Why travel to Moscow?
exactly a pretty capital city but one of great contrasts and constant
change, Moscow contains a collection of stunning, iconic buildings
at its heart - a record of Russia's amazing, turbulent history from
medieval times through Tsarist excess to communist simplicity and
back to excess again.
Moscow's cultural treasures are spectacular, diverse and unique,
while the confusing, capitalist chaos and new neon life gives Moscow
a potent and exciting dynamic.
The metro/subway is sensational, especially if you've had the
displeasure of London's dingy system.
- Moscow is currently the most expensive city on the planet.
- Petty crime is not uncommon and police may be less than helpful,
or even perpetrate their own tourist scams.
- Aggressive drunks, beggars and hideous apartment blocks can
interrupt the flow of vodka-enhanced onion-dome appreciation.
April, May (still very cool but dry and sunny, averaging 2C-10C), June (getting humid, fair chance of rain, averaging 12C-22C), October (high humidity, possibility of snow, averaging 2C-8C).
July, August are usually warm, with long daylight hours, but will be crowded and can be brutally hot, with high humidity and 1:2 chance of rain. If you go in midsummer check accommodation has air-conditioning.
Worst: November-March if you're cold-sensitive as these months will be well below zero and days are short and dark but the
snow shrouded scenery is gorgeous - try February?; early spring in March OK but
Current Moscow temperature and time.
Moscow's top tourist attractions:
Starting naturally in Moscow's heart at historic Red Square, with St Basil's bizarre technicolour cathedral; Lenin's dull Mausoleum (tomb) - where
you can see his shrivelled corpse (not Monday or Friday); the
Kremlin, a famous political complex that occupies one side
of the square and offers a collection of magnificent palaces, churches
and the ultimate in jewellery collections - including Fabergé
eggs - at the Armoury Chamber.
Opposite the Kremlin is the old GUM shopping
centre, now an attractive and busy upmarket shopping precinct.
Away from Red Square, take a substantial walk west or hop the metro
to Arbatskaya station for a fun and productive stroll along Arbat
pedestrian street, with many and varied sights around.
North of the centre is VDNKh, once
a state-of-art Russian goods exhibition, now more of a cheapo flea
market but still set in grand Soviet style and worth an hour or
Southwest of the Kremlin is Moscow's Gorky
Park, a riverside rest-cure that provides fresh air and an
amusement centre in the summer and outdoor ice skating in winter.
Nearby is the famed Tretyakov Gallery and a superb collection of Russian icons.
Among other attractions are the Novodevichy
Convent, KGB Museum and the Grand Kremlin Palace.
Otherwise the best things any tourist can do are ride the magnificent Moscow metro, jumping off at random
chandeliered and muralled stations, or simply stroll the streets,
absorbing the chaos and contrasts of this great city. Moscow
Trips out of the city:
22kms (14mls) west of Moscow is Arkhangelskoe,
a great estate complete with palace, gardens and endless artistic
Towns near Moscow are well worth a visit as they present a picture
of the real Russia, ranging from the glorious and well-preserved
to the poor and dilapidated, yet tranquil after Moscow.
Get there ideally in a rental car, with or without a guide, though
local tour agencies will offer many options.
The number one tourist target is The Golden
Ring, a group of ancient, picturesque, pre-Soviet towns just
north of Moscow, headed by the sublime Suzdal,
though at 210 kms (131 mls) this is not an easy day trip, so consider
a few nights away from the big city.
See Russia Travel Guide for
more Golden Ring information.
25 Dec- 5 Jan, Russian Winter is celebrated with traditional activities
such as music, dance, sleigh rides and folk shows in Izmailovo Park.
New Year's Eve tends to be a family/friends occasion, so not wildly
late Feb-early March, Goodbye Russian Winter, as Russian Winter.
Easter Sunday, procession and service in stunning Kolomenskoe (Orthodox)
April/May, Moscow Music Spring Festival, classical music.
