Moscow is always one of my favourite cities to visit. It’s a quick three-and-a-half-hour flight away from London, with British Airways operating a full long haul cabin set up despite the short distance. It’s a wonderful alternative to visiting a nearby European capital and Russia has so much history and culture that it will leave you wanting to head back again and again. The city is sprawling and the sheer scale of it reminds me somewhat of Beijing, where a really short distance on the map can mean several kilometres of walking. The culture is something to be in awe of – whether it be the enthralling history, the grand architecture, the arts like ballet or opera or the richness of the language. I adore it all. Lastly, it holds a special place in my heart because of the friends that we have there, mostly through my Masters degree. Each time we go we are always overwhelmed by their hospitality and generosity, which makes each trip to Moscow more and more special. Here’s a post that introduces you to a Moscow holiday, talking about where to sleep, what to see and what to eat.
So you’ve decided that a Moscow holiday is for you. It is just a quick three and a half hour flight away from London, and (so I’m told) is around three and a half hours away from most European cities. You have the option of flying into two airports – either Domodedovo (Moscow’s largest and busiest airport) or Sheremetyevo (Aeroflot’s hub). I’ve flown into both, and can honestly say that the distance between each airport and central Moscow is not too different – around 45 minutes to one hour or so. One thing to remember is that Moscow has crazy crazy traffic and that can heavily impact your journey. Do bear this in mind if you are working on a tight schedule.
The best way of getting around is by using apps such as Yandex or Uber, and this includes airport transfers. Unless you’re really desperate, try not to grab a cab from the street, especially if you do not speak Russian. You’re more than likely going to be ripped off on the fare – and forget the driver using a proper meter. Your hotel will also likely provide airport transfers, however again be prepared to pay more than if you were to use the apps.
Moscow architecture is absolutely stunning and the hotels are no exception. There is something really exquisite and extravagant about their style – think chandeliers, gold finishes and rich, deep colours of reds, greens and blues. When it comes to location, try and stay around the Red Square area. We were lucky enough to stay at the beautiful Ritz Carlton hotel on Tverskaya Street, and it was perfect in terms of the proximity to the shops and sites. Red Square is just across the road, and you can find pretty much anything you need on Tverskaya Street. There are a whole host of luxury hotels in the area including the Four Seasons and the St Regis. You may have read my article on how I get to travel more, and if you have, you’ll know that I am a massive fan of collecting airmiles and points – hotels are no exception. The Ritz Carlton, SPG and Marriott all recently merged into one reward program, so I always try hardest to book hotels that fall under that scheme. The more points you get, the more you can convert them into hotel upgrades or free nights.
It is practically impossible to write about all the different things that there are to see around Moscow in one blog post – in fact you could probably write books on it and need a few months there to see it all. That being said, the great thing about finding a hotel so close to Red Square is that you can walk to all of the major attractions. Around Red Square, you’ll find some of the more well-known things to see, including St Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the Kremlin. Whilst you can’t actually visit the Kremlin, the rest of the sites on Red Square should keep you occupied for the day. It is also home to GUM – a beautiful department store not too dissimilar to Harrods. The fountain at the heart of the store is just so beautiful! The pictures below should pretty much speak for themselves, but do remember that it is not worthwhile to buy European designer goods from Moscow.. instead check out the ice cream parlours dotted throughout the store – they are made using a traditional soviet recipe and are absolutely delicious.
Also hard to miss whilst you are in town are the incredible Seven Sisters – seven magnificent skyscapers built in the Stalinist style from 1947 to 1953. The seven are: Hotel Ukraina, Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Apartments, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hotel, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs main building, the main building of the Moscow State University, and the Red Gates Administrative Building. Interestingly, the first stone of each building was laid at 1pm on September 7th 1947.
Whilst you’re in town, don’t forget to check out the Moscow metro. It’s an underground network like I’ve never seen before. Each station is like a little museum to itself, with so much history to each one. We managed to find the time to check out two, but I definitely would have gone around more if I had the chance as each one is so beautiful and so different to the last!
When you are in Moscow, prepare to eat and drink. As a country, Russia stretches from Europe, all the way to Eastern Asia, and as you would expect, the food is a mix of European, Caucasian and Asian influences. Think lots of rural foods like wild strawberries and mushrooms, honey and fish. Of course, all with a side of caviar. Expect to eat lots of different breads, drink lots of beers, bread liqueurs and vodka. Throughout my time in Moscow, there was not a day where I did not feel full, and each day it was something different, whether it be fine dining at White Rabbit or more traditional home cooking somewhere like Shinok, rest assured that you will be looked after on the food front.
Have you been to Moscow? What are your favourite things to do and see whilst in town? Leave your comments below!