St Petersburg to Venice by Rail

Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Ukraine,

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16 people
28 days
Code: GCSRC
Activity and Adventure, Discovery, Getting Around, Rail Journeys, Tours
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Overview of St Petersburg to Venice by Rail

Ride the rails from Russia to Italy through Eastern Europe’s most charming cities and get a taste of the good life. Break the ice with a Russian face? a loft pub tour in St Petersburg will do! Feel the cool vibe in Kiev? let’s check out the funky street art! Ever heard of Tunnel of Love? check! Soaking up the good vibes and minerals in Budapest’s stately thermal spas? Yep. Cruising across Lake Balaton’s emerald waters? Consider it done. But don’t forget Zagreb’s awesome museums and nightlife, or the piece de resistance – a big fat slice of cream cake straight out of Bled. Yet the romantic Italy also waits ahead! Drinking a sunset spritz in Italy’s famous sinking city, embrace some crazy views at the Cinque Terre, and immerse yourself in the great art and architecture in Florence and Rome! Pick up your boarding pass and join us on this rollicking rail journey through Russia, Eastern Europe and Italy.

Trip Summary for St Petersburg to Venice by Rail

Start Location: St Petersburg,   End Location: Rome

Countries Visited: Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Ukraine, 
Meals Included: Breakfast: 11   Lunches: 0   Dinners: 0
Highlights:

    • Is there any better way to see Europe than by rail? Not only is it an environmentally-friendly and comfortable way to travel, you and your friends get to see the incredible scenery pass right outside your window.
    • Encounter the legacy of Russian tsar Peter the Great while exploring the enigmatic streets that showcase the many palaces and museums of St Petersburg
    • Enjoy a city escape and chase the romance at the uniquely landscaped tunnel of love – iconic for its awning trees made by nature and passing trains. It’s believed that if a couple who are truly in love make a wish here then it will come true
    • Venice is like a dream – your chance to sip prosecco, drift down grand canals and dominate Instagram with scenes of impossible romance
    • The Cinque Terre might just be the most epic stretch of coastline in the world, thanks to its rainbow of cute little cliff-side houses. Look at them, smiling over the water like they were painted there!
    • Be inspired by Budapest, one of the largest and most beautiful cities in Eastern and Central Europe. The hospitality scene here is awesome, lively and sometimes hedonistic – no doubt you’ll rave about it once you get home
    • Escape to the country and visit Lake Balaton, where you can sail across emerald waters, try your hand windsurfing, or savour a (very) lazy afternoon wine tasting.
    • Eat your way through Croatia’s mix of European cuisines in Zagreb, with everything from fresh Mediterranean seafood to Italian-influenced antipasti and heavenly fried fritule doughnuts.
    • Chill out on the shores of Lake Bled in Slovenia. Visit a church on the tiny island in the centre of the lake and treat yourself to a slice of Bled’s famous cream cake.
    • There’s a lot more to Florence than Renaissance art (although the art is pretty great). The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is brimming with nearly 600 years of history and stories
    • No Italian adventure is complete without some time in Rome. There’s loads of time to check out the ancient Colosseum, mozy through Vatican City and gaze up towards the gods inside St Peter’s Basilica

 

Day 1 - St Petersburg
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at around 6 pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned until this important meeting. Check the hotel reception for the exact time and place of the meeting. There’s so much to see and do in St Petersburg, you should probably stop in early just so you don’t miss out on anything.

Once you’ve had your welcome meeting, you might want to jump on board with an optional dinner with your new friends. Into your art? There’s plenty of chances to check out some of the cool factories and plants that have been converted into art spaces. Into your drinks? There’s some pretty neat bars along the way. Your leader can take you to these places if you want – just ask!

Day 2 - St. Petersburg
If you could say one thing about the St Petersburg – it’s big. Real big. Big buildings, big parks, big squares and you’ve got two big days to explore the whole thing, so get running! If you’re into checking out some of the cool old buildings and developed sites, you can’t go past the Palace Square, Kazan Cathedral Peter and Paul Fortress or Saint Isaac’s Square – try to spot the European influence in these buildings while you’re here. Another thing you might want to check out is the Hermitage Museum – there’s so much art in here that it could literally take you 15 years to see everything.

