Moscow is a veritable melting pot of cultural sights and attractions so whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll find something to keep you entertained. From the awe-inspiring displays of choreography and athleticism at the Bolshoi Ballet to the magnificent exhibits that make up the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, this enchanting city has so much to offer. If you do visit the Pushkin Museum, be sure to take a look at the 19th and 20th Century Art Gallery where you’ll be able to see some truly amazing Impressionist works.
It’s no secret that Russia has had a rich and turbulent historical past and when you visit Moscow, the city’s heritage feels almost ever-present. One of the best ways to get a feel for the Moscow of days gone by is simply to explore on foot, stopping off at the top historical sights as you go. Right in the heart of the city is the Red Square, one of Moscow’s most iconic and captivating spaces. Not far from The Kremlin, the area spans 400m by 150m and is home to both St Basil’s Cathedral at the southern end and the Statue of Minin and Pozharsky, a memorial to the heroes of the 1612 Battle of Moscow.
Depending on where you go, traditional Russian cuisine tends to vary quite a bit and in Moscow, you can expect to find an array of local specialities. You’ll be sure to find staples such as blinis, borscht and cabbage soup on just about every restaurant menu but expect a slightly different twist. For example, the much-celebrated beetroot soup will usually be served with the addition of beef, ham and Vienna sausage. When it comes to street food, you can’t get much better than ponchiki, a traditional Russian doughnut served piping hot with lashings of sugar on top and sometimes cinnamon. The fillings differ from kiosk to kiosk but can be anything from chocolate or cottage cheese to red berries and stewed apple.
Today, the Kremlin is one of the most popular sights in all of Russia – let alone Moscow – and historically, was once the very heart of the Orthodox Church. With its striking red brick, patterned exterior and majestic, onion-shaped domes, it’s a truly impressive display of architectural skill so be sure to bring your camera along when you visit, although bear in mind that you can’t take photos inside the Armoury. If you’re in Moscow during the spring or summer time and manage to arrive at the Kremlin for dead on 12 noon, you’ll be able to witness the changing of the guard at Sobornaya Square.
For something a little bit different, head to Maxim Gorky’s Central Park of Culture and Leisure. Essentially an outdoor entertainment park, the area features rollerblading, cycling, table tennis and beach volley ball facilities, and is also a great place to go ice-staking during the winter. Designed during the 1920s by Konstantin Melnikov, Gorky Park is both a testament to Moscow’s architectural development over the past few decades, and a great place to get your adrenaline pumping. Throughout the year, the park also displays pop-up collections of art and sculpture to tie in with various seasons and events, so keep an eye out when planning your visit. You can hire bikes or skates if you want an alternative to travelling on foot, and when hunger strikes, the Gorky Park Food Row is a great place to stop for sustenance.
The country’s national drink, vodka has come to be something of a Russian institution. The original 40% spirit to water recipe was licenced in 1894 by the same man who invented the Periodic Table, Dmitry Mendeleyev and has stayed the same ever since. Although Russian’s have a bit of a reputation for drinking mainly straight, ‘plain’ vodka, this is a slight misconception. In actual fact, there are a whole range of flavour variations that are enjoyed all around the country and some of the most popular include skarka (apple and pear vodka), limonnaya (lemon vodka), klyukovka (cranberry vodka) and okhotnichya (vodka with juniper berries and cloves).
Because it’s so popular with visitors, Moscow can get very busy during the height of summer. For a more authentic and less crowded experience, plan your trip in the spring or autumn when the weather won’t be too cold, but you’ll be more likely to avoid crowds and queues. In the winter, temperatures can fall to -20 degrees, but if you can handle the cold, the views will be truly incredible.
To enter Moscow, British citizens will need to obtain a visa from the Russian Embassy. Processing can take as long as 20 business days, so be sure to factor this in putting together your itinerary. For full details please visit: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/russia/entry-requirements.
The currency is the Russian Ruble (RUB).
In Moscow, the main language spoken is Russian.