Don’t let the icy cold and layers of snow fool you into avoiding Moscow during wintertime. That would be a big mistake, as winter is actually one of the best times to visit the Russian capital, more so because it coincides with the Christmas season. Besides, who wouldn’t want to visit a country included in The Wall Street Journal’s ‘5 Festively Original Holiday Getaways List’? The WSJ states, «The winter festivities recall the era of czarist excess.» They begin on December 22, and the «70 sites and more than 10,000 events are reason enough to visit.»
So with that in mind here are some reasons why Moscow should be your next Christmas break destination:
You can visit famous landmarks in Moscow
Moscow is an important cultural centre in both Russia and Eastern Europe. It comes as no surprise then that it is home to a host of landmarks, each steeped in history and with a story to tell. Some of the more remarkable landmarks in Moscow are the Kremlin Palace, the Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the iconic Luzhniki stadium. The stadium is considered a monument that symbolises 60 years of Soviet and Russian achievements. The Kremlin Palace, on the other hand, was built in the 14th century to emphasise Russian aristocracy; centuries later, it remains the epitome of opulence, with its numerous rooms, five reception halls and ornate furnishings. Red Square, meanwhile, is the historic fortress and centre of the Russian government. It is also home to St. Basil’s Cathedral, State Historical Museum and the cavernous GUM Department Store. As of 1st December these landmarks transform into the largest Christmas market in the city entertaining Muscovites and visitors with with carousels, traditional arts, crafts and foods and yet another outdoor skating rink.
There is tasty food on the cheap
While Moscow has an array of fine dining options, it also has a variety of budget-friendly eating spots. This means you can get your daily gastronomic fill without your budget taking a massive hit. You can thus allot more of your budget to explore the city and buy gifts for your loved ones. For a comprehensive list of establishments offering tasty treats on the cheap, go back to our ‘Where to Eat in Moscow for Under $5’ post. You can also sample all kinds of Russian traditional staples in many Christmas markets across the city.
You can ice-skate in the marvelous VDNH Park
The VDNH Park glows gloriously during wintertime and now boasts a big ice-skating rink. Here, you can skate around Soviet era monuments amid a landscape peppered with artistic flair — all under a dazzling light show. Ice skating, though, is not the only attraction in VDNH (pronounced as «vedeenkha») Park; if that’s not your thing, then you can stroll along the snow-capped lanes illuminated by blue lights with a glimmer of gold coming from the famed Fountain Friendship of Nations. Wander deeper into this beautiful park and you’ll be at one with nature, in silent serenity.
You can buy lots of stuff!
What’s Christmas without the gift of giving? You can buy presents of all kinds here in Moscow. The GUM Christmas Market in Red Square is the iconic place to start your buying spree as you can find all sorts of authentic Russian souvenirs, from the valenki (decorated felt boots) to matryoshka dolls and Orenburg shawls. You will also find all kinds of luxury brands along with fantastic Christmas decorations to take pictures of. Resist the urge to overspend, though, as there’s a culinary market in Tverskaya Square and Christmas fairs everywhere.
Christmas is a time to be merry, and you can certainly do that here in Moscow — a true winter wonderland.
by Hope Andrews