What’s initially a three-day trip to Moscow turned out to be a one-day see-whatever-you-can kind of trip. Well, almost. When we found out that most of the stuff that interests us are in St. Petersburg, we had to make a decision between extending our stay or prioritize our wants. Since we didn’t have the luxury of time (most of our leaves will be for the wedding!), we managed to add only 2 days and decided to chock off our time in Moscow. We sandwiched St. Petersburg between our days in the capital since domestic flights have a reputation of getting delayed. Of course, ours did.
One thing I hate about visiting this country is the short operating hours of museums and spots. They usually open late, about 10 or 11 in the morning and closes at 5PM! Sadly, the half days we spent in Moscow mostly did not fall in this time frame. Yikes! So here’s sharing our super brief look at the capital of Russia.
We arrived in Moscow at 2PM, raced to the immigration counters and queued for a good 30 minutes. The officers are quite tedious about checking our bookings and they make a lot of phone calls, although I don’t know if these calls are related to our passports getting stamped. It’s a good thing we didn’t have checked-in bags (believe it or not!), so after the immigration stop, we headed straight to the train station.
Aero Express took us from the airport to the heart of Moscow. The train is very efficient and comfortable. It leaves every half hour so we need not to wait for too long. We changed lines in Kievskaya and hop on the metro that took us to the city center. It took us 35 minutes to reach Alexandrovsky Sad station – just a crossing away from The Kremlin’s ticketing office.
The Desert Life Tip: Download the app called Yandex for an easier way to navigate the Moscow Metro. It works for other cities/countries, too.
It was a relief that the lines weren’t too long. But the lady behind the counter gave us quite a hard time understanding her Russian (mixed with her broken English). Good thing, it wasn’t too long until we were off to see the Cathedral Square and the Armoury.
The Kremlin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (together with Red Square). It is the core of Moscow known for its red solid walls and towers. The palace of the president. It is one huge complex and we were so sure our 2-hour allotted time wouldn’t suffice. It closes at 6.
Straight to the Cathedral Square we went, admired the number of churches standing tall next to each other. These were built the traditional Russian style – simple, massive and capped with golden domes.
We queued to enter Cathedral of the Dormition, intrigued by its murals on the façade. When we got to the door, the guy checking the tickets didn’t allow us to get in! We tried to comprehend what he was trying to say but he kept on pointing to our ticket. That’s when we realized that we were not given a ticket to the Cathedral Square! Oh God. I had a glimpse of the cathedral’s interior and wow, it is filled with frescoes! Such loss! But then again, we couldn’t afford to walk all the way down to the ticketing, queue and all, so we just brushed it off and tried to see whatever our tickets can let us.
I spotted the Annunciation Cathedral with no officers checking tickets. Walking through its doors was a breeze. The cathedral looked pretty big on the outside but it was actually small inside. The dark painted walls seemed to cramp the whole space and when you investigate its frescoes, it will make you feel smaller – in a positive way. The iconostasis is magnificent!
Next stop is the Armoury Chamber, which is located near the embankment. We walked a narrow corridor past the cloakroom (the first time I’ve seen one – it’s like the ones I’ve seen in cartoons! lol) and a lane of souvenir stalls, then up and woah, there we were! Despite being called ‘armoury’, the museum boasts more than just weapons but jewels, crowns, pieces of furniture, dresses, horse armor and royal carriages! The last two were the most interesting to me. Too bad, photography’s not allowed inside.
On our way to the Red Square, we passed by the colorful and lively Alexander Garden and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was very excited to see what I came for in Moscow but when I looked on the direction pointing to the onion-domed cathedral, my lips curled at the sight of a cobbled and steep path.
We walked the way between the Kremlin walls and the State Historical Museum. Man, the museum is massive and amazing in red with its greyish white details that kind of looked like snow from afar!
And then there it was, the onion domes! But wait a minute, what’s that long façade on the left that resembles a palace? I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful architecture of the building until I realized it was the state department store, GUM. But eyes on the prize, my candy-colored domes are waiting at the far end.
As I move closer, St. Basil’s Cathedral becomes smaller. It is one of those sites that looks big in photos but not really in person. We attempted to get in but they wouldn’t allow us because of our bags. Well, admiring it from the outside is enough. After seeing the cathedral, my mission in Moscow was accomplished!
Hungry from all the walking and lugging around with heavy bags, we entered GUM for an uber late lunch. We don’t usually go to malls when traveling but GUM was just too gorgeous to pass. The inside didn’t disappoint as well. We loved the detail and quality of workmanship of this 19th century mall. The flowerbeds outside continued its way in, adding more life to the entire mall. We had a filling lunch at Stolovaskaya no 57, which I will be writing about separately.
Our first day ended in our quaint apartment in Volkhonka Street, near the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and Cathedral of Christ the Savior. We capped the night by 9PM for an early flight to St. Petersburg the following day.
We returned to Moscow on the eve of our last day in Russia. Arriving in a rainy, late afternoon was actually a good excuse to laze and hide under the sheets. We only got out of the comfort of our apartment to look for a good place to have dinner. We were happy to discover Cool Kulinarya located just a few steps away from Leo Tolstoy Museum.
The rain continued the following morning, making it hard to navigate especially when you can’t take off your map out of your bag because you realize some guys have been following you. Our last days in the country weren’t really as enjoyable as we thought it would be. But thank God we made it to Café Pushkin for breakfast. I really won’t leave Moscow without stepping in this old and posh café.
We swung by Bolshoi Theatre later on and walked back to the Red Square before we bid adieu to Moscow. Returning to the Red Square in the gloomy weather made us see it in a different light. It was then that I appreciate the rain – a rare occurrence from my usual Julys in Dubai.
Silly me, trying to read the block Cyrillic letters atop this geometric building in front of me when I suddenly realized it was Lenin’s Mausoleum. The queue was short as opposed to what I’ve been reading online but we didn’t pop in to visit because we think it’s kind of creepy.
We may have not covered enough of Moscow but I’m happy to tick off a few from my bucket list. It’s a city we’d love to come back and explore more in the future.