There are so many Things to Do in Moscow!
Taganka Bunker 42, Nerve Center and Control Hub of Soviet Nuclear Forces.
When in Moscow on Mondays, many of the most well known Moscow museums are closed. We are going to present Things to Do in Moscow "especially on Mondays". Here is one of them.
I can tell you as a Cold Warrior I had my reservations about this visit. My impression was that it was an opportunist scheme to make a few dollars on a "trumped-up" visit to something not very well produced. You can guess the rest. It wasn't.
Eventhough there is a requirement to prebook tours, it is not to make your visit artificially difficult. Rather, it is to ensure that you receive a guide who fluently speaks your language.
The Bunker 42 at Taganka was one of hundreds of underground shelters and bunkers in Moscow. The idea was simple...make a bunker deep enough and strong enough to withstand all but an absolute direct hit by a larger than usual nuclear device. This philosophy made disabling Bunker 42 all but impossible during the Cold War.
The tour begins at a very modest looking entrance which houses the "Kacca" ticket office. The local guide will explain and demonstrate the layers of "blast doors" which are designed to fail successively to ensure that the final layer of protection is effective in all but the most unlikely scenarios.
Next comes the 'down hill' climb: 18 short flights of steps descending to the working part of the bunker. In fact, most of us have seen movies or news footage of the protected control facilities housed in Cheyenne Mountain, Wyoming. Bunker 42 at Taganka reminded me of that. Long corridors with steel plate for reinforcements, check points and security doors lead the way to the "nerve center" of the facility. During periods of "heightened tensions" the halls of the Moscow Kremlin would be more deserted than usual and those same officials who would use their Kremlin offices and prestige to navigate the privileges of the Soviet elite, would find themselves "hunkered down" to direct the lethal tools of nuclear war.
As you follow the guide you are shown the many "soft drink" vending machines. During the 1950's all of the electric communications and controls heated the facility to an uncomfortable 25-35 degrees C or 80 -100 degree F temperature. As men and women worked in Bunker 42 for long, uninterrupted, periods the drink machines were introduced to help make the hot conditions more tolerable.
Once you reach one of the many working areas you begin to see just how massive this underground fortress really is. Imagine the large shafts dug using circular digging machines to make the English Channel Tunnel. That is the scale of the inner workings of Bunker 42.
Early in this 1.5 hour program you are invited to sit in a briefing room reminiscent of a World War II Flight Crew Briefing Room ( like in the old war movies) where you are treated to a black and white Cold War time capsule of a movie. The movie takes you from the conference at Potsdam, the development and use of atomic weapons by the Americans, the catch-up phase ordered by Stalin and the tensions and dangers leading all the way up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Those who remember the Cold War and, especially, the Cuban Missile Crisis, will remember those dark days which perched mankind on the brink of world destruction.
I watched the movie discuss the heightened tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis caused by the shoot down of the U-2 spy plane flown by a Maj. Anderson from Greenville, South Carolina. As you may know our company is located and I live in Greenville. In fact just the day before, I had visited the Museum of the Contemporary History of Russia where a fragment of the U-2 was on display.
With the shoot down of the U-2, Chairman of the Communist Party, Mr. Kruschev realized that there were not enough safe guards in place to keep an over zealous officer from starting a nuclear war. That caused him to realize that his experiment in projecting the "power" of the Soviet Rocket Forces had turned into a dangerous fiasco which almost destroyed the world.
Following the film we entered a large chamber where a simulation gave the appearance of requiring a launch of Soviet ballistic missiles. One of our group was enlisted to be the second missile launch officer and in a fashion not far removed from the real launch procedure, Soviet missiles were sent on their imaginary way to the USA.
Afterward the guide, who was very technically competent, explained the Soviet philosophy of rocket building (simple and effective) and the decline of the Intercontinental ballistic fleet.
Now many of the rocket boosters used to send men or supplies to space from Russia are old rockets which had been on Alert duty during the Cold War. They are still serviceable.
Many exhibits were "hands -on" and you could see the banks of communication gear, the tools, weapons, uniforms and offices of the various officers and men required to control the long range bombers and missiles that, when combined, were the most destructive force on earth.
Now part of the huge bunker complex has been converted to elaborate dining facilities and bars. They are seen at the end of the tour where they wait to be rented for a special party or corporate event.
If you have an interest in the background and a good explanation of the philosophies and capabilities of our old Soviet foes, I suggest this tour enthusiastically. We can make the reservation and your RussianTourGuide.com guide will get you to the facility. Although not hidden, it is not easy to find and you definitely need your guide to navigate not just finding Bunker 42 but also communicating with the people through the "peep hole" to confirm your appointment. Admission for me and my colleague Kira was 2000 rubles or about 65 dollars. Not cheap but worth it.
Things to do in Moscow!
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
I like to give my Moscow tourists an idea of what to expect when they take a visit on my recommendation. Tourists' time in Moscow is usually limited and, therefore, visits should be carefully selected.
The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center is in a huge, gutted warehouse. Imagine a modern art museum in a former warehouse, complete with open lofted ceilings and visible heating and cooling ducts.
