Why is Moscow special? An Interview

On a recent flight on KLM Airlines I read some interviews about cities, so I thought it is a great idea to share some thoughts about Moscow as well, as I spend some time here.

Why is Moscow special?

It’s a vibrant mega city with more than 12 million people, so no matter when and where you go – there will be always a lot around you. Also the city centre has a stunning architecture with its Kremlin and Red Square, which is perfect for a walk. But if you wander a bit further away from the centre you will experience the real Moscow, where the people from Moscow are. The easiest way to see how many people actually live here is to use the Metro during rush hour –  you can see so many different faces and it never gets boring simply to walk around and soak up the atmosphere.

What should we bring in our suitcase?

As it is winter time – the most important is to bring some warm clothes, the winter here is certainly colder as in other European cities with temperatures around -25 to -5. Also bring comfortable shoes, as the only way of getting to know the city is to walk a lot. By a lot, I really mean a lot, as here you can easily walk already 2km until you are at your closest metro station, so for a day of sightseeing 15-20km easily add up. Further on I would also bring some gifts if visiting somebody in Russia, as this is kind of expected and otherwise would be impolite. Also a must is a camera, as there is so much to see and take pictures of.

Your favourite Museum?

I think no other cities has such range of museums like Moscow, but if I need to pick one, it would be the Tretyakov Gallery, as it has 170.000 exponents including everything from very early religious icons to modern art. You can easily spend a whole day here even if only briefly looking at the paintings. Another must for tourists is the State Historical Museum right next to Red Square. It has the most comprehensive collection of important items for the history of Russia, from the middle age to today.

Your favourite locations?

On a nice winter day one of my favourite location is the ice rink in VDNH park. Its one of the biggest and perfect to skate. In winter you will find an ice rink in nearly every park and it is a very popular activity after work or on the weekend.

I also like to go for a walk in the centre (I will soon post an instalment on the nicest walks).

The best restaurants?

For typical Russian food I would go to “Ёлки-Палки” (Yolki-Palki), a chain which has most of the typical Russian dishes. Also recommendable is Stolobaya 57 in GUM.

For people who want to enjoy high quality cuisine, I recommend the restaurant “White Rabbit”. Prices there are higher, but the quality of the food usually excellent and the atmosphere is great.

Any favourite local dishes?

The Russian kitchen is full of tasty dishes, so I think in one go you can’t try everything but a good start are some Borsht soup, some Blinis (pancakes) with caviar and sour cream, some pie with meat, some Sirnikis (small cakes made from cottage cheese).

Your shopping favourites?

For luxury brands it is the big traditional shopping centre GUM, in the centre, directly at Red Square. For normal brands there are many options, but if you want to buy everything at one go, you can go to one of the MEGA shopping centres in the suburbs of Moscow: they have everything you expect in a shopping centre, but probably 3x the size of your average centre in Europe. To go there you can get yourself a taxi or simply by Mashrutka, the very popular mini busses.

Where do you relax?

On cold winter days like now many Russians like to meet up with friends in a café for some tea or coffee, which is very understandable with the current temperatures. For some rather decent coffee you can visit either the Russian chains Shokoladniza or Coffeehouse. For those who like Starbucks –  it is also available at almost every corner.

What should we take home?

I would take home some caviar, as the quality which you can find in Russia for an agreeable price, you won’t find anywhere else. Also very popular a caps for Sauna or homeshoes made from wool.