JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDREY BEREZKIN FROM MOSCOW, RUSSIA !
Andrey Berezkin, a true Muscovite and a globetrotter, believes that real freedom is discovering the world around. When he is not travelling he enjoys exploring and writing/revealing the nature of his native city – Moscow. He currently works as digital projects manager in PR department of a huge metallurgical company. He has studied public relations and foreign languages in Moscow State Linguistic University and build his career in this field. There are three games he loves to play in his free time – chess, poker and football. Besides, he is also into running and photography.
Welcome to Moscow, the capital of Russia ! Moscow lies in the western part of Russia, close to the country’s border with Ukraine, Belarus and Estonia.
It’s really THE city of Russia: the largest, the most populated, the busiest, may be the wealthiest and definitely one of the most intriguing. Almost 10% of Russia’s population live here and make their benefit to the melting pot of this metropolis.
Moscow can be different and everyone will find something precious here just for himself. It’ll be hard to understand the city in your short time here but once there is a spark between you and Moscow, it’ll call you back again and again.
What is the best time to visit Moscow?
The best time to visit Moscow is late spring and summer. Though I would broaden this gap from May till mid-October. The temperature is quite moderate this time (in summer in might be even quite from up to 30+ degrees Celsius) and there are no contras for discovering the city. Moreover, May holidays and summer are considerably quiet so you won’t too much from crowds and harsh traffic.
Another peak time to see the city is December and Christmas break (10-day vacation in the beginning of January) – the city is nicely decorated and holiday fever is literally in the air. Don’t be afraid of stereotypic Russian winters – it’s cold but a parka and beanie will bring you back to comfort zone. I wouldn’t recommend you visiting the city in early spring and late fall – it might look too depressive and slush won’t change your attitude to a better point.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Moscow?
The core of Moscow transport system is metro – its red “M”-lightboxes are everywhere to see and one of the most recognizable symbols of the city. The metro system develops quite rapidly and provides you with an easy and quick way to get to any part of the city. Just buy a Troyka transport card and enjoy fast, on-time-coming and scenery (the most stations do look like palaces) transit system. Single ride costs just around 0.70 EUR and you can travel from one side of the city to the other. The Moscow Metro system might appear confusing at first but it’s also a great way to dodge traffic. Use this extremely helpful guide to learn more about it.
Moscow airports are 20-40km away from the city boundary, but the connection is quite comfortable. From Vnukovo, Domodedovo and Sheremet’evo you can take AeroExpress train that will take you to railway station quite near the city centre (one-way ticket is about 7-8 EUR, use an app for discounts).
Once you are not afraid of traffic jams take a taxi ride. For reasonable price use only mobile apps (I’ll tell about them further). For those who prefers driving, take a car sharing, major operators (Belka, Yandex Drive, DeliMobil) have their cars in the airports but get prepared beforehand. Some operators cannot register foreign drivers and registration process normally takes a day or two.
The most budget-friendly way to get to the city is public bus. Ask the airport info desk about the nearest bus stop, the bus will take you to the metro station on the city boundary.
What are the top three must visit places in Moscow?
It’s so unfair to limit the top of Moscow attractions with just 3 position because the city is so eclectic and contains much more than postcard views of the Red Square.
The first stop will quite near this iconic spot. Don’t hesitate to buy an entrance ticket inside the Kremlin. Check the opening times because they are tricky. The Sobornaya square is the gem! It’s surrounded with oldest Moscow’s cathedrals where the Tsars of Moskovia are buried (what an irony because right behind the wall the “tsars” of Revolution 1917 are buried too). Check Ivan the Great bell tower, it used to be the highest Russia’s building till XX century and no one was allowed to build anything higher.
