72 Hours in Moscow

Majestic.

That’s the only word that describes the beauty of Russia. Even today, you can see the richness and beauty of the Russian Empire throughout the country.

I visited Moscow and St. Petersburg in 2013 during the Spring Festival Holidays. A friend of mine was studying at Moscow University, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to have a personal tour guide.

Since I’ve been back in the U.S., I’ve been telling everyone Moscow is a place you must visit., I’ve given advice about traveling in Russia so many times that I think it’s time I write it down.

So, if you only have 72 hours in Moscow, what should you do?

First, you definitely need to find a place to settle in. One nice thing about Moscow is every place worth visiting is in or around the Red Square, so staying close to it is your best choice (especially if you don’t speak Russian, like me). However, the hotels are quite pricey there… I almost fainted when I saw the numbers. Luckily, my friend found a lovely and inexpensive motel in a young couple’s apartment building–the couple could say “hello,” “goodbye,” and “thank you” in 35 languages! Quite a few similar motels are located near the Red Square as cheaper options as well.

Once you settle in, visit is the Red Square! With Kremlin in the west, St. Basil’s Cathedral in the south, the State Historical Museum in the north, GUM Department Store in the east, and Lenin’s Mausoleum in the center, it holds enough attractions to fill your entire day. I recommend visiting Kremlin first, because it sometimes closes in the early afternoon. Every corner inside Kremlin (except Putin’s office building) is open to visitors, so there is always a lot to see. I recommend the Dormition Cathedral. I didn’t go inside St. Basil’s Cathedral, but its exterior is beautiful.

If you’re short on time, you can skip GUM. It’s just a big, modern shopping mall filled with fancy brands. I think your time would be better spent exploring the city’s fascinating history.

When the sun starts to set and if temperature allows, you can ice skate, drink, and socialize in the middle of the Red Square. In the summer, you can roller skate instead. Either way, it’s a great way to end your first day in Moscow.

On your next day, visit Arbat Street, a fantastic street filled with artsy shops selling hand-made crafts. Musicians play rare instruments, and artists paint pictures on literally anything they can find. Be sure to pick up a quality Russian nesting doll as a unique and beautiful souvenir.

Occasionally, the bookstores on the street sell old books for very cheap prices. Some of them are great classics; I bought a Russian version of “Peter Pan” (I can’t read it, but it looks lovely on my bookshelf).

When you get hungry, visit My My (pronounced “mu-mu” — you’ll find it easily because a big cow statue is in front of it). It’s a reasonably priced restaurant with the best Russian traditional food. I recommend the borscht.

Relax a bit before dinner at Cafe Pushkin. Near Arbat Street, Cafe Pushkin is a traditional but elegant Russian restaurant filled with history (it also has an old, hand-operated elevator!). It’s said the great author, Aleksandr Pushkin, used to dine at the restaurant, and some of the waiters can recite Pushkin’s poems in both Russian and English. Dinner will be a bit pricier, but it’s definitely worth it.

On your final day, visit Novodevichy Cemetery, the most famous cemetery in Moscow. It lies next to the southern wall of the Novodevichy Convent, which was built in the 16th century. Many great Russians are buried there, including Nikita Khrushchev, whose famous white-and-black grave is definitely worth visiting. The cemetery is beautiful both in the snowy winter and in the blossoming spring.

If you’re hesitant about visiting Russia because of the language barrier or the weather, don’t be! Nearly every worker speaks English, and Moscow is no colder than Madison. I fell in love with the Russian winter experience in Moscow, and I’m sure others will, too.

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