Russia’s 13 Best Viewpoints

PHOTO by IdeaStudios / Depositphotos
Big things – cities, architectural monuments, mountains, forests and lakes – are often best seen from a distance

Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory, Moscow)

The Russian capital’s best-known observation deck open to the public was built at the same time as the main building of MSU (Moscow State University), which opened its doors to students in 1953. It is situated 80 m above sea level, and offers you some of the most diverse and picturesque views of the city.

The capital’s famous high-rises: Hotel Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the houses on the Kotelnicheskaya embankment, Barrikadnaya and by the Red Gates; Kremlin’s domes and towers and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour; the Luzhniki Olympic Stadium and the Moscow-City skyscrapers; architectural marvel, the Shukhov Tower, which surpasses the Eiffel Tower in terms of complexity and structure, the modern Ostankino Tower, as well as the monument to Peter the Great – the highest monument in Russia that towers 98 m above the Moskva River, – are just some of the things on a long list of the sites you can spot from the observation deck. You can also enjoy a spectacular view of the capital’s embankment.

There are plans to install 15X zoom binoculars on the observation deck before the end of the year, which will allow visitors to get an even more detailed view of the city below.

Hills
Sparrow Hills

Fedorovsky Embankment (Nizhniy Novgorod)

The embankment is the city’s calling card. Its construction began during the reign of Emperor Nicolas I, who personally drafted a plan consisting of 88 paragraphs to bolster the city’s development.

The embankment received its present-day view in the middle of the last century. It rests on high ground at a considerable distance from the water and offers a magnificent view of the Spit, the place where the Volga and Oka rivers meet, as well as a view of the city walls and citadel, the Church of St. Ilya and the city’s old narrow streets and lanes. Unfortunately, though, the modern high rises that have sprung up on the banks of the two rivers have somewhat spoilt the panoramic view.

Nizhny
Fedorovsky Embankment

St. Olaf’s Tower (Vyborg)

It is the Vyborg Castle that draws tourists to the small town located on the Russian-Finnish border. St. Olaf’s Tower is the main building of the fortress, the foundations of which were laid by the Swedes at the end of the 13th century. The upper floors where added considerably later during reconstruction that was carried out in the 16th century.

Ascension to the observation deck is a real challenge and not for the faint of heart. Those afraid of heights are advised to avoid the spot altogether. The tower itself stands 48 m high, and the observation deck is located 75 m above sea level. To get there, you must climb a set of dark, narrow, and not entirely stable steps surrounded by scaffolding on all sides.

But the view from the dome makes all the suffering entirely worth it. From there you can see Vyborg’s toy houses that bring back memories of the Stockholm city centre up close. You can also enjoy a perfect view of the Gulf of Finland and the embankment, which is guarded by two prop drakkars, lean Scandinavian dragon boats that were used in the making of the film Trees Grow on the Stones Too back in 1985.

Olaf
The view from St. Olaf’s Tower

Alyosha Monument (Murmansk)

The city of Murmansk’s main viewpoint is located at the foot of the Alyosha Monument, which was built in honour of the memory of the Defenders of the Soviet Arctic during the World War II.

The Monument stands on a hill at Cape Green in the Leninsky District, overlooking the city and the hills beyond, as well as military ships and drilling platforms. There is something majestic about this cold, hard beauty, and during the winter, when the polar night settles in, the observation deck located nearby becomes a perfect spot to watch Aurora Borealis. The key here is to have the perfect timing and to catch the right moment.

Alesha
Alyosha Monument

St. Isaac’s Cathedral (St. Petersburg)

The largest cathedral and one of the main sites in St. Petersburg boasts one of the city’s best viewpoints from the structure’s colonnade. What makes the spot even more amazing is that the Cathedral’s construction was the first time in the history of Russian architecture that columns were lifted to such a high level (43 m).

About half a million visitors come to the colonnade every year, and even though it is only the second highest of the city’s observation points, it is considered to be the best.

This is not that difficult to understand, as it offers a view of most of the city’s districts and, if you use the binoculars, you can see all the way to the suburbs.

You can see Vasilievsky Island, the Admiralty, the Winter Palace, the Senate and Synod buildings and numerous other monuments that can be easily found in the city centre.

Isaky
The view from St. Isaac’s Cathedral

Rosa Peak (Sochi)

The highest point at Krasnaya Polyana offers breathtaking views of the Caucasus Mountains. You can get there by following a cable and rope road up the mountain. Rosa Peak is located 2320 m above sea level.