If you’re still stumped for ideas or are looking for a few ideas for places to eat, drink or chill, just ask your leader. They’ll be happy to help. You might want to do an Urban Adventures tour as well if you want to make the most of your time here.

Day 3 - St Petersburg - Overnight train
With another free day in St Petersburg, consider checking out anywhere you missed yesterday, or maybe spend some more time at the Hermitage.

In the evening, you'll board a train to your next destination – Moscow. The train ride takes a long 9 hours, and you'll be sleeping on the overnight ride.

Day 4 - Moscow
After a big night on the rails, wake up in Moscow in the morning and head to the hostel. You might not be able to check in immediately as the usual check in time is 2 pm, but if that’s the case then there’s still the chance to drop off your luggage before heading on to explore this awesome city.

You’ll get to see a side of Moscow often missed as you quite literally head under the city to learn about one of the coolest metro stations in the world. The architecture here is top-notch – one look at the hanging chandeliers and you’ll be wondering if you’re waiting for a train or standing in a ballroom. Get a bit of inside knowledge to learn how to ride the rails after getting the scoop on its Soviet past, then start exploring the city!

Looking for stuff to do? Gorky Park is where it’s at. They’ve converted this place into an ‘eco-friendly recreational zone’ (as the officials put it) to encourage sports and a bit more colour in the area – maybe you can put your skills to the test and challenge the locals to a bit of soccer? Otherwise, check out some of the local cafes or kick back on a hammock. Spend the day like a true local!

Day 5 - Moscow - Overnight train
You’ve got a bit more time to explore Moscow today as the entire day is free until the afternoon. The city is totally jam packed with Soviet history, so if that’s something you’ve always been a bit curious about, there’s plenty to check out. A good option would be to run over to Red Square, a place where beautiful Christmas trees stand tall next to the coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral – it’s definitely one of the prettier sites that Moscow has to offer and also houses the body of Lenin in a mausoleum which you might get to explore. The Kremlin also sits nearby if you want to cop a glimpse of the centre of Russian politics – the Russians, the Kremlin is effectively what the White House is to Americans.

If you’re looking to get under the skin of the city, ask your leader about some of the Urban Adventures on offer in Moscow.

Once the evening kicks in, jump on board an overnight train to your next stop – Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.

Day 6 - Kyiv
Jump off the train in the morning and stretch those legs before dropping your luggage off at the hotel. You’ll then get the chance to explore the city on a unique walking trip past some of the killer street art that’s slowly becoming more and more known across the world. Keep your phone on charge and your cameras handy, these beauties are definitely worthy of chucking on the ‘gram. A cool little fact you might want to keep in mind while you’re checking out all these neat murals is that over 100 city walls have been decorated here over time, and it’s not just by the locals – international artists drop in to leave their mark here too as the scene is just that attractive.

Day 7 - Kyiv
You might want to start today by checking out some of the free tour offers in town – Free Tours Kyiv is a good place to start as it’s run by a bunch of young guides and volunteers who totally love the city. This’ll give you a rough lay of the land and let you come up with a view ideas for what to do during your stay.

Alright, so lets say you’re hunting for night clubs, swimming beaches, amusement parks and boat rentals – Venetsianskyi (or Hydropark) has got you covered. That said, the centre of town (mainly around Independence Square and Khreschatyk Street) turns into planet party in the summer months as there’s so many good restaurants, bars and clubs in the area. In the summer months, you can easily catch thousands of people having a good time in this region you might want to check out what all the hype is about.

That should have you covered in the evening, but what about during the day? Honestly, the parks here are stunning – especially the M. M. Hryshko National Botanical Gardens which offer a view over the entire city (not to mention all the flowers, so pretty!). There’s a café about a block away, so you could grab a snack or some coffee and relax in the park if you want.

Day 8 - Rivne
Later Kyiv! Today you’ll head on a train towards the provincial city of Rivne. This ancient and pretty city might have once been one of the country’s finest, but World War II had other plans and ended up ruining a lot of the town’s cultural buildings. Bit mean, really. That said, it’s still great to look at and the views you can get over the flat landscape are gorgeous – Rivne actually has bragging rights as one of the greenest cities in Ukraine. Want proof? Check out Shevchenko Park – 30 lush hectares of babin’ parkland.

