This destination trip report will cover a one day (24 hour) stopover in Moscow, the capital of Russia.
A stopover in Moscow
Even though I have visited Moscow once before I wanted to use the opportunity of this trip to revisit this great city. Unfortunately, the fare rules of my extraordinary business class ticket deal only allowed a maximum stopover of 24 hours in Moscow. Trying to build a longer stopover into the ticket would jack up the price almost tenfold.
In the end I opted for a flight from Irkutsk to the Russian capital which arrived into Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport at 2.20pm. I would depart again the next day on a 1.05pm flight to Paris.
From the Pushkin Hotel in which would stay for the night it was only a short 15 to 20 minute walk to the Red Square along Tverskaya Street, one of the city’s main boulevards. As there were only two or so hours of daylight left by the time I set off from my hotel, I decided to ditch any plans for discovering new parts of Moscow which I haven’t seen before.
Instead, I opted for just a casual stroll along some of the main sights of Moscow, slowly making my way down to the Kremlin and Red Square. I might have seen all of this before, but these sights never fail to impress and I would gladly take them in again.
The first bit of my walk through Moscow took me down along Tverskaya Street. Shortly before reaching the entrance towards Red Square and the Kremlin, I turned left towards the famous Bolshoi Theatre.
From the Bolshoi I headed slowly towards Red Square, passing by the huge building of the Russian State Duma (the lower house of the Russian Federation) along the way.
When I reached the entrance to Red Square I was in for a big shock. The last time I visited Moscow a couple of years back the square was almost deserted. This time, it was so packed that it felt more like walking in a city like Venice or Barcelona.
Besides thousands of (mostly Asian) tourists there were also a lot of Muscovites out to enjoy what looked like a sort of Christmas Market on the square, which I found rather strange as it was already mid-February. Even though I dislike massive crowds, the vibe was actually quite nice with many people taking their kids for a funfair ride, admiring the beautiful lights or taking a snack or drink from one of the stalls.
Most people will enter Red Square through the Resurrection Gate (Voskresenskiye Vorota). In front of the gate is also a bronze plaque which marks kilometre zero of the Russian road network.
In my opinion, the Red Square in Moscow is one of the greatest sights in the world to see. I don’t say that because it is the most beautiful place imaginable, but rather because it is steeped in so much history. Just walking onto Red Square, seeing the Kremlin walls at one side, the GUM department store on the other side and the St. Basil’s Cathedral at the far end is a moment you will not easily forget.
There are great views over the Kremlin walls and towers from Red Square. A Kremlin is basically a Medieval name given to any fortified complex inside a city from where a certain area was ruled. The Moscow Kremlin is thus far from the only one Kremlin in Russia. There is a Kremlin in Kazan, a Kremlin in Suzdal, in Novgorod..
Of course, Moscow’s Kremlin has become synonymous with the Russian government in the same way as the White House has become synonymous with the American government in Washington D.C. Just like the White House hosts the executive branch of government of the USA (the presidency), the same counts for Russia as it the Kremlin is the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation.
To visit inside the Kremlin’s walls and get access to some of the churches, palaces, towers and Armoury Museum, you must buy an admission ticket. These tickets are however limited in numbers, so it is best to buy them online in advance. Note that the Kremlin is closed for tourists on Thursdays. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit inside during my shot stopover in Moscow, so I have to come back one day to go inside the Kremlin!
Another sight which can easily be visited is Lenin’s embalmed body which has been put on display in a mausoleum on Red Square. When the communist leader of the USSR died in 1924, his wish to be buried next to his mother was ignored by the Soviet leadership. Since his death, Lenin’s body has been visited by millions of people.
Only during World War II was his body removed from the mausoleum by the Soviet Government and transported to Siberia when it looked like the Nazis could conquer Moscow soon. Fortunately, the Nazis were beaten back and Lenin’s body was eventually returned to Moscow.
Lenin’s embalmed body can be visited for free on every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10am to 1pm, with the exception of public holidays. Every visitor will be searched before entering the mausoleum. Photography and filming inside is strictly forbidden, and visitors are asked to show respect by refraining from talking and for men to remove their hats.
Opposite the Kremlin on Red Square you will find the GUM. GUM is an abbreviation which stands for State Department Store (Государственный универсальный магазин). It was basically the state-run department store where the masses could shop in the days of the Soviet Union. There were GUMs in many cities across the Soviet Union, with the one on Moscow’s Red Square being obviously the most famous.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the old GUM has been converted into a luxurious shopping centre. There are many expensive brands which have their outlets inside this big mall, which is fitting to the new image of Moscow as a playground for the rich.
Exploring the surroundings of Red Square
I exited the GUM towards a side-street instead of returning to Red Square and was in for another surprise. Nikolskaya Street was lovely decorated with thousands of lights seemingly floating above the street. The entire neighbourhood to the east around the Kremlin towards Lubyanka and Kitay-gorod metro stations is full of shops and restaurants and makes for a good stroll.
