Moscow. Russia’s capital and one of the largest cities in the world, home to 12 million people, and the centre of some of the biggest political changes in the 20th century…
“Crazy Big, Crazy Busy” was how Dasha, the Free Moscow Tour guide described it, and its true. It is also beautiful with its architecture; spacious with its wide streets and boulevards; and central to Russian history. The Free Moscow Tour in the morning is a fantastic introduction to the city.
The subway stations were surprisingly varied in architecture, some of the stations are spectacular. A challenge I had in the beginning was having a subway map with only English stop names, instead of Cyrillic, and matching them up proved a challenge. I got to the right platform, but wasn’t sure which direction to take, but thankfully a friendly local stopped and through some pointing I got on the right one – I wondered in the London underground would have such helpful and happy people…?
The famous shopping mall GUM is worth visiting for the amazing architecture, and to eat some ice-cream! I had no idea that Russians loved ice-cream so much.
There are many Kremlins, or fortified complexes, in Russia, but only Moscow has “THE” Kremlin. I did a paid tour here, sadly no sign of President Putin, but it was quite interesting and I’m glad I joined a tour, as much of the inside would have been lost on me if I hadn’t.
One of my regrets is that I wasn’t better organised, or have more time, to go and see a ballet or opera in The Bolshoi Theatre. I was told the tickets sell out months in advance.
I loved Moscow at night, the lights and night sky really brought out the colour and vibrancy of the city.
WHERE DID I STAY:
- Hostel Netizen – one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed in, it was trendy, cool and clean. Not the most sociable of places, maybe due to the open-plan business feel, rather than small, quirky and cozy… it’s also not in the centre of the city but its two minutes from a subway stop so is very easy to get to. I can highly recommend it.
TIPS, LINKS & THINGS TO DO:
- Do the Moscow Free Tour and others – get Elena as a guide for extra awesomeness.
- Visit Red Square, most of the top sights and attractions are in this area – The Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, the State Historical Museum, GUM shopping mall, the Bolshoi Theatre, the list goes on…
- Don’t fear the subway, just make sure you have a map with both English and Cyrillic names on it, and consider the Subway tour around its grandest stations, its supposed to be pretty impressive.
- Look up shows in the Bolshoi Theatre well ahead of time.
- There is a famous Moscow bar and nightclub called Propaganda, known for its house and electronic music.
- I only had one full day here, and probably could have done with two or three. If you’re really interested in history, as with being in St Petersburg, you could spend four to five days soaking it all up.
WHAT I LEARNT IN MOSCOW:
Moscow was not what I feared or expected, and it showed me not to trust my western preconceptions. Moscow, like any capital city was buzzing with tourists taking millions of selfies, but it’s worth visiting for the vivid colours in the evening, and it’s youthful feel despite all the history.
I met a tour guide, Elena, who truly loved her job, and it reiterated to me the importance of finding a job and role that is fulfilling and suits your personality and skills. I love meeting people who have a passion for their job and are good at it; it’s not often easy to find, indeed sometimes we’re lucky just to have a job, but she is an excellent example of someone who has “found her calling” and excels at it.