Red Square and the Kremlin
Visiting Moscow is best in late spring or autumn when the weather is warm and sunny, and there is simply no better place to begin your exploring than its historic heart: the
By and large a thriving commercial area, Kitai-Gorod incorporates the broad area east of Red Square. Kitai is encircled by reconstructed medieval walls and separated from the Kremlin by the Red Square. The area is a unique demonstration of architectural history. It is a mix of traditional, art'nouveau and monumental Soviet-era architecture. Nestled between sights are the remnants of richly decorated churches and mansions. Notable examples include the well-preserved 17th-century
Bulvarskoe Kol'tso & Sadovoye Kol'tso
Moscow sits on the banks of the Moskva River and its road system is centered around its heart, the Kremlin. The road system is an intricate circular system of roads, which forms rings around the Kremlin. The first, innermost ring is known as the Bulvarskoe Kol'tso, (Boulevard Ring). The Bulvarskoe Kol'tso was built on the former site of a 16th-century city wall. Despite its name, the Boulevard is not a full ring, but more of an arc shape. The Boulevard Ring extends from
The Sadovoye Kol'tso (Garden Ring), also known as B Route, is the second circular avenue consisting of about 17 streets and 15 squares. The buildings along Sadovoye Kolt'so are eclectic, from an 1800s mansion to recently constructed shopping malls. While under the rule of Stalin, the ring underwent construction, yet no part was rebuilt in Stalinist style. The western side of this arched area was once one of the city's fashionable districts. Several famous names resided here, and many of their former homes have now become tourist attractions such as the
To the north of the Garden Ring, you'll begin to get a sense of the dizzying size of Moscow; the vast residential districts stretch north as far as the eye can see. There are many sights here that are worth checking out, including the
South Of The City Center
Immediately south of the Moskva River is the
Taganka Square is filled with palaces and churches built by Moscow's former social elite to the east, now surrounded by extensive residential development. It is home to the famous
Moscow is one of the world's major capital cities, with entertainment and nightlife to match the title. The traditional offerings of classical music and drama have been joined in recent years by a vibrant and often extravagant array of nightclubs. The following is a mere introduction to Moscow entertainment.
Classical Music: Opera, Ballet, Orchestral
Russia's great heritage of classical music is reflected in the quality of its orchestras and orchestral venues. The Bol'shoi Theatre is a world-renowned institution and the jewel of Moscow's cultural nightlife. The performances, as well as the auditorium, are immaculate. In terms of grandeur, the Bol'shoi surpasses anything else in Russia. It is a popular venue, especially among visiting tourists, and tickets may be difficult to find at short notice.
Other major venues include the Kremlin Palace of Congresses (State Kremlin Palace), a modern building within the walls of the Kremlin that hosts performances of the great Russian ballets. Both the Stanislavskii and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater and the Helikon Theater in Arabt run a variety of Russian and foreign classics, with the latter taking a more innovative approach.
For the city's best orchestral music, visit the Tchaikovskii Concert Hall and the Tchaikovskii Conservatory.
Modern Moscow may be a commercial epicenter, but theater and the arts still find a special role in the city life. The breadth and range of drama theaters rival those of most major capitals.
The Moscow Art Theater has always been among the city's most prominent theaters, of which there are now two branches. The original, Chekhov Moscow Art Theater (MKhAT - Moskovskii Khudozhestvennyi Teatr imeni A. Chekhova), is reputed to be the best.
The Theater on Taganka was a politically controversial theater during Soviet times. It is famous for its veiled satires.
For classic Russian drama, head to the Maly Theatre, founded in 1824. It continues to produce material predominantly from the 19th Century. The same is true for the Sovremennik Theater. Contemporary works are favored by a few theaters, most notably the Maiakovskii Theater and the Lenkom Theater. The Lenkom is the birthplace of the Russian rock-opera.
The Iugo-Zapad Theater performs a mixture of works, from foreign classics to Soviet staples.
You'll find alternative theater productions offered up at the Obraztsov Puppet Theater (Teatr Kukol imeni Obraztsova) and the Moscow Clown Theater (Moskovskii Teatr Klounady).
The smell of popcorn and Hollywood blockbusters can be found at the Amerikanskii Dom Kino (American House of Cinema), Moscow's most glitzy film house. The Pod Kupolom (Under the Dome) and the Kodak Kinomir (Cinema World) both feature American films.
For Russian movies, visit the Illuzion or the Kinosentr (Cinema Center).
Moscow is home to some of the world's most fiercely fashionable clubs. The Garage and Titanik are popular nightclubs, especially with the young and rich. Golodnaia Utka (Hungry Duck’s) is a wild and intense spot for dancing, while laid-back Bohemian types might prefer to stop in at Proekt OGI.
16 tonnes and Svalka are good places to hear live music, as well as Le Club and Arbat Blues Club, which both specialize in live jazz and blues.
