“The Forty Forties”, “The Third Rome”, “The First Throne,” “Whitestone”

6th to 9th of April, 2012

[flickr size=”medium” float=”left”]7657313@N08/7568375300[/flickr]

Some 12 million people makes the capital city of Russia. A big and luxurious city, where you will come to see the so called “New Russians”. Those are, rich and new rich people, mostly young whose parents run successful business, and have enough money to have a luxurious style of living, where money seems not to matter. The lists speak for themselves, Moscow has the largest community of billionaires in the world.

As a city with so much history, it’s better to check wikipedia for more information instead of me repeating some over here. I will stick as for all my other guides to overall information and a much detailed travel guide. Also, the most important, I will be speaking about the visa and the invitation letter in order to enter the country.

As for when is best to visit, well, I think we all agree winter months are extremely harsh, and unless you are ok to be with -20 to -30 degrees and a thick layer of snow and ice, then starting late March until October will be the ideal months. Summer time will be the worst months as those are high season, and prices are at the peak, specially flight fares. But late March and April, and late September and October will be the best.

We went by Easter time, and there were still huge mountains of snow and ice in the streets melting. Of course very cold too, but perfect in the sense we paid really low fare on the flights. A great deal with Austrian over Vienna. Check them before you plan, they have from time to time good deals, also Swiss Air via Zurich.

Visa requirements:

Now to the most important information before planning. The Visa application. So, it’s not that you need a visa and that’s all as for other countries, you need also an invitation letter, and without this letter, you cannot even apply for a visa. How do you get an invitation letter? If you have any friend in Moscow, then they can do this for you, if not, as will be the 99.9% of the cases, then you have two options. The paying one, this is through a travel agency. Or the free one, if you book a 4* or 5* hotel, but making sure before you book they can do this for you. If they can, this is then free of charge. But careful with “free”. If you happen to cancel the trip, or don’t show, then they will charge you a fee for that. It is clearly written in the application papers they will send you and it’s logical, as otherwise, anyone could book just a night, get the invitation and get somewhere else illegally.

Once you have an invitation letter, then apply online for the visa (at least if you are in London, for any other country you might be applying from, check over the internet), complete all field and make sure no errors or typos. Also, very important, note down your username and password for future access. In case you need to change any detail, then you will not need to fill the whole application again, simply log in and update, and print it again.

An appointment will be made for you to attend the visa centre, had out the invitation letter, completed form, bring with you just in case the hotel booking, the flight bookings, and 2 special size pictures. You need to tell whoever is making your picture that the size is for a Russian Visa. And of course, hand over your passport. After a week in most cases the visa will be ready for collection.

What to see and do in Moscow:

  • Red Square Metro Ohotnii Ryad, Teatralnaya or Ploshad Revolutsii. Surrounded by St. Basil’s Cathedral, the State History Museum, Lenin’s Mausoleum and one of the Kremlin’s long brick walls.

-Lenin Mausoleum In the centre of the Red Square. You must leave all cameras, phones and bags in the luggage office. Free admission. 10AM-1PM, closed Mondays and Fridays.

-St Basil Cathedral Opens 11.00am-17.00pm, closes Tuesday. Built in 1555-61. This is the most known landmark of Moscow, with the colourful onion shaped domes.

-Resurrection Gate and the Iberian Chapel 1680 originally, rebuilt in 1996.

-Kazan Cathedral Small cathedral reconstructed in 1993.

-GUM department store A huge and luxurious department store built in 1893 occupying the whole of one side of the Red Square.

