A visit to Russia , the largest country in the world, is not complete without a visit to its capital, Moscow . Brash, cosmopolitan and vast in scale, the city has changed a lot since it was the most precious jewel in the Soviet crown. But despite having the appearance of a western metropolis, here is also a city that is distinctly Russian in both appearance and outlook, a city that, like the famous Matroshka dolls, hides its secrets within secrets, offering virtually everything to the traveler, but keeping its most fascinating discoveries hidden from view.
The political heart of the city is the vast, imposing Kremlin, the seat of Russian power. Here are the presidential offices from where he controls the destiny of a nation behind the vast red walls and fortified turrets. In front of the Kremlin lies the legendary Red Square . To visit Red Square , surely the most famous patch of ground in the world, for the first time, is to experience a wave of nostalgia and wonder, which the visitor never forgets. This was the beating heart of the communist empire, the epicenter of the cold war, and all but forbidden territory for westerners for seventy years, and is now a must-see destination for all world travelers.
Red Square is also the location of Lenin’s Tomb, where the body of the iconic Bolshevik leader has been perfectly preserved for eighty years, and now open to visitors,. At the end of the square sits yet another Russian landmark, St Basil’s Cathedral, its onion domes sparkling in the summer sun, or glittering with frost in the winter, creating a magical effect, reminding you that Russia is not just the ex-land of the communists, but the land of the fairy tale as well. But for those interested in Moscow ’s communist past, relics aren’t difficult to find. The imposing building near Red Square that makes tourists halt nearby with a mixture of fascination and dread was once a KGB headquarters and the location of the notorious Lubyanka prison.
History and culture are things that Russia has in more abundance than almost any other country in the world, and Moscow has more of them than any other city in Russia . The city is overflowing with galleries and museums. The Tretyakov Gallery houses the largest collection of Russian art in the world, with masterpieces dating from the beginnings of the Russian state through the pre-revolutionary avant garde and socialist realist periods. The equally impressive Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts houses the city’s collection of art from around the world. With works from Ancient Egypt through to 20 th Century masterpieces by the likes of Picasso, the collection is so vast that only a fraction can be put on display to the visitor. You’ll find other, more specialized museums throughout Moscow , many more than could possibly be visited during one trip to the city!
From being the heart of the Soviet Empire, Moscow has embraced the capitalist revolution with enthusiasm. Today, it’s a buzzing metropolis, with vast department stores, and chic boutiques, with literally everything on sale that you could expect in western high street, and much more besides. Visit the GUM department store, built to house 1000 shops in the eighteenth century and still one of the largest department stores in the world with shops from every famous name you can think of. From Red Square walk down Tverskaya Ulitsa, Moscow ’s main shopping thoroughfare lined with churches, 1930s apartment blocks and hip and trendy department stores.
Getting around Moscow couldn’t be easier – or more interesting, than on the city’s fabulous metro system, a work of art in itself, and resembling a palace more than a city transport system, with its vast marble halls, colorful frescoes, and vast, glittering chandeliers.
For the visitor to Moscow , the only problem when deciding what to do is the dazzling array of choice on offer. There is something in Moscow to suit all tastes. For lovers of high culture, the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre is just one of the numerous theatres and opera houses offering a dazzling array of top-flight entertainment. For those who like more spontaneous forms of entertainment, Moscow is the place to go for bars, clubs and discos, from the expensive and glamorous, where you can rub shoulders with the Russian glitterati, to the numerous live music venues, where you can hear top acts from around the world, stars of the Russian scene, catch up with the the trendiest DJs, and the latest crazes.
So this is Moscow , where the ghosts of the past mix with the wild and hectic energy of the present, where the sacred shares living space with the brashly commercial. Whatever wonders you encounter in this vibrant city of contrasts, you are sure to have an experience that is totally unique –and totally Russian.