Moscow, being the capital of Russia is one of the main world’s touristic destinations. It’s a city of contrasts, a combination of old and modern, where XXI century skyscrapers mix with medieval and soviet architecture, where a soviet Lada is stuck in busy traffic next to a luxurious Bentley.
Although Moscow is situated in the Western part of Russia, it’s a combination of Europe and Asia. The Russian capital is a wonderful holiday destination with numerous museums, monuments, vast green parks, exquisite cuisine and buzzing nightlife.
Moscow was founded in 1147 on the intersection of 2 rivers (Moscow and Neglinka) by Prince Yuriy The Long-armed. There are many versions of the origin of the name “Moscow”, but most historians agree that the city was named in honor of the river. The word Moscow (Moskva) means “dark water”. The other version states that Moscow means boggy, muddy area. Anyhow the geographical location of the city standing on the river played a vital role in its rapid development. In the old days rivers were the main trade routes. That’s why the city of Moscow was developing so fast. Out of a small wooden fortress Moscow grew into the biggest city of Europe with the total area of 2561km2 and population of about 13 million people. It’s the main political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational and transportation centre of Russia.
However, Moscow hasn’t always been the capital of the Russian state. At first Russia wasn’t a united country, it consisted of various principalities with Moscow being the capital of one of them. In the early 14th century Moscow became the political and religious center of the Northeastern part of Russia. By the end of the 15th century Moscow extended its rule over most of central and northern Russia and had grown into a wealthy city. Ivan III made Moscow the capital of the United Russian State in the 15th century and it remained as such until 1712. At that time Russia became an Empire and the capital was moved to St Petersburg, diminishing Moscow’s influence. Although the capital status wasn’t given back to Moscow until 1918, it has always been the heart of Russia. Since 1918 it was the capital of the new Soviet country and after the dissolution of Soviet Union it remained the capital of the newly established Russian Federation.
Moscow is the seat of the Russian government. Russia is a Presidential republic. State Parliament consists of 2 chambers: Council of Federations and State Duma. And the Russian government is represented by Council of Ministers, located in the White House. The president of the country works in the Kremlin, which has been the ultimate symbol of both Russian power and authority throughout the years. From here autocratic monarchs, communist leaders and contemporary presidents have done their best –and worst- for the country.
Moscow is also the spiritual centre of Russian Orthodox Church. For more than 1000 years, Orthodoxy has helped to define the Russian nation, a significance that is felt in these atmospheric spiritual places. In Moscow there are more than 1000 Russian Orthodox churches because 80 percent of Russians practice the Orthodox religion. However Russia is the country of many nationalities and confessions, and most of the confessions are represented in Moscow: there are 6 mosques, 6 synagogues, 3 Catholic churches, 5 Buddhist temples and a lot of Protestant churches. All in all in Russia there are nearly 200 nationalities.
Moscow’s streets are the reflection of Russian history, with churches, mansions, theatres and hotels, standing as witnesses to the most definitive periods. Moscow’s earliest buildings were constructed entirely from wood. From around the 14th century stone and brick began to be used for important buildings, but wood continued to be the main building material until the great fire of 1812, when much of the city was burnt to the ground. The majority of Moscow’s oldest surviving buildings are churches. One of the earliest is the Cathedral of the Savior in the monastery of the Savior and Andronicus. In the 15th and 16th centuries the tsars employed some of the best Italian architects to construct prestigious buildings in the Kremlin. They combined the early-Russian style with Italian Renascence features to create magnificent buildings such as the Cathedral of the Assumption. Another 16th century innovation was the tent-shape roof, used, for example, on St. Basil’s Cathedral. In the mid 17th century Patriarch Nikon banned its use, insisting that plans for new churches must be based on ancient Byzantine designs. The majority of Moscow’s early secular buildings have not survived. The few exceptions include the ornate 16th century palace of the Romanov boyars and the charming early 16th century Old English court.
Novodevichiy convent is a perfect example of Moscow baroque which was common in the 17th century. The accession of Catherine the Great in 1762 provoked a new direction for Russian architecture. She favored the Neo-classical style, which was inspired by the architecture of Ancient Greece and Rome. This style has been used to great effect in the Pashkov house, thought to have been designed by V. Bazhenov in 1784. Bazhenov’s assistant, renowned Matvey Kazakov demonstrated the flexibility of Neo-classicism in his designs for a wide range of buildings, including churches, hospitals and the Old Moscow University. He is best known for the building of Senate in the Kremlin. The huge fire that followed Napoleon’s occupation of the city in 1812 led to a complete reconstruction. Moscow’s nobility built new homes along Prechistenka Street in the newly fashionable Empire style.
