St Basil's Cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible and built on the edge of Red Square between 1555 and 1561. - Photo from Wikimedia Commons
From Lenin to the Kremlin, via vodka, 10 of the must-see and do sights, attractions and activities in Moscow.
MOSCOW was once the centre of a superpower shrouded in secrecy from the West. Now it’s the centre of a resurgent superpower open for business and open to visitors. Here's a tour of Putin’s backyard.
1. Lenin Mausoleum
When Vladimir Lenin died in 1924, three quarters of a million people came to Red Square to pay their respects. Today it is still possible to pay respects to the father of the revolution in his mausoleum, guarded by soldiers 24 hours a day. While visiting Lenin’s embalmed body can be a hurried experience – Russian soldiers are particularly impatient – seeing Lenin’s wax-like body is one of Moscow’s weird- yet-wonderful attractions.
2. The Kremlin
Hidden behind the Kremlin’s famous 62-foot (19m) red brick walls are some of Moscow’s most prominent historical artefacts. Including four cathedrals, The Kremlin boasts a state armoury museum, a Diamond Fund and the Great Bell Tower of Ivan the Terrible. As the centre of political power in Russia, the Kremlin has very strict jaywalking laws so always stay on the paths and follow the tour route directed by the soldiers – otherwise they won’t be happy!
3. St. Basil’s Cathedral
Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, St Basils Cathedral is an iconic image of Moscow. Constructed in the 16th century, the cathedral lies to the east side of the Kremlin triangle and towers above Red Square in its stunning colourful entirety. Inside, the cathedral features richly decorated walls, frescos, paintings and many religious artefacts.
4. Bunker 42
Hidden 65m beneath the streets of Moscow is the Tagansky nuclear bunker (Bunker 42). Built during the 1950s under the command of Joseph Stalin, the bunker was built to shelter prominent Kremlin figures and their families. Tour guides dressed as KGB officers explain what would have happened to the Soviet Union in the event of a nuclear attack. There’s even an opportunity to try on nuclear survival gear and KGB uniforms.
5. Museum of Cosmonautics
Located at the base of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space, the Museum of Cosmonautics depicts the Russian history of space exploration. Complete with a replica of the first satellite, original space suits and other gadgets used to train Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, the museum is a fascinating representation of Russia’s role in the space race.
6. The Vodka Museum
Love it or loath it, vodka has a fascinating history and while Russia and Poland continue to argue over the drink’s origin, Russia has been developing their Russian standard since the 19th century. The museum explores the history of vodka focusing specifically on the 1917 revolution and World War II. The best part of the museum is the opportunity to sample various brands of vodkas in the museum’s restaurant. Considering this, it’s probably best to choose a designated spender – ideally one who is sober!
7. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
Featuring prominent paintings and sculptures from ancient history, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is sure to please all art lovers. The museum regularly varies its permanent display to show off the museums quantity of pieces. Stand out works include pieces of art taken from Berlin at the end of WWII and a selection of famous French impressionist art.
8. State Historical Museum
The State Historical Museum is the imposing building directly to the right after walking through resurrection gate into Red Square. Presenting Russian history from the Paleolithic period to present day, the museum’s artefacts are superbly detailed and varied. While at times it can feel a little long-winded, the Museum is an ideal introduction to Russian culture and history.
9. Moscow’s metro
In 1933, Stalin’s Communist party approved plans to build a metro under the streets of Moscow at a total length of 49 miles (79km). Instructing the artists to design a metro that ‘embodied a radiant future’, Moscow’s metro is so grand in its architecture and artistic detail that it is a must-see sight. Each station has its own unique design; popular favourites include Komsomolskaya and Slavyansky Bulvar Station.
10. The Bolshoi Theatre
The Bolshoi is Russia’s national theatre and is one of the greatest theatres in the world. Even for those of us who are not diehard fans of ballet, theatre or opera, the Bolshoi’s electrifying atmosphere guarantees to captivate every audience member. While it might be tempting to book Bolshoi Theatre tickets online, the cheapest way is to head straight to the box office in Moscow. Be quick however, as tickets sell out fast. – Skyscanner (www.skyscanner.net)