A snapshot into Russia’s imperial past, a visit to Moscow’s Kremlin is undoubtedly a historical highlight. The Kremlin paints a detailed portrait of Russia’s tsarist influence while the grandeur of the Kremlin Palaces, the nation’s current seat of power, provides insight into Russia’s modern-day ruling. Visit the Tsar Bell, the largest bell ever created, and enjoy a stunning panorama over the whole city from the bell tower, plus be amazed by the Tsar’s treasures in the Diamond Fund.
Moscow Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, +7 495 697-03-49
Red Square and St Basil’s
No trip to Moscow is complete without a trip to these two Russian landmarks. Soak up the archetypal view of Russia’s capital with the towering crimson Kremlin walls and glistening rainbow domes of St Basil’s cathedral. Red Square, at the heart of the city, is a buzzing hub of social activity, and regularly home to markets, festivals, and celebrations. Alternatively, while you’re here, take a more sobering trip to Lenin’s Mausoleum to inspect the preserved body of Vladimir Lenin, Russia’s first Socialist leader and a monumental icon of history.
St Basil’s cathedral, Red Square, Moscow, Russia, +7 495 698-33-04
GUM is a Moscow institution and a hotspot favored by Russia’s chicest residents. This exclusive department store boasts designer boutiques, charming cafes, and some of the most lavish Christmas decorations in the whole city. A monumental Christmas tree and outdoor ice rink stand outside for much of the festive season. We recommend coming to admire the building’s spectacular facade at night when it is illuminated by thousands of glistening lights. Situated in the heart of Moscow, GUM’s location makes it a highly convenient place to find shelter from the biting Russian winter weather.
GUM, Red Square, 3, Moscow, Russia, +7 495 788-43-43
Go skating in Gorky Park
For a truly magical winter experience in Russia, don your skates and take to the ice at Moscow’s famous Gorky Park. During the winter season an outdoor rink appears amid the rare trees and sublime flower beds of the city’s favorite green space. Twisting and turning lanes allow skaters to glide through the snow-capped tree trunks, rustic wooden fences, and charming pop-up log cabin cafes and restaurants. Light music, gentle flakes of snow, and the gleam of Christmas lights will inevitably put visitors in a festive mood. End this perfectly enchanting night with a steaming cup of hot chocolate or some heartily warming local delicacies at the pop-up cafes and bars.
Gorky Park, Ulitsa Krymskiy Val, 9, Moscow, Russia, +7 495 995-00-20
For those on a slightly more limited budget, ditch window shopping at the exclusive GUM and take a foray into the madly bustling world of Izmailovsky, Russia’s best flea market. Delve into the bargains, rifle through the artisan crafts, admire the local handiwork and be tempted by the silky smooth traditional fur hats. Expect walls of matryoshki dolls, fascinating Soviet memorabilia, and glittering hand-crafted jewelry. Head up to one of Izmailovsky market‘s cafes for a warming mulled wine before continuing your shopping spree.
Izmaylovskoye Shosse, Moscow, Russia, +7 499 166-55-69
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts
Widely regarded as the city’s finest gallery, this is Moscow’s largest museum of European art. This building itself is a sight to behold with its grand columns and classically styled facade, but the views upon entering are even more staggering. The Pushkin Museum‘s collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art is particularly impressive and is comprised of works by Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Matisse. There is also a display of wonderfully preserved statues and artifacts from classical times. Visitors won’t have trouble getting lost in this haven of art and spending hours perusing the masterpieces on display.
This Russian landmark dominates Moscow’s famous Theatre Square geographically just as, culturally, the institution has dominated and pioneered the nation’s artistic and theatre scene for many years. The Bolshoi showcases the best of ballet, theatre, and opera in the world today and its stage has been the sight of many iconic moments and turning points in artistic history. Come and enjoy one of Russia’s world famous ballets alongside the city’s chicest residents, but be warned: tickets tend to sell out months in advance, so plan ahead. Even without a ticket, simply come to admire the monumental Neoclassical building and revel in the idea of the celebrities and icons that have performed in the Bolshoi over the years.
Bolshoi Theatre, Theatre Square, 1, Moscow, Russia, +7 495 455-55-55
Take a ride on the Moscow metro
For budget travelers, an excursion on the Moscow metro is the ideal way to soak up the best of the city, without breaking the bank. As each station’s ornate decoration is specially designed to reflect the station’s individual characteristics, a ride on the metro showcases the city’s wonderful diversity. Intricate mosaics, gleaming chandeliers, marble, and statues, are just some of the sights to see, as well as illustrations from Dostoevsky novels in the station named in the infamous author’s honor. The metro provides a compelling insight into Socialist history, with the numerous Soviet monuments adorning its interiors. As one of the world’s deepest metro lines, with 196 stations and over 300km of track, there need be no end to your underground adventures.
The Church of Christ the Saviour
Once the site of a Soviet swimming pool, this towering landmark dominates Moscow’s modern day skyline. The tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour‘s riverside location and glistening golden dome make it a striking sight. Russia’s Soviet government intended to blow the church to pieces to make way for a proposed Palace of Soviets. However, these plans were abandoned in favour of a giant outdoor pool, the world’s largest, kept at a temperature of 27°C all year round. But the thick fog constantly surrounding the pool, and the number of grisly deaths that occurred in it, earned the pool a gruesome reputation. Nowadays, visitors come to appreciate the fine architecture and intriguing history while getting a glimpse of Russian Orthodox life. The church’s interior was also the site of Russian punk band Pussy Riot’s 2012 protest, which resulted in their controversial arrest.
Church of Christ the Saviour, Ulitsa Volkhonka, 15, Moscow, Russia, +7 495 637-12-76
Visit a Russian banya
Practically a rite of passage for any tourist seeking the true ‘Russian’ experience: join the locals for some much needed relaxation in one of the city’s notorious banyas (Russian saunas). A favorite Russian pastime, taking a trip to the banya is not merely a means to cleanliness but also a social event. Come along and enjoy the local gossip, friendly banter, and deep philosophical discussions, batted back and forth amid the hot and sticky steam of Russia’s many banyas. Not forgetting your slippers, the eternally attractive banya hat, a bottle of champagne, and light picnic to share with friends post-banya of course! One of the city’s oldest banya institutions is Ryevskiye Banyi.
Ryevskiye Banyi, Bannyy Proyezd 3/1, Moscow, Russia, +7 (495) 681-10-74