Preparing to enter the capital city of Russia is no easy feat, but once you manage to secure a visa, you’ll be very glad that you did. Moscow’s spectacularly immense streets, highways, and buildings will probably be the first thing you notice. The grandeur of it all projects a sense of a metropolitan empire, inviting visitors to relish and conquer what the city has to offer.
In the centre of Moscow, a must see is Red Square. It divides the Kremlin, the former royal fortress and the official residence of the Russian President, from the notable merchant quarter called Kitay-gorod. Red Square received its name from the Russian word krasnaya, which could mean either “red” or “beautiful.” The square is indeed stunning with views of the Kazan Cathedral, Lenin’s mausoleum, the State Historical Museum, and the Saint Basil Cathedral. Red Square is incredibly different during the day or evening, so make sure you get a chance to experience both atmospheres!
The curved domes of Saint Basil Cathedral’s allude to the flames of a bonfire mounting to the sky. The colourful, hypnotizing swirls are best seen by night. Composed of nine independent pillar-like churches, Saint Basil Cathedral’s interior is definitely worth visiting. It is now a museum where one adult admission ticket costs three British Pounds. From remarkable 16th Century frescoes to ancient relics, the two floors of the museum are a rich maze of wonders. As you roam through each church, you may hear the bellowing voices of an enchanting male a capella group.
While in the area, head over to The Kremlin Armoury, which is just nearby. Established in 1808, the museum boasts an astounding collection of Tsarist artefacts, Russian and foreign jewellery, and armour. The golden carriages and knights in shining armour truly give a taste of Russian civilization from the past. It takes around one hour to complete viewing the treasures of this museum, which also include the fashion from as early as the 1300s and a display of Faberge eggs.
Almost every night, the world renowned Bolshoi Theatre hosts ballet and opera performances. A one-hour tour of the venue cost around 6 British Pounds, but for a true experience, it is probably in your best interest to watch a show at the theatre to hear the acoustics and witness how the players command the stage.
One of the best ways to see a city is to get lost. We recommend losing yourself in the Kitay-gorod district. Filled with cute shops and eateries, this neighbourhood highlights an architectural majesty without the crowds and tourists at Red Square.
As you will soon discover, Moscow is not an easy city to walk, as the streets are quite extensive. Traffic can be pretty bad as well, leaving you in congested areas of the city for hours at a time. We highly suggest taking the metro, which is one of the cleanest and largest systems in the world. Each station resembles a gallery in a museum, with clean, striking architectural lines. The regal marble columns of the Mayakovskaya Station will leave you questioning the metro system in your own country. The more trips you buy, the cheaper your trip becomes. You can purchase a ticket of 5, 11, 20, 40, or 60 trips – making each trip cost less than 50 pence.
Don’t buy an ordinary souvenir in a store; instead, browse through the colourful stalls of Izmailovo Market. Among Matryoshka dolls, you’ll also find fur chapka hats and cashmere blankets for a bargain. The ground level contains brand new items, whereas the second level is comprised of second-hand goods and vintage pass-me-downs. You’re sure to find a little treasure for yourself or a loved one.
For an upscale shopping experience, explore the concept store Project 314. The underground store is a cross between firewood comfort and modern cool – an inviting and intimate spot for luxury menswear and womenswear. Project 314 includes notable designers such as Rick Owens, Boris Bidjan Saberi, Yang Li, and Moon Young Hee.
Knowing where to eat well in Moscow is important – many restaurants serve typical Western fare. For a flavour of Russia, taste some borscht, a beetroot soup popular in Eastern Europe. The classy De Marko Restaurant serves a delicious one, in addition to the Russian Olivier salad, a potato salad with eggs carrots, peas, and mayonnaise.
For a more casual environment, Lumberjack Bar near the Kitray-Gorod metro station is a great choice. The warm atmosphere resembles a log cabin and the waiters sport the full beards of true lumberjacks. A classic burger joint, you can’t go wrong with anything they serve from their grill.
Explore Cathedral of Christ the Savior and cross the bridge across the Moskva River for a spectacular view of the city. As you make your way to the island, grab lunch at Strelka Bar. Facing the river, the restaurant marries art deco elements with Italian and Scandinavian designs. The Tandoori scallops, Porcini and champignon mushroom soup, and Duck salad are to die for.
For a final meal, treat yourself to Quadrum at the Four Seasons Hotel. Just steps away from Red Square, the hotel’s restaurant offers authentic Italian food in a chic and modern setting. Start with the delectable vegetables of Verdurine e Tartufo as an appetizer and taste the seafood of Spaghetti di Gragnano. For a truly exquisite dish, try the Artisan Spaghetti with Russian Caviar.
As one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world, Moscow is home to a rich diversity of East meets West. The monumental design of the city and modernity of the digital landscape will floor you. As a metropolis that advances towards the future while still preserving its significant past, Moscow is one voyage you must take.
Words & Photography / Sheri Chiu