If you plan to visit Russia and see the biggest cities, you might consider to travel by train from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Although flying is an option, the train is fast, comfortable and brings you to the heart of the city. Read here what it is like to travel on the overnight sleeper trains St. Petersburg to Moscow.
After a visit to St. Petersburg, Russia, I travelled by train to Moscow, before my big railway adventure on the Trans Mongolian Railway to China. If you want to see and experience Russia, I strongly recommend to see both Saint Petersburg and Russia (and take the Trans Mongolian Railway of course). The best way to see both cities is to take one of the trains from St. Petersburg to Moscow. I walk you through the history of the line, things to do in St. Petersburg and in Moscow and your different options for the trains between the cities. Hop aboard!
History of the Train from Saint Petersburg to Moscow
The railroad between St. Petersburg and Moscow was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas I in 1842. It took 10 years of planning and construction, to see the line finished on November 1st 1851.
The 635 km (395 miles) journey connects the two capital cities of Russia, Saint Petersburg and Moscow by rail.
In the beginning, trains would run at a speed of 40 km/h and the train journey between St. Petersburg and Moscow would take 19 hours (including stops.)
In 1931 the deluxe train, the Red Arrow, reduced the travel time to 10 hours. This new daily train left the station at 23.55 (or 11.55 pm) and arrive at 07.55 (or 7.55am) the next day.
Since 2009, a new high speed train connecting St. Petersburg and Moscow, called the Sapsan High Speed train, services the railway route. With 250 km/h (or 155 mph) the Sapsan trains from St. Petersburg to Moscow can cover the distance in 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Read more: Modern Orient Express Train Route
Things to see in St. Petersburg Russia
I loved St. Petersburg! The city is perfect for a weekend trip from Europe, or to start off your travels in Russia. The city feels very European but is still packed to the brim with Russian culture and history.
Here are some things to see in St. Petersburg Russia. For more details, check my guide on one day in St. Petersburg.
- See the Church of the Savior on Blood, the famous onion shaped dome and red color is a must have picture when you go to St. Petersburg.
- Visit the Hermitage and stroll around for hours!
- Ride the St. Petersburg Metro lines! A tour of the most luxurious metro stations linked underground.
- Get some culture in and see the ballet!
Read more: Packing List for Long Train Journeys
Things to see in Moscow Russia
Moscow is the main starting point for all travels in Russia as most international flights will start here and is your connection to destinations further away in Russia (That is, if you don’t decide to take the train!). I only had a short sightseeing tour in Moscow but here are some things you must see in Moscow:
- Explore the Kremlin
- Visit Saint Basil’s Cathedral. You haven’t been to Russia if you haven’t seen this.
- GUM, the biggest department store you’ll even see
- Stand in the middle of the Red Square
My experience with the Sleeper train from St. Petersburg to Moscow
I didn’t start my overland journey on the Trans Mongolian Railway in Moscow. I wanted something else. Therefore, I decided to fly into St. Petersburg and from there, I took the train to Moscow before the start of my overland railway journey to Mongolia, Beijing, Tibet and Nepal.
We arrived early morning in St. Petersburg Russia. I was super excited as our big overland trip had finally started. We had almost 2 full days to explore St. Petersburg. Our train would leave at 23.15 (11.15pm) from St. Petersburg to Moscow. We were scheduled to arrive in Moscow at 6.48 am the next morning.
We took the subway to the train station. I wasn’t used to carrying my big heavy backpack yet and everything took more time then I’d expected. We finally arrived at the platform and the train was already waiting for us. After a quick picture with the sign, we needed to find our compartment. Of course, this was all the way at the end of the train, so we had to haul ass quickly, to make it in time.
We were greeted with a brisk nod of the head from our provodnika (female train host) and she showed us where the samovar (the kettle with hot water to make coffee and tea and instant soup) was.
This was my first experience with the trains in Russia. We settled in the compartment and almost immediately left the train station of St. Petersburg. Our journey to Moscow had begun.