Leading architects of this more decorative style included Afanasiy Grigoriyev and Osip Bove, who designed Theatre square and Alexander garden. Historicism replaced Neo-classicism in the mid 19th century. It arose from a desire to create a national style by reviving architectural styles from the past. The Great Kremlin Palace and State Armoury, both designed by Konstantin Ton around 1840, are typical. They combine various styles including Renaissance, Classical and Baroque. Ton also designed the original Cathedral of Christ the Savior finished in 1883 and rebuilt in 1994-2000. Also traditional wooden architecture and folk art were rich sources of inspiration for the architects that formulated the Neo-Russian style. The historical and Polytechnical museums are fine examples of this genre.
However, the finest and most functional is GUM, designed by architect Pomerantsev. Art-nouveau was a radical new architectural style of the late 19th-early 20th century. One of the earliest examples of this style in Moscow is the hotel Metropol, designed by English architect Valcot. The greatest representative of style ‘moderne’ was F. Shehtel, who designed Yaroslavskiy train staion and a lot of mansions of the nobility. Constructivism was a new attempt to combine form and function and was the most popular style to emerge in the decade after the Revolution. One of the brightest examples of constructivism in Moscow is Melnikov’s house that consists of 2 interlocking cylinders. It’s the home that he built for himself in 1927. The former bus garage that now houses the Jewish Museum & Centre of Tolerance is a more utilitarian example of this style. The favorite architect of Stalin Iofan constructed a completely new self-contained complex for the elite of Soviet Union also in constructivism style. In 1930s Stalin formulated a grand plan to rebuild large areas of the city. He favoured a new monumental style, exemplified by architect Shusev’s grandiose proletarian apartments at the lower end of Tverskaya Street and culminates in Stalinist Empire.
This term is used to describe the 7 matching skyscrapers, built at key points in the city in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1955 a decree ordered architects to avoid ‘excesses’. A bland modern style was introduced, stressing function over form. The State Kremlin Palace is representative of this period. The White House was built later, but resembles this style. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, architectural energies and civil funds were initially targeted at restoration of decayed churches and monasteries, as well as the rebuilding of structures such as the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and Kazan Cathedral.
In the 2000s Moscow was a hotbed of development. Skyscrapers changed the city skyline, office buildings, luxury hotels and shopping centers went up all over the city. The best example of modern architecture is Moscow City – International business center with shiny glass-and-metal buildings. It includes two of Europe’s tallest skyscrapers: a 374 m Tower East and 354 m OKO south tower.
Moscow has around 500 museums offering a fascinating insight into the history and culture of the people of Russia. Some have collections including works by world-famous artists and craftsmen, while others house exhibits of local or special interests. But one should start exploring the city with Red square and the Kremlin.
The Moscow Kremlin is the cradle of the city, an ancient fortress with a unique architectural ensemble which is a part of UNESCO’s heritage. Red square with its magnificent 16th century St. Basil’s Cathedral is the heart of the city.
St Basil’s is considered to be one of the 7 man-made wonders of the world and is on UNESCO’s heritage list. Art lovers can enjoy the largest collection of Russian art in the world in the Tretyakov Gallery.
Another outstanding art museum is the Pushkin Museum of fine Arts, consisting of three buildings. It contains a magnificent collection of impressionists and post-impressionists, works of ancient civilizations, masterpieces of the Dutch Golden age and others.
For those who are interested in technological development Moscow Space museum is the place to be. It is devoted to Space exploration and contains a wide variety of Soviet and Russian space-related exhibits.
The ideal place to attend an Orthodox Church service or admire the beautiful interior is the biggest Russian Orthodox Church in the world – Cathedral of Christ the Savior, destroyed by Stalin and rebuilt in the 1990s. Moscow has also 15 monasteries and convents.
Novodevichiy convent, founded in the 16th century, is probably the most beautiful out of them. It had a special status and was used as a nunnery for female members of the Russian royal family. Moscow from above is even more fascinating and can be enjoyed from the observation platform on Sparrow hills or from one of the towers of Moscow City.
Under the ground Moscow has a lot to offer as well. Descend 65 meters below the surface to the Cold War bunker or enjoy the architecture and interior of the most beautiful subway stations in the world.
You can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city in one of the numerous Moscow parks, like Gorky Park, VDNH or historical country estates Kolomenskoye and Tsaritsino. Moscow can also be enjoyed from the water. Take a boat ride along Moscow River and admire the beautiful architecture and picturesque view.
Overall, Moscow is a very diverse city and has a lot to offer to a very experienced and demanding tourist.
Moscow is the wealthiest city of Russia and has the highest number of billionaires of any city in Europe. Therefore it has a lot of luxury restaurants, 9 of which were rewarded with a Michelin star, 5 star hotels and exclusive boutiques.
Moscow is famous for its fabulous night life. Whether you like a cozy bar with live music or a busy disco, anything can be found here.
The Russian capital is a frequent host of sporting events. 1980 summer Olympics and 2018 FIFA World Cup took place in Moscow.
Muscovites enjoy public digital services more than anywhere else in Europe and the best e-government services in the world.