The vibrant architecture of Moscow is instantly recognisable and everybody has an opinion on this city. With cutting edge art galleries, impressive museums and lashings of history at every turn, your best bet is to explore Russia’s bustling capital city and make your own mind up! There is plenty going on this year too, as Moscow hosts the rugby Sevens Series.
Start your journey in the Red Square
When visiting Moscow, the Red Square is the best place to start! Red Square is at the heart of Moscow and indeed Russia – in fact all roads originate from Red Square! The Square enjoys a rich history and the name comes from a Russian word which once meant beautiful, and that is certainly appropriate considering the amazing architecture surrounding it. In fact since 1990, the Red Square and kremlin have been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Indeed, from Red Square you can take in a panorama of beautiful historic buildings which are, in themselves, fantastic places to spend time visiting. Over several hundred years the square has been used as a marketplace, trade center, and a place for festive and sacred processions and ceremonies. In the middle of the 20th century it was more famously known for hosting grand military parades and in more recent years a wide variety of events including musical performances and art festivals. The area is also home to some mouthwatering cookery schools that can teach you the art of creating authentic Russian cuisine.
Admire stunning St. Basil’s Cathedral
Located in Red Square, iconic and instantly recognisable St. Basil’s Cathedral is an architectural marvel, unmatched by any other buildings in all of Russia. The order for it to be built was issued by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the capture of Kazan from the Mongolians. It was finished in 1560, and it consists of eight churches centered around a ninth, each topped by an intricately designed dome. Many legends accompany the cathedral, as to its design and builders. The Cathedral is now a museum, which can be visited daily from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM except on Tuesdays.
Visit Lenin’s Tomb
Also erected in Red Square is the tomb of Vladimir Lenin, a revolutionary Russian leader in early 20th century. Also known as Lenin’s Mausoleum, it is a pyramid structure situated in front of the Moscow Kremlin. Lenin is generally credited for reforming the Russian Provisional Government into a socialist state, first as the Russian Federation and then the Soviet Union. When Lenin died in 1924 he was embalmed and placed in his tomb for visitors to see down to this day. Visitation rules are strict; electronic devices are not permitted, and the line moves quickly through the tomb. It is open daily from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM except on Mondays, Fridays and holidays. Visiting the tomb is free. This tomb also provided inspiration for many other communist mausoleums across the world, such as the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Admire the architectural intricacies of the Moscow Kremlin
Waiting in line for Lenin’s Tomb you will find yourself walking along the base of the Kremlin walls. These defensive walls, which connect 20 towers, encircle the Moscow Kremlin, the fortified home of the President of the Russian Federation. Standing at an impressive 242 feet (74 meters) tall, the kremlin was constructed in 1495. Also contained are other structures of interest including cathedrals, the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, and the Armoury with its diamond collection. On the top of the walls, the 2,235 meter perimeter can be walked and each tower can be visited in this way.
Explore the Tretyakov Gallery
Experiencing the arts in Moscow is a must, and the best place to start is the Tretyakov Gallery. It is possibly the finest collection of Russian art in the world. Pavel Tretyakov first started his collection in the mid-19th century and was able to present a comprisal of 2,000 pieces in 1892 before he died in 1898. The gallery now consists of over 100,000 works dating back to the 10th century and includes a modern art annex with 20th century pieces. The gallery often features seasonal exhibits of Russian culture. Rare collections of Russian nesting dolls have also been exhibited at the gallery. (The main gallery is open daily from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM except on Mondays.)
Soak up the art at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art
The next museum to visit is the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art. Constructed in 1912, it is Moscow’s biggest museum of Western art and one of the most astounding art collections in the world. Perhaps the most important additions to the museum were the impressionist and post-impressionist works, including those of Van Gogh and Picasso. The museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM except on Mondays.
Experience a Bolshoi Theatre performance
Another absolutely essential experience for visitors of Moscow who love the arts is the Bolshoi Theatre. The company got its start in 1776, and the performances are ballets and operas, the majority of these being Russian. Some of the notable ballet productions include Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker.” With its recent renovations, including an improvement in acoustics, the theatre continues to make its case to be among the most famous theatres in the world. Ticket prices can range from 100 to 5000 rubles.