Photo by Yves Cosentino
Moscow, capital of the largest country in the world, is a vibrant, colorful city that is dripping in history and rich in culture. This is a city that is becoming far removed from its communist history, and it is clear to see a change brought about by the growing market economy in Russia. Moscow is now one the world’s richest cities, boasting more billionaires here than anywhere else. Moscow may be known as one of the most expensive cities to visit but it is on the top of people’s must see lists and tourists are pouring in to enjoy its architecture, ballets, museums and shopping experiences.
Being such a popular tourist hub, it is good to bear in mind that when you book your flights to Moscow, a city break to Moscow is best experienced in May, June, September and October to avoid the crowds.
The Moscow Metro
When you travel to Moscow it is a good idea to travel light, as it can be stressful and exhausting when taking the stairs and escalators through the Metro system which can get very crowded. Taking the Metro is the best way to travel round the city and the tickets are affordable. Just be sure to avoid using public transport later in the evenings as it can be dangerous at night.
The stations themselves are a beautiful sight intricately decorated with pro soviet murals, mosaics, statues and marble benches and archways. They were considered ‘palaces of the people’ and were designed to provide pride and enjoyment to the Soviet people.
The Red Square was Russia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the city’s most popular places to visit. Begin your tour by walking through the recently re-built Resurrection Gate. This gate had been the entrance to Red Square since the 16th century, but it was demolished on Stalin’s orders so that large Soviet tanks could easily roll down Red Square for Soviet parades and celebrations. Whilst here, you can see the magnificent multi-coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral. You can see inside Lenin’s mausoleum but you must be prepared to queue for some time. You can cut waiting time and avoid bigger crowds by arriving early in the morning.
The Kremlin is the seat of the Russian government and also has UNESCO world heritage status. Kremlin means fortress and every city in Russia has its own. Although it is a fortress, you will be in awe of how beautiful the Kremlin is. It is in fact a walled ‘town’ of 68 acres in the center of Moscow, set in a lovely, green park. It features several gold-domed cathedrals, museums and historical artefacts, some dating back to the 15th century. With so many historical sites to explore, you can easily spend the whole day here. To avoid big crowds, you can come early, queuing before the gates open or split the visit over 2 mornings. You can pay for a guide to fully appreciate what the Kremlin has to offer.
Places to eat in Moscow
Eating out in Moscow is generally expensive but recent years have seen a bigger range of restaurants open to suit all budgets. Here are some tips to choose from whilst in the city.
- For breakfast, the cafe chain Schokoladnitsa is a good option. For 129 roubles you can eat blini-style pancakes with cream and cherry jam or old-fashioned Russian porridge, kasha – together with freshly squeezed juices and coffee.
- Many big trade centres have relatively cheap food courts including a mix of fast food. The areas around Arbat Street, Nikolskaya Ulitsa, and the upper end of Tverskaya Street usually have plenty of good options of fast food and street vendors.
- Mu-Mu Café is a local chain of cheap cafeteria style eateries with good healthy food at great prices.
- A favourite destination for a cheap, decent meal is the capital’s gloriously eclectic Izmailovo market next to Partisanskaya metro. You can enjoy freshly prepared lamb kebabs for 250 roubles.
Russian is the main language spoken in Moscow and in Russia in general, but you may hear many other languages spoken on the streets. A basic course in Russian comes highly recommended as in most cases, signs, road names and practically everything you see in Russia will be written in Cyrillic, and so getting a good grip of the Russian alphabet is key.
When you arrive at your hotel, they should register your visa which can take up to 24 hours and usually incurs a fee. You can be in the city for up to three days without one but make sure you take your flight tickets with you in case you are stopped by the Russian police. Always carry some form of identification when out and about.