Many of Moscow's quintessential sights are located in the heart of the city around the Red Square and the Kremlin. While there are things to do and places to see throughout the Russian capital, most travelers will begin their exploring here.
An ancient seat of Russian power, an awe-inspiring symbol, and an internationally-renowned landmark, the Kremlin is the spiritual heart of the Russian government: a giant, walled complex combining sacred monuments of both church and state. Russian rulers have sat here since medieval times, excluding the temporary interruption when St Petersburg was made capital. There is a story that when one film crew was at work shooting a period film in the Kremlin grounds, Yeltsin himself came out of his office to instruct them to keep the noise down. The grounds themselves are thick with history, home to a scattering of churches and cathedrals that would suffice elsewhere for a whole city.
Entry can be gained via the Kutafia Tower (Kutaf'ia Bashnia), which lies at the end of a ramp jutting from the Kremlin's west wall. Security is understandably high at this point. Walk up the ramp and you'll get to the Trinity Gate (Troitskaia Bashnia), built in 1495 and placed right on top of a 16th-century prison. ?? the right, beyond the Trinity Tower is the Poteshnyi Palace (Poteshnyi Dvorets) in which Stalin had private apartments and where his wife shot herself. Next, on the right is the Kremlin Palace of Congresses (State Kremlin Palace), a former venue for Communist Party parties and now a huge 6000-seat concert hall which is, and always was, completely out of tune with its surroundings.
On the left side lies territory strictly out of bounds to tourists. From west to east the buildings are the Arsenal, the Senate and the building of the Supreme Soviet (Verkhovnyi Sovet). The first of these is fronted by an array of Napoleonic cannons while the second is very notable for being the official residence of the Russian president himself.
On the right you'll see the Patriarch's Palace (Patriarshii Dvorets), a 17th-century building constructed for the head of the Orthodox church.
You can walk through the arches of the Palace, at which point you will find yourself entering the Kremlin's core. From here you can either swing to the left for a quick peek of the Tsar Cannon (Tsar-pushka), an impressive but non-functioning 40-ton piece of heavy armory, or you could proceed onto the main square itself and investigate what's going on there. Surrounding the square, there are various churches and cathedrals.
The Rest Of Red Square
The Cathedral of the Assumption (Uspenskii Sobor) lies just beyond the Patriarch's Palace at the north end of the square and is justifiably considered one of its key monuments. A golden-topped, five-domed structure built in the 15th Century, it was returned to Orthodox Church ownership in 1989.
Next to this (on the right) lurks the snappily-named Church of the Deposition of the Robe, a late 15th-century effort built in wholly Russian style. Inside, you'll find, among other things, a permanent display of wood-carvings. To the south lies the Hall of Facets, where Tsars would entertain guests in the Throne Room. This is closed to the public.
On the other side of the square is the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower (Kolokolnia Ivana Velikogo). It stands higher than any other of the Kremlin's buildings, while behind it, noticeably at ground-level, sits the rather forlorn Tsar Bell (Tsar-kolokol), which never made it to the bell-tower after it lost a chunk during the forging process.
The south side of the square is bordered by two cathedrals, the first of these being the Archangel Cathedral, initially erected in the 14th Century as a place of burial for the tsars but then extensively re-shaped at the beginning of the 16th Century. The second is the Annunciation Cathedral (Blagoveshchenskii Sobor), which used to be a private church for the Tsars.
From here you can head west, past the Great Kremlin Palace (Bol'shoi Kremlevskii Dvorets), which is normally closed to everyone except visiting statesmen. Keep going toward the Armory, an impressively rich ensemble of state treasures dating well back into the dim and distant history of the Muscovite regimes. From here you can exit via the nearby Borovitskii Gate.
Go east from the Red Square and you'll find yourself in the business neighborhood of Kitai-Gorod, an area almost entirely encircled by reconstructed medieval walls and filled with interesting traditional architecture including wonderful mansions and churches. After taking a look at the well-preserved 17th-century Tserkov Troitsy v Nikitinkakh (Church of the Trinity in Nikitinov), you could do some shopping or grab a bite to eat at Chambers in Zariadie (Muzei Palaty v Zariade), the former home of Romanov boyars, which has been converted into a commercial center. Be sure to visit Lubyanka Square, which is where you'll also find the KGB headquarters. It's also worth checking out the Slavyanskaya Square and Theatre Square, on which sits the Bolshoi Theatre. Even if it is on the late side, you can always grab some good food 24 hours a day at the Kitaiskii Letchik Dzhao Da (Chinese Pilot Dzhao Da).
