Moscow, on the Moskva River in western Russia, is the nation’s cosmopolitan capital. In its historic core is the Kremlin, a complex that’s home to the president and tsarist treasures in the Armoury. Outside its walls is Red Square, Russia’s symbolic center. It’s home to Lenin’s Mausoleum, the State Historical Museum’s comprehensive collection and St. Basil’s Cathedral, known for its colorful, onion-shaped domes.

Moscow (/ˈmɒskoʊ/ MOS-koh, US chiefly /ˈmɒskaʊ/ MOS-kow;Russian: Москва, tr. Moskva, IPA: [mɐskˈva) is the capital and largest city of Russia. The city stands on the Moskva River in Central Russia, with a population estimated at 13.0 million residents within the city limits,over 18.8 million residents in the urban area, and over 21.5 million residents in the metropolitan area. The city covers an area of 2,511 square kilometers (970 sq mi), while the urban area covers 5,891 square kilometers (2,275 sq mi), and the metropolitan area covers over 26,000 square kilometers (10,000 sq mi). Moscow is among the world’s largest cities, being the most populous city entirely in Europe, the largest urban and metropolitan area in Europe,and the largest city by land area on the European continent.

First documented in 1147, Moscow grew to become a prosperous and powerful city that served as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. When the Tsardom of Russia was proclaimed, Moscow remained the political and economic center for most of its history. Under the reign of Peter the Great, the Russian capital was moved to the newly founded city of Saint Petersburg in 1712, diminishing Moscow’s influence. Following the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Russian SFSR, the capital was moved back to Moscow in 1918, where it later became the political center of the Soviet Union.In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Moscow remained the capital city of the newly established Russian Federation.

1.Marvel at the Size of the Kremlin

Kremlin

The Moscow Kremlin (Russian: Московский Кремль, romanized: Moskovskiy Kreml’, IPA: [mɐˈskofskʲɪj ˈkrʲemlʲ]), also simply known as the Kremlin, is a fortified complex in the center of Moscow. It is the best known of the kremlins (Russian citadels), and includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. In addition, within the complex is the Grand Kremlin Palace that was formerly the residence of the Russian emperor in Moscow. The complex now serves as the official residence of the Russian president and as a museum with almost three million visitors in 2017. The Kremlin overlooks the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and Alexander Garden to the west.

The name kremlin means “fortress inside a city”,and is often also used metonymically to refer to the Russian government. It previously referred to the government of the Soviet Union (1922–1991) and its leaders. The term “Kremlinology” refers to the study of Soviet and Russian politics.

The Kremlin is open to the public and offers supervised tours.

Moscow’s most recognizable structure is without a doubt the Kremlin, a 15th-century fortified complex that covers an area of 275,000 square meters surrounded by walls built in the 1400s.

The Grand Kremlin Palace -which has over 700 rooms- was once home to the Tsar family and is now the official residence of the president of the Russian Federation, although most heads of state choose to reside elsewhere.

The massive complex also includes many other buildings, some of which are open to the public and can be visited regularly. Aside from three cathedrals (including one where the Tsars were once crowned) and a number of towers, the Kremlin is also home to the Armory building, a museum holding everything from the royal crown and imperial carriages to the ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible and Fabergé eggs.

2.Catch a Performance at the Bolshoi Theatre

Bolshoi Theatre

The Bolshoi Theatre (Russian: Большо́й теа́тр, tr. Bol’shoy teatr, IPA: [bɐlʲˈʂoj tʲɪˈat(ə)r], lit. ‘Big Theater’) is a historic theatre in Moscow, Russia, originally designed by architect Joseph Bové, which holds ballet and opera performances. Before the October Revolution it was a part of the Imperial Theatres of the Russian Empire along with Maly Theatre (Small Theatre) in Moscow and a few theatres in Saint Petersburg (Hermitage Theatre, Bolshoi (Kamenny) Theatre, later Mariinsky Theatre and others).

The Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera are among the oldest and best known ballet and opera companies in the world. It is by far the world’s biggest ballet company, with more than 200 dancers. The theatre is the parent company of The Bolshoi Ballet Academy, a leading school of ballet. It has a branch at the Bolshoi Theater School in Joinville, Brazil.

The main building of the theatre, rebuilt and renovated several times during its history, is a landmark of Moscow and Russia (its iconic neoclassical façade is depicted on the Russian 100-ruble banknote). On 28 October 2011, the Bolshoi re-opened after an extensive six-year renovation. The official cost of the renovation is 21 billion rubles ($688 million). However, other Russian authorities and other people connected to it claimed much more public money was spent. The renovation included restoring acoustics to the original quality (which had been lost during the Soviet Era), as well as restoring the original Imperial decor of the Bolshoi.

Presently Bolshoi Theatre is under US and EU sanctions and banned from performing in these countries.
The Bolshoi Theater is home to the largest and one of the oldest ballet and opera companies in the world. While the theater has undergone several major renovations over the past century-including a recent one in 2011 to restore some of the imperial architectural details-it still retains all of its Neoclassical grandeur.

The Bolshoi Theater you see today opened in 1824, after several older versions burned down. Inside, red velvet, a three-tiered crystal chandelier, and gilt moldings give the place a Byzantine-Renassaince grandiose feel like no other.

3.Shop at the Luxurious GUM

GUM

Moscow’s oldest and most upscale shopping center is an architectural marvel. GUM (short for Glávnyj Universálnyj Magazín or “Main Universal Store”) was built in the late 1800s in neo-Russian style to showcase a beautiful mix of a steel skeleton and 20,000 panels of glass forming an arched roof.

This was a unique construction at the time, since the glass had to be strong enough to support the snow-heavy Russian winters. The building is just as impressive outside, with all three levels covered in marble and granite.

While GUM is no longer the largest shopping center in Moscow, it’s still by far the most beautiful. Home to brands like Gucci and Manolo Blahnik, this might not be the ideal destination for most budget-conscious visitors, but the beauty of the building itself is worth a visit.

On the third floor, there are also great dining options, including a Soviet-style canteen that serves traditional Russian food, and a stand selling ice cream made by hand using an original 1954 recipe originally approved by the Soviet government.

4.Make Your Way Into Lenin’s Mausoleum

Lenin's Mausoleum

Lenin’s Mausoleum (from 1953 to 1961 Lenin’s and Stalin’s Mausoleum) (Russian: Мавзолей Ленина, tr. Mavzoley Lenina, IPA: [məvzɐˈlʲej ˈlʲenʲɪnə]), also known as Lenin’s Tomb, is a mausoleum located at Red Square in Moscow, Russia. It serves as the resting place of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, whose preserved body has been on public display since shortly after his death in 1924, with rare exceptions in wartime. The outdoor tribune over the mausoleum’s entrance was used by Soviet leaders to observe military parades. The structure, designed by Alexey Shchusev, incorporates some elements from ancient mausoleums such as the Step Pyramid, the Tomb of Cyrus the Great and, to some degree, the Temple of the Inscriptions.

Lenin’s Mausoleum, the final resting place of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, occupies a central spot in Red Square. His body has been in the mausoleum since his death in 1924-and although the original plan was for him to be buried after a short period of public display for mourning, the plan quickly changed.

After over 100,000 visited the tomb over a period of six weeks, it was decided that a new sarcophagus and a more permanent display space could actually preserve Lenin’s body for much longer than expected-and Lenin’s Mausoleum was built.

5.Spend an Hour (or Three) at Red Square

St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square

Red Square (Russian: Красная площадь, romanized: Krasnaya ploshchad’, IPA: [ˈkrasnəjə ˈploɕːɪtʲ]) is one of the oldest and largest squares in Moscow, the capital of Russia. It is located in Moscow’s historic centre, in the eastern walls of the Kremlin. It is the city landmark of Moscow, with famous buildings such as Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the GUM. In addition, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990.

