The major constituent of the USSR until 1991 and now one of the biggest nations in the world, Russia stands at the confluence of art, history, culture, and brilliance. It’s huge in terms of landmass and spans over nine different time zones. Russia contrasts from vicious and ferocious battles to great classical music and literature. Being said that, here’s a quick list of the top seven places to visit in the beautiful country of Russia:

7. Sochi

Situated on the Black Sea, this city gives a completely different vibe than the rest of the country. It is known for winter sports events such as the Winter Olympics which was held there in 2014. Despite the snow, Sochi maintains a subtropical climate. To be very honest, the pedestrian by the entire length of the sea mixed with the diverse and high assortment of beach resorts, make this feel like a cousin to Cannes, the French Riviera. It is great for both summers as well as a winter getaway for Russians and tourists alike. Hiking to the nearby Agura Valley or head start to the ski resorts in the surrounding mountains, Sochi provides a gateway for both.

6. Veliky Novgorod

The first capital of Russia in the 9th century, this city resides on the banks of the river Volkhov. Even with its critical positioning of residing on the trade routes between Europe and Asia, Veliky Novgorod did not see any substantial amount of destruction, especially during the Second World War. It thus still houses all the cathedrals, monasteries and monuments from its ancient glory. The heart of the city still holds a very medieval fortified structure and numerous churches can be found within its walls. St. Sophia’s Cathedral which was built in the 11th century along with with with St. George’s Cathedral which is Russia’s oldest monastery is still one of the most highlighted destinations of the city of Veliky Novgorod.

5. Lake Baikal

Present on the Trans-Siberian train route, this destination makes many tourists take a break to visit and enjoy the marvelous and exotic views of Lake Baikal. Housing the biggest natural water lake, which contains almost 20% of the world’s freshwater reserves and is also the oldest and deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal is a sight not to be missed. It is one of the cleanest lakes in the world, located in Siberia, this 25 million-year-old lake is majorly surrounded by mountain ranges. The other name for Lake Baikal is Pearl of Siberia and it’s befitting the beauty of this lake, especially in the winter months when the entire lake freezes up. It’s the perfect place to have a vacation with beautiful resorts along the shores of the lake and of course, a breathtaking view.

4. Kazan

Also known as the Istanbul of the Volga, Kazan sits at the convergent point of European and Asian culture. The capital city of Tatarstan has a unique skyline, filled with churches towers and minarets alike. It is also designated as the third capital of Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg, Kazan is a major and prominent city in the country. The residents of this city enjoy one of the highest standards of living, so don’t be too surprised to see some luxurious things all around the city. The major tourist attractions in Kazan include the remains of the Kazan Kremlin and the Kul-Sharif Mosque.

3. Golden Ring

Right outside of the capital city of Moscow, is a string of cities that take all your humanly senses for a ride, this region is known as the Golden Ring. Countrysides that feel like they are out of postcards filled with cherry orchards, onion-shaped domes and quaint, beautiful cottages and the cherry on the cake being the address for some of the oldest churches that still house some of the oldest art pieces. If you are the type of traveler who would love to live what’s past us or more poetically known as the Bygone era, then this is the place you should visit.

2. St. Petersburg

Founded in 1703, St. Petersburg is the home of the Czars. The magnificent and wealthiest royal lineage of the world. It is here in St. Petersburg that the seeds of the Communist Revolution were sowed which ultimately was seized by the Nazis during the Second World War. Palaces and grand cathedral are maybe the reason that this city has a Western European feel to it. Beautiful rivers and canals also cross through the city and even more picturesque bridges that are constructed over them. These waterways are also another amazing way to see and experience the vibe of this city. The one thing that just cannot be missed is the spectacular art collection at the Hermitage Museum.

1. Moscow

Not only famous for being the capital city of Russia, but Moscow is also known for its art, ballet, and artistic domes. The stately Kremlin and Red Square, which is one of the largest squares in the world are two focal points in the city when it comes to tourists. The statues of Lenin and Stalin, two of the most renowned personalities are also something worth a visit. The infamous past of Russia can still be witnessed in the Gulag and the Cold War Museum.