorky Central Park, Moscow
Gorky Park is a famous novel and movie from the 80s but is ironically named after a novelist, Maxim Gorky. It was called Gorpy Park in 1932, just a few years after its opening in 1928.
Visitors love the relaxed atmosphere in the park, and you can rent a bicycle to ride along the shores of the Moskva River. Make the day complete with a snack from the local, yet world-cuisine-conscious, vendors and enjoy the fresh open air, especially on a warm day.
11. Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad lays claim to being one of the most unique landmarks in the country, if not the world. For example, a museum dedicated to amber is among the region’s unique attractions.
But the main reason for Kaliningrad’s odd feeling is the position between Poland and Lithuania. It’s strange to consider this a part of Russia, given that it also used to be German at one point in history. Nonetheless, the cultural mix here makes it interesting to explore… From a Gothic cathedral to the legendary King’s Gate.
12. Kivach Falls, Kondopoga
Everybody loves a great waterfall. This one, the Suna River, is about 10 meters tall, cascading its waters for the inspiration and relaxation of many visitors. It sits within the Kivach Natural Reserve, which was founded in 1931.
13. Kizhi Island, Lake Onega
The minuscule island of Kizhi is a UNESCO heritage site on Lake Onega. You can get to the island by ferry, enjoying the picturesque lake, while looking forward to the holiday-like activities awaiting you.
From an aesthetic perspective, two wooden churches and the history museum are well worth visiting. But the true sight to see here is the iconic multi-spired Transfiguration Church.
14. Kremlin, Moscow
Arguably the most famous buildings in Europe, there is no way you can visit Moscow without seeing the Kremlin. This is the seat of government, but some areas can be visited, like the gardens.
The Kremlin complex also houses several museums, some of which contain historical Russian artefacts ranging from the era of the Czars through the Bolshevik Revolution and beyond. The Kremlin is also the official residence of the Russian President.
15. Kul Sharif Mosque, Kazan
Kul Sharif holds the distinction of being the biggest mosque in Russia at the time of its construction. It has recently been rebuilt, after being in ruin since 1552, after being destroyed by fire. It isn’t the only item of interest in its location – the Kazan Kremlin – another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kul Sharif, named after the building, was a scholar and diplomat in the 1500s. He ironically helped defend Kazan from Russian forces under Ivan the Terrible. Ivan’s siege of Kazan actually destroyed the mosque by fire, as previously described. It serves as a museum at present.
16. Lake Baikal, Siberia
It is said that the best way to experience the gorgeous Lake Baikal is to do so as part of a journey on the Trans-Siberian Express. A ferry will transport you to Listvyanka, and the entire trip should last at least four days.
Lake Baikal is a freshwater lake with blue waters and beautiful natural scenery. 330+ rivers and streams feed it. It is also home to the only known freshwater seals in the world.
17. Lena Pillars
The natural formations known as the Lea Pillars rise as high as 100m, standing upright along the Lena River. This strange and intriguing act of nature results from the bizarrely extreme temperature ranges experienced here — from a -60°c low to a 40°c high over a calendar year.
18. Lenin’s Mausoleum, Moscow
In Red Square, a mausoleum contains the body of Vladimir Lenin. Visitors can see the former Soviet leader eternally preserved here. It is an unusual, and perhaps macabre, choice of activity, but the sight of Lenin’s body in the center of the main room will definitely leave an impression.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was the first leader of Russia after the revolution and was revered by the people for his work as a revolutionary and politician. Lenin died in 1924. In 1941, his body was removed from Moscow when it was feared that German forces might take the city. It was returned to the tomb after the war.
19. Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
While the Bolshoi may be Moscow’s most famous theatre, The Mariinsky Theatre is the one to visit in St Petersburg. Catching a world-renowned performance here would certainly be a wonderful treat.
Many of Russia’s most famous works by composers like Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov saw their first performances here. If you can’t stay for a show, check out the building, known then as the Kirov Theatre, which has been there since 1860.
20. Mayakovskaya Metro Station, Moscow
Russia has a surprising amount of interesting and attractive metro stations. Of those, Mayakovskaya is arguably the most intriguing. Its mesmerizing design reflects the intricate art deco and neo-classical elements known to Russian design. At the same time, it feels strangely cavernous and opulent.
Perhaps it has something to do with the emotion that Russia’s metro stations often serve as a public art gallery. Many of them were also used as secret tunnels by former Soviet leaders and their movements. There’s a lot of history in these tunnels and stations. It all adds to a wonderful sense of mystery.
21. Mount Akhun, Sochi
Take a hike up the famous solitary mountain known as Akhun for a fine 3-hour excursion. Along the way, you can explore many hidden caves, and a stone tower is at the top. Admire the views when you get there. It is quite a worthwhile reward.
