Trans Siberian Railway: Moscow

We had two nights and three days in Moscow. When we were planning our trip we decided to cut our time in Moscow down so that we could spend more time in St. Petersburg. Tourist visas for Russia are only good for 30 days so we had to choose carefully what cities we would go to and how long we would stay in each city. And since we had to book our train tickets before getting our visas, this didn’t leave us with a whole lot of flexibility once in Russia.

My travel buddy had accrued a ton of Hilton points from her job so we were able to stay in a nice hotel when we were in Beijing as well as in Moscow and later in Helsinki. Being able to stay in a nice hotel in Moscow was a nice break from CouchSurfing. I love CouchSurfing but it doesn’t allow for a whole lot of privacy. We stayed at the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya. If you want to stay somewhere swanky in Moscow, this is a great option. This hotel was absolutely stunning. The building itself is listed as one of Moscow’s historical monuments so walking into the lobby was more like walking into a piece of art. The hotel is within walking distance of the train station and about a 20 minute subway ride away from main attractions like the Red Square.

Public Transportation

Like the other cities we visited in Russia, Moscow had excellent public transportation. The metro was straightforward and goes everywhere. Just pay close attention to your stops since the names of stops aren’t always visible from the train. I was surprised by how beautiful the metro stops were in Moscow. Instead of feeling like you were walking in a metro station, it felt like you were walking in a historical building or museum. It was really impressive.

Like most metro stations that I’ve encountered, you can buy tickets for the metro at electronic stations or at ticket counters. The metro in Moscow is open from 5:30 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. In Moscow, you can either pay for each trip or pay for 5, 10, or 20 trips at once which is a little cheaper. One ticket is 28 rubles. From what I remember, stations are mostly listed in Cyrillic so pay close attention to which lines you need to take and which stations you need to transfer or get off at. Google Maps was pretty good at navigating us through Russia with public transportation and if I was unable to read a sign, Google Translate was a huge help.

Sightseeing

We had tickets for the ballet our first night in Moscow so we decided to get dressed for the evening, do some sightseeing and then head straight to the ballet. Since we were in Moscow, we of course, had to go to the Red Square. There are several metro stops near the Red Square (Ohotnii Ryad, Teatralnaya or Ploshad Revolutsii).

The Red Square is huge. My travel buddy and I were mesmerized by Moscow when we first arrived and spent a lot of time in the red square walking around and taking pictures. The Red Square contains St. Basil’s Cathedral, the State History Museum, and Lenin’s Mausoleum. We didn’t have time to see everything at the Red Square but we were able to see inside St. Basil’s Cathedral, where there is a museum. There was a line to get inside, but it went by pretty quickly. Tickets were 250 rubles for adults. If you have a student ID though, tickets were 50 rubles.

After exploring the Red Square, it was time for the ballet. We saw Giselle at the Russian Academic Youth Theatre which was right next to the infamous Bolshoi Theatre. If you’re interested about reading more about my ballet experience in Russia or are wondering how to buy ballet tickets in Russia, you can check out my last post here.

The next day was one of those days where we planned on all these things and none of them worked out. It was a bit of a failed travel day. We tried to go the Armory Chamber which is a museum containing historical and royal artifacts of Russia, including royal clothing of the Tsars of Russia, Faberge eggs, and armory. Unfortunately, tickets are limited and we weren’t willing to stand in the winding lines to get in. I saw, however, that you could get advanced tickets online so I bought our tickets online and we decided to come back the next day. Tickets are limited and are only good for certain time periods so if you want to go to this, be sure to plan ahead. Tickets are 700 rubles each but free for people who are under 16 years of age. Free tickets, however, aren’t available online and must be attained by waiting in line at the ticket counter.

We went to Novodevichy Convent, a convent in the 16th and 17th centuries and was declared UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004. You can walk around the convent grounds, which we did, but by the time we got to the convent it was a little late and we were unable to enter the museums. The museums are open until 5 and we got there at 4 p.m. and they were no longer selling tickets, unfortunately. Tickets are 300 rubles each if you’re able to make it. This was, of course, another fail on our part and I’m sad we weren’t able to go inside the buildings but the grounds were nice.

We did, however, make it to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Admittance into the cathedral was free of charge.

Our last day in Moscow, we went to the Armory Chamber. Pictures aren’t allowed at the exhibits inside but just trust me, it was pretty impressive. The whole museum was like walking into Game of Thrones. Everything was immaculate. It was mind blowing just how royal the royal family was. Everything was intricately painted or bejeweled or finely stitched.

In addition to the Armory chamber, we also decided to check out the Diamond Fund which is a collection of gems and jewelry. It’s one of 3 most valuable collections in the world including the Crown Jewels in the UK and the Imperial Crown Jewels in Iran. It’s in the same location as the other Kremlin museums but is not a part of the Kremlin but it is run by the Ministry of Finance. Admission into the Diamond Fund is a bit complicated since they only allow a limited amount of people to see the collection at one time and they only admit people at 20 minute intervals. We happened to be there at the right time so we didn’t have to wait in line to get admitted. The Diamond Fund is located right when you enter and exit the armory chamber. Admission into the Diamond Fund is 500 rubles. You will be able to purchase tickets right in front of the entrance into the room. After that, you will need to go through a small security check and will be let in at the appropriate time. Pictures are not allowed once inside the Diamond Fund. If you have the chance to go, I thought the collection was pretty impressive.

Since we had time to kill before our train to St. Petersburg that night we decided to do some shopping at Izmaylovsky Market. It was a weekday and we got there a little late so the selection wasn’t great and a lot of vendors were closing up their stalls but it was fun to walk around to see all the handmade crafts and Soviet paraphernalia. It’s basically a souvenir haven. I was in search for a matryoshka doll but didn’t find any that I liked. I did, however, find some pretty hand painted plates and bowls which was terrible to lug around for the rest of my trip but totally worth it since I use them all the time now. After the market, we wandered around the kremlin at Izmaylovo, which is right next to the market. It was like the Russian Disneyland since it was sort of like an amusement park and visually, the kremlin is modeled after Russian palaces in fairy tales. The whole area has little museums and gift shops. It was a super bizarre place but it was a fun place to wander around in.

We had a night train to St. Petersburg and the train we took from Moscow to St. Petersburg was the nicest train of our entire trip. We also had the cabin to ourselves which was an added bonus.

 

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