The Red Square has an almost rectangular shape and is 70 meters wide and 330 meters long. It extends lengthways from northwest to southeast along part of the wall of the Kremlin that forms its boundary on the southwest side. In the northeast, the square is bounded by the GUM department store building and the old district of Kitay-gorod, in the northwest by the State Historical Museum and the Resurrection Gate and in the southeast by Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Tverskaya Street begins to the northwest of the square behind the building of the State Historical Museum, and to the southeast is the so-called Basilius slope, which leads to the Moskva River, which goes down and over a bridge to the Zamoskvorechye District. Two streets branch off to the northeast from Red Square: Nikolskaya Street, which is named after the Nikolaus Tower of the Kremlin, which is directly opposite, and the Ilyinka (Ильинка), both of which have existed since the 14th century and were once important arteries of old Moscow. Today the square itself, with the exception of the access road leading through it to the Savior Gate of the Kremlin, is a pedestrian zone.

All of Moscow’s main streets start at Red Square, so it’s easy to see why this is considered the heart of the city. A massive space of 330 meters by 70 meters, the square is flanked by the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, two cathedrals, and the State Historical Museum.

6.Ride the Stunning Moscow Metro

Komsomolskaya Station on the Moscow metro

The Moscow Metro is a metro system serving the Russian capital of Moscow as well as the neighbouring cities of Krasnogorsk, Reutov, Lyubertsy and Kotelniki in Moscow Oblast. Opened in 1935 with one 11-kilometre (6.8 mi) line and 13 stations, it was the first underground railway system in the Soviet Union.

As of 2023, the Moscow Metro, excluding the Moscow Central Circle, the Moscow Central Diameters and the Moscow Monorail, had 263 stations (300 with Moscow Central Circle and the Monorail) and its route length was 449.1 km (279.1 mi) (without Moscow Central Circle and the Monorail), making it the 10th-longest in the world and the longest outside China. It is the third metro system in the world (after Madrid and Beijing), which has two ring lines. The system is mostly underground, with the deepest section 84 metres (276 ft) underground at the Park Pobedy station, one of the world’s deepest underground stations. It is the busiest metro system in Europe, the busiest in the world outside Asia, and is considered a tourist attraction in itself.

The Moscow Metro is a world leader in the frequency of train traffic—intervals during peak hours do not exceed 90 seconds. The Moscow Metro is also the first and only one in the world to switch to this schedule. In February 2023, Moscow was the first in the world to reduce the intervals of metro trains to 80 seconds.

Riding the Moscow metro is an experience all in itself, but even just heading underground to walk through the stations is something no visitor should miss. With 223 stations and 12 metro lines crosscutting through Moscow, however, this can be tricky, so visiting at least a few of the most impressive ones is a good start.

Arbatskaya station was designed by a skyscraper architect, so it’s no surprise that it features multicolored granite slabs and impressive bronze chandeliers.

7.Spend a rainy day at the Tretyakov Gallery

Tretyakov Gallery

The State Tretyakov Gallery is an art gallery in Moscow, Russia, which is considered the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.

The State Tretyakov Gallery (Russian: Государственная Третьяковская Галерея, romanized: Gosudarstvennaya Tretyakovskaya Galereya; abbreviated ГТГ, GTG) is an art gallery in Moscow, Russia, which is considered the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.

The gallery’s history starts in 1856 when the Muscovite merchant Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov acquired works by Russian artists of his day with the aim of creating a collection, which might later grow into a museum of national art. In 1892, Tretyakov presented his already famous collection of approximately 2,000 works (1,362 paintings, 526 drawings, and 9 sculptures) to the Russian nation. The museum attracted 894,374 visitors in 2020 (down 68 percent from 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic). It was 13th on the list of most-visited art museums in the world in 2020.

The largest collection of Russian art in the world sits here, with over 180,000 paintings, sculptures, and religious art dating back to over a millennia ago. The gallery, built using beautiful red and white colors from classical Russian architecture, is located near the Kremlin and it was built in the early 20th century.

Significant art pieces include the Vladimir Mother of God; a Byzantine icon of the Virgin and child dating back to the 1100s; Andrei Rublev’s The Trinity icon from the 15th century; and several works by Ilya Repin, the most famous realist painter in Russia.

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