Here is the second and last part of the detailed tour plan prepared for tourists, especially those from overseas, arriving in Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation, for exploring the megacity in seven days.
Read the first part here
Destinations: Novodevichy Convent Complex & Cemetery: Central Children’s Store and former KGB headquarters on Lubyanka Square.
Novodevichy Convent Complex and Cemetery
Today the first destination is the 16th-century Novodevichy Convent Complex which is a World Heritage Site on the banks of the Moskva River.
The fortified complex is dubbed "the Moscow Kremlin in miniature". The nunnery here was the first choice of women from the royal and noble families who wished to become nuns. In the Soviet times the convent ceased to be a religious centre and housed a wing of the Red Square-based State Historical Museum.
The vast complex includes eight cathedrals, four churches, a museum, a lake with swans and ducks and a small park abutting it. The Smolensk Cathedral and the 72-metre-tall bell tower are the major attractions.
The museum time is from 10.00 to 18.00. Pay 300 RUB for ticket.
The bronze sculpture of 'one duck and eight ducklings' at the park was gifted to the children of the Soviet Union by US First Lady Barbara Bush in 1991. Tourists with ample time may consider lounging at the Novodevichy Park. Here solitude is assured even though the park is not far from the centre of the city.
But don't leave until you visit the crowd-puller cemetery outside the high masonry wall of the complex. The Novodevichy Cemetery is famed for the beautiful artwork adorning the final resting places of great personalities.
The entry to the park and cemetery is free.
Wind up the Novodevichy Convent Complex and Cemetery tour by noon. Take lunch at a nearby restaurant before proceeding to the centre of the city. Luzhniki Stadium, which was the main venue of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, is nearby.
The next destination is Lubyanka Square or Lubyanskaya Square which is less than a kilometre from Red Square. The two attractions here are two prominent institutions of the Soviet Union: Detsky Mir, now renamed the Central Children's Store, and the Lubyanka Building.
Since its opening in 1957 Detsky Mir (Children's World) was the go-to place for Muscovite children in the second half of the 20th century.
But the other landmark — Lubyanka Building — evoked the worst of all fears as it was the headquarters of the Soviet security agency, KGB, since its formation in 1954. Today, the imposing Neo-Baroque yellow-bricked building is the headquarters of the FSB — Federal Security Service — which is the Russian successor of the dreaded organisation which was wound up in late 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, Lubyanka was the nerve centre of KGB's precursor, the Cheka, too.
A part of the prison within the Lubyanka Building has been converted into a museum, but entry is highly restricted. You need an appointment. Fix one if your travel agent is confident!
The fortunes of Detsky Mir too changed after remaining the largest children's department store in the Soviet Union. It lost its charm in the late 1990s with political and economic upheavals and was shutdown for renovation. Today, after a grand reopening in 2015, it has evolved into an edutainment hub or a sort of mall where tourists and natives flock with children.
Here is a selfie spot we suggest at Central Children's Store: that giant clock — you may call it a clockwork — called Raketa installed on the atrium wall. It is among the five largest mechanical clocks in the world and was built by Russia’s oldest company — the 1721-founded the Petrodvorets Watch Factory.
The Museum of Childhood is on the seventh floor. Don't miss the view of the Kremlin and Lubyanskaya Square — also called just Lubyanka — from the rooftop.
Evening: Park Zaryade or Kitay-Gorud
From Lubyanka you may go to Park Zaryade or Kitay-Gorud.
Park Zaryadye, which is one of the green lungs of Moscow, is on the hillock overlooking the Kremlin and Red Square. Arrive here by evening after the daylong tour. Free the children here; let them play and run around amidst the green expanse of trees, shrubs and grass. Zaryadye is not just a park or recreation zone. It has an educational purpose too.
Here the different natural habitats of the vast country are recreated with appropriate microclimates. The park also has greenhouse, ice cave, thematic walking routes, amphitheatres, concert halls, exhibition centres, souvenir shops, old churches, the earliest home of the Romanovs and cafes. The 140-metre-long hanging bridge at the park is the vantage point to scan the skyline over a large part of central Moscow. Below flows the Moskva River.