Get the picture? Now, to the cool part...inside the massive space one finds enclaves of exhibits designed to convey a particular aspect of Jewish history. Usually the story has something to do with Jews in Russia in general or Jews in Moscow in particular, but not always. In fact, I got the impression that this center was designed as much for the non Jewish visitor to learn about the plight and philosophy of the Jews as it was for Jewish visitors. I also felt that if this combination of creative, technical and educational genius was viewed by Jews who perhaps have slipped a bit in faithfulness to the religion it might return them to their roots and beliefs with renewed enthusiasm and vigor.
This Jewish Museum was like a Jewish History Disneyland on creative steroids.
To begin the visitor is directed to a path similar to a simulated space ride at Disneyworld, the visitor is directed up a short ramp with a sign proclaiming (measured to the second ) how long before the next show.
Inside the theatre are seats, in a concentric circular scheme, like those found in a Disneyworld ride. After you don your 3-D glasses you are treated to a 2000 year history of the Jews complete with water spray from the parting Red Sea and the projectiles coming right (3-D) at you as you join the Jews in their battles with the Romans. Ouch!
Wow! Now you are just getting started! The inventors of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center didn't stop there, although they could have and still been at the top of their game. The museum is filled with constantly changing exhibits that are visually entertaining. The subject matter of the exhibits is not always easy to watch or light hearted. Sometimes they are very light-hearted. (see the picture of me, electronically dressed up as a peasant -- left)
Most exhibits have some form of touch interaction. Not just inquiry but interaction. You do something and the museum electronics do something or create something in response.
Areas dedicated to World War II have huge screens, combined a little like IMAX screens showing real WWII footage from many different areas and periods of the war. A life size WWII airplane and tank are even on display.
One memorial area gives the visitor several different ways to search for or see a list of names at any given detention facility at any given time.
On a lighter side, there is an area where you stand on a pair of "yellow feet" while you are asked to select from an electronically presented set of personae and wardrobes. It is somewhat like selecting a personality for a Wii Game. Then in a full length "mirror" in front of you, your face is projected into the wardrobe and life form (peasant man or woman, etc.) and you are shown in various activities. A digital recording is made of your experience which is available for sale when you leave.
As the name "Tolerance Center" may suggest, there is an area which offers you (and 50 others at the same time if there are that many people around) the opportunity to take an electronically administered test. The object is to see how "tolerant" of other people, religions, nationalities, personalities, etc. you are.
My colleague Kira and I both took the test thinking we were VERY tolerant. As it turns out we are more tolerant in our mind than in reality.
It is easy to see that none of us are above the trap of being intolerant regardless how much we may protest the contrary.
Now, after all of that, what could be left but food and drink? The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center has a lovely food and drink facility which I suggest you visit in the middle of your exploration to break up the time and give your feet a rest.
Things To Do In Moscow !
Other than tour the Kremlin !
How Many Months Do you Have?
With snow steadily falling I can walk five minutes to Tverskaya Street from the Marco Polo hotel and be in one of the most comprehensive, creatively presented museums I've ever seen.
With my Moscow Tour Guide colleague Julia, we set out on a visit to the Museum of Contemporary History of Russia. I expected to spend no more than two or three hours. After that visit I had other things planned.
Once we began our tour I saw that we would begin and end our tour day in this amazing facility.
From about the mid-1800s to present day each major period of Russian history is represented. That is a simple sentence and it doesn't give justice to the effort and skill of the curators of this Moscow Museum.
Czarist Russia, the October Revolution, the Civil War, World War I and World War II are all brilliantly chronicled.
The astonishing thing for me is that I have travelled to Moscow many times and I have an abiding interest in Russian history and yet, am only just now discovering this "Thing To Do in Moscow".
Another thing was forcefully reiterated during his visit. For those who think you can travel to Russia, visit Moscow and receive good value for your time and money without the use of a proper Moscow tour guide, totally and utterly forget it.
In the south of the USA frequently when we have nothing better to say or don't know what to say we can be heard saying "that's nice". If you were to walk through the Museum of Contemporary History of Russia without a guide you would know there are thousands of things which you would find interesting yet you are essentially blind because you can't read any of the placards. Less than 1% of these cleverly presented exhibits had English subtitles. I would suspect you might be tempted to look at something, know it is important but not be able to determine why and think "That's Nice !".
Now let's discuss what made this Moscow Museum really great.
Not only were pictures, newspaper articles, charts and graphs effectively used but there were many real machines and memorabilia from every era. Further, some of the artworks would have been more at home in the Tretyakov Gallery Museum or the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. If you like art you will absolutely not be disappointed.
The Museum of The Contemporary History of Russia is housed in what used to be called the English Club, a beautiful building on Tverskaya Street just a few yards north of the Tverskaya Metro. This was the hangout of the English ex-pats during Soviet times.
The building itself is worth a visit. High ceilings & beautiful trim makes one imagine how it would feel to pass the time in such luxury when just out the front door hundreds per night may be whisked to the KGB dungeon, beaten or killed.
My colleague Julia was old enough "barely" to remember Soviet times and to add colorful detail to some of the exhibits dedicated to Soviet life, propaganda and especially the activities of the youth organization "The Young Pioneers".
Julia was a Young Pioneer and relayed the stories which were told to the pioneers and chronicled in the museum. Especially interesting were the stories of the young pioneers who were made Heroes of the Soviet Union for deeds which were considered by the Soviet government to exemplify the perfect Soviet child.