Capital Tours (+7 495 232 2442/ http://www.capitaltours.ru/)
Ost-West (+7 812 327 34 16/ http://www.ostwest.com)
Isango (+1 866 663 7017/ http://www.isango.com/)
Three Whales (+7 495 4208441/ http://www.threewhales.ru/t3.htm)
Moscow Tour Guide (+7 495 565 61 63/ http://www.moscowguidedtours.com)
Monkey Business Shrine (http://www.monkeyshrine.com/places/moscow/guided-tours.php)
Moscow with Elena (http://www.yourmoscowguide.com)
Moscow's contemporary wining and dining scene is utterly unlike anything that existed here during the age of the Iron Curtain. The transformation of the city from Communist citadel to Capitalist frontier is reflected in the entirely new range of restaurants that have sprung up since the beginning of the 1990s - Irish bars, snazzy American diners, expensive Japanese restaurants, Australian pubs...the list goes on. From the thriving fast-food scene to the numerous prestigious restaurants serving the new elites, eating and drinking in Moscow will not be boring. Moscow also harbors a surprisingly rich stock of ethnic cuisine from around the former Soviet Union, the most widespread being that of Georgia (a former Soviet republic to the south) but also including Central Asian and other Caucasian varieties. If you've got enough money, Moscow's selection of top class restaurants is unbeatable.
Red Square and the Kremlin
Other opportunities for high-quality Russian cuisine and exquisite presentation are offered at top-notch restaurants such as Serebrianyi Vek, (the name means "Silver Century"), which was once a Soviet bathhouse. For fresh Japanese cuisine, you won’t find much better than Laluna, which offers a menu of sushi rolls and a wide variety of sakes to sample. If you're looking to save some cash, there's always chain restaurants such as Sbarro. The doorway of Godunov is a large vaulted arch. Expect to find the best in obscure, ancient Russian dishes on the menu here. Red Square 1 is a fine 19th-century style restaurant as centrally located as its name suggests.
Bunker is a popular local spot for after-work drinks and dinners. There is also a live music schedule and a dance floor for those feeling more adventurous. U Babushki is a modern restaurant that serves fresh seafood dishes and French cuisine with an extensive wine list. Gratzi is a family-friendly restaurant that serves Italian food and offers live jazz music. Papa John's is a popular option for those with children. If you'd like something more rustic try Khlestakov Traktir, which offers plenty of hearty Russian fare on its menu, while the slightly more expensive Argo specializes in Georgian cuisine. The wait staff at Elki-Palki are decked out in old-fashioned Russian costumes. Don't miss your chance to try their homemade pies. The Ukrainian restaurant Shinok has a collection of live game animals grazing out front and entertainment provided by a clown on the weekends.
This district displays Moscow's most impressive architecture, and the dining options here are somewhat limited, but still delicious. Kruiz (Cruise) is a pub and steakhouse that has a pirate theme, with servers dressed accordingly. People also come here at night to grab a beer and shoot some pool. Named for a Chinese pilot, Kitaiskii Letchik Dzhao Da (Chinese Pilot Dzhao Da) is conveniently open 24 hours and is reasonably priced. Vogue Cafe is an appropriately named cafe where people go to be seen. There is also live music and an eclectic menu with everything from Russian to Italian dishes.
Tsarskaia Okhota was a hunting-themed favorite of Boris Yeltsin, with a rustic interior and a live music lineup on Sunday. The German eatery Bierstube is as well known for its beer selection as it is for its menu of classics like Sausages with Sauerkraut. Always expect great service when you stop by. The American Bar & Grill is popular with Americans living abroad because of its Western menu and English-speaking staff. There is a patio open in the summer for those looking to dine outdoors.
South Of The City Center
Darbar has an extensive menu of Indian food and an à la carte menu. Khlestakov Traktir was built to model the setting of the Gogol's play "The Government Inspector," with a VIP lounge that accommodates large groups. For something different, try Bul'dog (The Bulldog), a Latin restaurant with Peruvian-style decor. If you're looking for impressive traditional Russian creations, Danilovskii is a fantastic option.
The Schwein, which is German for "pig," is a bar and restaurant that features live music and delectable German and Russian cuisine. Inside, you will find plenty of fun, pig-related decorations. For authentic Ukrainian cuisine, try Vechera na Khutore (Evenings on a Farm). The name comes from a Gogol folk story, and the building is modeled after a windmill.
Kafe Ogonek is a popular local cafe where you can find a tasty, inexpensive Russian meal. Be sure to try the signature cocktail made of garlic, vodka, pepper and cloves. Le Gastronome offers unbeatable international cuisine (principally seafood, including shark) for a sizable wad of rubles. It is considered to be one of the best restaurants in Moscow. If you're looking to spend a bit less, Patio Pizza has 30 different kinds of pizza and a sizable wine list. Oblomov is a classically-decorated restaurant with pool tables and various board games available. Mama Zoia's is a no-nonsense restaurant where you can get the best in Georgian food and enjoy live, local music. For Mexican fare, Pancho Villa is a must; it's known for its generous portions of traditional dishes.