From its humble timber town beginnings to the sprawling metropolis of over 11 million people that stands today, Moscow is a city in a continual state of flux. A city of superlatives, contrasts, nuances and significant historical importance, Moscow is affectionately known as the 'Third Rome' by its advocates.
Red Square, The Kremlin, Lenin's mausoleum, Tretyakov Gallery and Gorky Park are just a handful of the key attractions for anyone new to the city. Wimdu has accommodation in Moscow that fits every budget. If you want to stay on on The Boulevard Ring, the series of boulevards close to the city centre, and pretend, loosely, that you are an oligarch - Wimdu has a selection of apartments and family-friendly holiday villas that can fulfill this wish. Alternatively, you could base yourself amongst the Muscovites in a Moscow apartment in one of the many intriguing suburbs that sprawl out from the centre of the city.
Where to Stay in Moscow
Just to the north of the centre, the area that connects the Red Square to The Kremlin, lies Tverskaya Street. This is the liveliest of central Moscow's residential districts, where restaurants and bars compete for the custom of locals and the burgeoning expat community. Wimdu has a selection of hand-picked holiday apartments in close vicinity. Pushkinskaya Square, often referred to as Moscow's Piccadilly Circus, is another key landmark from which to explore the city. Christye Ponds, the former meat district, has also been transformed in recent years. It is now viewed as one of the most desirable areas to live in the city and has accumulated a strong French contingent. Wimdu has an array of hand-picked holiday accommodation perfect for a romantic weekend in the fine 18th and 19th century buildings that characterise the area.
Fun Facts about Moscow
- Moscow metro opened in the year 1935 and is famous for its elegant architecture with art, murals, mosaics and chandeliers.
- The Russian State Library in Moscow, founded in 1862, is the biggest in Europe.
- The people of Moscow are known as Muscovite in English and Moskvitch in Russian.
- Russia has the world’s largest area of forests.
- Moscow's population is over 11.5 million. Most of the people are ethnically Russian, Belorusian, or Ukrainian, though other ethnicities are represented.
A Day in Moscow
In order to get under the surface of this vast metropolis, it is important to start early, really early. To see the Red Square in all its magnitude one must pass under the Resurrection Gates at sunrise. Lenin's mausoleum is situated at the far northwestern corner of Red Square. Here you can view the embalmed body of the Russian communist revolutionary, before seeing the graves of Stalin and Brezhnev that line the Kremlin wall. The St Basil's Cathedral – the iconic, onion-domed church – is also a must. To this day architectural disagreements continue regarding the construction of the structure. Some argue that it is in homage to the churches of Jerusalem, or, that the eight churches built around the central ninth was an attempt to represent the medieval, eight-pointed star.
The Kremlin, with its red-brick walls and towers, has loomed large over Moscow for the previous millennium. Five of its cathedrals are open to the public, as are some of its grounds. It takes roughly two hours to experience the citadel in its entirety. Once you leave, you can people watch from a bench set amongst the greenery of the Alexander Gardens. These gardens used to be a moat that protected the Kremlin from the north, but was filled in at the beginning of the 19th century and now provides an oasis of calm in the city.
A short stroll up into Tverskaya Street is also important to find your bearings. From here, you can pop into one of the many restaurants, buy some souvenirs, or listen to the buskers while grabbing a drink at the top of the first block and surveying the iconic view of the Kremlin.
Next up, is the Arbat district. Arbat Street is the main artery of this quintissentially Russian district. It is one of the oldest streets in Moscow and has traditionally been a haunt for writers and artists. A key attraction is the Gogol Monument, where dozens of tourists gather to have their picture taken next to the celebrated Russian novelist and dramatist. The Prague restaurant, further down the road, is one of Moscow's most famous eateries. It remains a popular hangout for artists and it is where Chekhov received his accolades following the premiere of the much-celebrated “Three sisters”.
A former amusement park, Gorky Park is still celebrated as a festive piece of Moscow's architecture. Named after Maxim Gorky, the park stretches along the river. It is rumoured that Roman Abramovich recently acquired the park and is working in conjunction with the city of Moscow to redevelop the place. For now, it remains a peaceful place for picnics, gossiping and cycle rides.
Eating in Moscow
The food scene in Moscow is developing and the spectrum on offer is continuing to widen. For those that want more than just sustenance, there are now a variety of options on offer beyond the cliched 'stodge'.
Teremok is a fast food chain that specialises in soups and blinis. They can be found both as street-side kiosks and restaurants. Jean Jacques is a French bistro where affordable wines and simple, affordable quality food is on on offer. Incidentally, it is also one of the only places that offers free table water. The Tsiolkovsky bakery is fantastic for hot chocolate and miniscule, pistachio meringues. Jagannath is a highly-recommended vegetarian restaurant that offers fresh salads and Georgian khachapuri (cheese bread). Mountainous portions of Uzbek and central Asian dishes can be ordered at Sherbet.
If you want to utilse the kitchen in your Wimdu apartment, the Dorogomilovsky Market should be your first port of call. Fresh meat, fish, pickled veg and caviar are all on offer, but you'll be fighting for elbow space amongst many of the city's restauranteurs. A pulsating and fragrant display of Russian life plays out before you,
Nightlife in Moscow
Moscow has not acquired the reputation as the world's most expensive capital by choice. This ostentatious wealth is best viewed in the glamorous cocktail bars that fill the city – if you get in. Door policy is strict, so dress to the nines. The Soho Rooms is high on the list of the well-heeled, but entry depends very much on who you know and the mood of the gigantic doormen. Simachev Bar offers a more relaxed approach and the two British chefs serve wholesome fare.
For those lighter of wallet, Gogol, near Stoleshnikov Pereulok, has live music and cheap cocktails. Proekt OGI offers bar snacks priced by their weight and cheap local vodka.
Getting around Moscow
You can fly to Moscow from London Heathrow. Foreign nationals need a visa for entry. These can be obtained at visatorussia.com. Landing at Sheremetyevo International Airport is not for the faint-hearted. Be prepared to push past the unlicensed cab drivers, avoid eye-contact with the bribe-happy police, and head to the yellow cabs. A trip into Moscow should cost no more than 1200 rubles. If you are lucky enough to land at Domodedovo, you can take a cheap comfortable train into the city center. The metro in Moscow is modern and cheap. Some of the stations are worth the fare ride alone – such as Arbat and Mayakovsky Square. Buses and trains service the cities and towns that lie within a 700 kilometer radius of Moscow. Trains are the preferred option with some of the long-distance buses being unreliable or overcrowded. With so much to see and do in Moscow, every Wimdu property has its individual merits for discovering this city that straddles two, vast continents.