I am not sure what it is, maybe it is the incredible architecture, the colorful domed churches or the massive Soviet monuments, but after all these years dreaming of traveling to Moscow, I finally made it. Entering the Red Square and walking across to the Kremlin was an epic milestone for me, the country with one of the hardest most expensive visas to obtain for westerners and I was finally here. Although I have been many places, Moscow is now on my list of top favorite cities. Do as the Muscovite’s do, down a vodka, enjoy the best of Russian cuisine and get lost in one of the worlds great cities! This is Moscow, Russia, nothing will prepare you for how amazing it really is!
Moscow’s Main Sights
Moscow is full of historical and significant sights that are the face of Russian tourism. Although I would love to go into detail about all of them, the fact is that there is so much detailed information online about the main sights. So, I will just briefly talk about a few of them before we get into the Soviet goodies that I hunted for in Moscow.
St. Basils Cathedral
The colorful domes of Saint Basil Cathedral are the image conjured up by most when they think Russia. Entering the Red Square for the first time and witnessing this stunning church is breathtaking. These days the church is more of a museum than an acting place of worship.
Entering the main doors, you instantly get the feeling of how ancient this church is. Although the exterior is clearly new, the interior of St. Basils is made up of ancient paintings, frescoes and what looks like mud walls. The corridors look like caves that take you into grand halls full of gold and orthodox iconograph paintings. Near to the gift shop at the exit, you can take a sneak peek behind the shop counter and get one of the best views over the Red Square!
If your lucky enough to time your visit during when the Orthodox choir is there, then you will be rewarded with chants that echo throughout the church making for quite the eerie experience!
This is where most will tell you Russia started and today is still the seat of power over the Motherland. Visiting the Kremlin is strict due to the presence of much of the nations political and military offices, but the ancient churches and armoury are all open to the public.
Some of the highlights within the Kremlin Churches are the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, Annunciation Cathedral both of which have beautiful iconography and the bell tower has sweeping views over the Kremlin. The Archangel Cathedral is probably my favorite as it is the final resting place for Ivan the Great!
Behind the churches is the Armoury where you can find all the riches of Russia encapsulated into one area. Lots of jewels and diamonds, I won’t spoil too much for you!
The Red Square
Probably the most famous square in the world and in my opinion probably the most beautiful! Is the pride of Russia, the Red Square. Here you will find the Lenin Mausoleum, Saint Basils Cathedral, Russian Museum, and the Kremlin. All that has happened in this great nation usually stems from events in this square. Just walking across it you can feel its history and power.
Be sure to visit at different times of day as the feeling here changes from the night when its all lit up to the day when the ice cream domes of Saint Basil are backed by fiery sunsets or softly lit sunrises.
Moscow Soviet Relics
Let’s be honest, this is why I came to Moscow! I love Soviet history. I find the Cold War and Soviets so fascinating as this was the epicenter of what could have ended the world at one point.
The Soviets were famed for leaving behind grand monuments and in their capital city, you can find easily the best examples of this!
Moscow State University and the Seven Sisters
You will hear the term “the seven sisters” a lot when you come to Moscow. It is referring to the seven stars that are atop of seven massive Soviet-built relics. The most impressive one for me was the Moscow State University.
This massive structure still has the golden glass on its star but can only be seen with a drone (your welcome). It’s well worth the visit although even if you do not plan on flying a drone as the building itself is extraordinarily grand and decked out in Soviet symbols.
Yuri Gagarin Monument
Hop on the metro to Leninsky Prospeky and you will find one of Moscow’ best kept Soviet secrets. The Yuri Gagarin Statue seemingly flying into space has to be my favorite Soviet Monument in Moscow. Again, it is only really easy to see it with a drone, but from below you can also see how stunning this one really is.
Yuri, being the first man ever to go into space is revered as one of the most famous Russians today. You will see pictures of him everywhere and it said he was quite the lady’s man.
Worker and Kolkhoz Woman Monument
This massive Soviet Monument portrays a man and women dedicated to the worker’s party. Wielding the hammer and scythe they form one of the most distinguishable symbols in the USSR.
The Worker and Kolkhoz Women Monument is located next to the Exhibition Grounds making it an ideal afternoon to visit both!
Fallen Monument Park
Coming to Russia I expected to see an abundance of Stalin and Lenin Statues. To be honest they are not that common.