Kitay-Gorod is the site of the oldest and elite trading settlement in Moscow that extended from the periphery of Red Square and from the northern bank of the Moskva River.
One of the two surviving parts of the medieval defensive wall around the trading quarters is behind the Metropol Hotel on Revolution Square (Ploshchad Revolyutsii). The Iberian Gate, which is between the Moscow City Hall and the State Historical Museum at Red Square, is the only surviving gate of the Kitay-Gorod wall.
Today, true to its past, Kitay-Gorod has evolved as the foremost commercial and financial hub of the Russian capital. A stroll or car ride through its main streets – Varvarka, Ilyinka, and Nikolskaya – will help you see up close elegant architecture, at least.
If you happen to finish Park Zaryadye visit late in the afternoon, take the historic Varvarka Street near Red Square to proceed to Kitay-Gorod. Or you may arrive at Kitay-Gorod straight from any part of the city by taking the metro train.
Nearest metro stations:
For Novodevichy Convent Complex: Sportivnaya.
For Lubyanka Square: Lubyanka. (One of the exits of the metro station opens right into the Central Children's Store.)
Park Zaryadye: Okhotny Ryad, Teatralnaya, Ploshchad Revolyutsii and Kitay-Gorod.
For Kitay-Gorod and Varvarka Street: Kitay-Gorod
For more on Moscow Kremlin and tickets click here:
For more on Red Square, GUM, Varvarka Street and other tourist centres near Kremlin, read this article:
Destinations: Patriarch Ponds. Tretyakov Art Gallery AND/OR Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Gorky House-Museum. Sparrow Hills.
Couples and lovers may head to the picturesque Patriarch Ponds which locals call “Patriki". Arriving at this tony locality is quite easy as it is close to the Garden Ring — the busy circular road in the heart of Moscow — and close to the city centre. The park here is quite popular with tourists, expats and locals alike though it is smaller — just 2 hectares — than the Gorky Park, Park Zaryade or several other popular public parks in Moscow which is deemed to be one of the greenest cities in the world. While away your time around the lone pond — yes, only one big pond that takes up half the area of the park.
Outside, you may amble along the lanes. Buildings of neoclassical and classical style here are worth appreciating. Look for Tarasov’s House and “House with Lions". Foodies won't be disappointed as Patriki is chock-a-block with restaurants and drinking holes. In winter the pond is a busy ice skating rink.
The Tretyakov Art Gallery
It is time to appreciate fine art after a morning visit to the Patriarch Ponds. Two great repositories of fine art in Moscow are the State Tretyakov Gallery and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Try to visit either of the two or both if time permits. The former is the largest gallery of Russian art in the world.
The Tretyakov Gallery is on Lavrushinsky Lane near the Gorky Park and futher north is the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. If you are staying in a hotel near the Paveletsky train station these three places are easily accessible.
The Tretyakov Gallery houses a rich collection of sculpture, painting and graphics by Russian artists belonging to different epochs.
The New Tretyakov Gallery, which is set up in a new building on Krymsky Val street, features exclusively works of Soviet and Russian painters of the 20th century and later.
Note: Monday is a holiday. Arrive shortly before 10 am when the galleries are open for the public. Tickets are priced 500 and 250 RUB for adults and children between 7 and 17 years. Free for children under 6. For audio guides pay 500 RUB. Show your ID. Last entry: 19.00 hours at Tretyakov Art Gallery and 17.00 hours at the New Tretyakov Gallery.
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts is the place to visit for foreign art in Moscow. From the collections here you can trace the evolution of art world over across eras. Art works from ancient Greece and ancient Egypt to those created in the 21st century are among the 700,000 collections.
Note: Buy e-tickets on the museum website with discount or buy it directly from the onsite counter. You can book online two weeks before your intended day of visit. Free admission is allowed on certain days for certain categories. Ticket prices are slightly higher on weekends than on weekdays.
A single ticket costs 550 to 600 RUB for adults and 400 to 350 RUB for children aged 7 to 17 years. A comprehensive ticket for the galleries and special exhibition with open-ebded date costs five times more.
The museum is closed on Monday. Admission begins at 11 am.
Spare one hour for visiting the opulent residence where great Soviet writer Maxim Gorky lived in Moscow. Admirers of great architecture and fans of Soviet Union will love this residence-turned-museum.The Gorky Museum is also called Ryabouchinsky House after its first owner, business magnate Sergey Ryabushinsky for whom the Art Nouveau style building was built at the turn of 20th century.
Its striking elements include stained glass windows, mosaic of Iris flowers on the facade, a chandelier resembling a jellyfish, a famed marble staircase modelled like a breaking sea wave and the wooden decor.
The house-museum is on Malaya Nikitskaya street which is near the city centre. Entry is free.
Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory)
Arrive at Sparrow Hills – Vorobyovy Gory in Russian – by late afternoon, at least, or you may swap it with Patriarch Ponds for a morning visit. The massive Sparrow Hills Nature Reserve is on the bank of Moskva River in the heart of the city and opposite the Luzhniki Olympic Complex.
This protected wooded park on a steep hill is a popular picnic destination like Gorky Park with ample avenues for leisure and sports for adults and children. In fact, Sparrow Hills and Gorky Park are two of the four adjacent green lungs that are on the banks of the Moskva River, the other two being the Muzeon Park of Arts and Neskuchny Garden, which is the oldest park in Moscow.
At Sparrow Hills nature lovers may jog, walk or cycle along the 8 km promenade on the edge of the river. Mini zoo, boat rides, natural springs, and nature trails would engage all for one full day. Free entry round the clock. Those hard-pressed for time may schedule a visit only for a couple of hours in the late afternoon.
Enjoy a cable car ride that offers a stunning view of the city from the busy observation deck during this short window. The cable car will take you to Luzhniki Stadium 720 m away, close to the Novodevichy Convent Complex which you had earlier visited.
For boat rides go down the hill to the Vorobyovskaya and Andreevskaya embankments.
There is no lull in outdoor activities in winter too as you can try snowboarding or ice skating at Sparrow Hills.
The majestic Moscow State University building, which is the tallest of Stalin's Seven Sisters, is on the hill. The Andreevsky Monastery and the Church of the Trinity which survived Napoleon's invasion and Soviet-era crackdown on religious places are also on the Sparrow Hills.
Vorobyovy Gory is one of the seven hills on which Moscow was built.
Evening: Street walk: Arbat Street and Tverskaya Street.
Overseas tourists make it a point to visit Arbat Street and Tverskaya Street in the centre of the city. The former is one of the oldest Moscow streets and has historical and social significance.
In the medieval times Arbat, as it is also called, was on the course of a key trade route. By 18th century it was the prime residential area where the cream of the society stayed, though in the following two centuries artists and intellectuals flocked here.
Today it is a pedestrian street and a prime tourist avenue flanked by charming historic buildings housing restaurants, fast-food outlets and souvenir shops. ALERT: The prices of souvenirs and traditional Russian craft products are on the higher side when compared to stores in other parts of the city.
The Puskhin Apartment-Museum is at 53, Arbat Street. It is closed on Monday. Entry is not free.
New Arbat Avenue (Novy Arbat), which runs perpendicular to the old Arbat Street to the north, is of 20th-century vintage. It is a busy street with towering residential buildings and commercial centres.
But no other road in the heart of Moscow is today as important as the 1.6 km long Tverskaya Street (Ulitsa Tverskaya) which originates from the Manezh Square, which is adjacent to Red Square, and runs north-west. And it has been so since, at least, the 17 century with its earlier prominence owing to its status as the arterial road that leads to St Petersburg, the erstwhile capital of the Tsars and the Russian Empire.
Tverskaya Street underwent a major transformation in the 1930s and was renamed Gorky Street. Today, Tverskaya Street is one of the most expensive streets in the world in terms of property rates and is Russia's equivalent of the 5th Avenue in New York City or Champs Élysées in Paris. It is the premier destination for high-end shopping, fine dining and night life.
Landmarks include the State Duma, which is the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Federal Assembly; Moscow Mayor's office, The Ritz-Carlton Moscow, Central Telegraph building. Popular underground shopping mall Okhotny Ryad (Охотный ряд) is located at Manezh Square where Tverskaya Street originates. Hotel National is around the corner on Mokhovaya Street. The buildings have impressive architecture befitting the history and status of the street.