On a Thursday, when the Kremlin is closed and you need a respite from the magnificent art museums, step off the chalk line. Go somewhere without crowds of tourists and see the exhibits which so purposefully educate us on those events which we have read about briefly in our history books.
For some of us many of the events portrayed occurred during our lifetimes. I was especially interested in the fragment of the aircraft shot down over Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis. The pilot of that airplane, Maj. Anderson, attended high school in Greenville, South Carolina. I saw a plaque commemorating his service in his high school when my daughter was there to take a standardized test. It gave me goosebumps to see the fragment of his airplane in this museum in Moscow.
I think taking home memories which will not soon fade is more interesting than seeing everything the tour books tell us to see.
See a picture gallery of my photos here at the RussianTourGuide.com Facebook page. Please feel free to make comments to this post or "like" our Facebook page.
You will love your visit to Russia!
There are very few cities in the world with as many attractions as St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Many of us neglect Russia as a tourist destination because we are uncertain about Russian visas. Our goal is to make you an expert and demonstrate how simple it is to obtain a Russian visa.
For those visiting St. Petersburg by cruise ship on St. Petersburg Shore Excursions
This is the easiest of all categories. Visitors to St. Petersburg, who are accompanied by a licensed tour guide, are entitled to visit for up to 72 hours without a visa issued by a Russian consulate. This statement is true for citizens of all countries otherwise needing a tourist visa.
Instead of having a visa of affixed to your passport by a Russian consulate, you need only provide your passport details to your tour organizer, like RussianTourGuide.com and you will receive a "Cruise Passenger Visa" (sometimes called the "Tour Ticket").
Usually "Cruise Passenger Visas" are emailed to you prior to your boarding the ship. It is even possible, in many cases, to receive your tour request and email the "Cruise Passenger Visa" to you while you are on board your ship.
You will receive a separate "Cruise Passenger Visa" for each day you will be in St. Petersburg.
When you arrive in St. Petersburg you will exit the ship with all other passengers and present your "Cruise Passenger Visa" to the Russian Customs officials.
As you exit Russian Customs at the St. Petersburg port facility you will see your tour guide and driver.
Myths and Mis representations related to Cruise Passenger Visas:
Cruise lines desperately want you to book their St. Petersburg shore excursions. Why? because they make "boat loads" (pun intended) of profit for them.
Cruise lines will attempt to make you believe that if you do not book their tour, you will require a Russian Tourist Visa (from a Consulate).
Here is an excerpt from a note sent by Holland America to their passengers: "A Russian visa is required only for those guests who want to explore St. Petersburg, Russia on their own. Guests participating on a Holland America Line – sponsored shore excursion are not required to obtain a Russian visa prior to sailing"?.
This implies that passengers not using the cruise line shore excursion must have a Russian visa. But, that's not really what it says. It said "guests who want to explore St. Petersburg, Russia on their own". That is not the same as exploring St. Petersburg Russia with a licensed St. Petersburg tour company , like RussianTourGuide.com, but it is very easy to misunderstand.
Sometimes cruise lines will advise their passengers that they will not be allowed to disembark as early as the passengers taking cruise line shore excursions. That is not true either. It never happens that way and it is against Russian law.
The "Cruise Passenger Visa" is a courtesy extended by the Russian Federation to visitors of St. Petersburg by cruise ship and there are a few limitations:
- Your stay cannot exceed 72 hours
- You must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide
- Your "Cruise Passenger Visa" must be issued by a properly authorized tour company
It's that simple!
One often asked question: "if we want to visit Moscow on one of our days in port in St. Petersburg, may we do so using only our cruise passenger visa?" - NO You must obtain a Russian tourist visa from the Russian consulate in your country and have it affixed in your passport. Otherwise, you would be required to take your St. Petersburg guide with you to Moscow. Since St. Petersburg guides are not licensed to tour through the Kremlin, it would be much more expensive to take that guide to Moscow than to obtain a Russian tourist visa.
In another article we will discuss the procedures, costs and turnaround time for getting a Russian tourist visa from your Russian Consulate. Here's a preview. It's not hard. They are NOT excessively expensive and it can take as little as one day.
We want you to love your visit to St. Petersburg and visit Russia more than once. For those who love cruises or who don't want to commit to a Russian visa and the extra days usually associated with a land-based tour, an "appetizer" visit utilizing the "Cruise Passenger Visa" provisions will be ideal to pave the way for your subsequent, longer visit to Russia.
Click here to see our private and "small group" cruise ship excursions in St. Petersburg.
We even offer St. Petersburg shore excursions which include Moscow !
To immediately gain access to all of our helpful articles and Russian travel planning tools - click here.
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The State Diamond Fund of Russia is housed in the Kremlin Armoury Museum in the Moscow Kremlin. It is, however, a separate institution which is run by the the State Fund of Precious Stones within the Ministry of Finance.
Since it is an independent museum inside the Kremlin Museum complex you will need an admission ticket just for the Diamond Fund. Cost of admission is 500 rubles.
Despite the fact that the ticket is pricey, a visit to the Diamond Fund is well worth the cost and will be a very meaningful meaningful and memorable addition to your Kremlin Tour as well as your overall Moscow Tour. Just walking through the entry my family and I were immediately dazzled by the ostentacious wealth on display there.
