Destination Russia: Why Not Choose… Moscow?
Who hasn't dreamt of strolling at the base of the Kremlin's monumental red walls? Of marvelling at the Bolshoi Ballet? Or of lounging on the banks of the Moskva, after a little visit to the famous figures of the USSR? Welcome to Moscow, the sumptuous capital of the gigantic country of Russia. Every day, hundreds of years of history rub shoulders with a vibrant economic, industrial and cultural life. From the golden domes of the cathedrals to the underground discos, fall in love with the charming contrasts of this city of a thousand faces.
A Buzzing Metropolis, Balancing Heritage and Modernity
Between the memory of Tsarist Russia and the famous sites of the USSR, you won't know where to start. In the heart of the city, the impressive Red Square will take you on a journey back through the ages. Make the most of this space! It is entirely pedestrianised. The mediaeval fortifications of the Kremlin stand facing the dazzling Saint Basil's Cathedral, which bears witness to the defeat of the Tatars. Between the two, the country's Soviet past has left its mark, with Lenin's tomb.
The great building reconstruction policy has allowed major sites destroyed by Stalin's regime to rise from the ashes, in particular the magnificent Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. A little practical tip: remember that the orthodox religion requires women to cover their shoulders and heads.
If you love the arts, you won't be disappointed. Russian paintings, avant-garde pieces… Moscow's museums boast wide-ranging and impressive collections, which you can see for a very reasonable price. There is also a great performing arts scene, including in particular the famous Bolshoi Theatre.
You should also pay a visit to GUM, a massive luxury department store frequented by the Moscow elite. If you want a more relaxed atmosphere, the banks of the Moskva are beautiful for walking. You can also wander along the paths of Gorky Park, where young and old alike meet to play pétanque. If you are holidaying in winter, why not slip on your ice skates? In colder weather, the lake becomes an immense outdoor ice rink.
You should also be sure to make the most of Moscow's night-life. Quiet little bars, concert halls, discos offering an electric atmosphere: there's something for everyone.
Top 10 Must-Sees
Saint Basil's Cathedral: with its stunning shapes and colours, the cathedral is the symbol of Moscow. If you dare to tackle its stairs, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view over the Red Square.
The Kremlin: the 19 towers of these imposing Medieval fortifications now contain many museums, focusing in particular on Russia under the Old Regime or the treasures of Tsars. Only a few buildings are open to the public, but there's no need to venture off the beaten path to enjoy the exceptional architecture of this place!
The Moscow Metro: more than just a transport system, it is also a monument in itself. Descend into the bowels of the city to discover some of the most beautiful stations in the world.
The Tretyakov Gallery: this former private museum, donated to the city in 1892, is entirely dedicated to Russian art and painting.
The Bolshoi: this legendary theatre hosts impressive plays, operas and ballets. Remember to reserve your seats well in advance!
Sparrow Hills: located on the right bank of the Moskva, this hill is home to the buildings of Moscow University, in particular its skyscraper. It offers an unbelievable view of the city.
Arbat and its alleys: inside the Garden Ring, this picturesque neighbourhood is the perfect place to discover Moscow's architectural and cultural diversity.
The banyas: these traditional bathing establishments are one of the best-known symbols of the country. Moscow has many prestigious banyas carrying on this tradition.
Kolomenskoye Park: enjoy a wonderful walk in this old domain of the Tsars, and discover its points of interest, including the famous wooden replica of the palace of Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich.
Tsaritsyno: the largest neo-Gothic palace in Europe, now a much-loved walking spot for Muscovites, houses an architecture and painting museum, an auditorium, several exhibition halls and a concert hall.
A Rich and Flavoursome Gastronomy
You can't go to Russia without tasting its famous zakuski. You don't need to be hungry to enjoy these little snacks: salted gherkins, all kinds of caviar, smoked fish and marinated mushrooms. Did you know that that Russia's traditional dish is soup? Examples include the famous borscht, a soup containing beetroot, meat and spices, or okroshka, a cold soup made using kvass (a fermented drink) and mainly eaten in summer. You should also sample pielmeni and vareniki, a kind of ravioli with minced meat and onions, or feast on sturgeon or beef stroganoff. Don't miss the chance to discover the cuisine of the neighbouring regions, such as Georgian lobio (red beans in a nut and coriander sauce) or kharcho, a Caucasian speciality, made with lamb, rice, prunes and tarragon.
December to February: Vyugovey Ice Sculpture Festival : Every winter, professional sculptors exhibit magnificent, ephemeral works all around the capital, with a different theme each year.
February to March: Golden Mask Festival : Every year, the most renowned theatres in the capital present theatrical works from all over the country, which are broadcast on national television.
June: Moscow International Film Festival : Since 1959, this festival has given pride of place to films from Eastern Europe and the world.
July-August: Summer Ballet Festival : Created for tourists, this ode to dance and to Russia's cultural heritage has also won over the Muscovites. The Academic Youth Theatre now hosts timeless and modern productions every year.
19 September: Moscow Festival : Conferences, free concerts, street events and fireworks celebrate the history of the capital for a crowd of Muscovites and visitors.
November: Art November Festival Concerts, art exhibitions, plays and film screenings: various emblematic sites of Moscow's arts scene offer a varied programme to promote Russian culture and strengthen cultural connections between countries.
In winter and spring: LADYA : Twice a year, the Expocentre holds a major exhibition devoted to Russian arts and crafts. It welcomes artists from around the world, with a wide range of creative work, from wood sculptures to fabric art.
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