Day 9 - Rivne - Lviv
Take the scenic route towards Lviv today before stopping off at the Tunnel of Love near Klevan. There’s a reason it’s got a rep as one of the most romantic spots in the country – this archway of vines and trees growing over industrial rail-lines is so green and perfectly formed, it’s almost like it’s from another world. Romantics and honeymooners come from far and wide to experience the unique landscaping, created by trains and nature. It’s believed couples who are in love can make a wish here and if the love is real, then the wish will come true.

Afterwards, go castle hunting near Rivne with stop-offs at the Pidhirtsi and Olesko Castles. The rustic scenery of Pidhirtsi next to the green and grassy surrounds looks like it belongs in a fairytale (albeit a creepy one), and Olseko’s hilltop location definitely belongs on a postcard.

Day 10 - Lviv
After waking up in Lviv, get ready to explore the day at your own pace. It’s a good looking city to be sure, there’s a bit of charm in the old houses and the bigger buildings in the city have got a real Central-Euro vibe to them, but you’ll get to figure that out in your own time. Maybe take a walk to the Rynok Square, the Pharmacy Museum, the Italian Courtyard or any number of different local churches, each with their own unique quirks.

One of the best things you’re going to find out about this city are the multicultural influences that lie in the food and culture. You might have to search a little bit, but there’s plenty of menu items with traces of Jewish, Hungarian, Austrian and Polish influence behind them. Maybe later in the day try to find a restaurant and dig in to some goulash or herring pate to see for yourself!

Day 11 - Train - Budapest
You’re gonna have to get up nice and early for this next one. Wake up at 6.45 am and travel to Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. It’s going to be a big ride – you’ll get there nearly 12 hours later at around 6.30 pm. Once you arrive, take an orientation walk near the hotel and then the evening’s all yours for exploration No doubt you’ll be a little bit hungry after all the travelling you’ve been doing, so perhaps duck out to one of the bars next to the Danube and go for an evening stroll afterwards.

Day 12 - Budapest
Today you’ll get a guided walk through the city to check out some of the jaw-dropping buildings and street art lying around (P.s there’s heaps!). Once you’ve got the low-down from your leader about where to go in the city, spend the rest of the day exploring by yourself. A good place to start might be to hunt down some cafes and bars with the group.

Café culture in Budapest is all about traditional vibes and super strong coffee – lots of it. You’d be surprised about how long some of the cafes have been standing – Gerbeaud Café, for example, has been around since 1858 and serves up a famous ‘konyakos meggy’ (sour cherry, matured in cognac and covered in dark chocolate), so try that if you find it. Central Kavehaz, New York Kavehaz and Hadik Kavehaz have all got a larger-than-life old school feel that’s closer to dining in a mansion rather than a coffee shop.

Bar culture, on the other hand, can get real messy. Hedonism is one word that’s usually thrown around with it, but if that’s not your vibe then there’s plenty of places to kick back and relax. Ruin bars are something that keep popping up around the city – dilapidated buildings redecorated with old furniture, modern art and a bar for drinks (of course) are pretty popular with the locals.

It’s your last night on the trip, so definitely think about making it count. Share a last drink or dinner with the group if you want.

Day 13 - Budapest
Today you'll have another free day to explore the great Budapest until 6pm for the briefing.

Day 14 - Budapest
Enjoy a free day in Budapest. Exploring the historical Buda castle is definitely one way to do it! Forget about the bustling city and lose yourself in the history of the castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings. The winding streets of Castle District dates back to the 13th century. And there is an old, mid-19th century local pastry shop there! In the afternoon join your leader on a trip to Szimpla Kert, one of Budapest's famous ruin bars. They originated as squats hidden in inconspicuous side streets, and have since become an inherent part of Budapest's night life.

