Travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway promises an adventure like no other, whether you want to venture from European Moscow to the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, take the Trans-Mongolian through the Gobi Desert, or the Trans-Manchurian to Beijing. The majority of our customers spend no longer than a day aboard the train and disembark in search of cultural and historical wonders along the way. So, what are the 10 most amazing stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway?
The capital city of Russia, Moscow is the center of the country’s political, financial and historical life. Spending a weekend (or even longer!) in Moscow at the beginning or end of your Trans-Siberian journey allows you to explore this treasure chest of landmarks: enjoy a performance by the world’s leading ballet company at the Bolshoi Theater; absorb centuries of Russian history with a visit to the Kremlin; get acquainted with Russian and Soviet art at the Tretyakov Gallery; and admire the striking architecture of St Basil’s or Christ the Saviour Cathedral. After a day’s exploring, head to one of Moscow’s countless restaurants, bars or food markets for refreshments and a well-deserved rest.
Russia’s seat of power was moved to Moscow following the 13th century Mongol invasion, but before this, Vladimir was the capital of medieval Russia. The city, founded in 995 on a hilltop high above the Klyazma River, is home to several UNESCO monuments which have been preserved for nearly 900 years. Visitors can get a rare glimpse of the pre-Mongol architecture of the Assumption Cathedral, Cathedral of St Dmitry and Golden Gate, and visit one of the city’s history museums. Vladimir is part of the Golden Ring of ancient Russian cities and is located just 200km east of Moscow.
Straddling the border between Europe and Asia lies Ekaterinburg, the fourth most-populated city in Russia. Up until the collapse of the Soviet Union Ekaterinburg was a closed city, but is now home to just under 1.5 million people and a rich arts, music, sport and foodie scene. Ekaterinburg is also a fantastic base from which to explore the Ural Mountains dividing European Russia and Siberia. Those interested in Tsarist Russia should visit the Church of the Blood, which marks the spot where one of the darkest moments in Russian history unfolded: it stands on the now-demolished Ipatiev House where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed.
Photo by A.Savin on Wikimedia
Novosibirsk is Russia’s third-largest city and one of the world’s most rapidly growing cities, referred to as the capital of Siberia. In the city you can visit the impressive Alexander Nevsky Cathedral or the Theater of Opera and Ballet (the largest theater in Russia). Or for a day off the beaten track you can venture to Academgorodok, known as the Russian Silicon Valley. Alternatively, lovers of the outdoors who are looking for adventure can travel south from Novosibirsk to trek in the stunning Altai Mountains.
Irkutsk is a major transit point on the Trans-Siberian Railway and an attractive destination for international tourists. A number of high-profile dissidents were exiled to Irkutsk during Tsarist times, including the famous Decembrists who revolted against Tsar Nicholas I. These banished intellectuals and political figures played a significant role in the cultural and educational development of Irkutsk, which is today a thriving student city. Aside from visiting museums and marvelling at the mix of architectural styles, many travellers disembark the Trans-Siberian in Irkutsk to travel to the Pearl of Siberia – Lake Baikal – which lies just an hour away.
Ulan-Ude is the capital of the Republic of Buryatia and is located near the south-eastern shore of Lake Baikal. The city was established during the Mongol rule of Russia and one third of its 400,000 inhabitants are ethnic Buryat Mongols who mainly follow Buddhism. Ulan Ude’s distinct eastern atmosphere makes it one of the most unique stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway: after getting your fill of Russian Orthodoxy elsewhere, you can visit the Ivolginsky Datsan – the spiritual center of Buddhism in Russia; or head to the open-air Ethnographic Museum to learn about centuries of local history in the region. The Trans-Mongolian route separates from the Trans-Siberian a few kilometres after Ulan-Ude.
At the far end of the Trans-Siberian Railway, on the eastern shore of Russia, lies Vladivostok. Its name aptly translates as ‘Ruler of the East’ and Vladivostok has recently undergone extensive development, making it a beautiful place to explore. Travellers can adventure through the city on foot, take a funicular to the Eagle’s Nest Hill for a marvellous panorama of the cityscape, or sail out onto the Golden Horn Bay underneath the Russky Bridge, the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world. The local cuisine is an interesting fusion of Far-Eastern and Russian dishes, and seafood lovers are in for a treat when dining out in Vladivostok’s excellent waterfront restaurants. Those ending their adventure in Vladivostok can easily travel on to South Korea, Japan or China.
400km after crossing the Mongolian border the train stops in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city which is home to half the country’s population. Explore the city’s vast central square, Sukhbaatar Square, visit its temples and monasteries, and learn about Mongolia’s heritage at the National History Museum (or see an impressive collection of dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum!) During the summer the city basks in sun and hosts the Nadaam Festival in mid-July, Mongolia’s main sporting festival which is based around wrestling, horse-riding and archery. Winter sees some truly icy temperatures descend on Ulaanbaatar, which is the coldest capital city in the world.
Harbin is one of north-eastern China’s most important cities, where Han, Manchu and Russian cultures meet. One of the clearest examples of Harbin’s Russian influence is its architecture, leading the city to be compared to St Petersburg! Aside from walking the historic streets you can explore Harbin’s riverside parks or visit the Siberian Tiger Park. The city is most famous for its magical Ice and Snow Festival held in January and February each year.
The final stop on the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian routes is Beijing. The capital of China showcases millennia of human civilization – from the ancient Great Wall of China, to the vast Forbidden City of medieval times, to the towering skyscrapers of the modern age. Spend a long weekend in Beijing walking the narrow streets (hutong) of the Inner City, sampling cuisine from all corners of China, or travelling outside the city limits to the Summer Palace and its spectacular imperial gardens. Whether Beijing is the first or final stop of your Trans-Siberian train journey, it’s sure to be an unforgettable one.
Whichever Trans-Siberian route you choose, book your tickets through Trans-Siberian Express. We have over 10 years of experience arranging the train trip of a lifetime for travellers from around the world.
Get ready to be whisked along on a smooth and magical ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway.