The capital of the largest country in the world, Moscow lies on the far western side of Russia, more than 5,500 miles/9,000 kilometers from the east coast. Named for its river, the Moskva, the city is a world economic hub and home to almost three dozen billionaires, more than any other city except New York. A contrasting skyline of notable buildings, Soviet monuments, and modern skyscrapers showcases the city’s many diverse eras of its history. Brutal winters keep Muscovites blanketed in snow until the relatively short summer, which, although usually mild, has in recent years seen its share of scorchers.
THE CITY’S CULTURE
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the city has earned a reputation for decadence and debauchery. Nightclubs reflect this change with rigorous door control, only letting in those who pass a strict fashion code, so dress to impress. While the city was once ranked as one of the most expensive in the world, recent years have seen the ruble drop considerably, making visits more affordable. If you’re lucky enough to snag an invitation to a private home, expect to be doted on while your host serves nonstop food and drink—then toast them heartily and at length, as per Russian custom. Petty crime, particularly pickpocketing, is rampant, and the police are notoriously corrupt, so stay alert while out and about.
The massive confectionary masterpieces that comprise Moscow’s most famous buildings are a sight to behold. The Kremlin houses the crown jewels of Russian tsars and today acts as the residence of the Russian president. Many visitors insist that a night visit to St. Basil’s Cathedral is the only way to experience the former religious structure that is now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage site. The State Tretyakov Gallery houses the finest collection of Russian art anywhere in the world, while the Cosmonautics Memorial Museum details the Soviet Union and Russia’s achievements in the space race. Befitting its name, the Bolshoi (“big” in Russian) Ballet is the largest and one of the most renowned troupes on the planet and still performs at its namesake theater. A simple trip on the Moscow metro can be a memorable experience: Its 200-plus stations often resemble palaces or miniature art museums with their grandiose décor.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
In or within walking distance of Red Square are several famous sights, including St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and the Kremlin. Tverskaya (formerly Gorky) Street is both the city’s main thoroughfare and one of the most expensive shopping destinations on the planet, as well as a nightlife hub. The surrounding neighborhood of Tverskoy is crammed with theaters. The streets around Pushkin Square, named for the renowned Russian writer, are filled with cafes, bars, and boutiques, while more upscale offerings lie in and around Petrovka Street, named for St. Peter’s Monastery. A trip outside the city to the town of Sergiev Posad brings visitors to the Trinity Lavra of St.