10 cool and offbeat things to do in Russia

Updated: Sep 3, 2018

Tired of doing the same touristy things everywhere you do? Here's a complete breakdown of 10 off-the-beaten-path activities for you to do in Moscow and Saint Petersburg!

Sunset from the top of the Ostankino Tower in Moscow
Sunset from the top of the Ostankino Tower in Moscow
Play Soviet Era arcade games in Moscow

The Museum of Soviet Arcade machines is our top pick for the top 10 offbeat things to do in Russia and understandably so. The Soviet Era marked a time of repression for Russians and in those times arcade games were designed in keeping with communist principles. The museum houses a collection of well-restored arcade machines from the 1980s. Here at the museum, one can't help but feel like a time traveller experiencing a little flavor Soviet times playing these games. For a single entry ticket of 500 rubles, you get a pack of 15 kopecks to play with on these machines. Average time spent here can be between 1-2 hours. Apart from offering bags of fun with the amazing arcade machines, the museum also houses a cafe, a burger and beer joint and a photo booth!

Pinball Machine at the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines
Pinball Machine at the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines

Take a walking tour of lesser known places

Airbnb offers some brilliant of-the-beaten-path tours in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, where local guides take you to places that may not be historically significant but give a great insight into the life and times of Russia past and present. A walking tour like this can take up to 3 hours and is a great way to get to know local life and make new friends too!

Discover a secret bar in Moscow

Everything about this place is exciting! Schrodinger's Cat (Kot Shredingera) is a secret bar in Moscow and nowhere on the internet will you find its exact address. Weird? No, that's exactly what the owners want - for you to go on a quest to find it! Reach the building, go down a dark staircase and find a (well camouflaged) doorbell and ring it. As the steel door opens, a puff of white smoke (dry ice) greets you as you enter a bomb shelter converted into a bar-laboratory! oh, and the quirk doesn't end there- the drinks menu is fashioned into a periodic table chart with drink names such as - The Hulk, Safe, Ketchup, Lego and Glow On among others, with the corresponding alcohol ingredients color coded below it. The drinks' presentation is brilliantly zany and is connected to the name of the drink. The food is presented in takeout boxes. Okay, no more spoilers, just go and discover this place for yourself!

Eat in a Soviet era style restaurant

Travel back in time by dining in the soviet style restaurant Kvartirka Soviet Cafe in Saint Petersburg, to get a taste of the traditional soviet era food that drew influence from cuisines of different parts of the Soviet Union. Designed to look like a typical soviet era dwelling, the restaurant is replete with curious and interesting artifacts from a different time and gives a wonderful (even if a slightly rose-tinted) glimpse of Russia's days past. The food looks impeccably beautiful, and tastes cozy and wonderful. And in case you were wondering about the price, it's really budget-friendly.

Take a Vodka Museum guided tour and indulge in some vodka tasting

Russia is synonymous with vodka, and what better way to experience vodka's story in Russia than by taking a guided tour of the Strogranoff Russian Vodka Museum in Saint Petersburg. The 1 hour tour includes guide swiftly taking you through the history of vodka's origins in Russia and how it became a beloved drink, while pointing out to nicely curated period artifacts. As dynasties rose and fell and as revolutions carried out their course, vodka in Russia was subsequently taxed and even banned for a period of time. Once the riveting tour is over, you are invited to a vodka tasting in which shots of different types of vodka are presented with locally popular pairing snacks for each kind of vodka. Aside from being very insightful, the vodka tasting is a whole lot of fun too leaving you with a happy buzz!

Pub crawl in Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg is known for its wonderful nightlife and an excellent way to experience it is by going on a pub crawl here. Airbnb offers pub crawls with local guides who take you to the locally popular pubs and also arrange for fun drinking games and activities, making the whole experience that much more amazing!

City Pub Crawl in Saint Petersburg, Russia
City Pub Crawl in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Pay your respects to the Russian greats: Novodevichy and Alexander Nevsky cemetery

Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow and the Alexander Nevsky cemetery in Saint Petersburg are the final resting places of some of the most important historical figures in Russia. Novodevichy Cemetery houses the graves of literary giants like Anton Chekov, Mikhail Bulgakov and Nicolai Gogol, and also important leaders such as Khruchev. The Alexander Nevsky cemetery in St Petersburg contains the graves of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Shishkin to name a few. The entrance to the Novodevichy cemetery is free while a single ticket to the Necropolis of the Alexander Nevsky cemetery costs 200 rubles (each wing). Go there not just to pay your respects to these Russian greats but also to admire the peace and tranquility there. All of the graves there are very beautiful and lovingly maintained.

Help yourself to light and crispy Russian doughnuts with coffee at a locally popular cafe

An absolute must-try and special just to Saint Petersburg are the beautifully light and crispy Russian Pyshki or Russian doughnuts! Sprinkled with a generous helping of powder sugar, these doughnuts taste wonderful and paired with coffee -absolutely magical! You can see locals thronging the place at all times, especially in the evening. And since the Pyshkis are so light and lovely, it's only right to get at least a half dozen each!

Light and crispy Pyshkis with piping hot coffee!

Feast on Moscow's gorgeous panoramic views at Europe's tallest tower

There might be no better place to witness a sunset in Moscow than at the Ostankino TV tower. Providing not just glorious panoramic views of Moscow, this tower also looks extraordinary, almost like a really tall space rocket. Take in the spectacular views from 300 ft above the ground, and then go to the revolving cafe one floor below- chow down on some lovely croissants and pastries while watching that brilliant sunset. There are restaurants in the tower too but they need reservation done in advance.

You'll spend about 1-2 hours here.

Ostankino Tower, Moscow
Ostankino Tower, Moscow

Sip tea and enjoy breathtaking Saint Petersburg rooftop views

The rooftop views of Saint Petersburg are breathtaking to say the least. One wonderful way to enjoy these views is by going to the Solaris Lab. Very popular among locals, this cafe is located at the top floor/ roof of a building in the historical part of Saint Petersburg. It's a bit hard to locate for tourists but locals can help guide you to the right building if you feel lost. The cafe is cozy and even provides blankets for people sitting on the rooftop. There is no escalator in the building so you've to patiently take the stairs to the top but the views that greet you at the rooftop more than make up for everything!

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