The heart of Mother Russia: the Kremlin
The most symbolic building in Russia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kremlin is the country’s foremost place of artistic and historical importance. Located in the heart of the capital on the banks of the Moskva river, the famous fortress dates back to the 12th century and is surrounded by walls stretching for nearly ten kilometres. To the west of the complex are Alexandrovsky Gardens, while to the east are government buildings including the Senate and the Grand Kremlin Palace, where the president holds his official receptions.
It’s also worth visiting the Kremlin Armoury, which is home to the Armoury Museum, including one of the biggest collections of Fabergé eggs in the world, and the Diamond Fund, which has a stunning collection of jewellery.
A short distance away stands the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, the tallest tower in the complex, built in the 16th century as part of the orthodox churches in Cathedral Square (home to the Cathedral of the Dormition, the Cathedral of the Archangel and Cathedral of the Annunciation). At its feet are Tsar Cannon and the Tsar Bell, the largest of its kind in the world.
Red Square: the symbol of Soviet power
Standing at the foot of the Kremlin walls is the impressive Red Square, one of the most emblematic and recognisable places in Russia. The main political and commercial hub of the city since the 15th century, it is a vast space surrounded by some of the capital’s most iconic monuments, such as St. Basil’s Cathedral, which is instantly recognisable on account of its colourful domes, Lenin’s Mausoleum, home to the remains of the Soviet leader, and the Bolshoi Theatre, the venue for the first-ever performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake on 20th February 1877.
It’s also worth visiting the famous GUM department store. Built in the late 1800s, this architectural masterpiece is now home to many stores and luxury boutiques.
A walk along the Moskva
Overlooking the Moskva, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is the tallest Orthodox church in the world and the city’s main place of worship. Meanwhile, on the other bank is the famous Gorky Park, Moscow’s biggest park with play areas, an amusement park and - in winter - the largest open-air ice rink in Europe.
Just outside the park is the stunning Fallen Monument Park, featuring over 700 sculptures of famous Russian figures from Lenin to Stalin, Pushkin and Gogol.
Art in all its forms
Moscow is home to several world-famous museums, including the Tretyakov Gallery, which contains the largest Russian collection of fine arts, ranging from medieval icons to works by Chagall and Kandinsky.
The Pushkin Museum boasts a vast collection of European art dating back to the 1600s (don't miss works by the great impressionist and post-impressionist painters), while the Moscow Museum of Modern Art - featuring works from the 20th and 21st centuries - has a strong focus on cutting-edge Russian art.
Another option is a trip to the Garage Centre, a contemporary Russian art museum located inside Gorky Park, and the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture, where you can admire musical instruments from every era as well as manuscripts with musical notes.
Not just Russian salad and caviar
Russian cuisine is extremely varied. And while Russian salad and caviar might be all it’s known for around the world, in truth, there are a whole host of specialities worth trying. A great place to go if you want to immerse yourself in Russian gastronomy is one of the typical restaurants in the Arbat or Kitaj-gorod neighbourhoods.
Go for one of the excellent soups made from vegetables, meat or fish, usually finished with smetana (a kind of sour cream), or one of the many traditional peasant dishes made from potatoes, cabbage and turnips.
One of the most popular dishes is pelmeni, a kind of ravioli filled with meat and dressed in sour cream, while beef stroganoff and blinis - tiny savoury pancakes, eaten with salmon and sour cream - are also delicious.
One of the most popular drinks is kvass, which has a similar taste to beer, and - of course - vodka.
The underground museum
Opened in 1935, the Moscow metro is one of the architectural masterpieces of the former Soviet Union - and with eight million passengers per day, it’s also the busiest underground system in Europe.
It’s like an underground labyrinth with elaborate lighting systems which perfectly complement the marble and granite interiors. The stations are fully fledged works of art, packed with sculptures and stunning decorations (44 stations in Moscow are considered world heritage sites).
The coolest night spots
Given the cold climate, many bars in the city offer comprehensive nightlife experiences, dealing with everything, from an early evening drink to early hours partying, with restaurants, bars and clubs in the same location.
Moscow’s nightlife scene is famous for its excess, luxurious feel and rebellious atmosphere, with over 20 casinos and many exclusive clubs, such as Gipsy Club, Krysha Mira and Siberia, where you can spend the wee hours listening to music from the best DJs.
For a more relaxed evening, start with an aperitif at the Metropolitan, the trendiest hotel in the city and a magnet for Moscow’s high society, before continuing at one of the cocktail bars or fashionable pubs in the Kitaj-gorod or Red October areas.
In order to enter Russia, you must have a passport with at least six months left to run on it and an entrance visa, which you must apply for at the Russian Embassy or Consulate in your country.
There can be long waiting times to obtain a visa, so it is recommended that you apply in good time.
When you arrive in the country, you will need to fill out the Migration Card. This is done automatically at the border in the main airports.
Moscow has a continental climate, with long, freezing winters (temperatures can dip to -30°C) and short, relatively warm summers. The best period to visit the city is late spring and summer, when temperatures will be between 20°C and 30°C, though it can be quite wet in July and August.
Winter sees the traditional December Nights Festival, with musical events and art exhibitions at the Pushkin Museum, while the Golden Mask Festival - a Russian theatre festival - takes place in March. The Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art is held in April.
Events taking place during the summer include the Moscow International Film Festival, the Moscow International Beer Festival and Den’ Goroda (City Day), which celebrates the foundation of Moscow with catwalk shows, musical events and fireworks.
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A fascinating, cosmopolitan city, Moscow has reinvented itself in recent years, experiencing an economic and artistic boom in the process. With over 60 theatres, 100 museums and 4000 libraries, the Russian capital is one of the world's leading cultural hubs. Dotted with elaborate underground stations and grand buildings, the city is like one big work of art, with the factories and depots of the Soviet era now turned into modern art galleries and underground clubs. Yet it’s only when night falls that Moscow really shows its true colours, with one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes in Europe.