There are several thoughts that come into mind for Moscow and I always feel it is one of those cities where even those who have not travelled to the city, region or heck, the country itself, will have a lot of preconceived notions about the place. I dare to say, mostly negative and I don’t know who and what to blame for that.
Nevertheless, Moscow always had a special place in our bucket list since it was one of the cities in one of the countries which Bollywood movies had a close relationship with since the 70s when Raj Kapoor introduced some of the Russian actors into his movie and shot scenes in locales of Russia. Plus, we had seen a lot of beautiful pictures of Moscow, especially of winter days.
The issue with coming in winters for us were that 1) Being in tropical Asian climate for most of our lives, we are not used to the harsh winters that Moscow is to offer, 2) the nights and long and days short and we prefer walking around in day time (from photography perspective, at dawn and dusk time), 3) well, the plan was made in summer, so that’s that.
With these in mind, let’s rock n roll into Moscow’s highlights…
This is probably the numero uno visited tourist place of Russia and there are enough reasons for it. The place is located right in the heart of Moscow and well connected by train / taxi / bus (if you are patient enough with the traffic. With the Kremlin and Lenin’s tomb on one side, the royal feeling of GUM dept store on the other and summed up by the stunning St. Basil’s Cathedral on the far end, the Red Square has all the offerings for spending more than just a day there.
The above pic was taken from the far end of the Red Square. Crossing the Red Square from the Four Seasons Hotel point, the place just exuberates a sense of “Raw Power”, authority yet nobility in its creation (guess mainly due to the sight of the cathedral at the same place).
If the weather is right (and we suggest going there in evening 7pm onwards in summers), the walk very nice, romantic for couples at the same time and the kids can have a nice place to run around. What’s ironical is also that just outside the power corridors of Kremlin and Red Square, every evening there are ice cream parlours and rides for kids (the rides are complementary and arranged by the government), so that sums up for quite a nice weekend family outing place.
Also, you will find several touristy trinkets and souveniers shops as below. The good part – the shopkeeprs will not haggle with or hassle you. Buy if you like it, look and go if you don’t. Simple?
This is near the entrance to the Red Square. The “powerful” feeling starts right there and beyond.
Evenings (post 7pm) in summers are delightful to walk around at the Red Square. Especially post 9pm when the dusk settles in and the sky starts playing magic with its colors, lights start coming on onto the buildings for the place to become a sight to watch and witness. BTW, there are huge flood lights as well that makes the whole place seem (and was, in our experience) very safe. We were there till about 1AM almost each of the evenings and while the white nights helped, so did the crowd which just didn’t wane even as the midnight clock ticked by.
The next day, we also visited the Armoury Chambers, Diamond Fund Museum which was a decent one time visit. Photographs are generally not allowed and security is quite strict there.
One tip – get the tickets online and you can avoid two queues – one to buy tickets and other to enter. Also, keep in mind the opening hours and be there around the opening time. You’ll face less crowds. See the link for reference.
Peter the Great and the Park of ARTS
One of the days was a leisure day as you can see in our Moscow itinerary and we decided to walk around our hotel and just have an easy day. So we strolled upto Peter the Great’s monument and the park of arts that was nearby. While there is also a museum there, we did not visit the same as our focus was mainly to walk or rather, stroll around and have a good time.
The feel of the place was accentuated by the perfect blend of history, nature (parks alongside the river) and culture as I think can be seen by the picture above – Soviet history and culture can be seen by the colorful buildings alongside the clean and beautiful river while on the other side is a lovely large park with several artwork done in stone.
The above two artwork showed several phases and facets of Soviet history. Frankly, I thought the latter showed its dark side by just looking at it from far but no, it was not that but more than people of all regions despite their natural differences can come together and work for their common cause – the country.
I have always loved cities where one can just sit by at an open place and pursue their hobby or socialise in a subtle and non-distractive way and better still, if it adds to the ambience of the place.
This was one such as exemplified in the above picture.
With this, we summed up our half day at the park and took the cab back to the hotel, which was an easy 10min ride since we were so near and we got lucky with the Monday afternoon traffic.
Right, so the morning of day 3 was relaxing and there was little that we did which was a great experience. On top of that, the weather was really supportive in that it was quite cloudy for most of the day when we were walking and only in the evening (or late afternoon by Moscow summers standards, at 7PM) did the sun come out to make the remaining of the day as comfortable and warm for a pleasant walk as well.
Arbat Street is the “Lan Kwai Fong (HK) / Times Square (NYC) of Moscow and it gets livlier as the evening sets in. The only thing is that while LKF in Hong Kong is not a place to be with the kids as it is mostly about bars and dancing and nightlife, most of Moscow’s places are quite family friendly in that sense. While we saw very little locals with families except on weekends and it is understandable since it is more of a working metropolitan city rather than suburbs), almost all the top places had a lot to offer for families.
Moscow’s metro stations
So the background to dedicate at least half a day to see Moscow’s metro stations is a lot of them were built back in the days of Cold War Era where the idea was that they should be doubled up as wartime shelters so as to fit at least 10-15k people in each of them with enough food supplies for six months or so – we hear.
Hence, they were also built being classy and aesthetic – let’s just say make it livable and interesting enough for people to actually live in it properly for a prolonged duration. Good sense prevailed in this world or perhaps we all just luckily, they were not used for the secondary purpose they were built for but continue to used for the primary purpose of metro service.
Each of the stations are a sight by themselves but we just handpicked 3-4 of them which were near our hotel (starting from Biblioteka imeni Lenina station) and which could be easily done with a toddler in hand and final destination being Izmailovo Kremlin in mind. The destination was where we would be spending the late afternoon at, so that had to be taken into consideration as well, as far as time and efforts go.
Below are some of the beautiful stations that we went to, but do look up for it, there are more even more beautiful ones.