This is a long overdue post on my trip to Moscow last year. I don’t think a country has been negatively portrayed by the media in recent times as much as Russia which made me even more determined to visit. My visa was arranged pretty quickly through a specialized office in Dubai and off I was to the capital of Mother Russia.
I was expecting a gloomy, bleak city but was surprised to see a young, vibrant city with some Western influence (whether you consider that good or bad is up to you) but is strongly attached to its long Soviet past. In between, there are treasures of beautiful architecture, museums, churches, and parks.
The city has a lot to offer and if you are up to walk a bit, many of the places worth seeing are more or less accessible by foot, although the Moscow Metro is a destination on its own, but more on that later. However, make no mistake, Moscow is a vast city with around 12 million inhabitants. Moscow is also one of the oldest cities in Russia, founded in 1147.
I never felt unsafe in Moscow with police being visibly present at tourist sites, public transportation stations, and on the streets. Many of the locals may appear aloof at first but once you approach them with questions for directions for instance, the coldness disappears into a welcoming smile.
If there is anything I wish would change, it would be the signs at metro stations which I think should be in English as well as Cyrillic. I had a local showing me around so it wasn’t a big problem for me, but i can understand the frustration of the average tourist.
As usual, you can follow me on Instagram (@gmr83) for pictures from my trip to Moscow and other places around the world.
Without further ado, here are some things that I think would make a trip to Russia worth your while.
1. Metro Stations: If i was to ever return to Moscow, it would be because of the gorgeous metro stations! Moscow’s Metro service started in 1935 with a single 11 km line connecting just thirteen stations, but it has since grown into the world’s fourth busiest transit system, spanning more than 300 kilometers and offering 188 stops along the way. Later, the Moscow metro system became one of the USSR’s most extravagant architectural projects with the intention of building palaces for the people, and indeed many of Moscow’s Metro stations are likened to famous European palaces. The Guardian has a good list of must see metro stations. Oh and there is free wifi on the trains!
2. Red Square: Perhaps the most recognizable landmark of Moscow, the Red Square is a pedestrian square that is home to colorful churches, museums, the Kremlin, and, believe it or not, a big shopping mall.
3. Kremlin: The name Kremlin means “fortress inside a city” which would explain why it includes five palaces and four cathedrals. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation. Believe it or not, you can get a ticket and casually take a stroll inside the Kremlin!
4. The other Kremlin: You probably didn’t know that Moscow has another Kremlin! This one is located on the bank of Serebryano-Vinogradny pond. City holidays, fairs and festivals take place here, and it has various small museums. As you can see below, it is colorful enough to be worth a visit.
5. Quirky hotels: I stayed at the National Hotel, member of the Luxury Collection, and if you liked the movie “Grand Budapest Hotel” you would really appreciate this one. The location is perfect too as it is right off the Red Square with views of the Kremlin.
6. Tretyakov Gallery: One of the world’s greatest museums, this is probably the one to choose if you only want to visit one museum in Moscow. In contrast to the worldwide collection of the Pushkin Museum, the Tretyakov is mostly a collection of Russian art. It has the best collection of Russian icons and many of the most famous pieces of modern Russian artists like Ilya Repin.
7. Gorky Park: Moscow’s Central Park — home to beautiful gardens, walking paths, lakes, and a modern museum.
8. Christ the Savior Cathedral: This cathedral, the tallest Orthodox church in the world, was blown up on orders from Stalin in 1931, and rebuilt only after the fall of the Soviet Union, in the 1990s.
9. The Seven Sisters: The Sisters are a group of seven skyscrapers in Moscow designed in the Stalinist style. The term “Seven Sisters” is neither used nor understood by the local Muscovites who call them Vysotki or Stalinskie Vysotki (Stalinist skyscrapers). They were built from 1947 to 1953,in an elaborate combination of Russian Baroque and Gothic styles, which means they look like the headquarters of Lex Luther!
10. World’s coolest souvenirs: Impress your friends and family with what could possibly be the world’s coolest souvenirs, the Matryoshka dolls, a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another.
11. Pushkin Museum: The largest museum of European art in Moscow, and home to a beautiful collection of fine art pieces.
12. Bolshoi Theatre: The Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera are amongst the oldest and most renowned ballet and opera companies in the world. It is by far the world’s biggest ballet company, having more than 200 dancers.
Have you been to Moscow? What was your favorite thing to see/do?