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Exploring Russia - Best Of Russia - Trip Advisor

Are you going to Russia? Explore Russia for yourself!


  "... I first started thinking about a trip to Russia about a year before my departure. I have long been interested in Russia and have read quite a lot about the former Soviet Union, the breakup, and current situations in Russia and former republics of the USSR.
      But a year ago actually going there seemed little more than a dream. However, the more I thought about it the more I began to see such a trip as something I could actually do, so I began planning in earnest.
   After plane tickets were bought, a visa was applied for and granted, and the time to fly drew closer, I started getting a little nervous. You see, this was my first time out of the United States. When friends finally realized I was truly serious about going they'd say, "Russia? Why are you going to Russia?!" And their surprise and subtle but real concern for my well-being made me start thinking I was making a mistake. "Why not England or France? You've never even been out of the country," they'd say. "You don't speak the language. And I just read in the paper the other day that things are terrible there." As you can see these comments were not reassuring.
    Well, I went anyway with a very ominous feeling I was in for something, but not quite sure what. I first left Atlanta on August  24th and flew to New York City, where I spent a few days with friends and falling in love with a truly great city. Then, on August 27th I boarded a plane and headed out over the ocean for my Russian Adventure.
    As it turned out, what I was in for was the most exciting and educational experience of my thirty four years. I found an incredible country, steeped in one of the richest and most complex histories of any place on earth, wonderful and caring people from many of the former USSR republics who welcomed me into their lives and homes like a long lost friend.
   And finally, I found a little bit of myself. In the hearts and spirits of the people I could see very clearly the same hopes and aspirations that people share all over the world. And I became convinced, from real life experiences, that the fragile peace now forming between people once held as adversaries by their governments can only survive with a real committment to find these common values, and nurturing their growth.  I found there something that changed my whole life. Explore Russia for yourself..."

exploring Russia - moscow
    MOSCOW is all things to all people. For Westerners, the city may look European, but its unruly spirit seems closer to Central Asia. To Muscovites, however, Moscow is both a "Mother City" and a "big village", a tumultuous community which possesses an underlying collective instinct that shows itself in times of trouble. Home of one in fifteen Russians, it is huge, surreal and apocalyptic. Its beauty and ugliness are inseparable, its sentimentality the obverse of a brutality rooted in centuries of despotism, while private and cultural life in the city are as passionate as business and politics are cynical.    Moscow has been imbued with a sense of its own destiny since the fourteenth century, when the principality of Muscovy took the lead in the struggle against the Mongol-Tatars who had reduced the Kievan state to ruins. Under Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible - the "Gatherers of the Russian Lands" - its realm came to encompass everything from the White Sea to the Caspian, while after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, Moscow assumed Byzantium's suzerainty over the Orthodox world. Despite the changes wrought by Peter the Great - not least the transfer of the capital to St Petersburg - Moscow kept its mystique and bided its time until the Bolsheviks made it the fountainhead of a new creed. 
  Since the fall of Communism, Muscovites have given themselves over largely to the "Wild Capitalism" that intoxicates the city, as Mayor Luzhkov puts into effect major building programmes which are changing the face of the city more radically than at any time since the Stalin era. The construction boom seemed to reach its height with the celebrations of the city's 850th anniversary in 1997, but intensive building activity continues throughout the centre

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   Discounting a couple of satellite towns beyond the outer ring road, Moscow covers an area of about 900 square kilometres. Yet, despite its size and the inhuman scale of many of its buildings and avenues, the general layout is easily grasped - a series of concentric circles and radial lines, emanating from the Kremlin - and the centre is compact enough to explore on foot.
    Red Square and the Kremlin are the historic nucleus of the city, a magnificent stage for political drama, signifying a great sweep of history that encompasses Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Stalin and Gorbachev. Here you'll find Lenin's Mausoleum and St Basil's Cathedral, the famous GUM department store, and the Kremlin itself, whose splendid cathedrals and Armoury museum head the list of attractions. The Kremlin is ringed by two quarters defined by boulevards built over the original ramparts of medieval times, when Moscow's residential areas were divided into the inner Beliy Gorod and the humbler outer Zemlyanoy Gorod - both quarters housing a number of museums and art galleries.
    Beyond this historic core Moscow is too sprawling to explore on foot: you'll need to rely on the metro. To the southwest of the Kremlin, Krasnaya Presnya describes a swathe which includes the White House (the Russian Parliament building); the Novodevichiy Convent further south across the Moskva River; Victory Park, to the southwest; and Moscow State University, in the Sparrow Hills. South across the river from the Kremlin, Zamoskvoreche is home of the Tretyakov Gallery of Russian art and Gorky Park, while further south are the Donskoy and Danilov monasteries that once stood guard against the Tatars, as well as the romantic ex-royal estate of Kolomenskoe . Fewer attractions are to be found to the north and east of the centre, but you should venture out to visit VDNKh , a huge Stalinist exhibition park with amazing statues and pavilions, in the vicinity of Moscow's Botanical Gardens and TV Tower, and to the Andrei Rublev Museum of Old Russian Art and Culture .