Let’s change the epoch. Moscow metro is much more than just a transport. The first line was built in 1935 and till late 1950 each station was constructed as a masterpiece of both engineering and interior. Kropotkinskaya and Mayakovskaya were awarded with architecture Grand Prix. Komsomolskaya (brown line) is one of the most impressive stations and Sokol and Aeroport are modest examples of the late 1930s inspired with modern and art deco. So, block a solid part of itinerary to enjoy this expansive system. If you feel lost remember you can determine the direction the train is going by the gender of the voice making announcements. If you hear a male voice it means you are travelling towards the city centre and opposite if you hear a female voice.
To be honest, I’m quite confused now, what to choose as #3. Let it be avant-garde and constructivism architecture of the city, to be exact the heritage of Konstantin Melnikov who is the most famous representative of these times. To enjoy his genius tales a stroll on Krivoarbatsky lane and have a look at Melnikov house, a unique formation in the city heart. This building used to be the master’s studio and till these days is mansion of the Melnikovs. Some more examples of his work are Intourist garage or Garage on Novoryazanskaya street.
There are much more things to see in the city that are now so often mentioned in round tours. Check out modern art clusters of former factories (Red October, Artplay, Hlebzavod, Arma), enjoy lacy Shukhov’s tower in Shabolovka district, or feel the pulse of the capital in Moscow City area full of scyscrapers, make time-machine trip in VDNKh with its beauty of Stalin’s neoclassical architecture. Please stop me right now, otherwise the list of tips will be too long.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Moscow?
Haven’t I already told you that Moscow is huge? A ride from city centre to a distant district will take more than an hour. If you don’t want to get far away, check the estate inside Moscow – Kolomenskoe, Kuskovo(quite a must-see Versailles-type location), Arkangelskoye, Tsaritsyno. Bykovo estate and neighbouring pseudo-gothic cathedral are stunning too.
Smaller cities of Moscow region such as Dmitrov and Kolomna (pastila capital with its own Kremlin) are worth visiting. But here are two of the favourites: Sergiev Posad with Russia’s most worshiped monastery; and Nikola Lenivets – a small village in Kaluga region with Europe’s biggest art park.
Nikola Lenivets hold a couple spectacular events such Archstoyanie (art festival), Signal (rave open-air party) and Maslenitsa (traditional Russian festival with burning a huge wooden construction). Nikola Lenivets is an option for a two-day trip (300 km) but truly worth it – my fav destination for a short retreat.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Moscow?
Russians (and Muscovites too) celebrate a lot but the most beloved holidays are New Year and Victory day.
After almost 80 years of officially promoted atheism we’ve generally lost the feeling of Christmas as the major holiday. Yes, we celebrate it (on January the 7th) but it can hardly be compared with the New Year’s Eve. The whole city is brightly decorated and holidays markets are open on all city’s major squares during the whole holidays season between mid-December and the Old New Year (don’t get puzzled it’s nonconventional celebration of the New Year according to Gregorian calendar that is used in Russian Orthodox church).
Another widely celebrated holiday is Victory day (May the 9th) when we commemorate the end of war against Nazis in 1941-1945. Russians are very sensitive about this tragedy because many families have lost someone in this bloodshed. Anyway now this holiday is much more about present than the past and every year people watch the parade that represents the power of Russian military forces. The parade itself is held on May the 9th but several rehearsals take place in late April and in the beginning of May so you can easily watch.
The thing that is quite local but might be of a great interest is the Day of Moscow that is held in the first weekend of September. The city government uses air forces to grant cloudless sky, so you can enjoy the holiday festival around the city without any concerns.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Moscow?
It seems tricky to find a place with traditional Russian cuisine in such an international city as Moscow. Still, you should definitely try typical Russian such as borthsh (beetroot soup that is also typical for our fellows from Ukraine), pelmeni (dumplings) and bliny with sour cream or red caviar (pancakes). I bet you’ve heard of them for sure. Another typical course is Olivier salad that is believed to be the king of New Year’s festive meal – quite heavy meat salad with potatoes, cucumbers and a lot of mayo.
As for drinks, try kvas (a sort of non-alcoholic bread beer), it’s very special, especially popular in summer season. In summer you can also try okroshka, a kvas-based cold soup.