Day 15 - Lake Balaton
Catch the train this morning through Hungary’s green countryside, past manicured vineyards, fields of lavender and woodlands to Lake Balaton. This sprawling freshwater lake is surrounded by ancient fortresses, underwater caves and historic little villages calling out for exploration. Perhaps grab an ice cream and take a stroll through Tihany Town, the oldest medieval village in the region, or pop on a swimsuit and explore the incredible underground lake caves. The water here is so pure you can actually see the bottom! If you’d prefer time out in the sun instead, there is always the portion to simply relax by the lake shore.

Day 16 - Zagreb
Another train, another country. Catch an afternoon train to Croatia's capital, Zagreb. On arrival take an orientation walk on which your leader will point out local amenities and attractions you might want to visit along the way, such as a number of excellent museums to visit including the quirky Museum of Broken Relationships. Ask any questions you might have about the city during the walk.

Day 17 - Zagreb
Today is a free day in Zagreb, so check out both the upper town and the lower town to understand the city's culture. The tallest building in town is the gothic Zagreb Cathedral, with iconic twin spires that dominate the city's skyline. Ban Jelacic Square is the city's central point, which is surrounded by multiple structures that reflect different periods of Zagreb's past. There is so much to see and do here, the hard thing is deciding what to choose.

Day 18 - Lake Bled
Travel by train to the lakeside town of Bled. An eye-popping spot, Lake Bled is found at the edge of the Julian Alps in Slovenia. Needless to say, there are lots of outdoor activities on offer to get the blood pumping. Upon arrival why not head out by bike around the lake or to Vintgar Gorge (4km) and walk through the natural canyon? Explore Bled Castle, perched atop the 100-metre cliff overlooking the lake, or catch a pletna (small wooden boat) over to the island in the middle of the lake to ring the wishing bell. Take a day trip to Lake Bohinj, situated within a glaciated valley in the Julian Alps. There, you can ascend Mt Vogel by cable car for awesome views of the ranges. If the weather is clear you might even see Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia. For a sample of Bled cuisine, look no further than the famous Bled Cake – a vanilla, custard, cream and pastry delight.

Day 19 - Lake Bled
No better place to get active than on a full free day in Bled. Go for a lake walk (or run if you feel like!) in the morning, or do your hot yoga poses on the grassy bank of the lake. You won’t find a better set up for it than in Bled! Afterwards perhaps enjoy a full day adventure around the Triglav Massive, including some white water rafting and other blood pumping activities! Check with your leader for all the options and book in advance not to miss out. If you don’t feel like going crazy, just enjoy the beauty of the place; perhaps find a quiet spot near the lake and spend a day reading your book.

Day 20 - Venice
Board the train and brace yourself for some amazing scenery on the way to Venice (approximately 5.5 hours). Venice is one of a kind, built over a hundred small islands connected by 400 bridges. As well as all those romantic canals, it has all the hallmarks of a fine old Italian city: world-class food, performance, art and architecture. Use your free time to explore – the best way to go is on foot. Take in all the famous sights, like the Grand Canal, the old-world shops of the Rialto Bridge, the Palace of the Doge (ruler of Venice), the Piazza San Marco and its golden basilica, and the Bridge of Sighs. Don't even think about leaving until you've eaten some tiramisu. This is where the dish was born, and they know how to do it just right.

Day 21 - Venice
Today you'll have another free day to explore Venice until the evening briefing.

Day 22 - Venice
A grand city of canals, Venice is built over a hundred small islands connected by 400 bridges. Still rich with artistic masterpieces, modern Venice combines history with contemporary life through food, performance, art and architecture. There are only two ways to explore Venice - by boat or on foot. Some of the more popular sights include the Grand Canal, the shops of the Rialto Bridge, the Palace of the Doge (ruler of Venice), the Piazza and Basilica di San Marco and the Bridge of Sighs. Take the time to wander the narrow, cobblestone streets and spacious piazzas and cross the hundreds of tiny bridges, where shops, markets, galleries, churches and stunning buildings lie around every corner. You can't leave Venice without going on a classic Venetian gondola. It's a common way for visitors to see the major canal routes from a fascinating perspective.