  • The Kremlin Nearest metro stations with walking distance of the tourist entrances: Biblioteka im. V.I.Lenina, Alexandrovskii Sad or Arbatskaya (dark Blue line, east exit), or a short walk from Borovitskaya. The Diamond collection in the Armoury is worth a visit on its own. Tickets are 700 roubles to visit the armoury and 350 roubles to visit everything else. Arrive early as tickets go on sale 30 minutes (for the 10 am tour) or 1 hour (for the 12.00, 14:30, and 16:30 tours) before scheduled tours. Within the Kremlin you will see many interesting and beautiful churches and cathedrals, those are located in Cathedral Square, at the very centre of the Kremlin itself. You will see also a great collection of priceless Fabergé eggs. Unfortunately, no pictures allowed inside the museums and cathedrals itself.
  • Epiphany Monastery Located just one block away from Kremlin, it is the oldest monastery in Moscow.
  • Cathedral of Christ the Saviour Near the Kremlin, on the banks of the river, reconstructed 2000. Only possible to view inside as part of tour. Worth just outside, specially the view with the bridge in front of it.
  • Novodevichy Convent A big convent full of buildings, churches, walls and gates, very colourful. The nearest metro station is Sportivnaya, and then a short walk. Nowadays it’s an UNESCO site.
  • Church of the Ascension Another of the must see icons of the city, is this UNESCO church located at Kolomenskoye park. It offers great views over the city below too. Nearest metro station, Kolomenskaya or Kashirskaya.
  • Danilov Monastery Another beautiful monastery on the south bank of the river, near Tulskaya metro station.
  • Novospassky Monastery Metro Proletarskaya
  • Old Arbat Street Metro Smolenskaya or Arbatskaya (both blue lines meet at those stations, from Dark Blue line take west exit. Forget what you might have read in travel guides that this is a beautiful and charming street. Surely it was once upon a time, nowadays, anywhere else in the city is perhaps nicer than this street. Still, some old and narrow streets gives you an idea, plus one of the Seven Sisters is nearby.
  • Bolshoi Theatre Metro Ohotnii Ryad, Teatralnaya or Ploshad Revolutsii.
  • Izmailovsky Park and Flea Market building Metro Izmailovsky Park. This fairytale market was once upon a time an amusement park. It’s worth the visit as you will find a big market selling any stuff you will want, and plenty of matryoshkas.
  • Tverskaya Ulitsa This central street runs uphill from opposite the north end of Red Square. At the bottom of the hill, on the corner of Tverskaya Ulitsa and Mokhovaya Ulitsa, stands the National Hotel, the most prestigious in Moscow before the Revolution. Also in the street are the Moskva Hotel and State Duma building.
  • Ostakino Tower Metro VDNKh on the orange line. This is the tallest TV tower anywhere in Europe, and among the tallest in the world. Offers the best views of this huge city.
  • Russian State Library building Metro Biblioteka IV Lenina.
  • Moscow International Business Centre This is the new business and finantial district of Moscow, where the Federation Tower is, currently the tallest in Europe with difference and among the tallest in the world. Plenty of construction still happening, with more and more towers raising. Metro Vystavochnaya and Mezhdunarodnaya.
  • Seven Sisters buildings Are wonderful Stalinist style skyscrapers in the city of Moscow, which also served as reference for other Soviet cities in that time, built between 1947 and 1953. For a good background history read the wikipedia article. As the name says, there are seven, although there were plans for the 8th. Below is the list with the location of each, specially the nearest metro station, so you don’t need to look around internet for this information (which currently took long time of investigation).

-Kotyelnicheskaya embankment apartments, Metro Kitasi-Gorod.

-State University in Sparrow Hills, Metro Universitet. Is the tallest of them all.

-Hotel Ukrania (Radisson Hotel) Metro Klevskaya.

-Ministry of Foreign Affairs Metro Smolenskaya, on Old Arbat St.

-Hilton Leningradskaya Metro Komsomolskaya

-Kudrinskaya Square Building Metro Krasnopresnenskaya

-Ministry of Construction of Heavy Industry Metro Krasniye Vorota

  • Metro As everyone know, the metro stations of Moscow are the most beautiful anywhere in the world, by stunning and luxurious decoration, huge spaces, history and amount of them. It follows Saint Petersburg and then other ex-Soviet cities. This was the ideal of the Soviet architecture. Made to impress, palaces underground. Among the best ones to visit, are the following, split by metro line:

-Circle Koltsevaya Line (5 brown): Komsomolskaya (the most luxurious of them all, see the entrance hall too), Novoslobodskaya (nicknamed Peace through the World, the most ornate of the system), Kievskaya, Taganskaya, Prospekt Mira

-Zamoskvoretskaya Line (2 green): Belorusskaya, Mayakovskaya (A Day in the Land of Soviets. The most important of all the stations. Visit the entrance halls too), Teatralnaya, Novokuznetskaya

-Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line (3 blue) : Ploshchad Revolyutsii (Revolution Square. Red Square. Full of bronze statues), Electrozavodskaya (special for the lighting. See as well hall and entrance doors), Baumanskaya (red marble statues), Smolenskaya

Transports:

If arriving via Domodedovo airport as we did, you have two options. The Aeroexpress train which takes 45-50 minutes to the centre and costs 320 rubles or the commuter train, which takes 65-70 minutes and costs only 99 rubles to Paveletsky Rail Terminal. The Metro station name corresponding to this train station is Paveletskaya on the Zamoskvoretskaya Line 2, so you have access to wherever you final destination is.

A metro single trip costs 28 RUB. Multi-trip RFID cards are sold for 5, 10, 20 or 60 trips. The 10 trips cost 265 RUB, this is around 5.5£ and will be the easiest and direct way to do, as you will not need to queue to the counters or machines each time you enter the metro, which you will do and many times, guaranteed.

Bus rides costs 28 Rubble if you pay to a bus driver or 24 if bough prior at kiosks.

Accommodation:

It is expensive, like many things in the city. And as commented above, a 4* or 5* can sort for you the invitation letter, therefore you will want to book at least a 4* to have this sorted and avoid in any case, having to pay for a travel agent to do this for you, unless you have someone in the city who can make this invitation letter for you.

We were at the Golden Apple Boutique. Malaya Dmitrovka Street 11, Tverskoy, 127006. Nearest metro station, Mayakovskaya.

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