Once inside the Diamond Fund you will see a collection of state jewels that can only be rivaled by the British Crown Jewels which are housed in the Tower of London. Highlights of the Russian collection include Catherine the Great's stunning coronation crown (known as the Great Imperial Crown), the famous Orlov Diamond (a mere 190 carats!), and numerous Faberge eggs.
The fund was begun by Peter the Great in 1719 after seeing similar collections during his travels around Europe. He decreed that each of his successors were required to leave a number of their jewels to the State and that the jewels could never be sold, altered or given away. The fund grew rapidly in size. Peter's grandaughter Empress Elizabeth, who was known for her love of expensive clothing and jewelry, made particularly lavish contributions to the fund.
The original fund was housed in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in a secure room called the Diamond Chamber. During WWI with Germany threatening invasion, the collection was moved to Moscow and kept in safe vaults underneath the Kremlin. There it remained virtually untouched and forgotten until 1926 when the vault was reopened.
In 1927 over two thirds of the collection was auctioned off by Christie's Auction House in London to raise money for the struggling Soviet economy. To this day, the location and ownership of many of the auctioned pieces remains unknown. What was left of the fund went on display in 1967 only for high ranking officials and visiting dignitaries to see. It was opened to public viewing when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Since 1998 many interesting additions have been made to the fund. The Russian government has a monoploy on mining and distribution of gems and the following are required to be turned over to the government:
- raw diamonds over 50 carats
- cut diamonds over 20 carats
- raw emeralds, rubies and sapphires over 30 carats and over 20 carats if cut
- unique nuggets, amber, pearls and jewelry.
With the addition of these items, the fund has continued to grow and remain relevant.
The Diamond Fund is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and is closed between 1 and 2 for lunch. It is closed on Thursday. Tickets may be available in the foyer but visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance. If you use a private guide during your Moscow Tour the guide will have purchased your ticket for you. Please be aware it is a small exhibit (2 rooms) and visitors are admitted at 20 minute intervals. A visit may take as little as 30 minutes. Many of the explanations are not in English so a guide is highly recommended for this tour. Please be aware the security staff in this museum has the reputation for being particularly prickly and somewhat rude.
The Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg is a "must see" on any tour or St. Petersburg shore excursion.
Compared to the grand suburban palaces like Peterhof and the Catherine Palace in Pushkin and even Gatchina Palace, the Yusupov Palace fits into the city environment in which it resides. It is only when you enter that you get a sense of its grand scale and wealth required to build it
Built in 1770 during the reign of Catherine the Great, the Yusupov family had "status" to preserve as there were many other wealthy families who were not a part of the ruling Romanov family. Among these families were the Sheremetevs who owned the Fountain House in St. Petersburg and for whom the main airport in Moscow is named. It was a tall order to "keep up with the Sheremetevs". The Yusupov Palace did its job well.
Upon entering the Yusupov Palace you are greeted with a magnificent marble staircase. Your visit will reveal all manner of functional, albeit exquisite, rooms and a variety of special purpose rooms which include a ballroom and a spectacular private theater. The wealth of the Yusupovs enabled them to entertain not only the aristocrats but also the Russian royal family. Technically the wife of Yusupov was royal. She was the niece of Czar Nicholas II.
Art lovers will enjoy the Yusupov Palace. The family loved art and culture. It is obvious even with the pieces in the palace today. Vast numbers of art works were looted by the Bolsheviks and are on display in various museums around Russia including the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
It is said that some of the most famous works of art owned by the Yusupov family,including a Rembrandt, were sold to support the family in exile in Paris after the Bolshevik revolution.
Look at this painting of a charity ball staged in the ballroom of the Yusupov Palace. (click on the image to see a larger version)
A MURDER MOST FOUL -
Perhaps the event which most distinguishes the Yusupov Palace is the murder of one who was as crude as the Yusupovs were refined. That would be Gregori (Gregory) Rasputin. A fake faith healer, Rasputin had become essential to the Tzarina Alexandra. Her son, heir to the Russian throne, suffered from hemophilia and Rasputin convinced her that he had the power to relieve the boy's suffering. Seeing that Rasputin's influence was causing Czar Nicholas II to govern more irresponsibly than ever, Felix Yusupov and others lured Rasputin to the Palace where they murdered him.
While in Paris, where he died in 1967, Felix Yusupov filmed an introduction to a movie entitled "I Shot Rasputin".
When you tour the Yusupov Palace you will definitely visit the state rooms, the music room and galleries of fine art owned by the Yusupov family. Only if you receive a proper tour with a tour guide recognized by the palace will you see the area of the palace where Rasputin was murdered. (There are periodic tours of the Rasputin murder area offered by the Palace but they are in Russian language only)
In order for St. Petersburg tour guides to have permission to tour in the Rasputin exhibition of the Yusupov Palace they must receive training and be credentialed by the the Palace. Re-certification must be accomplished each winter or they lose that certification. RussianTourGuide.com enjoys a special relationship with the Yusupov Palace and can take you, not only to the Rasputin area but also the Boudoir area, if enough notice is given.
There are evening cocktail parties,with live chamber music, which our clients can enjoy ! Ask us about a "Magic Evening at the Yusupov Palace".
Starting in 2013 all RussianTourGuide.com
will include an inside visit to the Yusupov Palace.