Nearest metro stations:
For Patriarch Ponds: Mayakovskaya and Pushkinskaya.
For Tretyakov Art Gallery: Novokuznetskaya.
For New Tretyakov Gallery: Oktyabrskaya and Park Kultury.
For Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts: Kropotkinskaya and Borovitskaya.
For Gorky Museum: Pushkinskaya, Tverskaya and Arbatskaya.
For Sparrow Hills: Vorobyovy Gory (between Universitet and Sportivnaya stations). (Buses routes: 111, 297 etc.)
For Arbat: Smolenskaya and Kropotkinskaya. For New Arbat Avenue: Arbatskaya.
For Tverskaya Street: Tverskaya, Pushkinskaya, Chekhovskaya and Okhotny Ryad.
Destinations: Kolomenskoye Historical and Architectural Museum and Reserve. Izmailovo Market and Estate. Stalin Bunker.
More visits to sprawling parks are scheduled on the eve of your departure date. Today, you may review your tour itinerary and take a call on visiting the previously listed destinations you couldn't visit.
Or else proceed to visit the places listed here for Day-6 beginning with a trip to the 390-hectare Kolomenskoye Museum-Reserve which is located on the banks of Moskva River about 12 km south of the city centre. Arrive early, if you can, as the park is open from early morning, though the museums are open by 10 a.m.. Other attractions are archaeological sites and beautiful royal and religious structures built in the past or recreated in recent times in the traditional style.
The nobles of the erstwhile Principality of Moscow and later-day tsars had their country residences here. Kolomenskoye still exudes the village charm.
The 1532-built Church of the Ascension here is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The unique architecture of the stone and brick structure with tented roof influenced the evolution of the later-day Russian religious buildings.
The two other World Heritage Sites in Moscow are the Kremlin and Red Square territory and the properties at the Novodevichy Convent.
Izmailovo Kremlin and Estate/Park
Moscow has a make-believe Kremlin too. It is the Izmailovo Kremlin located on an erstwhile royal estate 15 km northeast of the real Kremlin and serves as a cultural and entertainment hub.
Izmailovo Kremlin as well as the nearby Izmailovo market are tourist attractions. The former features beautiful traditional wooden buildings raised after mid-1990s but modelled on historic or royal properties. The highest wooden church in Russia is here — the 46 m tall Church of St Nicholas.
Other highlights include several quirky museums such as the Vodka History Museum, Interactive Museum of Russian Toys, Chocolate Museum, Museum of Disobedient Children and the like.
The entry to Izmaylovo Kremlin and adjoining vast park is free though museums are ticketed. Entry to the park starts at daybreak. You may stay at the park till midnight. Bring children. Amusement rides include those on Ferris wheel, slides, horses, boat, roller-skates.
The entry to the Izmaylovo Kremlin commences at usual official work-hours.
You won't go hungry at the Izmailovo complex as there are food carts, restaurants, cafes and bars in the vicinity.
If a short weeklong vacay for total rest and no sightseeing is on your mind, anytime, then Izmailovo is the right place in Moscow. Check in to the Izmailovo Hotel — currently the largest hotel in Europe. The rates will suit all budgets with standard double-room tariff as low as 2,500 RUB. The mega hotel complex was built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
If you didn't buy souvenirs, antiques, handicrafts or artwork from the pricey Arbat, now is the time. Unlike in Arabat stores, you can bargain with the vendors at the open air Izmailovo flea market. Never mind the language barrier. The Izmailovo Market by itself is a major tourist destination even though it is a part of the larger Izmailovo fortress complex and located behind it near an entrance. For entry pay a token fee.
Note: Antiques are put up for sale only on weekends. Alert: Weekends are crowded and prices are marked up.
Both Kolomenskoye and Izmailovo are two historic and cultural sites that are managed by the Moscow State Integrated Art and Historical, Architectural and Natural Landscape Museum-Reserve. The sites are about 20 km from each other and in two different directions. You may switch the visit to either of these places for an earlier day if time is available or for a later day if your tour exceeds more than a week.
