Tips how to enjoy Russian winter
Starting from early October some northern parts of Russia get their first snow. The first snowflakes are a signal of coming winter and cold weather of course. But cold weather is not the reason to become gloomy. Quite the contrary most people are happy because it is a great chance to go in for Russian winter activities like ski, skating, to enjoy the beauty of white mono-colored world, to feel the real cosiness of winter nights when you stay at home with a cup of hot herbal tea with honey, to enjoy Russian banya, what is more all Russians love New Year celebration and start preparations at the end of November.
So we can tell about winter romantics too much, today we want to focus on the tips on how to enjoy Russian weather in winter and show what it is like to stay in Russia during winter.
1. Be ready for the weather in Russian winter
How is Russia during winter? The question is simple, but the answer is not. It’s often cold in Russia in winter but Russia is big, bigger than you even imagine. The climate differs from West to East considerably. Most of the territory of Russia is located in the temperate climate zone, less in the Arctic climate zone, less in the subarctic climate zone, and the least in the subtropical climate zone. In winter, there are periods when almost all Russia (normally) is covered with snow. The exceptions are the southern areas of the Black Sea coast.
Winter in Moscow and St.Petersburg starts in the middle of November and ends in March. Winter in Moscow is moderately cold, weather in December is usually softer. Often the weather is unstable, the temperature in winter fluctuates from -5 ° C to -20 ° C. Due to climate change, periods of abnormally high temperatures also occur. The weather in January and February is usually colder, often with prolonged frosts that last from 1 to 5 weeks, when an arctic or Siberian anticyclone comes to central Russia. At this time, the temperature can drop to -25 ° C, and in the afternoon not higher than -10 ° C.
The climate in St. Petersburg could be called mild since the air temperature in winter rarely drops below -10 ° C. However, due to the almost constant gusts of strong wind, there is a feeling that the air is much colder than the thermometer shows. Air masses from the Atlantic Ocean approaching the city affect the climate. Heavy snowfall during the day may cover the city with snow, but in the evening it can start raining.
When you travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway the weather changes a lot and from west to east it is getting colder. The average temperature in winter in Western Siberia (Novosibirsk, Altai Mountains, Khakassia) ranges from -15 ° C to -30 ° C. Due to strong winds, the frost in these places is felt a little stronger. The snow covers the land at the end of November and reaches a thickness of 15-20 cm.
Eastern Siberia (the Irkutsk Region, the Republics of Tyva and Buryatia, the Trans-Baikal Territory, and the southern part of the Krasnoyarsk Territory) in winter is represented by low temperatures as low as -40 ° C, but due to the absence of winds, the cold can be easily handled.
As we go further on the Trans-Siberian Railway, the last point is Vladivostok. Winter on this territory is the same as in Western Siberia but with a lot of sunny days. It may sound unbelievable but Khabarovsk and Vladivostok are among the five most sunny cities in Russia. Bright rays illuminate the Far Eastern lands about 300 days a year – by the way, this is more than in Krasnodar which is on the South of Russia! This is due to the humid Pacific air which disperses all the clouds over this territory.
The northern territories of the Krasnoyarsk Region are real tundra. The climate here is so severe that this place could be a prototype of the image that is created about the Siberian winter. The duration of the period with air temperature more 10 ° C is less than one calendar month. In winter, the thermometer can easily fall below -40 ° C, and in summer it rarely rises above + 10 ° C. In the mountainous and northern areas the snow cover lies all year round. Perhaps this is the real Siberia, the climate of which is the real test of the will and endurance of a man. But don’t worry our Trans-Siberian Railway tour does not include severe places, anyway in case you are interested we can organize the tour.
So the main conclusion from all these facts about winter weather is: When you go to Russia in winter think about warm clothes!
2. Bring good clothes
We do not argue that 20 degrees below zero is quite frosty weather. Frankly speaking, any degrees below zero is already cold. Nevertheless, the right choice of clothes allows you to enjoy the Russian winter without the risk to become an ice statue. The main secret of the winter dress code in Russia is the correct number of right layers of clothing.
While traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway many tourists are quite surprised that even in twenty-degree frost, in fact, it is not as cold as they imagined. The reason for this surprise is that the air in Siberia is very dry and fresh. So if you have the right clothes the Russian winter is not terrible at all but is very pleasant.
Wear warm underwear which is called thermal underwear and can be bought in any sportswear store. Put on wool socks. If on the thermometer you see minus twenty degrees or even lower, put on an extra layer of wool or fleece clothing over your underwear. An extra pair of warm socks keeps your feet warm.
Warm trousers, a scarf or a high warm collar as well as comfortable and warm winter shoes will allow you to stay outdoors for a long time, even in extreme frost.