As a tour provider in Russia, I have the opportunity to speak with hundreds of people each year who want to tour Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Usually the first site mentioned when we discuss the tour’s objectives is the Kremlin in Moscow. That is understandable since the Moscow Kremlin is the “icon” of Russia. When reporting a news story from Russia, almost all of the foreign news agencies position their reporters in Red Square with the Kremlin ,Moscow’s most famous site, or St. Basil’s Cathedral (the onion-domed church) in the background.
Some think there is only one "Kremlin Museum". The Kremlin territory is composed of many Kremlin Museums and various government buildings.
Think of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, collectively, as the Times Square, Pennsylvania Avenue and the Washington Mall of Russia.
For those of us old enough to remember Soviet times, we know that Red Square was the place where all of the Communist Party officials and their guests would appear to the public during elaborate parades. We also know that in the pyramid-shaped, dark stone mausoleum, lies the perennially doctored remains of V.I. Lenin, the father of the Russian Revolution. Others who have stood on the parade platform in Red Square are now entombed within it. Probably one the most notable of those is Joseph Stalin.
The “Kremlin”, Moscow’s most famous site, is really a fortress. It is by any measurement a massive one. In fact in Russian “Kremlin” means “Fortress”. There are many instances in Russia where the name we know is really a Russian translation of what the object is. Another example is “Bolshoi Theatre”. “Bolshoi” means “big”.
Within the Kremlin’s mighty walls are many tourist sites. There is the official residence of the Russian Federation president, the Kremlin Palace, numerous churches and the Kremlin Armory Museum.
So now, I hope, you are beginning to see that the Kremlin, a mighty, massive fortress creates one of the borders of Red Square. Another border of the Moscow Kremlin is on the Moscow River embankment. On another, opposite side of Red Square is St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Let’s discuss Moscow Kremlin tours. It is very unwise to go to the Kremlin expecting to take a Kremlin tour with no prior planning.
Here are some of the things one should consider when contemplating a Kremlin tour.
- There are separate entrance tickets to each Kremlin Museum listed:
- Kremlin grounds
- Kremlin Armoury Museum
- Kremlin Diamond fund
- Ivan the Great Bell Tower
- Other special excursions
The Kremlin is closed on Thursday
- During warmer weather crowds of people trying to buy Kremlin territory tickets (Kremlin Grounds) and Kremlin Armoury Museum tickets can make the whole process of visiting the Kremlin very discouraging and unpleasant.
- To add to the inconvenience you must buy the Kremlin Grounds tickets in one place, the Kremlin Armoury tickets at another and Kremlin Diamond Fund tickets in yet another !
- Few of the most important sights inside the Kremlin are labeled in English.
To be sure a Kremlin visit is well worth the time and money but to get the most out of that visit and the investment in tickets, with the least inconvenience one should engage a proper Kremlin tour.
Moscow Tour guides must have proper credentials, issued by the Kremlin authorities, to buy the various tickets in advance. When the Moscow guide buys the client’s Kremlin admission tickets they are also assigned an entrance time. Therefore, it is not always possible to select the exact time of the Kremlin visit but by using a Moscow guide with Kremlin credentials you avoid the bruising lines and you are able to receive interesting commentary on everything you see. That commentary on the hundreds of priceless items in the Kremlin Armoury, alone, is worth the price of a Moscow tour guide.
After the Kremlin tour one may be tempted to want to call on Mr. Lenin. That is possible. Most guides in Moscow do not encourage their clients to visit inside the Lenin Mausoleum because:
- The Lenin mausoleum is only open for visits Tuesday-Thursday from 10:00 to 14:00
- There are no advance ticket purchases for visiting the Red Square resting place of Mr. Lenin
- Due to the 2 facts, above, there is always a long line of hearty tourists who must see the heavily made-up remains of the diabolical Mr. Lenin.
If you REALLY want to see inside the Lenin Mausoleum, you must be prepared to spend time in line from before 10 AM until your turn arrives. Moscow tour guides will be happy to assist you with a visit to Red Square and Lenin’s Mausoluem…………….
It is easy to spend a whole day at the Kremlin in Moscow and Red Square.
There are so many things to see in the Moscow Kremlin itself that several hours will be required. When the area in and around Red Square is added to your planning, a whole day is inevitable.
Here is a list of the sites you will want to consider seeing on your day at the Kremlin and Red Square:
- Moscow Kremlin
- Kremlin Grounds - ticket approx $15
- Assumption Cathedral
- The Ivan the Great Bell-Tower Complex - You can walk up and see the Kremlin and surrounding area from 75 feet up. Ticket required. Discuss with your Moscow tour guide in advance. Separate ticket - approx $20
- The Archangel’s Cathedral -burial place of Peter II the only post Peter the Great Czar not burried at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg and burial place of Ivan the Terrible
- Kremlin Armoury -
- separate ticket aprox $25 - no photograpy
- Kremlin Diamond Fund
- Crown worn Catherine II with more than 5000 diamonds
- Orlov diamond - 190 ct
- Separate museum on the Moscow Kremlin grounds requiring an entrance ticket approx $25
This grand picture was made by our client A. Lowery during his family's Kremlin Tour.
- Red Square
- Lenin's Tomb - ticket required and long lines usual
- St. Basil's Cathedral - ticket required
- State History Museum
Navigating the Kremlin bureaucracy can be challlenging. It is difficult to distinguish which tickets enable you to do what. Some things inside the Kremlin walls are included in the general admission ticket and many are not. If you tried to buy the various tickets to the numerous sites, it would be a daunting, time-consuming task.
