Moscow City Guide
Moscow is the capital of the world’s biggest nation and one of the world’s fastest growing economies, Russia. For years, Moscow was a largely inaccessible center of power in communist behemoth, the Soviet Union. However since the fall of communism in the early 1990s, Moscow has been injected with a sense of urgency to change as it has embraced capitalism wholeheartedly. So much so that Moscow today now boasts of a landscape that hosts the concrete slabs and high-rise apartments of the Stalinist era which co-exist cheek by jowl with restored opulent Orthodox churches, gleaming shop fronts and malls and flashy restaurants and clubs.
The communist era of shortages, empty retail stores and all round dreariness in Moscow has given away to an all pervading vibrancy as the streets of the Russian capital are now filled with eager vendors offering a plethora of goods. In fact Moscow has emerged from behind the Iron curtain as a favored vacation hotspot that offers visitors many must-see sights like the Kremlin, the Red Square and the Bolshoi Theater along with much entertainment and a wide array of cultural attractions that take the form of treasure filled museums and galleries. Moscow is today the heartbeat of the new Russia that offers an intriguing mix of history and politics along with a healthy dose of business and culture.
Where to stay in Moscow
Most visitors to Moscow like to stay as close as possible to the city’s main attractions like the Red Square and the Kremlin. However most hotels located near the city’s main Garden Ring Road (Sadovoye Kol'tso) or the main central avenue are known for their high room rates so you would be well advised to use the services of Fare Buzz to locate a cheap hotel room for your stay in Moscow.
The Arbat District Hotels
The Arbat district of Moscow is the historical center of the city. The district hosts the half mile long stretch of Arbat Street, which is a pedestrianised area and one of the oldest streets of Moscow that dates back to the 15th century. This street was once an important stop on an ancient trade route and used to be home to a large number of craftsmen and artists. Today the Arbat district of Moscow is considered to be a desirable area of the city which is popular with locals and tourists alike. The Arbat area offers a good selection of reasonably priced hotels and hosts two stations of the Moscow metro system that provide connections to the rest of the city.
The Red Square and the Kremlin
The mighty Kremlin plays hosts to cathedrals, palaces and a gargantuan concert and congress hall and is the epicenter not only of Moscow but all of Russia. On the east side of the Kremlin is the iconic Red Square, an ancient market place which was turned into a memorial cemetery by the Soviet government. Near the Red Square is the neighborhood of Kitai –Gorod which hosts ancient churches and several administrative and commercial buildings that overlook the Moscow River. The area also hosts many restaurants and a few hotels.
Tverskaya Street extends north from the Red Square. This street is Moscow’s most important thoroughfare that hosts many prominent hotels, museums, cafes and nightclubs. Tverskaya Street is immensely popular as an accommodation option for those visitors to Moscow who enjoy being in the thick of all the action.
The aforementioned three neighborhoods are located in the heart of central Moscow and are known for their elevated hotel room rates, however if you choose to make your hotel bookings with Fare Buzz, you have no cause for worry as Fare Buzz can assure you the best hotel rates for your vacation in Moscow.
Places to see in Moscow
The Kremlin is undoubtedly the star attraction in Moscow. The Kremlin is situated in the heart of the city at the top of hill and was founded in 1147 when Moscow itself was established. The Kremlin is a fortress that is surrounded by a wall equipped with 20 towers. Located within the Kremlin are churches, palaces, offices, residences, assembly-halls and monuments. The Kremlin served as the seat of power during the rule of the Tsars and it continues to function as Moscow’s political epicenter until today. Some of the landmark attractions located within the Kremlin include the Cathedral of the Assumption (used by royalty for coronations) which contains attractions as the Belfry of Ivan the Great, the world’s biggest bell and the world’s largest cannon, the Tsar Cannon.
Yet another attraction located within the Kremlin is the Armoury Palace, which is considered to be one of the richest and oldest museums in the world whose collection includes jewel-encrusted coronation capes, jeweled thrones, stages and coaches and the famed jeweled Faberge Easter Eggs.
The Red Square is yet another iconic attraction in Moscow. This open cobbled space located in the heart of the city was Moscow’s original market place which was used as gathering place for the celebration of festivals, for the promulgation of government announcements and even executions. The communist government however transformed the square into a memorial cemetery when they installed Lenin’s Mausoleum here. The crystal casket that contains the preserved body of the founder of the Soviet leader is now a prominent attraction of the square along with the Resurrection Gate and the chapel on the square, both of which are reconstructed replicas of the originals that were destroyed by the Soviets.
St Basil's Cathedral
St Basil’s Cathedral is often used as a symbol of Moscow. This cathedral is anointed with multi-colored onion shaped domes is located on the edge of the Red Square. The St Basil’s cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his victory against the Tatar Mongols at Kazan in 1552.
Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre
The Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre is Russia’s most famous performing arts institution, which has the world renowned opera and ballet companies in residence. The original Bolshoi Theater was built in 1824 and was destroyed by a fire in 1856. The current theater is the largest theater in the world which definitely must be experienced on any visit to Moscow.
The Tretyakov Gallery hosts one of the most impressive collections of Russian art. This collection pre-dates the Revolution and also hosts the finest collection of Russian icons that hail from 11th to the 17th centuries. Other works in the gallery include paintings, graphics and sculptures, which date from the 18th to the 20th centuries. This gallery is named after its founder, Pavel Tretyakov features 2000 works of his private collection, which were further supplemented by acquisitions made by the government.