    Arriving by train from London, Berlin or Warsaw, you'll end up at Belarus Station (Belorusskiy vokzal), about 1km northwest of the Garden Ring. Services from Budapest terminate at Kiev Station (Kievskiy vokzal), south of the Moskva River. If you're coming from St Petersburg, Finland or Estonia, your train will terminate at Leningrad Station (Leningradskiy vokzal). To get into the centre from any of these stations, your safest bet is to take the metro , as taxis tend to charge whatever they can get away with, which can be quite a hefty sum after the last bus has left.

    The main international airport is at Sheremetevo-2, 28km northwest of the city centre. To avoid any hassle, or if you know you'll be arriving after dark, the Travellers Guest House and most top hotels can arrange for you to be met at the airport. The fee ($40 plus) helps avoid haggling. If you have no booking, fight your way past the massed vultures at the exit to the official taxi stand, or the Taxi Blues stand, where the fee should be no more than $30. The alternative is to get into town by public transport , which involves a two-stage journey by bus and metro, and costs the ruble equivalent of under $1. There are frequent express buses into town from outside the arrivals terminal, most going either to Rechnoy vokzal or Planernaya metro.

   If you need to pick up leaflets, maps and general information on what's going on in and around Moscow, you're best off going to the information desk of the Metropol Hotel , Teatralniy pr. 1/4 (tel 095/927-6000). The Travellers Guest House also functions as an excellent information centre. Russian speakers would do best to buy the glossy bi-weekly Afisha , Moscow's equivalent of Time Out .

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  Although central Moscow is best explored on foot, the city is so big that you're bound to rely on its famous metro system to get around (check out its stunning interiors at www.metro.ru ). The metro trains run daily from 6am to 1am, with services every two minutes during peak periods (8-10am & 5-7pm) and every three to five minutes at other times. You can buy travel cards valid for anything from one to sixty rides. The cost is minimal, at around 20 cents per ride. Providing you don't leave the metro, you can travel any distance, and change lines as many times as you like for the cost of one ride. Stations are marked with a large "M" and have separate doors for incoming and outgoing passengers. All signs and maps are in Russian, including "entrance" ( vkhod ), "exit" ( vykhod ) and "passage to another line" ( perekhod ).
    Buses , trolleybuses and trams operate from 5.30am until about 11pm, although the odd one is occasionally seen at midnight. Buses and trolleybuses run through the centre of the city, trams usually in the outskirts. Bus stops are marked with yellow signs and trolleybus stops have blue and white signs suspended, like those for tram stops, from overhead cables. Tickets ( talony ) for buses, trolleybuses and trams are available from the driver of the vehicle (single tickets and batches of ten for around $1). Some buses and trams have conductors who sell and check tickets. In general, overground transport is inefficient in central Moscow and you're best off sticking with the metro. 
  The official taxis are yellow or grey Volgas, but others can come in all shapes and sizes. Taxi drivers often don't use their meters, so it's best to negotiate the fare before getting in to avoid any unpleasant surprises, especially as foreigners are likely to be charged more than the standard fare. Private cars will also stop if you stick your hand out and can be considerably cheaper than an official taxi with its meter off. They're generally safe, but for a woman travelling alone at night they should be avoided.

