Considered the largest city in Europe in terms of land area, Moscow is Russia’s very cosmopolitan capital and is right at the core of the Kremlin, a fortress that goes back to the middle ages and seat of the Russian government, as well as the residence of the President of Russia. Sitting on the banks of the Moskva River, Moscow is Russia’s most populated city, and has earned the title of ‘the northernmost and coldest megacity’ in the world. Its history dating back to the Neolithic period, Russia had a tumultuous history being ruled by the Tsars, which spawned the great Russian Empire, before transforming into a communist country in the 20th century, and until its present incarnation as the Russian Federation. Moscow is home to great classical ballet dancers including George Balanchine, Irina Baroniva, Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. While it is well-known for its uniquely decorated architecture, Moscow is also considered as one of Europe’s greenest capitals, with about 40% of its land area covered by lush greenery.
1. Distinctive, Elegant, Russian-Style ArchitectureThe city of Moscow is home to some of the most unique designs, including the photographer’s delight St. Basil’s Cathedral for its colorful, richly decorated, onion-shaped domes. Equally eye-catching is the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, the city’s main mosque with its gold-tipped slender spires and golden dome, which gives off a beautiful warm glow in late afternoon due to the setting sun. The medieval vibe happens when one steps foot within the concentric walls and intersecting streets of the Kremlin, with touches of an Italian Renaissance feel here and there. Contemporary buildings such as Shukov Tower gets a second look with its conical, hyperboloid steel wonder. Gothic architecture can also be seen in the Seven Sisters, comprising of seven huge skyscrapers built all throughout the city.
2. An Amazingly Green CityNot many tourists know that Moscow is a very green city with 96 parks and 18 gardens, which includes 4 botanical gardens. In terms of area, the city’s ‘green zones’ totals about 450 square kilometers. This is apart from around 100 square kilometers of forest areas. The city takes pride in its history for setting up ‘green yards’ where trees and wide swathes of grassy area are planted and protected in between residential buildings. Moscow has, in fact, an astounding 27 square kilometers of parks per individual, which is quite high compared with 8.6 sq.km. per person in New York or 7.5 sq.km. per person in London. Among Moscow’s most popular park is the 170-acre Gorky Park, or officially Central Park of Culture and Rest founded in 1928. The 101-acre Neskuchny Garden is the city’s oldest, while the 15.34-sq.km Izmaylovsky Park is one of the largest urban parks worldwide. It’s Botanical Garden Academy of Sciences, with more than 20,000 plant species from all over the world, is said to be the largest in Europe.
3. Excellent Center for Performing Arts, Ballet, and FilmMoscow is the center for Russian performing arts, ballet, and film and the figures speak for themselves — 68 museums, 24 concert halls, 132 film cinemas, 103 theaters. Ballet enthusiasts the world know that Moscow is home to two of Russia’s top ballet companies, the Kirov Ballet, now called Marinsky Ballet, and the Bolshoi company. Both companies go for regular world tours performing such well-loved classics such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Bolshoi Theatre, Malyi Theatre, Moscow Art Theatre, and Vakhtangov Theatre are some of the city’s most prestigious performing arts theatres and ballet studios. As for classical music performances, audiences usually troop to the Moscow International Performance Arts Center, or also known as Moscow International House of Music.
Moscow Tourist Spots
1. Red Square: Moscow’s Most Photographed DestinationFirst-time visitors to Moscow will usually make Red Square the top of their go-to list. The city square divides the area between the Kremlin and the Kitai-gorod, an old, historic merchant quarter. There are so many interesting sites in the Red Square first and foremost of which is St. Basil’s Cathedral at the southern part and built in the mid-16th century. Another top attraction is Lenin’s Mausoleum, or Lenin’s Tomb, located right at the square center, which is where former Soviet Union head Vladimir Lenin is interred and his embalmed body placed on public display. While it’s free admission to the mausoleum, tourists are not allowed to carry any camera, phone, and bag inside. Other attractions are the State History Museum and the Monument to Minin and Pozharksy, a reminder of a 1612 event when Poland invaded Russia and when the Romanov Dynasty was founded a year later.
2. Kremlin: Russia’s Past Grandeur in Full DisplayThis medieval city and fortress is home to a complex of historical structures consisting of 5 palaces, 4 cathedrals, as well as museums, all of which are enclosed within old citadel walls. The Kremlin used to be the official residence of the Russian Tsar rulers of the Russian Empire and, to this day, the Grand Kremlin Palace is the residence of the Russian President. Guided tours are available to tour other attractions including the Armoury Collection, Patriarch Palace and Bell Tower. Medieval churches found on in the Cathedral Square include the Assumption Cathedral built in 1479, Cathedral of the Annunciation, and the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, where Russian royalty are buried.
3. Varvarka Street and Ulitsa Varvarka: Moscow’s Oldest StreetsVarvarka and Ulitsa Streets around the Kitai-Gorod environs take you back aeons ago as early as the 14th century and give you a proper historical perspective of the whole city. Many travel sites say that if you only have a short stay in Moscow, these streets are must-visits. Located close to the Kremlin, the area has several old, well-preserved cathedrals often visited by Russian royalty on their way towards the Kremlin. Some places to check out include the Church of the Martyr Barbara, Church of Maxim the Blessed, Znamensky Monastery, Chambers of the Romanov Boyars, Church of Saint George on Pskov Hill, and the Middle Trading Rows.