Wind-resistant winter jacket, warm hat, and thermal gloves will let you stay warm. Do not forget to close up and tuck the gloves into the sleeves.
Done! You can go to meet the Russian winter adventure.
If you forget to take warm clothes with you, then you can easily buy everything in any big mall in Russia, visit Decathlon, Uniqlo, Sportmaster.
3. Make stops to warm up
Once you put on your warmest clothes, you go to explore the winter city or winter nature. Do not hesitate to make as many stops on your way as you want. Make a stop at the supermarket to buy chocolate for the evening cup of tea. Make a stop in a cafe to drink hot tea, have lunch, take a breath to continue your tour full of new energy. Or visit authentic Soviet cheburechnaya or ryumochnaya cafe. Or just visit a museum if you are in a big city. It will make you warm and you will learn something new. In winter it is not necessary to make long-distance walking tours, take a bus or a metro and this is one more chance to warm up. BTW if you are in Moscow, never miss the chance to see the magnificent Moscow Metro.
4. Eat well
One more tip which we like most of all. In winter it is necessary not to be hungry. Russian cuisine is full of thick soups and hearty meals, which quickly fill up your stomach.
For breakfast eat a porridge, bliny (Russian pancakes) or syrniki (small farm-cheese pancakes). If you travel to Russia at the beginning of March then you will have a great chance to take part in an exciting winter outdoor Russian festival Maslenitsa. During Maslenitsa you will try hundreds of tasty pancakes with different addings, but the tastiest is with red caviar. Learn more here.
For lunch eat soup. Borscht – the most famous beetroot soup, Ukha – made of Russian fish, Shchi – cabbage soup, Rassolnik – with pickled cucumbers and barley. And do not forget about rye bread. Yummy!
For dinner try Beef Stroganoff – finely chopped, fried pieces of meat in thick tomato-sour cream sauce served with mashed potato or buckwheat.
And of course, do not forget about citrus. Oranges, tangerines, lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, this vitamin helps us fight stress, strengthening the immune system.
In a coffee shop, if you see tea with a wild rose – take it! It invigorates, warms, and gives the same vitamin C. A good option is to make ginger tea, you can add honey and lemon, it warms well and is good for immunity. and do not forget about spices, cinnamon, curcumin is very good. Also, try special Russian soft drinks (mors), they are made of cranberries, sea buckthorn.
5. Try winter activities
Skating rinks are becoming the main Russian winter entertainment. In Moscow, there are hundreds of skating rinks. The most popular are on VDNKH, in the Gorky Park and on the Red Square.
VDNKH skating rink is the biggest one in the world – the area of the ice surface is 20,549 square meters, and together with the infrastructure the total area of the rink reaches 67,300 square meters.
The Gorky Park is fully covered with ice so you can enjoy light installations and optical illusions, figure skating, and hockey, parties, and food markets.
Almost all big skating rinks provide rental services, so you may easily enjoy skating.
If you like ice hockey, you may go to a hockey game. The 3 most famous teams are HC Spartak, HC CSKA, HC Dynamo Moscow and SKA in St.Petersburg. The stadiums are usually full of fans, Russians love hockey very much.
Cross country skiing and mountain skiing are very popular in Russia too. You may ski in the parks, there are places where you can rent skis. For those who are fond of mountain skis and snowboarding, there are many ski resorts. The most famous are Roza Khutor near Sochi, Sheregesh (Western Siberia), Elbrus Ski Resort in the northern Caucasus.
And do not forget to make a snowman, to play snowballs and enjoy downhill sledding. These will definitely will make your trip funny and unforgettable.
6. Join a home party
Russian people are fond of home parties! It is usually time when all the friends cook something together and then try it and discuss what they will cook next time. Sometimes hosts cook and friends try, but still, it is all about food, chatting and discussing something very important, we call it soul talks. While in summer these parties are moved outdoors to Russian dachas, in winter everybody cook indoors with a warm atmosphere.
When you are in Moscow or in any other city never refuse to join a home party. We offer to join a home cooking class in a real flat with real people to speak about Russian life, to share jokes and of course to know the secret ingredients of Beef Stroganoff, Herring under the fur coat salad, cook them, try vodka if you wish with homemade pickled cucumbers and salted fish.
It is a great chance to know better what the Russian soul is and then to surprise your friends and relatives with new recipes and stories about Russia and Russian cuisine.
ExploRussia invites everybody to visit Russia in winter! Visit Russia during Winter holidays! It is proved that frost is an excellent medicine for stress and depression. Walking through the snow-covered landscapes make a positive effect. That is why in winter many adults experience children’s delight when they see falling snow!
Watch our video “All the truth about winter in Russia“.