   It's no problem finding good food and drink in Moscow these days. In fact, the problem is choosing where to go. For the homesick there are numerous American bars and steakhouses, plus American coffee bars. Nonetheless, the wide gap between the top and bottom ends of the market and the relative shortage of places in between means that good, affordable restaurants are often full in the evenings, so reserving in advance is advised. Most places have a member of staff with a rudimentary grasp of English, and many offer some kind of entertainment in the evening. Most cafes serve plentiful and excellent food, at much lower prices than full-blown restaurants, and seldom require bookings, making them a boon for budget travellers. Many middle-range and more expensive places now take a variety of credit cards.
    In recent years a large number of small rock clubs and bars have opened up, offering great food at amazingly cheap prices. Ordinary Russians tend to buy alcohol in a shop and drink it at home, but there are more and more Western-style bars springing up all over the place. 
   In this list we have weighted the selection towards more traditional Russian eateries - after all, why come to Russia to eat Indian? - and the cheap but high-quality places. Caucasian food (Georgian, Armenian) is almost always good in Moscow, and the more Caucasians you see in there, the better the joint.
   A full list of literally hundreds of worthy places can be found in the Moscow Times supplement, The Beat , updated weekly.
Cafes, bars and fast food
   Amalteya , Stremyanny per. 28/1; Serpukhovksya metro. Choose from a vast range of meze in this cheap Turkish cafe, which has a singer in the evenings. Daily 11am-last client. 
  Dioscarius , Merzlyakovskiy per. 2; Arbatskaya metro. Georgian food and great variety of Georgian wine, right in the centre of town. No credit cards. Daily 11am-midnight.
  Donna Clara , Malaya Bronnaya ul. 21/13; Mayakovskaya metro. Small cafe in the heart of literary Moscow, offering great window seats. Daily 10am-11.30pm.
  Guriya , Komsomolskiy pr. 7/3; Park Kultury metro. Cheap and scrumptious Georgian food, if a little full of the foreign community. No credit cards. Daily 11am-11pm.
  Kofe-In (Caffeine) , Bolshaya Dmitrovka ul. 15; Teatralnaya metro. A few main meals, but mainly great coffee and desserts. No credit cards. Daily 9am-11pm.
  Kot Begemot , Spiridonyevskiy per. 10A; Mayakovskaya metro. Food nearly as good as the location. No credit cards. Daily noon-midnight.
  Krizis Zhanra , Prechistenskiy per. 22/4; Kropotninskaya metro. Ridiculously cheap and mellow bar with a variety of live music. Very popular, with live bands in the evening. Daily 11am-11pm. Concerts start 8pm.
  Ogonyok , Krasnaya Presnaya ul. 36; 1905-goda metro. Russian food that doesn't limit itself to pelmeni and beetroot. No credit cards. Daily noon-11pm.
  PiR O.G.I. , Pyatnitskaya ul. 29l; Novokuznetskaya metro. Great food and beer, and you're bound to meet someone you know in here. No credit cards. 24 hours.
  Project O.G.I. , Potapovskiy per. 8/12; Chistiye prudy metro. Hip club, bar and restaurant with sessions for kids in the mornings. No credit cards. Daily 8am-6pm.
  U Babushki (At Granny's), Bolshaya Ordynka ul. 42; Tretyakovskaya metro. Small, cosy, with homely food - just like its name implies. Daily noon-10.30pm.
  U Nikitskikh Vorot , Bolshaya Nikitskaya ul. 23/9; Okhotny Ryad metro. Cheap Georgian food, in a comfortable bar (rather plain restaurant). No credit cards. Daily noon-midnight.
  U Yuzefa , Dubininskaya ul 11/17; Paveletskaya metro. Jewish home cooking, old fashioned, with live music. No credit cards. Daily noon-11pm.
 Yolki-Palki , Tverskaya ul. 18; Bolshaya Dmitrovka ul. 23/8; Klimentovskiy per. 14/1; Novyy Arbat ul. 11; etc. If you want to eat Russian/Ukrainian/Mongolian food at rock-bottom prices, join the queue at one of ten or so branches of this popular eatery. No credit cards. 11am-midnight.
      Moosh , Oktyabrskaya ul. 2/4 (tel 095/284 3670); Novoslobodskaya metro. Very cheap Armenian food, just behind the Red Army Park. Daily 10am-midnight.
    Petrovich Club , Myasnitskaya ul. 24 (tel 095/923 0082); Chistiye Prudy metro. Russian nouvelle cuisine and nostalgia for a Soviet childhood in the 1960s and 1970s. No credit cards. Daily 2pm-5am.
   Praga , ul. Arbat 2 (tel 095/290 61 71); Arbatskaya metro. Impossible to get into without a bribe during the Soviet period, ghastly dump in the early years of perestroika, the place lived on its reputation as a pre-Revolutionary palace of haute cuisine and high society. Now easily back in the running for quality, it should be visited if only for its place in Moscow's social history. Daily noon-midnight.
   Raisky Dvor , Spiridonovka ul. 25 (tel 095/290 13 41); Mayakovskaya metro. Russian and European food, inside Orwell's Animal Farm . Daily noon-6am.
  Moscow's nightlife has it all, and thankfully the days of disco dominance are gone, so there are plenty of small, intimate nightclubs and great live music of all genres.
  Alongside the city's restaurants and clubs, there's a rich cultural life in Moscow. Classical music, opera and ballet are strongly represented with a busy schedule of concerts and performances throughout the year, sometimes held in the city's palaces, churches or - in summer - parks and gardens. Even if you don't speak Russian, puppetry and the circus transcend language barriers, while several cinemas show films in their original language.
 The America Cinema ( Radisson-Slavyanskaya Hotel ; tel 095/941 87 47; Kievskaya metro), and Dome Cinema, Olimpiiskiy pr. 18/1 ( Renaissance Hotel ; Prospekt Mira metro), show films in their original languages, and there's a discount for students. The Moscow Times has OK listings in English, but if you speak a little Russian buy Afisha , the equivalent of Time Out , which covers the full range of just about everything everywhere, from gigs to contemporary art exhibitions, to poetry readings.
Clubs and live music
   Dom , Bolshoy Ovchinnikovskiy per. 24/4; Novokuznetskaya metro. For the hip "intellectual" crowd. Thurs-Sun 7.30-11pm.
  Hungry Duck , 9 Pushechnaya ul.; Kuznetskiy Most metro. Renowned for its bad-taste raucous entertainments. Daily 8pm-6am.
  Kitayskiy Lyotchik Dzhao Da , Lubyanskiy proezd 25; Kitay-gorod metro. Coolest place to be seen and hear the best bands on offer. No credit cards. 24 hours.
  Luch , Monetchikovskiy per. 5/3; Paveletskaya metro. Rave, chemical, and some weird acts. Cover charge. Daily 10pm-4am.
  Novie Vasyuki , Starokonyushenniy per. 2; Kropotkinskaya metro. Cellar club with a miniscule stage which draws some big names. No credit cards. 2pm to last customer.
  Propaganda , Bolshoy Zlatoustinskiy per. 7; Kitay-gorod metro. Very young but dead cool, with some of the city's best DJs. No credit cards. Sun-Wed noon-12.30am; Thurs noon-3am, Fri 10pm-6am; Sat 3pm-6am.
  Staraya ploshchad , Bolshoy Cherkasskiy per. 8; Kitay-gorod metro. Cellar club for the down-to-earth. No credit cards. Daily 6pm-6am.
  Svalka , Profsoyuznaya ul. 27/1; Profsoyuznaya metro. This place has taken over from Propaganda for grunge, and has much better music. Svalka does, after all, mean "rubbish dump". Daily 7pm-6am.
  Territoria , Tverskaya ul. 5/6; Okhotniy Ryad metro. Everyone seems to know each other here. Thurs-Sun 1pm-6am. 
 Opera and ballet
  Bolshoy Theatre , Teatralnaya pl. 1 (tel 095/292 99 86); Teatralnaya metro. Fighting hard in its rivalry with Petersburg's Mariinskiy, the competition is great for standards. The ballet and Russian opera is still stupendous, although Italian opera can be a bit off. Decent tickets cost $40 or more for foreigners. Performances Tues-Sun at 7pm, and a matinee on Sunday.
  Helikon Opera , Bolshaya Nikitskaya ul. (tel 095/290 0971); Pushkinskaya metro. Small theatre offering intimate, small-scale productions, including works by Handel and Bach.