Cathedral of Christ the Savior
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is the largest Orthodox Church in the world. The original structure of the Cathedral was commissioned by Tsar Alexander I who wanted to commemorate the soldiers who perished in the Napoleonic wars. However the original structure of the cathedral was demolished by Stalin. The present day building that houses the cathedral was built in the 1990’s and features much Russian artwork, sculptures and even a small museum and is definitely worth visiting.
Best time to visit Moscow
Moscow has a continental climate, which features long, frigid winters and warm summers. Summer temperatures in Moscow range from 71F to 73F during the months of July and August when the days are pleasantly warm and conducive for sight-sighing. Winter temperatures in Moscow however differ drastically and the city often experiences temperatures that are below freezing point along with much snowfall. The snow usually arrives in Moscow in October and lasts well into spring, during the moths April and May. The best time to visit Moscow is hence during its summer months.
However Fare Buzz offers hotel and flight deals for Moscow all throughout the year and if you are in the market for cheap air tickets for Moscow, you would do well as to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, so that you receive advance information about these cheap air flights and can make plans for your Moscow vacation accordingly.
Getting around in Moscow
Moscow is served by not one but two international airports namely the Sheremetyevo International Airport, which is located 16 miles northwest of Moscow and the Domodedovo International Airport, which is located 22 miles south of the city center. Both the airports receive a whole host of international and domestic air carriers.
Sheremeteyevo Airport is connected to the city center by way express bus services which transport passengers to the metro stations located near the airport. Minibuses and taxis are also available but arriving passengers are advised to avoid renegade taxi drivers. Domodedovo International Airport is connected by a high speed highway to the city center as well as train services that go into the Paveletsky Rail Terminal in Moscow. Additionally, the airport is also served by coach services, which connect it to some Moscow metro stations.
Moscow’s public transport system is made up of a network of buses, trams, trolley buses and the metro. The metro is, in fact, the easiest way to get around Moscow and the Moscow Metro is in fact considered to be one of the best transportation systems in the world for it is extensive, inexpensive and efficient. Moreover the more than 150 deep, subterranean stations that feature on Moscow’s metro network are to seen to be believed for they are elaborately adorned with sculptures, chandeliers and mosaics and bear a distinct resemblance to hotel foyers. The Moscow metro runs until 1m and it is easy to use even though all the signage is in Russian.
Aside from these various modes of public transport, the city is also served by official metered taxis that can be hailed in the street but fares have to be negotiated before you set off. Visitors to Moscow don’t usually hire a car for their stay as driving in the city can be quite nerve-racking and difficult, moreover many hotels offer chauffer driven car services for their guests. This service usually costs extra but is definitely considered to be worth it.
Where to shop in Moscow
Communism and the shortages of Soviet-era seem very far away in modern day Moscow, where glitz, glam and big name brands dominate. Muscovites nowadays have a passion for shopping and don’t mind dropping big bucks on various desirable.
Petrovka Boulevard is Moscow’s equivalent of NYC’s Fifth Avenue. Located in the heart of the city, this street is lined with upscale stores and malls like Atrium, Barvikha Luxury Village and the TsUM department store. The city’s other main shopping districts include the Arabat, populated with souvenir and handicraft stores. Head here if you wish to acquire traditional souvenirs like carved birch wood boxes, hand-embroidered bed and table linens and so forth.
Another favored shopping haunt in Moscow, is the market at Izmailovsky Park, situated in eastern Moscow outside the Garden Ring. The many vendors at this market offer all sorts of knick-knacks like matryoshka nesting dolls, Russian space-program memorabilia, malachite chess sets, patterned quilts, beautiful blue Uzbek plates, wooden toys, products which coveted by tourists as souvenirs. As is the case in most markets, bargaining is an accepted norm at Izmailovsky Park as well. Other locales worth perusing include Pyatnitskaya Street in Zamoskvarechye, south of the Kremlin, for one of kind artworks by local artists and the Gorbushka Electronics market, for a mind-boggling array of legal and illegal electronic delights.
Moscow’s famed shopping centers like the stunning GUM and the underground Okhotny Ryad should definitely be included within any shopping in Moscow itinerary along with the city’s renowned food emporium, Eliseyevsky Gastronom, which like Fortnum and Mason in London, offers a wide range of expensive vodkas, chocolates, Russian tea cookies and more.
Where to eat in Moscow
Moscow’s days of empty shelves and long food queues are long past, and today this affluent city abounds with restaurants, cafes, and fast food outlets, which serve up a wide variety of local and international foods.
Favored and highly-ranked restaurants in Moscow, currently include eateries like Café Pushkin (traditional Russian fare), Buono and Piccolino (both offering Italian cuisine), Bon (European cuisine), CDL restaurant (authentic Russian cuisine), the Gallery Café (Russian eats with a dose of culture), Varvary (modern molecular gastronomy eatery) and the O2 Lounge (Japanese fare in a lounge setting).
Nightlife in Moscow
Moscow is home to an eclectic night life scene. The city’s many night life haunts include adult entertainment spots, alternative and live music bars, British/Irish pubs, trendy lounges, nightclubs, jazz and blues bars and sports bars. These various establishments offer numerous opportunities for nocturnal entertainment and give credence to the fact that there is something for everyone in Moscow. Popular nightlife haunts in Moscow currently include hotspots like My Bar, La Cantina, Chesterfield Bar and Grill, Bar Strelka, Cuba Libre bar, Barry Bar, Bar 1920, the Hudson Bar, Nooning Bar, Shooters Bar and Grill and Papa Joe’s.