May 9, Victory Day Parade. A stirring military procession.
Get up-to-date English event information from the daily Moscow
Museums: The Kremlin's Armoury Palace
is the place to see those incredible tsarist treasures, eggs, jewels
and the like (in spite of a substantial entry fee), while the Tretyakov
Gallery offers magnificent icons and other art works in a gorgeous
Not really comparable to St Petersburg's Hermitage but the Pushkin
Museum of Fine Arts offers a superb collection of Russian, European
and Ancient Egyptian arts. Not Mondays.
Classical Music: The famed State Symphony
Orchestra can be heard at Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, while Russia's
main music school, the Moscow State Conservatory, offers very good
Dance/Opera: The Bolshoi is the
place to be, see below, but other excellent ballet/operas are staged
at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses and the Stanilavsky & Nemirovitch-Danchenko
Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre hosts both the Bolshoi Opera and the Bolshoi
Ballet - one of the world's greatest ballets and well worth the
effort to see, in spite of some problems with the 220 year old building.
Tickets can be bought at the last moment from touts outside for
a reasonable price, but check the ticket date carefully, they sometimes
sell way out of date paper.
Both Opera and Ballet run 1 September - 30 June only.
Live Music & Clubs: The city turns
into party-central after dark, with all sorts of pubs, cafés,
clubs and live music places from ridiculously expensive to dirt
cheap. Ask the hotel concierge for recommendations or read the listings
Popular clubs often have a 'face control' (dress code) operated
by doormen so get advice before wasting your time.
baths: a don't forget to get yourself baked, beaten and frozen
at every Russian's favourite social event, the hot baths/sauna.
Moscow's most spectacular and oldest is the Sandunovskiye Baths,
though there are plenty more around the city.
Extremists could also
try mid-winter bathing with the thermometer at -20C, either in frozen
lakes or in heated open-air pools for cissies.
Circuses: Moscow's Old (Nikulin) Circus
specialises in acrobats and clowns while the New Circus is more
Check the 'Moscow Times' for event info/listings.
police visa scam:
Tourists in the centre of the city may be approached by police for
visa checking. This will invariably found to have a 'fault' that
earns a fine. The best protection, apart from a local guide, is:
- get your visa registered in Moscow.
- show the plod a photocopy of your passport and visa.
- do not give plod your passport.
- pull out your mobile (cell) phone and tell the plod that you'll
call your embassy to ask for assistance. It might be handy to have
that number on your speed dial!
You almost certainly won't have to use it or pay the fine.
The underground (metro/subway) stations
are spectacular and the network is excellent and cheap, with connections
at all of Moscow's nine main rail stations.
Car rental is a liability in the city
but useful for short trips out, tho' many local agencies will require
you to take a driver. Booking from outside Russia is often the best
Taxis are easy to find but...
a) don't take it if you don't like the look of the driver, especially
late at night
b) negotiate a price at the start since meters are rarely used.
Buses and trams also cruise the streets
but are less easy to use unless there's a conductor.
Classy: GUM, a
19th century mall, opposite the Kremlin and Okhotny Ryad Mall, just
north of Red Square are convenient and diverse.
Wacky: 1.25 km Arbat street, pedestrianised, is lively and excellent
for good value tourist souvenirs.
Moscow now serves all kinds of cuisine at all kinds of prices, though
low prices can equal shoddy service and unattractive eats.
Cafés are best for good, solid, budget food while Georgian
restaurants are usually excellent value with tasty food and a cheerful
Upmarket restaurants need to be chosen with care as some are aimed
solely at nouveau riche Russians or affluent foreigners and chrage
silly prices for mediocre nosh, though a little research will reveal
other establishments that are just as good but won't break the bank.
Café Pushkin is such a place, with a stunning tsarist décor.
Needless to say, fast food is widely available.
Do check if the place takes credit cards - not all do.
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