In the city center West of the Kremlin there is a park called the Fallen Monument Park where you can find the last remnants of these statues. The highlight is the Stalin statues as its quite possibly the rarest monument to find within Russia.
Another exhibit within the park is the monument to the Gulag victims. This eerie monument is a stark reminder of the millions who perished in the labor Gulag camps.
Getting Around Moscow in the Moscow Metro
It might sound obvious to take the Metro to get around Moscow’s vast landmass, but it’s actually a sight to see onto itself! The Moscow Metro was built by the Soviets and its stations are stunningly crafted to be some of the most beautiful Metro stations on the planet.
Just getting into the underground metro is an experience as the Soviets doubled the stations as a defense in case of airstrikes leading them to be the some of the deepest in the world. Lonely Planet has a great Moscow Metro Tour to follow in their new guidebook. Here is a Moscow Metro Map
The New Moscow Sights
Outer Moscow and the city center are riddled with fascinating sights well worth leaving the Red Square for! The New Moscow is a crowded group of modern skyscrapers fashioned by several famous architects. It’s well worth exploring for an afternoon!
My favorite part of the newer parts of Moscow is the White Square. This square has one of Moscow’s oldest churches and is surrounded by modern skyscrapers giving a great contrast of Moscow’s old and new!
All-Russian Exhibitions Center
This brand-new glitzy exhibition park is home to the Russian Cosmonaut space exploration center and countless other Ex-Soviet displays. The government has put a lot of money into the center. The Space Center you can enter a real-life space station, sit inside a Soviet spacecraft and explore the famous Soviet Space Race!
In the center of the exhibitions park is an old Soviet monument being restored, providing great insights into the diversity of this vast park. Check out the All-Russian Exhibition Center Website for events.
Here is the true “New Moscow”. Architecturally amazing high-rises lead way to fancy shopping malls full of Muscovites buying the most expensive goods imaginable. I mostly enjoyed it for the architecture, to be honest.
The best way to see the downtown is on an illegal rooftop tour provided by Moscow Rooftop Tours. This awesome company takes you onto roofs across the river from downtown giving great views of the area.
Sampling Russian Cuisine in Moscow
Being of Russian heritage I had an idea of how delicious Russian Cuisine is but coming to Moscow I was introduced to a whole new world of scrumptious, fermented and diverse the food of Russia really is.
There are of course the staples as you know Borscht, Dumplings and cabbage rolls are all of which you can try at the many Soviet-era cafeterias around the city. I recommend the Stolovaya 57, a canteen decked out in old school Soviet propaganda and it is located right on the Red Square inside the Gum building.
If you would like to try new age Russian cuisine and of course Caviar, then I recommend heading to the Baltschug Kempinski. Not only is the food amazing, but you will be eating in the oldest hotel in all of Moscow.
The Moscow Central Air Force Museum
A bit of a detour outside of the city is well worth undertaking to visit this one of a kind, simply amazing museum. The Moscow Central Air Force Museum which is maintained completely by its volunteer’s houses almost every Soviet-era aircraft and spaceship known in existence.
Visiting the museum, you can take al loo into the Cold War Space Race and if your lucky get the chance to enter one of the supersonic passenger jets that could fly from Moscow to New York in three hours.
This museum needs more credit and she is a top sight for all those who decide to visit Moscow! Highly recommended. I want to extend a huge thanks to the amazing volunteers here who brought me and showed me their passion for these aircraft!
Living Like a Tsar at the Baltschug Kempinski, Moscow
While I was in Moscow, I was invited to stay at the Baltschug Kempinski Hotel. This hotel was the first international 5-star hotel to open in Russia in 1992. The hotel underwent a huge redesign in 2014. This hotel has welcomed an endless list of world famous politicians. musicians, actors and artists from all over the world. witnessing the oldest part of Moscow and the cities picturesque skyline from the upper balcony.
Even if you decide not to stay at this hotel, I highly recommend dropping by to see the history that lies within this place. Those lucky enough to stay here as I did will be rewarded with an ALL Russian experience.
Most of the rooms overlook the Kremlin and Red Square, there is something so special waking up and seeing the colorful domes of Saint Basils Cathedral outside your window. Although it might be pricey, it is completely worth it to stay for a few nights to complete your Russian Travels. Besides how often can you say that you have dined where Tsars used to!
A huge thanks to all the amazing staff who made my stay and trip in Moscow incredible from the Hotel Baltschug Kempinksi!