As a dessert try some pastila (dried fruit paste) or home-made varenye (sort of confiture) with a big cup of tea with lemon. A couple of years ago Moscow government launched a contest to choose the city’s dessert and the winner was nut cake Moskva (Moscow). You can try is some big coffee chains or find in stores but it hasn’t gained too much vogue yet.
And don’t forget that Moscow is quite international, so cuisine as well, especially if we consider ex-USSR states! Try something from Tatar or Caucasian courses, Georgian restaurants are popular too as long as typical Central Asian chaikhanas with cuisine from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
How vegetarian friendly is Moscow?
To be honest traditional cuisine here is not so suited for vegetarians. But there is always a “but”. Moscow offers quite a lot of vegetarian options too – from burgers and salads to falafel and smoothie. Moreover, religious traditions here consider observing fasts, especially Great Lent. So feel free to ask for fasting menu in any venue.
Where to head for shopping in Moscow?
Shopping is truly a thing to do here. The city is full of shopping mall but most of them are quite typical and feature global brands. Just to feel the chiс of Moscow, take a stroll on Stoleshnikov pereulok or take a look at TSUM.
The most central department store is GUM (right on the Red Square) and it surprisingly combines Neo-Russian architecture of late XIX century, modern boutiques and shops and Soviet nostalgic sphere with its stolovaya (canteen) and ice-cream stand near the hall.
The major flea market of Moscow is Vernisazh in Izmaylovo. The first rows are full of souveniers but further you’ll find real flea market with old Soviet stuff, icons, coins, books, watches and just anything you can imagine. Unfortunately, most of the sellers are professionals so there is quite a small chance to find a pearl for little money.
For modern Russian designers and smaller brands go to Hlebzavod and Flacon – clothes and accessories might be quite nice. To see the new image of Moscow food markets go to Danilovsky – typical Soviet market space is now a mixture of farmers’ market and a food-court with international cuisines.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Moscow?
Matreshka dolls, ushanka hats or Soviet souveniers are a stereotype. Try to find something suitable in Moscow metro gift shop (Vystavochnaya station) where they also have a nice museum about our favourite transport. Once you’re lucky enough you can get a Troyka transport pass in form of a ring or even an oldschool real lightbox from one of the stations. There is no need to tell you what to get from Vernisazh flea market – your eyes will definitely catch something worthy.
Wanna be stylish? Browse such brands as Heart of Moscow, Artemy Lebedev Design Store or Yandex (Russian biggest IT-corporation). Major museums such as Pushkin arts museum, Tretyakov gallery and Garage also have nice gift shops as well as Museum of Moscow and Cosmosnautics museum.
Wanna be traditional? Get some vodka and caviar in supermarket, add some pryaniki (gingerbread) and baranki (round cracknels), put it into Khokhloma style wooden dishes and here you are – 100% Russian (and a bit kitschy) gift set is ready!
Which are the best streets in Moscow worthy of taking a stroll on?
The city centre has changed a lot during past few years and now it’s much more pleasant for pedestrians. Probably the whole area inside Sadovoe ring might be of great interest for city visitors. Make a walk through the boulevards, start on Yauzsky boulevard and go conter clockwise till Chistiye pond for stunning views and chilling athmosphere. This chain of streets used to be a city border centuries ago and a few meters before the crossroad with Pokrovka street you can observe the only fragment of the wall of Belyy Gorod (that was the name of the wall).
Another picturesque route is a walk along Myasnitskaya street. Take a start near Lubyanka with its FSB headquarters (former KGB, you’ve probably heard scary stories about these guys) and keep walking to Krasniye Vorota. On your way you’ll get across Chayny Dom (tea house) built almost 150 years ago in pagoda style, the only building made by Le Corbusie (Tsentrosoyuz) and shell-like entrance to Krasniye Vorota metro.