It should be obvious that more than 1 day can easily be allocated to the many sights at the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square area. The size of crowds trying to tour the Kremlin and, especially, the Kremlin Armoury cannot be over stated. You must, in order to have a proper tour, engage the services of a Moscow tour guide who will make the arrangements for your Kremlin tour in advance, avoiding the long lines and mitigating the crowds a bit.
The Moscow Kremlin is closed on Thurdsays. This is a great visit on Mondays when so many of the other Moscow museums, like the Tretyakov Gallery, are closed.
Here is a link to an Moscow Kremlin Day Tour. Kremlin tours are also included in all of our multi-day tours of Moscow. The include:
Moscow is beautiful at night. How does one get this beautiful night view?
- To tour Moscow by Metro one sees the beautiful stations but it is very time-consuming to exit each station and reenter to resume the tour.
- A car can be engaged but it is quite expensive and traffic can prevent a good view and slow the process.
- A walking Moscow tour is nice but only a tiny area of the city can be seen.
The best way to tour Moscow at night is on one of the many Moscow River tour excursions.
On my recent trip to Moscow one of my colleagues,Nadia and her daughter Valentina (pictured) and I decided to experience a delightful fall day and a colorful Moscow night. We scheduled the Radisson Moscow River Tour conducted on one of their fleet of beautiful dinner cruise boats. We chose the departure time which gave us an hour of touring on the Moscow River under a beautiful fall sky and another hour and one half seeing the brilliant evening Moscow skyline.
There are at least two companies which operate regular Moscow River tours. The more elegant of the two is operated by Radisson. The Radisson Moscow River tour boats (pictured) are floating four-star restaurants. In spite of the elegance, the price for the tour is rather modest, approximately $30 per person. That price does not include any food or beverages. It does gain admission to one of the nicest river tour boats I have experienced.
As you can see from the pictures this is a first class Moscow River tour boat. The service was good and the food was delicious.
We chose a particularly lovely day in late October. For the first hour of our cruise the beautiful fall colors in Moscow were visible. The route taken by the cruise ship enables one to see some of the parks in Moscow and the Muscovites who are enjoying an afternoon walk.
About halfway through the cruise, darkness had fallen and the brilliant evening scenes of Moscow were just as entertaining as the fall colors had been during daylight.
The Radisson Moscow River tour boat staff is well-equipped and does a nice job of recognizing birthdays and anniversaries. They have nice music and special "table – fireworks" to acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries. If you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary let your Moscow tour guide know in advance and she can be sure your event is enjoyed on board.
Very nice meals with wine could be obtained for under $30 per person.
As with so many things in Moscow, finding the pier was not particularly easy. There are two piers from which these excursions begin. You must pay close attention to be sure you go to the correct one. (NO problem if you take this excursion with a Moscow tour guide) One of the piers is not close to a Moscow Metro station. Therefore it even more important to have a Moscow guide who will meet you at your hotel and navigate your way to this delightful Moscow excursion and then be able to point out interesting sites along the way. We believe in having a guide.. can you tell?
If you forget your camera no worries. The Radisson Moscow River tour boat has an onboard photographer who is quite good and will be very patient to make just the right pictures for you. You then have the opportunity to review the pictures and decide which, if any, you would like to purchase. Prices for the pictures are about $15 each.
Before or after dinner you may go topside and enjoy the view of the city with the wind in your hair. There will be many exceptional photo opportunities which you may want to take advantage of during your two and a half-hour cruise.
I usually suggest that one of the first activites which should be included in a private tour of Moscow is this Moscow River tour. Why? Well when people, especially North Americans, arrive in Moscow they are usually a bit tired. It would be easy for them to go to sleep early but that usually means they will wake in the middle of the night and be unable to return to sleep.
Retiring early and waking in the middle of the night will ruin the next day. With this Moscow River tour, the Moscow tourist gets a chance to meet their private Moscow guide, get an over view of the city, do minimum walking and enjoy a nice meal. It is a good way to get a great first impression of Moscow and be entertained enough to stay awake.
The keys to a great Moscow tour are in planning.
All of these factors go into making a visit to Russia, and Moscow in particular, one which will leave a lasting impression and you will be sold on Russia as I am.
In today's world it is so easy to fall in love with a Moscow hotel based solely upon its Internet website. How many of us have made that important hotel decision based upon a website only to find out that the hotel is significantly less impressive than we imagined.
For most of us the criteria for choosing one hotel over another should be simple. The factors influencing our decision should be:
- No matter how alluring a hotel may be it is important to stay within your budget. If you are overly worried about how much you're spending you will not enjoy your Moscow tour.
- Concomitantly, if your budget is so low that you are forced into choosing a hotel too far from the center, and maybe even a long distance from a metro station, you will not be happy either.
- Your budget must be high enough that you can afford a hotel which will enhance your tour of Moscow rather than degrade it. Clearly, your budget must be able to allow you to satisfy your tastes as they relate to convenience and comfort.
- Maximize the value your budget will allow.
- Remember "value" is something you can control. It is the relationship of the price of the Moscow hotel room to the features that hotel provides. Getting the least cost Moscow hotel room for the best features should be our goal.