To get there, you will need to follow the rope road from Rosa Khutor resort, making two changes along the way.

All you can see from there are snowclad peaks that are visible through light mist and mountain ski trails. But it is so beautiful that you can easily spend several long hours up at the peak. It is best to observe the nature at the end of the ski season, when there is almost no one up on the deck to disturb the peaceful and quiet setting.

Rosa
Rosa Peak

Kazan Family Centre Viewpoint, a.k.a. The Cauldron (Kazan)

This viewpoint was opened three years ago at the Kazan Family Centre. The shape of the building is that of a giant brass cauldron propped up on stone pillars. Newlyweds usually use the deck for their wedding photos after the ceremony, which can take place there as well. The observation deck is open to all visitors, but there might be a long line at the entrance if there are many weddings taking place on the same day. Another important thing to note is that, like most registries, the Kazan Family Centre is closed on Mondays, which means the observation deck is closed as well.

The Cauldron is 32 m tall, and you have to climb the stairs to get to the top as it does not have any elevators. But you will most certainly be rewarded for your troubles with the spectacular views that are available of Russia’s third capital. The observation deck allows you to see the city walls and citadel and to enjoy a beautiful view of the Volga River.

Kazan
Kazan Family Centre Viewpoint

Demerdji (Crimea)

There are actually quite a few good viewpoints in Crimea. Beautiful views are available from Ai Petri Mountain, the Swallow’s Nest (Lastochkino Gnezdo) Castle and Golitsyn's Track.

The Demerdji Mountain is one of the most mysterious places on the peninsula. Even the names of nearby sites have been chosen accordingly: the Valley of Ghosts, the Gorge of Witches, just to name a few. There are no specially set or equipped observation decks on the mountain, but several excellent natural ones do exist.

The locations provide you with exceptional views of beautiful seascapes, the city of Alushta and other local settlements, as well as vineyards in the area and neighbouring mountain peaks. Exploring the Valley of Ghosts is an absolute must, because there, time itself has created fantastic natural statues.

Demerdzhi
Demerdji

Mount Mashuk (Pyatigorsk)

The majestic natural monument towering at 990 m is the most recognisable feature of the city of Pyatigorsk. There are several observation decks on the mountain, which offer views of the resort and the surrounding area.

Obviously, the top of the mountain offers the best view and, when the weather is good, it is even possible to see the snow-covered slopes of Elbrus, which lies just 88 km away from Mashuk. You can also see the five-peaked mountain of Beshtau, which gives the city its name. Pyatigorsk can be literally translated as the “city of five mountains,” and it is the exact meaning of the word beshtau – five mountains.

Mashuk
Mount Mashuk

The Tsar Fish (Krasnoyarsk Region)

This observation deck opened on Sliznevsky Rock in the 1970s and was completed in 2004 with the unveiling of the Tsar Fish sculpture in honour of Victor Astafyev, a Russian writer that was born in the area. The metal sturgeon has become a popular site, especially among newlyweds. It is believed that if you hold its barbells, your family life will be long and happy.

However, the sculpture is not the most important thing here. The incredible landscapes that can be seen from the deck, which include beautiful mountains and the majestic Yenisei River, are still the main attractions.

Tsar fish
The Tsar Fish

Chersky Stone (Irkutsk Region)

Baikal is the deepest lake in the world, and is known for its pure water, the blue ice that covers it in winter, and unique flora and fauna. Most of the animal species that inhabit the lake cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Due to its massive size, the locals often refer to it as the Baikal Sea.

To fully appreciate its scale, you must go to Chersky Stone, where an observation deck has been built. You can get there by following the trail from the uppermost stop of the Eastland ropeway.

And from there, at an altitude of 728.4 m above sea level, you will be able to see not only Lake Baikal, but also Cape Baranchuk as well as the source of Angara, the only river that flows out of Lake Baikal and is Yenisei’s largest tributary.

Chersky
Chersky Stone

Katu Yaryk (Altai Republic)

This observation deck lies deep within the Altai Mountains at the Katu Yaryk mountain pass, which has an extremely difficult descent to the Chulyshman River and a serpentine rode with abrupt turns and altitudes of up to 900 m. However, this is also one of the most picturesque places in the area.

You can stand there, gazing in admiration at the local landscapes for all of infinity. This includes rich green mountain slopes, the incredibly beautiful canyon of the Chulyshman River and the 40m-high Karasu waterfall.

Katu yaryk
Katu Yaryk