Stepping off the plane into Moscow for the first time is a completely foreign, yet enchanting experience, especially if you usually plan your trips closer to home. Russia’s rich culture shows in its people, art, food and architecture. By visiting Moscow, you can truly absorb years of history by wandering the city with open eyes. While there are a lot of amazing things to see in Moscow, there are a couple things to consider before planning your trip, and some places you absolutely won’t want to miss.
First things first, Russia really is as cold as they say it is in winter, so unless you are planning on stuffing a fur coat, wool socks, wool mittens, and a fur hat into your suitcase, plan your vacation to Russia in late spring, or early summer. The weather in spring and summer is wonderful, and you will be much more comfortable walking around when you remember what it feels like to have feet.
Another great tip for Moscow is to learn to recognize the alphabet. Everything in Moscow is written in Russian and you will be hard pressed to find someone who speaks English. Don’t let this scare you, though. You don’t have to actually read Russian; you just have to be able to recognize the letters to make sure to get off at the right stop.
While you could spend days wandering around Moscow discovering many amazing sites, there are a few things you must see before you leave.
5 places Not to Miss in Moscow:
Red Square — Red Square is one of the most breath-taking city centers in the world. At Red Square you will experience a conglomeration of old, new, religious and political in one fell swoop. Make sure to not only take pictures outside the beautiful St. Basil’s Cathedral, but the tour inside the cathedral is worth every ruble as Saint Basil’s Cathedral is one of the oldest and most well-preserved Orthodox churches in Russia. On Red Square, you can also see the preserved body of Communist leader, Lenin. Make sure to leave your camera at the checkpoint though, unless you’re in the mood for a brawl with the KGB. The center of Moscow lies right on Red Square as well, so make sure to pack some kopecks, throw them over your right shoulder and make a wish—it’s Russian tradition.
Old Arbat Street – Old Arbat Street is another place you will not want to miss. While you can purchase Russian nesting dolls and all sorts of fun Russian knick-knacks at Red Square, don’t do it. You will get ripped off, and will miss out on the true Russian market experience. Old Arbat street is a great place to bargain for good prices, get some great merchandise and experience the fun of bartering at a real Russian market.
Tretyakovskaya Gallery – If you are even slightly interested in art, you must make a tirp to the Tretyakovskaya Gallery. There are a couple separate buildings to the gallery, so decide if you are more interested in old Russian art, or modern Russian art. Both of the exhibits are huge and fantastic, so you could spend a day in each of them. The exhibits really could be considered the Louvre of Eastern Europe.
The Church of Christ Our Savior – While the inside of Saint Basil’s cathedral will give you a glimpse of older, historical Russian Orthodoxy, you will definitely want to experience the ornateness of an updated Russian Orthodox church. The Church of Christ our Savior is one of the most ornate, flashy, and grand Orthodox churches in the world. While the church is a tourist attraction, keep in mind that it is also a church for worship. Make sure to wear long pants, and if you are a woman, you need something to cover your head, or you won’t be admitted. This is a gorgeous church, and if you are lucky, you may even hear an Orthodox choir singing.
Partake of the Joy that is Russian Food – You will not want to spend your time in McDonalds in Russia, because Russian food is absolutely delicious. Make sure to try borsch (beet root soup), galuptsy (cabbage dumplings), pelmeni (meat filled dumplings) and pirogi (bread/cakes filled with fruit or chocolate). You can get delicious food in any restaurant, but it will be as equally delicious on the street and much less expensive.