Moscow Sightseeing

Nothing better symbolises the resurgence of modern Russia than the transformation undergone by its mighty capital, Moscow. Churches and monasteries that stood neglected for decades have been rebuilt, restored or reopened. Roads, parks and public places have regained their shine, while the bustle of the new spirit of Russia has brought light and colour to the once sullen avenues and sombre, towering buildings. Moscow, with its scores of onion-domed  churches and old aristocrat mansions captures the heart of old Russia. New shops, bars and restaurants spring up every day and Moscow's citizens were the first to get a taste of the excitement of the life of other big European capitals. Meanwhile, the ghost of a past era offers a fascinating backdrop for the visitor, and a reminder of a colder, harsher past. Moscow, with a population of more than 10 million inhabitants, lies on the banks of the River Moskva, capital and largest city of a great country spanning 8 time zones. Below are brief introductions to the major sights of Moscow with links to more detailed information.


St Basil's Cathedral  

Red Square & St Basil's Cathedral

Red Square has always been Moscow's main square and focal point. In Soviet times, tanks and missiles rolled across Red Square as part of military parades intended to attract the world's attention to the power of the communist regime. Centuries earlier, the Tsara's decrees used to be announced here to the gathered masses. On major religious festivals there were huge processions from the Kremlin to Red Square and the entire square would be filled with people, resembling an open-air church. Magnificent cathedrals were built in celebration, the most famous being the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin. This cathedral was built in the mid 16th century by decree of Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the Russian capture of Kazan. The Tsar then, as legend has it, ordered that the two architects' eyes were to be poked out so they couldn't create anything as beautiful again. In 1588, a small chapel was added to the church and the Holy Fool Vasily (Basil), greatly respected in Moscow, was buried here. Since then, the cathedral is more popularly referred to as St. Basila's. St. Basila's Cathedral is a symbol of Moscow, a stunning, extraordinary building worth the visit to Moscow alone. 

Interesting fact - Red Square is actually a mis-translation of the Old Russian word for "beautiful". In modern Russian this word now means the colour "red" but we should actually be referring to it as "Beautiful Square".

Kremlin tower  

Kremlin & Cathedrals

The Kremlin is the historical and political centre of the city, the beating heart of Moscow, and now also one of the most famous museums in the world. The word "kreml" in Russian means "fortress" and that is exactly what this complex is, strategically located on a hill by the banks of the river Moskva. Once inside the Kremlin tourists must follow a well-trodden and guarded route. Much of the Kremlin is out of bounds, understandably, with most of the interesting stuff hidden well beneath the ground. However you can see the Tsar's Bell and Tsar's Cannon, as well as visit the Annunciation (Blagoveschensky), Archangel (Arkhangelsky) and Assumption (Voznesensky) Cathedrals, the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great and the Church of the Twelve Apostles. All are wonderfully maintained monuments of Russian church architecture with unique richly decorated interiors and shiny gold leafed domes.

Armoury  

Armoury

The Armoury is located within the Kremlin grounds and is one of the oldest museums in Russia. As well as housing thousands of exhibits of Russian, Eastern and Western artwork spanning several centuries, the Armoury proudly displays a staggering collection of royal regalia and wealth. You will see immaculately preserved royal carriages from different centuries, ceremonial weapons and arms, tsar's thrones, crowns and coronation dress, Catherine the Great's dresses and many impressive examples of gold and silver craftsmanship, including Faberge Eggs.

Lenin's Mausoleum  

Lenin's Mausoleum

Located in Red Square this is the final resting place of Vladimir Lenin whose body has been on display here since the year he died — 1924. The embalming process was originally intended to be only temporary - until the burial, but such was the demand by people to come and see him, to pay their last respects, it was decided to continue to protect Lenin's body. More than 10 million people have been to visit Lenin, and it is still impossible to say how much, if any, of him is real. He is supposedly looked after on a daily basis, with a major chemical makeover every 18 months. There is also supposedly a laboratory underneath the tomb to help keep the body preserved.

GUM department store  

GUM

GUM (pronounced "goom") stands for "Main Department Store" in Russian. It was built at the end of the 19th century, along one side of Red Square, and incorporated a unique design element for the time - a glass roof. Nowadays, more than a 100 years on, it is still a shopping mall, but much more upmarket and with much fewer stores. GUM has become a very expensive place to shop and tourists tend to stroll through asking "am I really in Russia?" rather than stopping to make purchases.