· Let's look at some of the important features of a Moscow hotel:
- Location. Location in Moscow can make your Moscow sightseeing tours much easier or needlessly more difficult.
- If you engage a proper tour of Moscow, the location of your hotel makes it easier or more difficult for your guide to meet you there. If you don’t have a proper tour scheduled, and you have no guide navigating for you each day, a hotel in a bad location makes it more difficult for you to reach your tour destinations within Moscow.
- If your hotel is centrally located your guide spends less time getting to you each day and you spend less time going from your hotel to your tour stops.
- The farther away from the center of Moscow you are, the more likely that the walk from your metro stop to your Moscow hotel could be compromised either in:
- Improved walking surfaces
- The above factors are impossible to judge from the statements made on the internet by the hotel. I have stayed in Moscow hotels that were seemingly close to a metro station, but the walk from the hotel to the station was so unimproved that at night my feet constantly found puddles of water that came over the tops of my shoes. Another walk was in a neighborhood which was fine during the day but at night created a bit of anxiety.
- I would always recommend compromising slightly on the other features to obtain a good location.
- Cleanliness – This is impossible to judge from the Moscow hotel website.
- Room size
- Service provided by the staff – This is also impossible to judge from the Moscow hotel website.
What's the very best way to find your dream Moscow hotel?
- For me it is to speak with someone who has actually been a guest at a hotel which satisfies my budget requirement. If the budget is satisfied then I need to know if the features are compatible to my Moscow hotel objectives, those we mentioned above.
- If you're taking a private Moscow tour what better way to get information on a Moscow hotel than to ask your Moscow tour guide? No Moscow tour guide wants to have an unhappy tourist even before they begin the tour. It sets up a very uncomfortable situation. You will learn that your Russian tour guides, in all cities, have great pride in their respective cities and want you to enjoy your stay and admire their city as they do. If you have chosen a hotel in a bad location, with a scary walk to the metro and so far from everything important, you are going to predispose a bad attitude. That bad attitude will be hard for the tour guide to overcome, especially on a tour of only 1 or 2 days.
i. Moscow tour planners and tour guides either live in or have been to Moscow many times and have the best opportunity to know the good hotels with great locations. I have had many tourists who insisted on choosing a hotel themselves. My suspicion was that they considered it likely that they could find a better hotel, cheaper than the ones I offered. Apparently many think that just because a tour company is paid a small fee (and it is small) that the cost will be higher to the client and the value of that hotel, will be lower than a hotel they choose and bypass the commission paid to the Moscow tour company. In theory it sounds plausible and in some cases may be true. In my case at least, clients often pay substantially less when I book the hotel than they would pay if they booked directly. The reason being that I book those hotels so much, the management makes favorable price concessions that more than make up for the commission.
You might say "How do I know that the promise of a commission is not motivating a certain hotel recommendation?"
When we suggest a hotel we have this situation: There are hundreds of Moscow hotels which would pay a booking commission. The key is to find a hotel that will satisfy our Moscow tourists. The hotel is the first key for a successful private Moscow tour. Why would we not suggest the best hotel for the money? Isn’t that what our clients expect from us? We actually find the best hotels for the money, and propose a relationship. By keeping our hotel choices to a few in each class, we assure that we provide enough guests to each to have leverage on price and we know that the hotel will work a bit harder to satisfy our clients. It makes a substantial difference for the client as well as for the tour company to have a “first name” relationship with the management of a particular hotel. We have that with all of the hotels we recommend.
- The next best way to choose your Moscow hotel is to speak with an acquaintance who has visited Moscow and shares your tastes. If you are trying to tour Moscow without booking a proper tour, you start out with some significant disadvantages. Advice during the planning stage is not available. Additionally there are the obvious challenges of knowing how to get to your sites of interest, the days they are open, the hours they are open to unaccompanied tourists, buying the tickets and what you are seeing when you finally enter.
- Last choice is reading reviews on blog sites like Tripadvisor.com. You may actually read a review written by an unbiased previous client. It is, regrettably, common for negative reviews to be written "incognito" by competitors and positive reviews to be written by the hotel’s own staff.
One more note about the importance of “planning” in a successful Moscow tour. Many tour companies, especially independent tour guides, do not become involved in assisting with things like hotel selection or how to obtain a Russian visa. They offer to help with itinerary planning, period. Working with a Moscow tour company which provides assistance with hotels and Russian visas frequently costs no more than working with an independent tour guide who does not. Further, if you can work with a company which makes it easy to communicate by phone in your country, with a native English speaker, nuances may be easy to discuss that may have been difficult to explain to someone 5000 miles away speaking English as a second language.
I'd like to share my thoughts on a very nice 4 star hotel in Moscow. It is the Marco Polo Hotel.
Marco Polo Hotel is located very conveniently between the Tverskaya and Arbat Street Metro, near the Kremlin and some of the best areas of Moscow.
Using my own criteria, above, this hotel fits a very tight budget. Compared to Moscow hotels of similar quality the value is very high. The rooms are large, especially by European standards.
The factors that set Marco Polo Hotel apart for me were:
- Near the center and many of the sites important to Moscow visitors
- Nice quiet street
- Upscale Appearance
- From the entrance to the dining area this hotel just looks more polished
- Charming outdoor restaurant and bar
- Near Pushkin Square and Arbat restaurants of all kinds. Easy walking distance to hundreds of restaurants.