We shared a 4-bed compartment with 2 Russian men who drank vodka all night in the restaurant carriage. I remember I was a worried if I’d be able to sleep, but as soon as the train left the outskirts of St. Petersburg and settled in a steady pace, I drifted off to sleep.
Before I knew it, we’d arrived in Moscow! I slept the whole night through and the provodnika woke us up in time. We saved a night in a hotel and travelled almost 400 miles. The city of Moscow awaited us.
Train Moscow to St. Petersburg
Of course, all the details mentioned in this post for the train from St. Petersburg to Moscow, also apply the other way around. The train from Moscow to St. Petersburg is the same one. Have you ever been to Moscow?
Moscow has a number of airports, all located at the outskirts of the city. For an average person staying in Moscow, it takes time to get to the airport. Together with check-in times, security checks, boarding times and flying times, a flight to St. Petersburg might take just as much time as the train to Saint Petersburg! As an added bonus, the trains both arrive and departure from train stations easily connected to the metro system.
Different trains from St. Petersburg to Moscow
When I booked my train tickets from St. Petersburg to Moscow, I didn’t know much about the trains. I just booked one of the cheapest tickets available (€47 back then) and we left right before midnight and arrived before 7am the next morning in Moscow. But it turns out, your experience on the train from St. Petersburg to Moscow, greatly depends on what kind of train you’ll take. Check below the different options.
The trains leave Moskovsky railway station/ St.Petersburg-Glavny (Санкт-Петербург-Главный) in St. Petersburg. The train station is connected to metro line 1 and 3. The trains from St. Petersburg stop in Moscow at the Leningradsky Station or Moscow-Passazhirskaya (Москва-Главная-Пассажирская). It is connected with metro lines 1 and 5 as well as several trams and buses.
More trains: High Speed Thalys Train to Paris
Sapsan High-Speed Trains St. Petersburg to Moscow
Since 2009, the Sapsan High-Speed trains run between Moscow and St. Petersburg and vice versa. With 250 km/h (155 mph) the train journey takes less than 4 hours. With comfortable chairs and its bullet like appearance, this train doesn’t look at all like a Soviet train. The Sapsan High-Speed train from Saint Petersburg to Moscow is all about efficiency and modern speed.
Most carriage even have Wi-Fi on board in 1st class. There are 12 Sapsan trains per day going back and forth between Moscow and St. Petersburg. An economy train ticket on the Sapsan train will cost you (approx.) $68 or €55.
Red Arrow Sleeper train St. Petersburg to Moscow
The Red Arrow overnight sleeper train is an icon. And its red! Since 1931, this train connects Moscow and St. Petersburg once a day and passengers can stay in 2nd class compartments or have a 1st class compartment all to themselves. Prices start at $73 or €59 but you do save a night in a hotel and it includes a meal at the restaurant carriage. Although not the fastest nor the cheapest, the Red Arrow train from St. Petersburg to Moscow does give you a unique Russian train experience.
Luxury Grand Express Overnight Train
Maybe the Russians invented luxury? The Luxury Grand Express sure justifies its name. This is one of Russia’s first private owner train services and offers first class train service between St. Petersburg and Moscow. The train takes 8.30 hours and runs once a day, but you’d wish the train journey would take longer so you could enjoy the luxury longer. Showers, private suits and a complimentary bathrobe is awaiting you. Owh, and it also brings you from St. Petersburg to Moscow! Prices start at $100 or €82 but rise up quickly with added luxury.
Read more: Epic Train Journeys of the World
Other trains from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and beyond
There are a number of different trains running on this railway road between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The route continues after Moscow to Vladimir and Nizhny Novgorod. The lines also connect St. Petersburg to Helsinki (Finland) and there are plans to expand the high-speed tracks to align with other high-speed train routes in Europe. If you want to buy the tickets for your train from St. Petersburg to Moscow, I recommend to buy them in advance online. You can do so here.
Alternative way to travel from St. Petersburg to Moscow, is via a river cruise. Check the details here.
Have you ever been to St. Petersburg or Moscow? Have you ever travelled on a Russian train? Which of the train options would you choose to travel between Moscow and St. Petersburg? Share your ideas in the comment section below!