  New Circus , pr. Vernadskovo 7 (tel 095/930 28 15); Universitet metro. Moscow's Circus is one of the finest in the world, but still uses animal acts. Performances Wed-Fri 7pm, Sat & Sun 11.30am, 3pm & 7pm.
  Yuriy Nikulin Circus , Tsvetnoy bul. 13 (tel 095/200 06 68); Tsvetnoy bulvar metro. Clowns are their forte. Performances Thurs and Fri-Sun 7pm, matinees Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
  Airlines:   Aeroflot, ul. Koroviy val 7 (tel 095/156 8019); British Airways, 1-ya Tverskaya-Yamskaya 23 (tel 095/363 2525, www.britishairways.com/russia ). For flight information at Sheremetevo-2 call 095/956 4666.
   American Express Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya ul. 21a (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; tel 095/755 9024).
  Bookshop Shakespeare & Company, 1-y Novokuznetskiy per. 5/7 (Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun noon-6pm; tel 095/951 9360); Novokuznetskaya metro. English language books, new and secondhand.
   Buses Eurolines desk on the second floor of the main building at Leningrad Station (tel 095/975 3309).
  Car rental These companies may have cars without drivers: A.M. Rent (tel 095/952 9658, www.amrent.ru ); Budget (tel 095/578 7344, budgetmoscow@col.ru ); Europcar (tel 095/155 0170, www.europcar.com ).
  Embassies:  Australia, Kropotkinskiy per. 13 (Mon-Fri 9am-12.30pm & 1.30-5pm; tel 095/956 6070);  Canada, Starokonyushenniy per. 23 (Mon-Fri 8.30am-5pm; tel 095/956 6666);  Great Britain, Smolenskaya nab. 10 (Mon-Fri 9am-1pm & 2-4pm; tel 095/956 72 00); Ireland, Grokholskiy per. 5 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-1pm & 2.30-5.30pm; tel 095/937 5911);  New Zealand, Povarskaya ul. 44 (Mon-Fri 10am-noon & 2-4pm; tel 095/956 3579); USA, Novinskiy bulvar 19/23 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; tel 095/728 5000).
   For medical assistance, American Medical Center, Grokholskiy per. 1 (tel 095/933 7700, www.amcenters.com ); European Medical Centre, 2-oy Tverskoy-Yamskoy per. 10 (tel 095/787 7000, www.emcmos.ru/eng ); both recognized by international insurance companies.
   Official currency exchanges and ATMs all over the centre of Moscow.
 Internet cafes
   Chevignon at Stoleshnikov per. 14 (tel 095/733 9205; Teatralnaya metro); Internet Cafe, Novoslobodskaya ul. 16 ( www.cafe.image.ru ; Mendeleyevskaya metro); Internet Club, Kuznetskiy most 12 (tel 095/250 6169; Kuznetskiy Most metro).
   For laundry or dry cleaning try one of the many branches of California Cleaners - for instance at Petrovska 27 (Mon-Sat 10am-10pm; tel 095/200 6400) or Noviy Arbat 54 (daily 10am-8pm; tel 095/241 0761).
Left luggage
    Most train stations have lockers and/or a 24hr left-luggage office, but you would be tempting fate to use them.
    Staryy Arbat, Arbatskaya ul. 25; Multifarma, Tursistkaya ul. 27; 24hr pharmacy at pr. Mira 71.
Post office
   Central Telegraph Office at Tverskaya ul. 7 (8am-10pm); the Main Post Office ( glavniy pochtamt ) is at Myasnitskaya ul. 26/2, 101000 (daily 8am-8pm), near Chistye Prudy metro. Express postal services via Courier Service, Bolshaya Sadovaya 10 (tel 095/209 1735; Mayakovskaya metro); EMS Garant at the International Post Office, Varshavskoe shosse 37 (tel 095/728 4151); PXPost, Zorge ul. 10 (tel 095/956 2230).
Railway tickets .
    These can be bought cheaply at the stations or for a small commission from one of hundreds of agencies. Conveniently located in the centre is Intourtrans at Petrovka 15/13 (tel 095/929 8855).
Student Travel
    Star Travel at Baltiyskaya ul. 9 (tel 095/797 9555).
The Kremlin
   Rising above the Moskva river at the heart of the city, the Kremlin is a tantalizing array of towers, domed cathedrals and palaces: a must-see on any visit to Moscow.