- Generous free breakfast
- Friendliness of the staff
- When I needed to design an arrival meal for clients’ first night in Moscow, Olga, the Sales Manager, did the unthinkable for a Moscow hotel manager. She designed a beautiful 4 course menu, including wine, at a fraction of the usual cost. This arrival meal is so important for getting a Moscow visit off to a good start! Since it is common for Moscow tourists to arrive in the city too late for visits with a tour guide, on the first day they only meet the driver who performs the airport pick up. (transfer). Now the tourists, who do not speak Russian have no idea where to go for their evening meal, are too tired to investigate their options and opt to dine at the first convenient place. That place is usually the hotel. As is the case with most hotel restaurants, the charming restaurant at the Marco Polo is not the best value if you order from the menu. So, as a service to our guests and as a delightful concession to our company, Marco Polo created a 4 course menu, including wine, and made it available to our clients so that they could take advantage of the convenience and charm of the Marco Polo outdoor restaurant, and get a fantastic meal at a great price. Problem solved. The clients do not have to negotiate unfamiliar neighborhoods with no knowledge of the Russian language and can enjoy the comfort of their hotel and retire early in anticipation of a great day of touring beginning the next morning. This may seem like a small thing but there is nothing small about getting off to a great start in a huge city like Moscow.
For those people who specify good value and great location at a modest price I would be willing to recommend Marco Polo Hotel and guarantee my client's satisfaction. That is something that people who have not been there themselves are rarely willing to do.
Predispose your Moscow tour to success rather than failure. Nothing gets a tour of Moscow off to a better start than a hotel which provides a pleasant surprise. Marco Polo Hotel may be your ideal selection.
Fans of the ballet understandably have great anticipation for their trip to Moscow. It is one of the most prestigious addresses for the very best ballet in the world. Among the many fine Moscow ballet venues is the premier “Bolshoi Theatre”.
It should be known that the “campus” which makes up the “Bolshoi Theatre” has 3 important, separate, buildings. They are the Ticket Office, New Hall and Main Hall.
If you are unaware that there are 2 halls which are both called the “Bolshoi” you could easily think you are to attend a performance of the Moscow ballet in the Bolshoi Theatre Main Hall and discover that the performance is offered in the New Hall.
What is the difference? The Moscow ballet company which routinely performs in the Bolshoi Main Hall also performs in the New Hall. The New Hall is “newer” and smaller. The new hall has a completely separate building from the Main hall and , indeed, the ticket office.
The Bolshoi Theatre Main Hall is the building with the huge columns on the front facing the Kremlin and so easily seen from the street. It was the object of 5 years of restoration which ended in 2012 at a cost of over 1 billion dollars. Clearly, the Bolshoi Theatre Main Hall is the plum venue if you have a choice.
So you have decided to attend a ballet or opera at the Bolshoi and you are aware that there is a difference in venues. How do you buy Bolshoi Ballet tickets?
Most of us depend on Google or Yahoo. We would Google “Bolshoi Ballet Tickets”. That will bring up the Bolshoi Theatre Ticket Office website right? Not so fast. Crafty vendors of Moscow ballet theatre tickets have devised every way imaginable to appear on the first few pages of the Google results you requested. Most of them are not in Russia and most offer fancy web sites which look VERY legitimate.
The 2 most common web sites presented in any Google search for Moscow Ballet are OperaandBallet.com and the mirror image for St. Petersburg Balle, BalletandOpera.com. These sites appear to be the same company. There are 3 things you should know before purchasing tickets from these or similar online ticket resellers:
- They frequently charge 150% to 350% of the face value of the tickets.
- To be sure there is some value in being able to go to a one-stop place, in English, to buy tickets. You must decide if the premiums they charge are reasonable.
- They frequently are mistaken about the performances.
- We have had clients who bought tickets from them who were turned away from the theatre. Here is a quote from the Heikon Opera website taken 1 Oct 2012.
“ATTENTION! Dear spectators! We regret to inform you that balletandopera.com website sells FALSE tickets to our performances. PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS SERVICE!!! “
We have discussed what not to do. How should one buy tickets to the Bolshoi Ballet ?
I suggest that you ask your Moscow tour guide or Moscow tour planner to buy your tickets. They will make sure that the performance is what you want to see AND they will probably know the inside of the theatre to give you guidance on seat selection. Without firsthand knowledge of the inside of the theatre, you will not know if the seat your are selecting will be behind a pole or that the seats are have such a shallow cantilever that you will be looking at the back of someone’s head instead of the performance.
Your Moscow tour company will probably charge a premium but the local knowledge, ensuring the tickets are purchased properly and saving you from having to register at the theatre web site will probably be worth the fee.
Lastly you can navigate the theatre website (some are only in Russian), register and go through the time consuming checkout process.
Without a doubt, attend a Moscow ballet at the Bolshoi theatre, Stanislavisky theare, New Opera theatre. These performances are among the best in the world and, usually, less expensive than their counter parts in New York.
A night at the Bolshoi is a great way to end a day of your Private Moscow Tour. By the way, you can get your Moscow Tour guide to show you the way to and from your hotel to the Bolshoi theater. They can even arrange a car for your transport if you are not comfortable with the metro. Never use Moscow cabs unless arranged by your hotel or Moscow guide.