The capital of Russia, Moscow is located on the Moskva River. The historic core of this cosmopolitan capital is the Kremlin. The well-known Red Square is Russia’s symbolic center.
The Kremlin is the apex of Russian political power and was once the center of the Orthodox Church. This is the place from which Russia has been ruled by autocratic tsars, communist dictators and in the modern age – presidents.
The Kremlin sits prominently on Borovitsky Hill on the north bank of the Moskva River. It is surrounded by high walls 2.25 km long. Outside its east wall is the Red Square. Before you can enter the complex you most leave your bags at the left-luggage office, beneath the Kutafya Tower. You’ll find the main ticket office in the Alexandrovsky Garden.
The Gallery of European & American Art of the 19th & 20th Centuries is a branch of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. This art gallery displays the collection of two well-known Moscow art patrons, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov. Among the art works you’ll fine paintings by Degas, Manet, Renoir and Pisarro. There is an entire room dedicated to the art work of Monet.
There are sculptures by Rodin including pieces from the Gates of Hell and the Monument to the Townspeople of Calais. There are also paintings by Miro, Kandinsky and Chagall and several by Van Gogh among them Red Vineyards and Prison Courtyard, painted in the last year of the artist’s life. An entire room dedicated to the work of Gauguin, representing his prime period.
Park Pobedy or Victory Park on Poklonnaya Hill is a huge memorial complex that commemorates the sacrifice and celebrates the triumph of WWII or The Great Patriotic War as it is known in Russia. It was opened on the 50th anniversary of the victory and includes many lovely fountains and monuments as well as a memorial church, synagogue and mosque.
The Moscow Planetarium incorporates all types of high-tech gadgetry, interactive exhibits and educational programs. The centerpiece is the Large Star Hall which is the largest in Europe with a 25m silver dome roof. The planetarium has two observatories, of which the larger one known as The Big Observatory includes Moscow’s largest telescope.
There is also an interactive exhibit known as the Lunarium, where visitors can do experiments and can be witness to the laws of nature in action.
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is Moscow’s premier foreign-art museum that has been divided up in more than three branches. It offers a wide selection of European art work including the masterpieces from ancient civilizations, Italian Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age. Art work is displayed by artists like Botticelli, Tiepolo and Veronese. The highlight is the Age of Dutch art with paintings by Rembrandt such as his Portrait of an Old Woman. The Ancient Civilizations exhibit includes a collection of Egyptian weaponry, jewelry, ritual items and tombstones. There are two mummies as well.
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a huge cathedral that was completed in 1997 in time for Moscow’s 850th birthday. The cathedral sits on the same site as another church that was built in the 19th century to commemorate Russia’s victory over Napoleon. The central altar is dedicated to the Nativity and the two side altars to Sts. Nicholas and Alexander Nevsky. In the main gallery frescoes depict scenes from the War of 1812.
The cathedral has been constructed on a wide base that contains the smaller Church of the Transfiguration. Here you can see the icon Christ Not Painted by Hand by Sorokin, miraculously saved from the original cathedral.
St. Basil’s Cathedral stands at the southern end of Red Square. It was built in a style that is unique to Russian architecture. There are nine main chapels. The tall, tent-roofed tower in the center is home to the Church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God.
The four octagonal-towered chapels are the Church of Sts Cyprian & Justina, the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Church of the Icon of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker and the Church of the Entry of the Lord and these have the four biggest domes. The four smaller chapels in between were consecrated in honor of an event or battle in the struggle against Kazan (the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan).
Lenin’s Mausoleum where the embalmed figure of Vladimir Ilych lies in state at the foot of the Kremlin Wall. Photography is not allowed and all visitors must be silent and respectful. Take the time to inspect the Kremlin Wall where other Communist leaders are buried among them Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev and many others.
The celebrated Red Square lies right outside of the Kremlin’s northeastern wall. This 400m by 140m cobblestone square is at the very heart of Moscow. On its southeastern side rises St. Basil’s Cathedral. It is interesting to note that in Russian this square is Krasnaya Ploshchad. Krasny now meaning red but in Old Russian meant beautiful. The square is often closed for celebrations.
The Armoury was founded under Vasily III to manufacture and store weapons, imperial arms and regalia for the royal court. It dates back to 1511. Later on the armoury also produced jewelry, icon frames and embroidery. There are lots of treasure to see and this remains one of the highlights when visiting the Kremlin.
The tour begins upstairs where the first two room display gold and silver objects from the 12th to the 17th centuries. You can see the renowned Easter eggs made by jeweler Faberge in room 2. Among these the most famous is the Grand Siberian Railway egg, with gold train, platinum locomotive and ruby headlamp that was created to commemorate the Moscow-Vladivostok line.
