This is a guest post from Will Crowthers of AbsoluteVisit.com
Vodka. House Music. The Kremlin. Pickles. Caviar. Crazy Colored Cathedral.
These are a few of the images that you might conjure up when you first think about Russia . . . or at least I did. Moscow is home to many famous things (including a few listed previously) and from what I hear, you only have 36 hours to experience them all. If this is the case, keep on reading.
Tackling Moscow in just 36 hours is a hardcore traveler’s dream or a take-it-easy vagabond’s worst nightmare. It is home to over 11.5 million people making it the 6th largest city in the world. The city’s history dates back to the 12th Century AD. This is right around the time the Khmer Empire was building Angkor Wat in Cambodia. In other words, Moscow is incredibly old! The culture in the city is as deep as its wounds from World Wars past and inclusive of social class disparity, a dynamic modern history, and of course it’s very own inner-beauty as well.
To discover all that Moscow has, you’ll need to be prepared. I recently returned from a 36 hour trip to this magnificent city in late-May of this year and have used my own experiences combined with additional resources to come up with what I think is the best combination of Moscow experiences. On that note, there is not a second to waste, let’s get to it.
After arriving on your red-eye flight, you will want to stay active to fight the jetlag. First, find an airport taxi to your hotel. When you arrive there will be many people posing as taxi drivers. Find the official taxi stand and you’ll be in good hands. I highly suggest having a print-out of your hotel in Russian (Russian alphabet, not Latin alphabet).
When you arrive at your hotel, I recommend the following to set up your day:
- Grab a map of Moscow from the concierge
- Purchase tickets for a boat tour on the Moscow River
- Inquire about pre-purchasing tickets for the Kremlin (specifically the Armory or Bell Tower)
- Make reservations for dinner
- Get checked in or check your bags quickly – it’s time to get started!
[9AM] – Red Square
First, find Red Square (by subway if possible, more on that later) and take a stroll around this international landmark. The Red Square includes: Lenin’s Mausoleum, St. Basils Cathedral, part of the Kremlin Wall and GUM, a high-end shopping center. On that note, be prepared, you are about to see two of the major reasons you are probably visiting Moscow!
[12PM] – Lunch at GUM
Along the North Eastern side of Red Square is GUM, a high-end shopping center that also has several cafes that nearly spill out into Red Square. Choose from one of the various cafes and situate yourself to enjoy a view of The Kremlin Wall and St. Basil’s as you dine.
[2PM] – Tour St. Basil’s
After you have filled up on some Russian favorites and hopefully not too much vodka, it is time to explore the inside of St. Basils Cathedral. I was certainly curious of the inside after exploring its incredible outside. For Cathedral hours and costs, check “Plan a Trip” here.
[4PM] – Moscow River Tour
It has been a long day already, but keep on going – it’s time to explore this magnificent city along the Moscow River aboard a river boat. Boat cruises along the Moscow River provide a unique perspective of the city and will help to clue you in to just how large the city is. In addition, it will give you a chance to sit down and rest a bit. Afterwards, work your way back to your hotel to get cleaned up for dinner.
[8PM] – Wine and Dine
After your first day in Moscow comes to a close, I suggest splurging a bit and highly recommend Oblomov . Sit outside if the weather is appropriate. Prepare yourself for Classic Russian food served in a posh environment. I recommend a plate of pickled snacks with your vodka, caviar, and any of the entrées; they have pretty much any type of meat you can dream of.
[11PM] – Late Night City Gazing
You’re not done yet! Your last stop of the day is right back where you started, Red Square. Grab a taxi or the subway back to St. Basil’s and take in the magnificently colored onion domes at night. For an amazing perspective of Red Square, St. Basil’s, and The Kremlin, walk south and up on to the nearby bridge. Enjoy this top-notch view and live in the moment as you have had a fantastic day. Afterwards, return to your hotel after this intense first day for some much needed sleep.
[8AM] – Kremlin
Good morning! Let’s get back to the non-stop action. This morning you’ll be touring the world famous Kremlin Museum. The first thing to understand is that the Kremlin is massive and contains dozens of buildings, several cathedrals, Ivan the Great’s Bell Tower, the Armory Building, and the Grand Kremlin Palace. Clearly, this is a destination where you can spend two hours or two days, but on this trip I suggest having a target of four hours.
With four hours in mind, I suggest touring the main grounds including the cathedrals along with the Armory or the Bell Tower. Due to limited tickets, you may be forced into one or the other, but don’t fret, they are both incredible and each offers something unique. Let your mind drift into the ancient past of the Kremlin, but also realize that the president of Russia makes this his home even today.
[1PM] – Moscow Subway
By this time you’ll be hungry and certainly overwhelmed with all that you have seen within the Kremlin walls. First, no trip to Moscow would be complete without seeing their world-renowned Metro Stations. Deep under the earth’s crust below Moscow you will find a history museum of its own. Take the metro to the Arbatskaya Station. While traversing the Metro, be sure to take in all that is around you. Moscow’s stations are filled with chandeliers, mosaic tiled ceilings and incredible sculptures. After exiting the station, you will be on Arbat Street which is lined with shops and small cafés. Find some food of your liking and enjoy a little bit of relaxation during your final hours in Moscow!
[3PM] – One Last Time
It has been a whirl-wind tour, but you have to see it once more! Quickly get back to Red Square to stroll around the square admiring all that is around you. Take in one more glimpse of St. Basil’s Cathedral. Stare once more at the red brick wall of the Kremlin. Think through some of the history you have learned along the way and imagine Red Square throughout the years of chaos, peace, royalty and revolution. You have conquered Moscow!
[4PM] – Back to the Airport
Don’t let your mind slip too much while in Red Square or you could lose track of time! Grab a cab or hop the Metro in plenty of time to get back to the airport for your departing flight. I know you’ll want to stay and continue exploring, but you’ll have to hold off for another heart-thumping 36-hour getaway.
These notes, your best travel camera and some quick sleep should end you with an experience of a lifetime regardless of the number of hours you have in Moscow! I truly hope this helps you enjoy some of the best that Moscow has to offer.
Will Crowthers is Co-Founder of AbsoluteVisit.com, a travel website dedicated to helping avid travelers, adventurers, and day-dreamers explore the top 100 most spectacular locations on earth. His desire to break out of the “tourist bubble” of sandy beach resorts was finally realized when he traveled to Amsterdam at 21. There he saw the charm of a city that wasn’t his, but was home to a whole new culture, history and people. After that, his travels started getting longer and longer. He wanted each new destination to out-do the last. He embarked on new travels that, like a domino effect, left him craving more. Eventually, he decided to risk it all for his love of travel. A three-month leave to South America suddenly became a 10-month, 15-stop, around-the-world trip. He and his friend, Brad, quit their jobs and 26 countries later – they were hooked. Now they’re always booking their next trip on the quest to find the next AbsoluteVisit.
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