Moscow

A place of extremes

Moscow is the world’s most northern city to have over ten million inhabitants, and within this population it also plays host to the largest number of billionaires of anywhere in the world. It’s extremes like this that repeatedly characterise Moscow, and serve to make it such a fascinating place.

These extremes extend to its weather, and long, cold winters submerge the city in snow for several months of the year, with temperatures sometimes plunging to -25°C. Contrastingly, summers can reach above 30°C. Don’t let these put you off though, as they only serve to increase the city’s unique charm and keep it exciting.

Sights

During any time of the year, taking a wander along The Arbat is always a pleasant experience. This long avenue was in fact the first designated pedestrian zone of the Soviet Union, and throughout different eras has repeatedly served as one of the most desirable places to live within Moscow. As such it has been home to important politicians, and literary figures such as Tolstoy and Pushkin over the years. Nowadays it’s lined with street artists, musicians and performers, along with bars, cafés and restaurants. It’s a wonderful place to have a stroll and soak in the exciting atmosphere, whilst pondering its rich history.

When talking of Moscow, it would of course be inappropriate to leave aside The Kremlin. Despite having been largely destroyed several times since its original construction in 1147, today it contains five impressive palaces and four towering cathedrals, as well as acting as the official residence of the country’s president. Despite all of this on the inside, potentially most famous are the imposing red brick walls that contain it all, and serve to add to the air of mystery that surrounds it.

The walls as they are today were constructed by Italian masters over a ten year period from 1485, and stretch up to 19 metres high and 6.5 metres thick at certain points. They’re also punctuated with mighty towers, topped with shining red stars representative of the Communist order that came in after the Russian revolution.

Cathedral Square is the focal point of the interior of the Kremlin and, living up to its name, contains three cathedrals. The area is open everyday except Thursdays for tours, and if you’re going there via metro the closest stops are Borovitskaya and Biblioteka imeni Lenina.

In fact, the metro stations  of the city deserve a mention in themselves. Many of them are remarkably beautiful, thanks to the initiative of Stalin in making them a ‘palace for the people.’ As such, some are decked out in marble and granite, along with being adorned with chandeliers, mosaics and stained glass windows. A couple of the most impressive include Elektrozavodskaya and Novoslobodskaya.

In the shadow of, but not overshadowed by the Kremlin, is Red Square. Here you can find Saint Basil’s Cathedral and its world famous onion domes. Rumour has it that Ivan the Terrible had the architect, Postnik Yakovlev, blinded so that he could never design anything as beautiful for anyone else. Although many deem this story implausible, it can still be considered one of the most iconic and unique buildings of our world.

Red Square is also home to Lenin’s Mausoleum, in which the famous leader’s embalmed body is on display to the public. Entry is free, although there does tend to be at least a small queue. You’ll need to go reasonably early, as it’s only open until 1pm, but is also shut on Mondays and Fridays.

Eating & drinking

Anyone wanting to experience Moscow’s bar scene should definitely check out Mayak. Found in the Mayakovsky Theatre building on Bolshaya Nikitskaya street, the delightful food and vast cocktail selections could keep you there indefinitely. Even better, the low prices make an indefinite stay a definite possibility. The main courses here tend to cost between 300-600 rubles ($9-$20) with cocktail prices falling towards the bottom of this bracket. Whilst it’s certainly chic and trendy, it manages to stay relaxed and steers firmly clear of any authoritarian door policies which can be a defining feature of Moscow nightlife.

Should you desire, you can walk, skip or stumble twenty metres down the road to the equally alluring Kvartira 44. Very much reminiscent of a typical Soviet era living room, it maintains a remarkably personal air. This is coupled with friendly and helpful staff to make for a vastly likeable drinking spot. It’s not uncommon to have someone tinkling away on the piano that sits in the corner, which can provide a great background for both drinking and eating.

Getting to and from Moscow

The city has four international airports. The most important of these is Domodedovo, but there is also Ostafyevo, Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo. EasyJet have recently began providing a regular service from London, making getting to Moscow much more affordable, as this route was previously only serviced by British Airways.

There’s plenty of domestic transport serving a variety of towns and cities all across Russia. Although, the vast size of the country can mean the times these journeys require are enormous if you’re not going by air.

There is a particularly efficient train service running frequently between Moscow and St. Petersburg. On this route, the quickest trains can take as little as three and a half hours.


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