Other rooms display armor and weapons. Downstairs you can see coronation dresses of the 18th century. There is also the joint coronation throne of boy tsars Peter the Great and his half-brother Ivan V and the 800-diamond throne of Tsar Alexey, Peter’s father. Many other items to delight in like the sleigh Elizabeth rode from St. Petersburg to Moscow for her coronation, pulled by 23 horses at a time – about 800 in all for the trip. A one-hour audio guide is available.
Built in 1967 the Ostankino TV Tower was the tallest free-standing structure in the world at that time. The observation deck stands at 337m from where visitors can get 360-degree views over the city. Tours take place on the hour and must be booked in advance.
The Ascension Church stands overlooking Moskva River. It was built between 1530 and 1532 for Grand Prince Vasily III. It was the first brick church with a tent-shaped roof and represents an important development in Russian architecture.
The Moscow Museum of Modern Art was the project of Zurab Tsereteli, a classical 18th century merchant and housed in his home. This is an impressive collection of 20th century paintings, sculptures and graphics by both Russian and foreign artists. The highlight is the avant-garde art collection with art work by Chagall, Kandinsky and Malevich.
There is also art work by “nonconformist” artists from the 1950s and 1960s. The gallery also hosts temporary exhibits. There is an interesting sculpture garden in the courtyard.
Hermitage Gardens is a small, charming garden where art, food and craft festivals and concerts are held weekly, especially during the summer. There are lovely lawns and benches to relax upon. You’ll find a large playground for children, a summer cinema and some food and craft kiosks. This is the place to come and unwind from the everyday city life.
The Tolstoy Literary Museum is considered to be the oldest literary memorial museum in the world, founded in 1911. There is an excellent reference library and the museum contains exhibits of manuscripts, letters and art work which all focus on Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest Russian writers. There are also family photos, personal correspondence and other items that all give an insight into the life of the author and his work. The museum also has the largest collection of portraits of the great Russian novelist and entire exhibits dedicated to his major novels like Anna Karenina and War and Peace.
The Pushkin Literary Museum is housed in a lovely empire-style mansion dating back to 1816. The museum is devoted to the life and work of celebrated Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Here you can look into the life of this poet with exhibits showing his personal effects, family portraits, reproductions of notes and handwritten poetry. One of the most interesting exhibits is “Pushkin & His Time”, putting the poet in a historical context, demonstrating the influence of the Napoleonic Wars, the Decembrists’ revolt and other historic events.
The Chekhov House Museum – Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright and short story writer wrote of his house on the Garden Ring, “the color of the house is liberal, ie. red”. The museum is housed in the house where he lived from 1886 to 1890. Today visitors can see the bedrooms, drawing room and study all intact. Several times a week in the late afternoons musical performances are given.
The walls are decorated with paintings that were given to Chekhov by the painter Levitan and art-nouveau architect Shekhtel. Both were frequent visitors. Photographs show the playwright with other literary greats like Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky. One room is dedicated to Chekhov’s life at his country estate, Melikhovo. There are manuscripts and photos.
The Archangel Cathedral is located at the southeastern corner of Sobornaya ploshchad and for centuries was the place for the coronations, weddings and burials of tsars. It was built by Ivan Kalita in 1333 to commemorate the end of the great famine and was dedicated to Archangel Michael, the guardian of the Moscow princes. It was rebuilt by Italian architect Alevisio Novi between 1505 and 1508. It is in the Byzantine-Russian style and has five domes. The exterior also has many Venetian Renaissance features.
Beside the Ivan the Great Bell Tower stands the world’s biggest bell at 202-tonnes and has never been rung. On the sides are bas-reliefs of Empress Anna and Tsar Alexey. It sits on a pedestal.
The Moscow Zoo was renovated in 2014 in honor of its 150th anniversary. Today it is a large scientific, educational and conservation institution. It was founded by the All-Russian Emperor Society for Acclimation of Plants and Animals in the middle of the 19th century. The zoo was opened to the public in 1964 and consists of two areas – the old and the new connected by a footbridge.
The Moscow Zoo is divided into many sections:
Big Pond, Flamingo, Tropical Cats, the Cat String, Cheetahs, Spectacled Bears, The Giraffe House, White-tailed Gnus and Tapirs, Dogs and Relatives, Ungulates, Pinnipeds, Delphinarium, House of Birds, Cranes, Elephant House, Peccaries and Bush Pigs, Musk Oxen and Mountain Goats, Pony Ring, Rock of Birds of Prey, Animals of Russia, Nocturnal World, South America, Australia Fauna, Crossover Bridge, Pond of the New Territory, Coatis and Otters, Polar world, Mountain Ungulates, Pelicans and Cormorants, Fauna of Indonesia, Insecttopia, Deer, Przewalski Horses, Camels, The Animal Island, Exotarium, African Ungulates, Horses, Primates, The Reptile House and Children Zoo.
Guided tours are offered for all age groups including kindergarten children.
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