People say that Moscow is the city of domes and they are not wrong. The place is full to the brim with the colourful onions! But, this expansive city has so much more to offer than the Red Square and colourful cathedrals; especially over the New Years Eve festive time. You can cover a lot if you spend 4 nights in Moscow.
The Red Square
First stop of the day was The Red Square or Krasnaya Ploshchad; Krasnaya meaning red but related to the Russian word for beautiful: Krasivaya.
I was immediately drawn to St Basils Cathedral, a stunning behemoth of colours and shapes. It was built from 1555–1561 on orders from Ivan the Terrible and is now one of the most popular symbols of Russia.
The Spassky Tower of the Kremlin standing next to the Cathedral is another huge and beautiful building.
Finally, we wandered into the GUM department store. The outside is wonderfully bedazzled in fairy lights much like Harrods and has such a Christmassy vibe! The inside was just as spectacular – the decoration was amazing.
Bolshoi Ballet Theatre
Next stop we went to the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre, home to internationally renowned classical ballet company The Bolshoi Ballet. We didn’t get a ticket to see any performances sadly, the prices are just too expensive – upwards of £500! It is again, unbelievably grand and decorated with various stunning Christmas lights. If you have the money this is totally possible to fit into 4 nights in Moscow.
Another short walk away was the Lubyanka Building, former KGB headquarters. After the dissolution of the KGB in 1991, Lubyanka became the headquarters of the Border Guard Service of Russia & houses the Lubyanka prison.
As we continued our walk around the city I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful and extravagant the Christmas lights were. A tree that would have been considered a centrepiece attraction in Bristol was merely a side show here. Tree’s bigger than I have ever seen were frequently display and if a tree was absent, it was some kind of fairy light archway reaching 20 feet in the air or bauble the size of a lorry instead.
Cathedral of Christ Our Saviour
Our first stop was Cathedral of Christ the Saviour – a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church situated on the northern bank of the Moskva River. The original church was demolished during 1931 to make way for a colossal Palace of the Soviets that was never built. In 1990 the cathedral was rebuilt.
The river itself is too an attraction – parts are completely frozen over and pure white due to the dusting of snow we received that day and was beautiful to see.
St Peter The Great Statue
From the bridge by the cathedral you can already see the Peter the Great Statue because it is literally the most enormous statue I have ever seen. Standing at over 98 m tall, it was built in 1997 to commemorate 300 years of the Russian Navy.
We took a fresh but lovely walk along the riverside and into Gorky Park to take a closer look at the colossal monument. It made for some fab pictures, especially as you could see the golden Cathedral shining in the back ground.
Fallen Monument Park
We eventually made it to the Fallen Monument Park or statue graveyard in Gorky park: an interesting walk with many sculptures to look at. We also stopped to look at the Victims to the Totalitarian Regime sculpture, dating back to the 1980’s. a stark reminder of the countries bloody history.
Our next stop: Victory Park, a 2,424-hectare park on Poklonnaya Hill, reminded me a little of Hyde Park and Winter Wonderland! It was amazing – we didn’t go in the paid section of the fairground area as we could see most of it from the outside! Massive light up baubles, ice slides, ice sculptures and stage performances to name a few. It looked like such fun and was just the beginning of our lessons in how seriously the Russians take New Years Eve!
Monument to the Great Patriotic War
Victory Park is also home to a truly gargantuan obelisk known as the Monument to the Great Patriotic War. Standing at 1,411.8 m high, 10cm for every day of the war, it’s the largest I have ever seen and instantly dwarves the statue of Peter the Great! It sits just in front of the museum of the Great Patriotic War, another grandiose building in the shape of an arch.
Within the park grounds there are three museum-type exhibits, more than ten memorials, and four commemorative houses of worship all focused mainly on the Great Patriotic War, so there is much more to see and I wish I had had the chance to do so. However, the sun sets at 4pm in Moscow and unfortunately the temperature just drops right down, so we decided to give it a miss!
New Years Eve!
Moscow has much to offer on NYE. During the early-mid Soviet period, religious celebrations were discouraged by the official state policy of atheism however, many Christmas traditions were re-adopted as part of a new secular New Year celebration, including the decorating of Christmas Trees (hence the massive trees). Therefore, the excitement and build up we normally experience leading up to Christmas day in the UK was taking place in the lead up to New Years Eve in Moscow. If you spare 4 nights in Moscow over New Years Eve, I would totally recommend it!
We decided to attend a street celebration on Tverskaya St. It was a very busy but exciting place to be. There were loads of performers such as dancers, stilt walkers and even a tight rope walker 7 stories high! We ended up relatively near to St Basils Cathedral so stayed to watch – even though our view was very restricted by a crane suspending a massive disco ball!
Our first stop of today was Izmailovsky market an open air market selling all sorts of Russian items and souvenirs including Russian dolls, fur hats and scarves (some complete with little feet!) and even full animal skins with heads! I loved the market – it was vibrant and fun and I even bought a more practical bag.
We decided to grab lunch here and were able to get a cheap and seemingly authentic Russian meal of bread, salad and chicken with a little bit of mulled wine! It was lush and very welcome in the cold afternoon!
Museum of Cosmonautics
Next up we headed over to the Museum of Cosmonautics, something both James and I were really keen to see and also free on this day! Of course that also meant there was a ridiculously long queue that we had to wait over and hour in! We were extremely cold by the time we got inside, but it was worth it.
After the space museum we followed the theme and briefly visited the Laika Statue. Laika became the first animal launched into Earths orbit, paving the way for human spaceflight during the upcoming years.
Next up was dinner. After a failed attempt to get into the very posh and very in demand ‘White Rabbit’ we settled down for some delicious food in a restaurant called Zodiac. It was extremely welcomed, amazing food! Simple rice and noodle dishes however, the dumplings were served with caviar!
The Red Square by night
Finally, we headed over to the Red Square for a last look at the beautiful sights in darkness. The lights were stunning and worth the late night trip before we started on our journey into Siberia.
Our 4 nights in Moscow was magical, the perfect place to spend New Years Eve! The next few days are un-chartered territory, 84 hours or 3 an 1/2 days on the train, deep into Siberia… next stop, Irkutsk!
Please take a look at some articles you might find useful if travelling to Russia:
- Three Days on the Trans Siberian Railway
- Exactly What To Expect on the Trans Siberian Railway
- Trans Siberian Railway Itinerary
What did you think of our 4 nights in Moscow itinerary?
Let me know in the comments section!
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