From the Ismailov flea market proceed to the nearby World War II bunker camouflaged adjacent to a sports venue — the Izmaylovo Stadium. The once top-secret shelter, which was built for use by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, is open to public since 1996 but entry is allowed only with prior booking. Stalin's office, dining room and personal belongings are the top attractions here.
Local lore says the dug-out has a secret road tunnel to the Kremlin which is 17 km away and a link to the mysterious Metro-2 which is a secret subway system linking key government buildings. It is rumoured to have been built by Stalin to facilitate the rescue of topranking government personnel in case of a nuclear attack. For more on Moscow Metro, including Metro-2, click here and here.
Contact Moscow tour operators in advance if you like to visit the Stalin bunker. Or else you should fix an appointment by calling the Stalin bunker branch of the Central Armed Forces Museum or sending an email.
Contact details are in the following websites:
Central Armed Forces Museum website
Stalin bunker branch of the Museum:
Phone numbers for booking: 8-499-166-67-68 and 8-916-518-23-72. Email address: [email protected]
Note: Only group tours are conducted. You can be part of a group of minimum 10 people. Open from 10 am except on Monday and Tuesday. Ticket rates: 700 RUB for Russian adult citizens. Foreigners have to pay a steep price: it is 5,000 RUB per person if alone or part of a two-member group; for group size of 3 to 9 people the ticket rate is 2,000 RUB per person; and 1,600 RUB per person if the group has more than 10 people.
Late afternoon: Danilovsky Market.
Evening: A stroll on the promenade at the Muzeon Park of Arts.
It is the fag end of the weeklong hectic tour in Moscow. A visit to the Danilovsky Market will restore your energy and enliven the taste buds. Ethnic, exotic and organic food, raw as well as cooked, is sold at this enclosed and well-organised market situated about 6 km south of the city centre. Fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products are on sale.
Check out the food courts serving Russian and international cuisine. The market is open from 8:00 to 21:00. Even if shopping is not on your mind, a glimpse of the array of food products here will give you a peek into the dietary habits of Russians. The Danilovsky Market is housed in a glass-domed building resembling the famous Lotus Temple in Delhi, India. Visit website.
Another food mall, named DEPO, is on Lesnaya Street near the Belorussky railway terminal. It is open from 10 a.m.. Nearest metro stations are Belorusskaya, Mendeleyevskaya and Novoslobodskaya. Check out details here:
Popular shopping centres which you may visit during any day of your tour: For high-end clothing brands visit TsUM (www.tsum.ru) on Petrovka street, near Bolshoi Theatre; stores at Kuznetsky Most street, near Kitay-Gorod; or GUM. For luxury brands drive to Tretyakovsky Proezd, which is a lane at Kitay-Gorod, or Tverskaya Street.
Gorbushka Market, near the Bagrationovskaya metro station, is the hub for electronic/electrical goods. Aviapark, near the CSK metro station, is a sprawling mall with entertainment, shopping and food avenues. Another busy mall is The Atrium on the Garden Ring near the Kurskaya metro station.
Muzeon Park of Arts
Catch the sunset on the embankment at the Muzeon Park of Arts. Take a stroll recollecting your past few days in Moscow.
The Muzeon Park of Arts is an open-air sculpture museum featuring over 1,00 sculptures, many being Soviet statues that were discarded from public spaces with the fall of Communism. The park open is open from 8 am to 22:00 hours. The entry is free.
Nearest metro stations
For Kolomenskoye: Kolomenskaya and Kashirskaya (Line 2). Kashirskaya and Klenovy Bulvar (Big Circle Line, i.e., the Bolshaya Koltsevaya Line or Line 11).
For Izmailovo Market: Partizanskaya (Also: Izmailovo station of the Moscow Central Circle.)
For Stalin Bunker: Partizanskaya
For Danilovsky Market: Tulskaya
For Muzeon Park of Arts: Oktyabrskaya and Park Kultury.
Day 7: Departure
It is time to say bye to Moscow, for now. Use the Aeroexpress for your airport ride. More on it here
The city has likely cast a spell on you. Come again.
Hope you learnt to say “Goodbye” in Russian. Say: Da svidaniya!
Here ends the two-part series on Moscow city tour. See Part-1 here for activities on the first three days after you arrive in Moscow.