Day 23 - La Spezia
Travel on a series of trains (approximately 5 hours) to the Liguria region. La Spezia, a medieval port town whose name is derived from its historic importance in the spice trade, will be your base for exploring the truly epic stretch of coast known as the Cinque Terre (approximately 30 minutes' train ride away). In La Spezia appreciate indulging in the foods of the Liguria region, which take advantage of the products of the Mediterranean. Pesto is a speciality, and is often served with pasta, green beans and potato. Focaccia is also a speciality, and makes a tasty start to lunch – team it up with some cheese and ham and you have a simple yet delicious picnic.

Day 24 - Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre’s colourful houses built into cliff faces are an amazing feat of engineering. Those Italians aren't afraid of nothin'. Hike along the famous paths between the villages. Olive groves and vineyards cover the mountains that plunge into the sea, so brace yourself for some crazy, crazy views. You can walk as many sections as you like, or jump on a train between any of the villages or get back to base in La Spezia whenever you want.

Notes: Due to recent landslides in the area it is currently not possible to walk the Via dell'Amore and the coastal section between Manarola and Corniglia. There are alternative inland routes, however these are of a higher physical rating and involve steep ups and downs. It is possible to take the train or a bus for these sections. Due to safety reasons some sections of any path can be closed at short notice.

Day 25 - Florence
Board a train bound for Florence (approximately 3.5 hours). You'll arrive around mid-afternoon. Get a feel for the heart of Tuscany – birthplace of the renaissance, capital of Tuscany and cultural hub of dear Italia. It's brimming with religious monuments and Renaissance masterpieces. No wonder a third of Europe's fat-cat artists lived here back in the day! The minds and talents of the Medicis, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Brunelleschi, Machiavelli, Donatello and Michelangelo all flourished here. Join your leader on a visit to the Mercato Centrale (the central market). Your leader will teach you some words in Italian, and then it's off to the various produce stalls for you to try your new language skills.

Day 26 - Florence
It's best to see the main sights of the 'outdoor museum' on foot – the Pitti Palace, the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno River front, the many statues and monuments of the Piazza della Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio, the 13th-century Duomo, Baptistry and Belltower and the Santa Croce Church. It's a dizzying list, but don't forget to visit the Uffizi, one of the world's oldest art galleries and a work of art in itself. And of course there's Michelangelo's super-famous statue of David in the Galleria dell'Accademia. What a guy.

Day 27-28 - Rome

Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Meals Included: Breakfast: 11 Lunches: 0 Dinners: 0
Highlights:

Is there any better way to see Europe than by rail? Not only is it an environmentally-friendly and comfortable way to travel, you and your friends get to see the incredible scenery pass right outside your window.
Encounter the legacy of Russian tsar Peter the Great while exploring the enigmatic streets that showcase the many palaces and museums of St Petersburg
Enjoy a city escape and chase the romance at the uniquely landscaped tunnel of love – iconic for its awning trees made by nature and passing trains. It's believed that if a couple who are truly in love make a wish here then it will come true
Venice is like a dream – your chance to sip prosecco, drift down grand canals and dominate Instagram with scenes of impossible romance
The Cinque Terre might just be the most epic stretch of coastline in the world, thanks to its rainbow of cute little cliff-side houses. Look at them, smiling over the water like they were painted there!
Be inspired by Budapest, one of the largest and most beautiful cities in Eastern and Central Europe. The hospitality scene here is awesome, lively and sometimes hedonistic – no doubt you'll rave about it once you get home
Escape to the country and visit Lake Balaton, where you can sail across emerald waters, try your hand windsurfing, or savour a (very) lazy afternoon wine tasting.
Eat your way through Croatia’s mix of European cuisines in Zagreb, with everything from fresh Mediterranean seafood to Italian-influenced antipasti and heavenly fried fritule doughnuts.
Chill out on the shores of Lake Bled in Slovenia. Visit a church on the tiny island in the centre of the lake and treat yourself to a slice of Bled's famous cream cake.
There's a lot more to Florence than Renaissance art (although the art is pretty great). The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is brimming with nearly 600 years of history and stories
No Italian adventure is complete without some time in Rome. There's loads of time to check out the ancient Colosseum, mozy through Vatican City and gaze up towards the gods inside St Peter's Basilica

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