Moscow • Russia
An 860-year-old city, Moscow has many reminders of its imperial and Soviet past. The capital of Russia is a sprawling city with numerous museums, Soviet-era monoliths and post-Soviet kitsch.
In the course of its history the city has served as the capital of a progression of states, from the medieval Grand Duchy of Moscow and the subsequent Tsardom of Russia to the Soviet Union. Moscow is also the site of the Moscow Kremlin, an ancient fortress that is today the residence of the Russian president and of the executive branch of the Government of Russia. The Kremlin is also one of several World Heritage Sites in the city.
Pulsing with life, Moscow is a large city to explore. Not one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, but definitely one of the most high energy cities I’ve visited.
The Lenin Mausoleum really deserves a visit. No cameras, no bags, no mobile allowed. Check-in your stuff and follow the path that takes you inside the semi-shaped square pyramid in front of the Kremin in Red Square. Descending down the black marble stairs and past the serious guards, to what eventually is an open square base with the body of the Vladimir Lenin on display. It is eerie looking at a body that secretly has been ‘preserved’ for future generations, but looks more like a waxwork than a hundred-year-old body. – it is the story behind putting him on display that makes this a worthwhile attraction.
The diamond collection in the Armoury (no photography and videotaping) inside the Kremlin is worth a visit, though inside the grounds of the Kremlin isn’t anything to wow about, the more interesting bits are actually outside its walls. Despite what some guide books say, you can take photos inside the Kremlin grounds only.
Red Square is impressive and St Basil Cathedral at one end is nice to look at from the outside, but not a great attraction inside, so save your RUBLES.
The life and blood of Moscovites spend mostly on Old Arbat Street, this kitschy street full of souvenir vendors, tourist cafes, lousy restaurants, artists, etc. A tourist trap but also a nice place to walk and get away from the mad streets of Moscow, which are always buzzing with people and traffic.
Many claim Moscow is expensive, but personally I found it reasonable, to eat and drink and entertain. I read Moscow has more billionaires than any city in the world, and when you are in Red Square imagining military marches and solutes from rulers, facing in the direction they would have, you actually are now staring at a shopping complex with high brand names and shopping.
The ultimate ride and visit to Moscow have to be the Moscow Metro. Make sure you have a Russian-English transit map as English only just won’t do, there are no English signs inside. It is a cheap ride, but it is the interior of these stations that have all the oh-la-la factor. Read my Riding the Moscow Metro blog.
What can be an intimidating place really is just full of lots of energy. A 24 hour city with something to do at anytime (not sure about the winter), Moscow offers a taste into life of a modern Russia.