I’m just back from a trip to Russia where I spent 4 nights and 3 full days in Moscow. I must admit, I thought 4 nights may have been too long in this city but now I am not sure that it is not long enough!
Moscow has so many great sights and after our 3 full days of exploring I felt like I only just scratched the surface. Below is an outline of our 3 day itinerary and how we filled our days and evenings in this wonderful city.
Day One: Behind the Icons, The Metro, Food & the Artsplay District.
After breakfast, we joined the “Icons, Underground & Food” tour https://www.urbanadventures.com/Moscow-tour-total-moscow-tour-icons-underground-food which took us all over Moscow and had us ticking things off the “must visit” list straight away.
We sampled some of the best and most interesting Russian cuisine at hidden locations and Danilovsky market, were wowed by the elaborate Moscow Metro Stations filled with marble walls, high ceilings, stained glass, incredible mosaics, paintings, sculptures and huge chandeliers, and caught our first glimpse of Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral.
Unexpected ‘gems;’ of this tour:
- Trying Chebureks – deep-fried pastries filled with minced meat, potato & cheese or cherries
- Browsing Eliseevsky Supermarket – rich in history and famous for its luxurious, neo-baroque interiors.
- Visiting Russia’s first McDonalds – when it first opened in 1990 it was seen as a sign of thawing Cold War relations and crowds of soviet citizens lined up for hours to taste their first big Mac! More the 30,000 customers visited on the first day of opening!
We didn’t need much for lunch after all the food tastings but we couldn’t help ourselves and grabbed something from one of the many local market vendors before leaving – there are so many delicious things to choose from!
After Lunch, we took the Metro to visit the Artsplay District. Flakon, once a glassware factory producing perfume bottles and Khlebozavod 9, once a bread factory; are now home to dozens of funky shops, cafes, restaurants, galleries, and other creative businesses. We found a delicious Brazilian restaurant for lunch and spent a few hours exploring the area.
TIP: The Metro is a great way to get around Moscow and a multi-day unlimited pass makes it even easier. Unlimited Multi-day passes can be purchased from any station.
In the evening, it was a short walk from our hotel to select one of many dining options.
Day 2: Kremlin, Cathedrals & Armoury, St Basils, GUM, Zaryadye Park, Red Square by night & ‘Hipster’ nightlife
After Breakfast we met our guide for our guided tour of the Kremlin, Cathedrals and Armoury. The Tsar’s Bell and cannon, entering the cathedrals where the tsars were baptised, crowned and buried and visit the Armoury Museum were all highlights.
The tour ended as we exited the Kremlin, right in front of St Basil’s Cathedral. We purchased ourselves entrance tickets and audio guide from the ticket office and headed inside St Basils to explore the many small churches grouped under the fairy tale onion domes. Every day a choir sings hymns in one of the tiny churches with the most incredible acoustics – it’s hard not to get Goosebumps!
After St Basils it was time for lunch so we headed inside the GUM to Stolovaya 57 – a soviet style self-service canteen located on the top floor of the GUM.
Another great spot for lunch is Bosco Café, right in Red Square with incredible views of some of the world’s most iconic sights. A great place to sit and reflect on your morning.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon wandering, browsing and shopping at GUM. This grand building facing the Red Square was built in the 1800s and is known as a “Government department store.” It has a cinema, restaurants, and more than 100 world-famous brands.
After a spot of shopping we explored Zaryadye Park located right behind St Basil’s and a short walk from GUM. It is the first public park built in Moscow for over 50 years and features a floating bridge that hovers over the Moskva River.
It was then back to Red Square to watch the lights come on!
TIP: You MUST see Red Square lit up at night at least once during your stay in the city!
After admiring Red Square by night, we made our way to Red October for Dinner and a few drinks. Red October is a huge red brick compound that was once the factory that produced the famous Alenka chocolate. It is now filled with hipster bars, restaurants, art galleries, artisan shops and street art and is a great place to go in the evening.
Day 3: Bunker 42, Backstreets, Craft Beer, Vodka & Zakuskas.
After breakfast we were met by our guide at the hotel who took us on the Metro to visit Bunker 42. Bunker 42 is a fascinating, once secret military anti-nuclear bunker located 65 meters underground in the centre of Moscow. Tours are only held in English a few times a day so it is important that you pre-book your visit to Bunker 42 before arriving in Russia (we can help with this). The interactive tour included an eerie enactment of launching a missile and surviving a nuclear attack – you could imagine the tense atmosphere that would have prevailed in Moscow during the Cold War.
After a quick lunch we spent the afternoon leisurely wandering the city and exploring some of the lesser visited areas of town. Its sometime nice to get off the main tourist route.
In the evening we joined the “More Than Just Vodka Spirits” Tour https://www.urbanadventures.com/Moscow-tour-more-than-just-vodka-spirits-tour
With our local guide, we wandered the street of Moscow by night, learnt the history of Vodka and how to drink a shot of it and make a toast like the locals do, discovered the iconic KGB building, tried a local craft beer and tasted some traditional local pickles and Zakuskas.
Zakuska /zaˈkuːska/ noun, a substantial Russian hors d’oeuvre item such as caviar sandwiches or vegetables with sour cream dip, all served with vodka.
Until next time Moscow…