Red Square: Lenin's Mausoleum and St Basil's
   Red Square-Moscow-RussiaRed Square is as loaded with history as it is sights, among them Lenin's Mausoleum. Whether they see it as a cherished relic or awkward reminder, most visitors still want to pay a visit to the embalmed founder of the Soviet state before heading off to the onion-domed splendour of St. Basil's Cathedral.

Tretyakov Gallery
   Behind the Neo-Russian facade of the Tretyakov Gallery, you'll find the largest collection of Russian art in the world, from medieval icons to Kandinsky.

Pushkin Museum
   From Egyptian antiquities to Picasso, the Pushkin Museum's collections are so vast that only a fraction can be displayed; plan your visit carefully so you don't run out of steam half way round.

Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery

   Wander round the grounds, museum and cathedral of the beautiful Novodevichy Convent, and then pay your respects to the likes of Gogol, Chekhov and Shostakovich in the adjacent cemetery.

   Join the flocks of Muscovites who escape the city for the fresh air of Kolomenskoe, a former royal summer retreat set in ancient woodland, which has one of the finest churches in Russia, the Church of the Ascension.

Bolshoy Theatre
   If ballet's your thing, a night at the Bolshoy will certainly leave you breathless, and there seems to be no limit to the scope of their repertoire, which - with no fewer than 22 ballets - is the largest in the world.

Exploring Moscow

Х  Andronikov Monastery complex
Х  Beliy Gorod
Х  Krasnaya Presnya
Х  Kremlin
Х  Red Square
Х  South of Zamoskvoreche
Х  Zamoskvoreche
Х  Zemlyanoy Gorod

Hotel Reservation in Moscow (Russia) - and surrounding areas

Cars in Moscow, Russia

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