Moscow's opulence and high culture is a sight to be seen. Forget what you learned about Russia in grade school. This lavish capital of a formerly communist nation has fully embraced the luxuries, excesses and decadence of Western capitalism. Like many former Soviet countries, Mother Russia struggles to successfully confront issues of widespread poverty, alcoholism, failing healthcare, and environmental protection. But Moscow has burgeoned into one of the most expensive, exclusive and largest travel destinations in the world. It comes complete with world-class museums, magnificent palaces, $1,000-a-night hotels, "face-control" nightclubs and internationally-renowned restaurants. Don't think you can afford Moscow? Don't be afraid. You can still find affordable deals if you are vigilant. This metropolis has a big and bold character and grandiose setting that's definitely worth getting to know.
St. Petersburg stands at the geographic and cultural borders of the west and east. And though the city is inspired by the intricate and ordered architecture of Western Europe, it is still infused with a vibrant and persevering Russian spirit. St. Petersburg largely owes its dualistic nature to its founder, Peter the Great, an unabashed lover of all things European who commissioned the city's streets and architecture to resemble his favorite western cities. And the results of the Tsar's great experiment? A grand European-style city, replete with long boulevards, narrow canals and grand public squares. It's also an epicenter of distinctly Russian culture, as the place where literature and music greats like Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev all found their voice. Moscow might be known for its luxury and decadence, but St. Petersburg offers compromise: between the expensive tastes of Russia's capital and the often-overrated (and just plain crowded) cities of Western Europe.
Best Places to Visit in Europe