The peak stood 663 above the sea and was allegedly sacred to the indigenous Ubykh people.
22. Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg
In 1703, Peter the Great commissioned a citadel that would be used to house criminals – especially those who rebelled against the rule of the Csar. Today, thankfully, it’s a museum that houses lots of historically important items from the storied history of the great city of St. Petersburg.
23. Peterhof Palace, St Petersburg
Let’s stay in St. Petersburg for a minute and visit the splendor of the Peterhof Palace, which was reportedly built as Peter the Great’s answer to the beautiful Palace of Versailles in France.
It is difficult to describe the absolute opulence of this masterpiece and its huge grounds, giant halls, rooms, and ornate decorations. The palace is so big there are 10 separate museums within it.
24. Red Square, Moscow
Within Red Square, there are many particular landmarks, but the complex itself is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, which qualifies it as a landmark on its own. The square is east of the Kremlin and was officially completed in its modern form in the late 19th century.
That said, it has existed in one form or another for several hundred years – at least since the 1500s. The square is usually busy, as it is a shared public area. You’ll see tourists and locals alike, all using Red Square as a jumping-off point to get to all corners of Moscow.
25. Russky Island, Eugénie Archipelago
The largest island in Russia is Russky, which happens to be connected to the mainland by Russky Bridge. That also happens to be the second-largest cable bridge in the world. This island is in the east of Russia near Vladivostok, meaning the weather here is temperate, especially in the summer.
This is the ideal place to take a stroll along a beach or enjoy the island’s many summertime attractions – try the aquarium to start.
26. Sarykum Dune
If you saw a picture of the Sarykum Dune without context, you might mistake it for a scene from the Sahara Desert. Given its barren and sandy visage, it seems wholly out of place as a Russian landmark.
But it is in Dagestan, part of the Dagestan Nature Reserve. Its claim to fame is that it is officially the second-largest sand dune in the world, second only to Duna Federico Kirbus in Argentina.
27. Stalin’s Dacha, Sochi
Josef Stalin had many homes throughout Russia, but the dacha at Sochi is the most accessible to tourists today. This was his favorite summertime home and seemed to have been left primarily unchanged since his time there.
The distinctive greenhouse offers tours, tea, and certain services like time for a photo shoot, all at a cost.
28. State Hermitage Museum & Winter Palace, St Petersburg
Officially the second-largest art museum in the world, this amazing collection was first started by Catherine the Great in 1764. You can tick off two items on your tour list here, as the Winter Palace is within the same complex.
The palace is arguably St. Petersburg’s most famous attraction and is resplendent in its beauty, especially its main rooms’ green and amber themes.
29. St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
In Russia, churches are among the most ornate and beautiful buildings you could visit. Situated at one end of Red Square, St. Basil’s has colorful minarets adorned in green and red shades. Inside, artwork and tapestries adorn the walls.
The church (there are actually nine separate churches within the church building complex) was first commissioned by Ivan the Terrible in 1555. It can be visited as a museum most days of the week.
Side fact: When the building was completed, Ivan the Terrible blinded the architects so that the building could never be replicated anywhere else. Talk about earning your name.
30. Suyumbike Tower, Kazan
Another of Ivan, the Terrible’s legacies, is the Suyumbike Tower (at least according to legend), which he allegedly had built to impress his love interest Princess Suyumbike. Sadly, she wanted nothing to do with the Czar ruler and committed suicide by jumping from the tower to her death.
This entire legend seems unlikely, though. Some scholars dispute the Ivan the Terrible story, saying that the tower was more likely built in the early 18th century. The tower is also referred to as Khan’s Mosque.
31. Tverskaya Street, Moscow
Finally, a street you can visit to get a taste of the Russian high life. Think of Tverskaya Street as the 5th Avenue of Moscow. This is where celebrities and the super-rich shop for designer brands and indulge their expensive appetites.
You may not be able to afford much here, but it’s a great place to just look at the people and the high-end wares of their preferences.
Final Thoughts on Landmarks in Russia
That’s 31 famous landmarks in Russia that offer a fair cross-section of attractions in various major towns, cities and regions. Keep in mind that many of the palaces built under the Czars are immaculately preserved and restored. They are indeed some of the most ornate you are likely to find anywhere in the world.
Those famous landmarks should get you off to a good start on your trip to Russia. It certainly is a country with lots of history, architecture, and natural beauty to enjoy. Think of any others? Drop us a line and let us know some of the best.
I covered all of the costs involved in writing this article on Russian landmarks. However, this article may contain affiliate links. That means if you click through on some of the links in the article and end up making a purchase I may receive a small commission.