10 things you must absolutely do when you are visiting Moscow
Moscow is really a great city for a city trip. I would not recommend the Russian Dream hotel where I stayed during my visit to those who like their hotel to be luxurious and peaceful. But if you don’t mind sleeping in rooms the size of a sauna, sharing your facilities with at least 15 different nationalities and find it great big fun to run into people who are drunk no matter what time of the day it is (or even like to join them), then this might be an interesting experience. Moscow has a lot to offer. When you don’t have a lot of time and have to make choices, this is your absolute must-see-and-do top 10:
1. A visit to the Kremlin
The Kremlin is a fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River. It includes five palaces, four cathedrals and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the president of the Russian Federation. The name Kremlin means “fortress inside a city.” The architecture of the buildings alone makes a visit worthwhile. Inside there is also a very nice museum.
The collection of the Tretjakov Gallery is absolutely amazing. It offers you a unique collection of Russian art, mostly paintings, which span a period of a thousand years.
3. A picture of yourself in front of the St. Basil’s Cathedral
St. Basil’s Cathedral is the eye-catcher of the red square. It was build from 1555 – 1561 on order from Ivan the Terrible. When visiting Moscow, you just have to take a picture of yourself in front of this famous landmark with its unique shapes and colours. Inside the building you will find a small museum.
4. Use the Moscow metro
The Moscow metro was build during the communist period. The architecture is very interesting, with richly decorated interiors. When you are inside, you get the feeling you are visiting a palace rather than taking the metro from one place to another. During the war the metro stations where being used as shelters. The deepest section goes 74 metres underground. Giant escalators bring you down in just a couple of seconds. I personally can not recommend looking down if you are afraid of heights.
5. Visit a performance at the Bolsjoj theater
At the Bolsjoj theatre you can visit the opera or ballet. The Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera are amongst the oldest and most renowned ballet and opera companies in the world. Tickets do not come cheap.
Don’t be fooled by the looks of this cathedral: the current church standing on this site is the second one, and was build during 1995 – 2000. The original church, built during the 19th century was destroyed in 1931 on the order of the then Soviet leader Stalin. De demolition was supposed to make way for a colossal Palace of the Soviets, which was never actually build. Although the current cathedral is still brand new, a visit is very much worth it. De architecture is very impressive and the bridge and river right in front of it offer a panoramic view. If possible, try to attend a service (of course Russian Orthodox) at the cathedral.
7. Go ice skating on the red square
Every year during Christmas you will find a skating ring on the red square, right next to a giant Christmas tree. An amazing place for ice skating!
8. Go shopping in the Arbat
The Arbat is one of the most popular shopping area’s (and streets) of Moscow, with those typical street light. If you are looking for souvenirs like Russian propaganda posters or babushka’s this is the place to be. Although it is a great place for shopping, I’d recommend having dinner elsewhere. Food is not always great and usually a bit expensive in this area.
9. Visit Lenin’s tomb
When I visited Moscow, I was constantly aware of its history: the period of the great Tsars, the communist period, the cold war, the notorious plane landing of that German teenager on the red square. A visit at Lenin’s tomb ads to that feeling. The black box in the middle of the red square is not very hard to find. Lenin’s balmed body has been on public display here since shortly after his death in 1924.
10. Drink vodka in the 24/7 liquor store
Very popular in Moscow: the 24/7 liquor stores! Especially in the evenings these places get crowdy, both inside as well as on the street in front of the store. You can avoid headaches and hangovers by choosing quality brands. Try a bottle of Beluga, a very fine brand of Russian vodka. The Russians like to drink it with a little snack like blinis with caviar. Yum!