I have this thing for big cities! They are always so diverse and exploring them is so much fun! I spent five great summer days in Moscow, the capital of Russia. It’s not much for a giant city like this, but I did manage to get a feel of the place and a wish to go back some day (soon)! The city most surprised me with its size, architecture, art and people. But let’s go on step by step.
What you should know before visiting!
Everything in Moscow is big: the buildings, the distances, parks, city itself! It’s the only city where I walked for two hours to get from one to another metro station. Here you can wander for hours and you are still walking on the same street. And big is also the number of places worth visiting.
As you probably know, Russians use Cyrillic for writing. And no, they don’t write anything in Latin alphabet. Not the names of the streets or metro stations, or menus in restaurants (or names of the international restaurant chains). They also very rarely speak English, even on touristic sites. They don’t have signs pointing you to a touristic site, so city map can be very helpful. And knowing how to at least read Cyrillic is great, because otherwise you can get lost in a second. Luckily, I have been learning Russian for a few years and it was an essential skill for me while visiting.
People here are not particularly nice. Yes, they will help you if you ask them, but don’t expect you will be treated extra nicely if you are costumer in store or a tourist visiting. However, don’t take it personally, they are behaving like that constantly with everyone.
Expect to be amazed on every step! You will be walking on a long street, full of socialistic buildings when a church with golden roof will appear. Or a park with fountains. Or a view of majestic buildings.
Let’s look what I have managed to see in Moscow from my must-see list!
The Moscow Kremlin
An obvious choice that does not disappoint and it’s also on the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the Red square! Russian Federation’s president’s official residence is a fortress inside a city built on Borovitskiy Hill. It includes five palaces, three golden-domed cathedrals, two churches, Ivan the Great Bell Tower, Tsar Bell, Tsar Cannon, a park and Kremlin Wall with twenty Kremlin towers. I also went to see the Armoury Chamber museum and it’s worth a visit.
Alexander Garden and Manezhnaya Square
Along the western walls of Kremlin, the Alexander Garden park offers nice green walking space. There is also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier ant the eternal fire. Next to it is lovely Manezhnaya Square with Moscow Manege. Under the square there is the underground shopping mall Ryad.
Red Square, Saint Basil’s Cathedral and GUM
The enormous Red Square is home to beautiful (and colourful) Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin Mausoleum, Kazan Cathedral, State Historical Museum, Iberian gate and Chapel and GUM store. The latter is main state department store and insides are really something to see, even if you don’t intent to buy anything.
Russian State Library, State Duma and Bolshoi Theatre
I didn’t enter any of this iconic Moscow buildings, but I recommend walking past them and admiring their outsides.
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and Krasny Oktyabr
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world. It was rebuilt in 2000 after the demolition of the church from the 19th century and also the insides are very beautiful. On the other side of Moskva River, you will find red brick chocolate factory Krasny Oktyabr, which translates to Red October. This factory is today transformed into centre of art, fun and culture full of contemporary galleries, modern restaurants, clubs and shops. Next to it is interesting Peter the Great statue.
The Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure offers nice green oasis in the central part of Moscow next to the Moskva River. Absolutely take time to stroll its green streets, go around the ponds and relax.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Moscow which is enclosed by the walls and surrounded by parks and Moskva River. Inside the most important building is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Smolensk, which is also the oldest building here. They have an impressive collections of icons and graveyard where many important Russians are buried.
Moscow State University, Sparrow Hills and Vorobyovy Gory
Moscow’s University building is with 240 meters the tallest educational building in the word. It’s really a remarkable architectural creation and walking around whole campus is an interesting experience. Next to the main building there is Sparrow Hills; one of the tallest points of Moscow which offers beautiful view of the Moskva River and business centre Moscow City. There is also the start of huge park Vorobyovy Gory and you can walk in it to the nearest metro station with the same name.
This 390 hectare big former royal estate is situated on the banks of Moskva River and inside this giant park there are many historic buildings. The Church of the Ascension is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1923 Kolomenskoye was turned into an open-air museum of wooden architecture, so you can see monuments from 17th and 18th century from all over Russia. One of the most beautiful is the replica of a great wooden palace that was build by Tsar Alexei.
Izmalovsky Flea Market
The best place to buy souvenirs, typical Russian products, antiques and handmade craft. It is an interesting place to visit also for its unique architectural setting, this complex is also called Kremlin at Izmailovo.
The name of this park translates to victory park and it was build in honour of Russia’s victory in the Second World War. Its has a long promenade, surrounded by fountains, ending with an obelisk, a war memorial museum and exhibition of war machinery.
This term refers to seven skyscrapers in Moscow, that were build in the Stalinist style and are all mighty, giant, similar and honestly, a little bit scary. You can see them all over Moscow, I went to see two of them: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia main building and Moscow State University.
Arbat street and New Arbat street
The first one is the cultural street of Moscow made into a pedestrian zone, where you can find many artists, musicians, theatres, monuments and great restaurants. There is also the house of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, Russian poet, novelist and play writer. The second is a giant parallel street, where my hostel was, so I walked past its stores many times. If you walk it in direction to the East, you will come to the Kremlin.
Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts
I rarely go to museums, however, I try to visit the most important art institutions in a country. Pushkin Museum has more than 700.000 works and the largest foreign art collections in Russia. They also have some replicas, which surprised me.
Gorky House Museum
This Art Nouveau style Ryabushinsky Mansion was home of Maxim Gorky, a Soviet writer, from 1931 to 1936. Its interior and décor are really interesting, I especially liked the staircase. Also the house itself has more facades and there’s a lovely garden outside.
I can only say wauuu! They are honestly the most beautiful metro stations I have ever seen. Ok, maybe their metros itself need some modernization, however, the stations are really breath-taking.