Novodevichy Convent  

Novodevichy (New Maiden) Convent

Novodevichy Convent is a functioning convent belonging to The Russian Orthodox Church and one of the most famous historical places of interest in Moscow. Built in the 16th century, the nunnery was completed by the end of the 17th. It is considered to be amongst the best architectural ensembles in Russia. At one time it was the richest convent in Moscow, where noblewomen came to become novitiates. Many people come here to stroll around the New Maiden cemetery, which is divided into two parts - the "old" and the "new". The "old" cemetery is situated on the territory of the convent itself, and is the resting place for the daughter of Ivan the Terrible, the sisters of Peter the First, heroes of the patriotic war of 1812, prominent writers, philosophers, poets and more. The "new" cemetery was laid out between 1898 and 1904 and adjoins the convent on its south side. It was extended in the Soviet period when New Maiden Convent became the second most honoured place for burials in the USSR, after the Kremlin walls. Among those who were buried in the new cemetery are Chekhov, Gogol, Bulgakov, the wife of Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev.

Tretyakov Art Gallery  

Tretyakov Art Gallery

The State Tretyakov Gallery is a national treasury of Russian & Soviet fine art and one of the greatest museums in the world. It was formed in 1856 and named after its founder, Pavel Tretyakov, who donated his private collection of approximately 2000 works of art to the City of Moscow in 1892. Without Tretyakov's extensive and generous patronage of the arts, many Russian artists would not have been so successful. The main building of the museum is not far from the Kremlin. The collection consists of about 125,000 works of art, including fine examples of 18th century portraits and 19th century Realism. There is also an impressive collection of ancient Russian icons, most notably by Andrei Rublyov.

Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts  

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

Established in 1912, not far from the Kremlin, the Pushkin museum is one of Russia's finest. The museum houses an extensive collection of ancient art and artefacts, including Egyptian, Assyrian, Ancient Greek and Roman pieces, as well as Gothic and Renaissance works from Italy, Germany and Holland, a selection of canvasses by Rubens and Rembrandt, the largest collection of French impressionist works in Russia and an impressive series of Post-Impressionist and Modernist works, including many notable Picassos and Matisses.

Moscow Metro  

Moscow Metro

The Moscow Metro is an incredible piece of engineering and a valuable part of Russian history and architecture. Young communists came from all over the Former Soviet Union to help in the construction of the first line, opened in 1935. It was a great achievement and a symbol of glory. Now there are 176 stations and over 290 km of track. The Moscow Metro efficiently carries approximately 7 million passengers each day. Many of the metro stations are like art galleries, adorned with mosaics, busts, chandeliers and marble.

Old Arbat  

Old Arbat Street

Old Arbat Street is a bustling and picturesque cobbled pedestrian street in the heart of Moscow. Lined with souvenir stalls and places to eat, it is a popular meeting point for tourists and locals, particularly musicians and artists.

Museum of Contemporary History  

Museum of Contemporary History

Formerly known as the Museum of the Revolution, this museum reflects upon the most important events affecting Russian society over the past century, concentrating on the transition from Tsarist rule to a Soviet regime. A guide will be necessary as the information is in Russian only currently. On display are details of many famous politicians, statesmen, eminent scientists, writers, artists and actors, with lots of Stalinist propaganda and exhibits on the revolution, political struggles and the Russian cultural life of that era. The museum is located in the very centre of Moscow on Tverskaya street in a building which used to house the Moscow English Club between 1831 and 1917.

Sergeyev Posad  

Sergiyev Posad (Zagorsk)

Formerly known as Zagorsk during Soviet times (in memory of the revolutionary Vladimir Zagorsky), Sergiyev Posad is the centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. The city developed in the 15th century around the Trinity Lavra of St Sergius, Russia's most important monastery. The Lavra, on the UN World Heritage List, contains the Holy Spirit Church and the Assumption Cathedral, together with the tomb of Boris Godunov and a treasure chamber of rich tapestries and many objects of liturgical art. Sergiyev Posad is also home to the Moscow Theological Academy, but aside from its religious significance, Sergiyev Posad has been a centre of woodcarving and toymaking since the 15th century.

 


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