Moscow is an incredible city to visit, full of history, mystery, power and intrigue. And it’s never a dull moment with so much to do in the largest city in Europe. I will be sharing several posts and videos of some of my favourite places in Moscow. Here are things to do in Red Square, with the video at the bottom of the post.
Red Square: A Place to Begin
Any trip to Moscow must begin in Red Square. It’s in the centre of the city with amazing landmarks all within walking distance. I don’t think one day is enough to see everything in the city centre. As I am a Russian speaker, it’s easier for me to get around. If you don’t speak Russian, it’s worth joining a tour to get more information and to understand the history of where you are standing.
Surprises about Moscow
There is a lot of mystery about Moscow, and misconceptions about the city. Moscow has the highest amount of billionaires living in it in all of Europe, and ranked the 3rd in the world. There is a lot of money in this city. There are no line-ups of people trying to buy toilet paper, or waiting to try McDonalds cheeseburgers. Those days are long gone, and only lasted during the chaotic time after communism fell.
The population of Moscow is almost 13 million people, and the locals tell me it’s closer to 16 million due to many unregistered residents moving her to make money. Such a large population attracts many people who can make better money than in their home countries. I met many people from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Armenian, Azerbaijani and even Ukraine. It’s a very multicultural city.
Moscow is an old city, with the first mentions of the city in 1147. That makes the city almost 900 years old. So much history in this city. The city celebrates its birthday on the first Saturday of September every year. Also a good time to visit Moscow and take part of the celebrations.
Final thoughts about surprises and fun facts…. Red Square is also a cemetery, average daily commuters on the Metro (trains) is 7 million people, the Kremlin was originally painted white not red, and Lenin’s body is still on display since 1924! It’s also a big space, Red Square is about 800,000 square feet in size.
Must See in Red Square
There are a few famous locations in Red Square, starting with St Basils Cathedral. Built in the mid 1500’s in the striking architectural style that is now recognized as classic Russian with the famous colorful onion domes. Tsar Ivan the terrible is said to have blinded the architects who designed it, so they couldn’t build another more beautiful building like St Basils.
Lenin’s Mausoleum is piece of history worth visiting. As a child, you would see on TV, the Soviet leaders emerge on top of the mausoleum (used as a viewing platform) when watching military parades. Those days are gone and you can see Lenins embalmed body, on display since 1924. There will always be long lineups of people, especially in the summertime. You aren’t allowed to take cameras inside, and they can search you. The best part is that it’s free to enter to see him! Along side the tomb is a cemetery of former Soviet leaders like Stalin and Brezhnev. The Kremlin necropolis has the cremated remains right inside the wall of the Kremlin. The most famous for me was the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.
GUM Department Store in Red Square
GUM Department Store (ГУМ in Russian) used to be the Soviet State Department Store, which was found in many cities in the Soviet Union. Now the Moscow GUM is a fancy high end shopping mall. It’s lit up in the evening with lights, so plan to visit day and night! It still maintained many of it’s charms of the Soviet time, like the Stolovaya No 57, a cafeteria style restaurant serving Russian foods. Gastronom No 1 is a high end food store, similar to many department stores around the world like Harrods. It’s the best place to buy Caviar and everything else, Soviet style. Plus everyone gets an ice cream cone from GUM. Russian ice cream ‘morozhenoe’ is famous and you must try it. You have to stop and have a look.
Moscow at Night
Beside Red Square I love is Nikolskaya Street. A street made famous during World Cup, where people congregated to dance and spontaneous celebrate World Cup victories. It’s a pedestrian only street with millions of lights suspended over the sidewalk. At night, it’s an impressive site as well, as it’s all lit up. So plan to visit twice, just to get day and evening photos. At night, GUM is all lit up, with St Basil’s Cathedral brightly lit as well. These are iconic photos that you have to see. I felt completely safe walking around Moscow at night, it’s probably the most surveilled place in Russia, with lots of police around if you need help. We walked across the Moskva Reka to see the Kremlin lit up across the river. An ancient Kremlin is a beautiful sight at night.
What about the Kremlin?
The Kremlin backs into Red Square, and that is 27 hectares worth of history, including the Russian Presidents residence. Check out the video below as there is so much to cover. We explore the Kremlin ticket office, and that’s quite the chore, trust me. See the historic grounds, the seat of power where Tsars and Presidents made decisions that impacted world history. Walking the grounds to see the Tsar’s Cannon, Tsars Bell, Cathedral Square with 500 year old Orthodox Churches, the Diamond Fund (with the Russian Imperial Crown jewels) and Spasskaya Tower. History is calling! It’s best to join a tour of the Kremlin to get the full translation of all the history you are seeing.
So check out my videos of my last visit of Red Square. Bring your camera, join a tour, eat ice cream inside GUM, and visit Lenin before the bury him. So much history, you won’t regret visiting this historic square. See more at www.youtube.com/petersfoodadventures.