For the spirit of merchant’s Moscow head to Zamoskvorechye district (and walk through Bolshaya Polyanka street) of Taganka (to see Nikoloyamskaya street of Aleksander Solzhenitsyn street).
Take a ride through gorgeous Tvesrskaya street from fancy Belorussky railway station to Manezhnaya square. This street is supposed to be the main front window of Moscow with majestic granite facades.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
Vorobyevy Gory (Sparrow hills) is the most touristy option ever to get a nice view on Moscow University and the central part of the city with Luzhniki stadium that host FIFA 2018 final game. But there are much more stunning observation points.
First of all, they are bridges: for breathtaking views check Patriarchy bridge (right behind the Christ the Savior Cathedral), “Flying” bridge in Zaryadye park and Bolshoy Ustinsky brigde (between Taganskaya and Novoskuznetskaya metro).
Also check rooftop bars – for instance TimeOut bar in Pekin hotel, City Space Bar & Restaurant and several bars in Moscow Business centre (or City as we call it).
Another cool view is from the top of Detsky Mir shopping mall, it’s free and right in the centre of the city.
Do you suggest any shows on music, culture or art performed by the locals?
Russian theatre and ballet dance are world famous and Moscow is truly the capital of cultural life (fellow from St. Petersburg would disagree).
For both classic and contemporary shows/plays browse ponominalu.ru or other ticketing website and choose any of hundreds events daily. For ballet choose the Bolshoi – it’s posh but quite special. If you want to watch ballet for more reasonable price – go to Kremlevsky Ballet theatre right inside the Kremlin. For 15EUR you’ll get fair seat in amphitheater with a good view.
Music lover won’t get bored too, especially in summer. From May to August Moscow host a number of great music festival with world famous headliners and some local top-musicians. For instance, check Afisha Picnic in Kolomenskoye park (Cure as the headliner for the edition 2019) and Park Live in Gorky Park(with Die Antwoord replacing Prodigy (oh poor Keith Flint!) as the main band).
As for art you’ll get a number of options too. On touristy agenda you’d find Pushkin Fine Arts museumwith a fair collection of international art and Tretyakov gallery hosting a great variety of Russian masterpieces. I love contemporary art and here is a plenty of worthy spots to see. They are Garage (in Gorky Park), Moscow Multimedia Art Museum (in Ostozhenka street) and several locations of Moscow Museum of Modern Art (check their website for agenda).
Where can one spot street art in Moscow?
For street art head to Hlebzavod and Flacon creative spaces, also check the area around Artplay and Winzavod art-clusters. Unfortunately, the era of great street art supported by local authorities seems to be over. A couple of years ago world-famous street artists were making huge murals even in city centre, now most of them are replaced with commercials of even state propaganda.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in your city?
Moscow is extremely digitalized so you can find an app for any purpose. Most of world-known apps are available and widely used here so feel free to check the reviews on Google Maps or see the suggestion on TripAdvisor. Anyway, here is a plenty of apps that make your like in Moscow easier and make you feel like a local.
Once you need a cab and don’t want to get scammed, use one of taxi apps: the most popular one’s are Yandex Taxi, Uber Russia (separate app, a part of Yandex actually), Gett Taxi and Citymobil. Just add your bank card to the account and enjoy the service.
Here are some more apps suitable for transportation. Yandex Metro will help you not to get lost in Moscow underground, Yandex Transport is a perfect way to make a route from A to B with public transport, Aeroexpress is the easier option to get a transfer from Moscow airports to the city centre.
To get to know the city better use Discover Moscow (an app curated by thy city government) and Wikimapia (crowd-sourced knowledge base about any location around you. Most stories are available in Russian but for major spots you’ll get English description with history summary).
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to your city?
Don’t be afraid of stereotypes. Yes, Moscow is the capital of Russia full of brutal but also friendly people with Oriental mentality and European culture. But it’s still major European city with skyscrapers, nightlife, digital economy and a plenty of stuff to discover.
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