This isn’t a detailed post about what you should visit in Moscow. I think that every person is different when it comes to that. Of course, if you go to Moscow, you’ll visit Red Square, but it isn’t necessary for you to go to loads of museums if you prefer parks. And vice versa. This is why I’ll describe what I loved, what I liked and what didn’t impress me all that much. Keep in mind that I’m someone who likes parks, skyscrapers and just getting lost on the city’s streets.
What I loved in Moscow
Generally speaking, I loved the big city vibe: the feeling that there are endless possibilities, a million different things to do, people from all over the world, and hearing dozens of different languages during every walk in the centre. The number of exotic restaurants, chic cafes, cool bars, karaoke places and clubs. And how beautiful it is! The mix of orthodox churches, typical soviet buildings and modern architecture makes it one of the most aesthetically pleasing cities I’ve ever visited.
The Red Square and its surroundings
The Red Square itself is fantastic because it’s huge, always full of people, and there’s often something going on (a Christmas market for example). Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the most colourful religious building I’ve ever seen, is on it, and so is Lenin’s Mausoleum. Entering the mausoleum is a unique experience because you can see Lenin’s body, which is completely preserved, even though he died almost a hundred years ago. Outside the walls of Kremlin, which is right next to the Red Square, there’s the Kremlin Wall Necropolis where you can see the graves of many important Russian politicians, military leaders, cosmonauts, and scientists, including Stalin and Brezhnev. The Necropolis was initially built for mass graves of pro-Bolsheviks following the October revolution.
The Moscow International Business Centre is a commercial development east of the Third Ring Road. It’s basically the little Manhattan of Moscow, consisting mostly of modern skyscrapers. The complex includes the Federal Tower, the second tallest building in Europe, and six skyscrapers with a height of 300 metres. The view of Moscow City from the beginning of the Bagration Bridge that goes over the Moskva river is incredible. Once you’re right next to the blocks, you can go up The Empire and the Federation Towers for the view (for a fee), get something to eat or just walk around.
Park Gorki is an absolutely huge park and the central park of Moscow, where you can engage in a number of activities. Besides walking, running or cycling, you can ice-skate in the winter, rent a boat, skate, play basketball or football, etc. It’s not all about sport, though: there are also cafes, restaurants, a cinema, monuments, children’s playgrounds and a museum of modern art. What makes the park especially beautiful is that it’s located next to the river.
Vorobyovy Gory and MGU
A long walk through Park Gorki and Neskuchny Garden, the oldest park in Moscow, will lead you to Vorobyovy Gory, a hill on the right bank of the Moskva River. 80 metres above the river level, Vorobyovy Gory is one of the highest points in Moscow. The view from the viewpoint, just opposite the university building, is truly amazing. MGU, which stands for Moscow State University, is a huge and extraordinary building. It’s one of the seven sisters, buildings in Moscow designed in the Stalinist style.
Children Are the Victims of Adult Vices
An artwork consisting of several bronze sculptures created by Russian artist Mihail Chemiakin. Thirteen figures represent human vices such as alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution and ignorance. What they have in common is that adults do them, while children are affected by them. Two children with covered eyes are playing in front of the sculptures. The centrepiece figure is «indifference». This artwork is beautiful, but at the same time, it’s scary and sinister. It’s one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in Moscow, even if it’s not on most lists of the top places to visit.
Another thing I loved about Moscow was how beautiful the Christmas decorations were; the only odd thing was that they lasted until the end of February.
What I liked in Moscow
Tverskaya Street might be full of traffic and consequently very noisy, but it’s also one of the most interesting streets in Moscow. It’s very long, very wide and full of beautiful tall buildings. You’ll find numerous shops, bars and restaurants here, as well as monuments, for example, the statue of Pushkin. I love the Eliseyevskiy supermarket with traditional Russian products. Next to it, there’s Varenichnaya, a restaurant with traditional Russian food.
Arbat Street is a pedestrian street and one of the oldest surviving streets in Moscow. It’s one of the best places for buying souvenirs, stopping for a drink or a meal and listening to street musicians. It is, however, also full of people dressed in costumes who want to charge you for taking a picture with them.
Nikolskaya Street and GUM
Nikolskaya Street is another pedestrian street, located in the Kitay-Gorod area. It’s right next to GUM and home to various churches and monasteries, but also to souvenir shops. It seems to be decorated throughout the year and is very beautiful to look at. GUM is the Main Universal Store; it used to be the centre of trade, but now it functions as a shopping centre. It’s beautiful from the outside and very interesting from the inside – full of colours, different shops and restaurants. On the top floor, there’s a typical restaurant from the soviet times: Stolovaya 57.
Izmailovsky Market is the best place in Moscow for buying souvenirs, even if it’s a bit far from the centre. The choice is huge, and the prices are lower than in the centre. Besides, the market complex itself is interesting; there’s even a colourful version of the Kremlin.
Tsaritsyno and Kolomenskoe
Both of these are parks and homes to various beautiful buildings. They’re a bit further away from the centre, but still worth visiting, especially if the weather is nice. Tsaritsyno got its name because it was built by Catherine the Great, while Kolomenskoe used to be a royal estate. You can find a palace museum in Tsaritsyno, and palaces, churches and other buildings in Kolomenskoe.
Zaryadye Park is a fairly new park situated next to the river; the Red Square basically leads to it. It’s very modern and not your average park, but the best part of it is the viewpoint: a floating bridge above the river.
The metro stations
Not all the metro stations in Moscow are spectacular, but some really are. I especially liked Ploschad Revolyutsii, Mayakovskaya, Komsomolskaya and Novoslobodskaya.
The Church of Christ the Saviour
I’m not into churches, but this one is pretty amazing. It’s majestic from the outside and from the inside (but the outside wins). Plus, the entrance is free if you only want to see the inside of the church and not walk around the terraces.
The Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy is a permanent amusement park. It’s basically a big Soviet theme park with lots of things to do (I only managed to take a walk around during my stay in Moscow). It’s the home to the Cosmonautics Museum, a shopping centre, sports grounds, a contemporary art museum, several monuments honouring Soviet cosmonauts, a cinema, an aquarium and several pavilions.
What I didn’t like
Sure, it’s majestic and looks like a fairy tale from the outside (and so do some of the buildings inside), but I was quite disappointed when I finally visited it. I had the basic ticket for Cathedral Square; there are separate tickets for the Armoury Chamber and the museum of Kremlin’s architecture. Basically, all I got to see were churches and the way there, which was nothing special. The churches are pretty, and you get to see the stone coffins of various tsars and dukes, though.
I honestly didn’t find the famous gallery to be that special. It isn’t that big, the interiors aren’t exceptionally beautiful and the works didn’t really amaze me. Once again, this is completely subjective. I don’t know much about paintings, so I only visited the gallery because of its fame.
Okhotny Ryad is a metro station and a shopping centre. I’m not a huge fan of shopping centres, but I found this one especially unpleasant. I think the primary reason for this is that it’s underground. It is, however, right next to the Red Square and seems to be very popular as it’s always full of people.
This post is proof of how different people are. I’m sure that someone else found Tretyakov Gallery spectacular but really hated Moskva City. And that’s normal! This isn’t a tourist guide’s post because I don’t think there is such a thing as instructions for what one must do or see in a particular city. There are just recommendations, and these are simply my thoughts on what I honestly loved, liked and disliked. I wouldn’t say I hated anything. Well, perhaps the melted snow and the stupid doors on metro stations that try to kill you every time you enter.
You can read about my experience as a Workaway volunteer in a Russian hostel here.
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