Moscow rooftop view
After walking a while around the area, I headed to nearby Tsentral’nyy Detskiy Magazin (Central Children’s Store), which is just a stone throw away from Lubyanka. Even though they do sell toys, it is actually a huge shopping centre where also plenty of other goods are sold. You can also find a large food court in the building, as well as some other restaurants and cafes scattered around the floors.
More importantly, the building also features a rooftop terrace with sweeping views over the city. It was indeed absolutely worth it to take a set of escalators all the way up.
Revisiting Red Square
As it was now fully dark, I headed back to Red Square for some more photography at night. The entire square has an entirely different vibe and look in the evening with all the lights on, especially with the stalls of the Christmas Market. It is a place well worth returning to a few times during your Moscow visit.
As I still had some energy left, I decided to walk to Arbat Street, Moscow’s most famous pedestrian street. Arbat is full of (tourist) shops, restaurants and pubs. It makes for a nice stroll but I was surprised again how crowded it was – nearly all restaurants, including the fast food ones, were completely packed.
After getting a quick evening snack from one of the fast food restaurants I decided to return back to my hotel as I still had a bit of work to do and was getting tired as it had been a long day flying and walking. It is never a punishment to use Moscow’s beautiful metro system with its palace-like stations and also the ride back did not disappoint.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and evening walking around Moscow. Of course, this is absolutely not sufficient at all to properly see the city. If you have time, I would highly recommend staying a day or three in town.
Unfortunately, my ticket did not allow for a stopover longer than 24 hours maximum and I had to settle for this quick revisit. Setting foot again on Red Square after several years reminded me how much I like the Russian capital. Moscow will surely always always remain one of those historical cities which in my opinion you just must visit at least once in your life.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Siberian Shuffle – A Crazy Winter Trip Around Eurasia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Wizz Air economy class from Bucharest to Oslo Sandefjord Torp (Airbus A321)
2. A day in the Norwegian capital of Oslo
3. Review: Norwegian Railways night train from Oslo to Stavanger in a private sleeper
4. Review: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Stavanger
5. A day in the city of Stavanger, Norway
6. Review: Stavanger Airport North Sea Lounge
7. Review: KLM Cityhopper business class Stavanger to Amsterdam (Embraer RJ-175)
8. Celebrating carnival in the Netherlands
9. Review: KLM Crown Lounge (Schengen) Amsterdam Airport
10. Review: Air France business class Amsterdam to Paris (Airbus A319)
11. Review: ‘Salon Paris’ business class lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2C
12. Review: Aeroflot business class Paris to Moscow (Airbus A320)
13. Review: Aeroflot domestic business class lounge Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
14. Review: Aeroflot business class Moscow to Irkutsk (Boeing 737-800)
15. Review: Matreshka Hotel, Irkutsk
16. Exploring the Siberian city of Irkutsk
17. Review: Mayak Hotel, Listvyanka, Lake Baikal
18. A Winter Trip to the Frozen Wonderland of Lake Baikal
19. Review: Ibis Irkutsk Center Hotel
20. Review: Domestic business class lounge Irkutsk Airport
21. Review: Aeroflot business class Irkutsk to Moscow (Boeing 737-800)
22. Review: Pushkin Hotel, Moscow
23. A 24-hour stopover in the Russian capital of Moscow (current chapter)
24. Review: ‘Moscow’ and ‘Jazz’ business class lounges Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
25. Review: Aeroflot business class Moscow to Paris (Airbus A320)
26. Review: TAROM business class Paris to Bucharest (Airbus A318)
27. Review: TAROM business class lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
27. Review: Air France business class Bucharest to Paris (Airbus A320)
28. A short stopover in Paris
29. Review: ‘Sheltair’ business class lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2D
30. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines business class Paris to Baku (Airbus A320)
31. Review: Old City Hotel & Apartments, Baku
32. Baku: a captivating mix between old and new
33. Review: Azerbaijan Railways night train from Baku to Sheki in a private sleeper
34. Sheki and the Caucasus foothills
35. Visiting Azerbaijan’s second-biggest city of Ganja
36. Review: Shah Palace Hotel, Baku
37. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines business class lounge Baku Airport
38. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines business class Baku to Paris (Airbus A320)
39. Review: Air France business class lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
40. Review: KLM business class Paris to Amsterdam (Boeing 737-800)
41. Review: KLM business class Amsterdam to Bergen (Boeing 737-800)
42. Review: First Marin Hotel, Bergen
43. Visiting the Norwegian city of Bergen
44. The Bergen Railway from Bergen to Oslo
45. The scenic Flam Railway from Myrdal to Flam
46. Review: Saga Hotel Oslo Central
47. Review: SAS economy class Oslo to Brussels (Boeing 737-600)
48. Review: Diamond Lounge (non-Schengen) Brussels Airport
49. Review: TAROM economy class Brussels to Bucharest (Boeing 737-800)