The series “Holiday like a local in…” aim to show you a destination through the eyes of locals living in any European city. Discovering a place’s hidden spots, the things that are not included in any guide book, and the charming cafes with amazing views or the best known sights from a different angle are just a glimpse of what locals can show you.
#1. Please, introduce yourself, your blog and the city you live in!
Hey! I’m Polly, the blogger behind A Girl & Her Travels. I’ve just returned to America but I’m back and forth between my second home of Moscow, Russia. I lived, worked, and even found a Russian husband in Moscow when I lived there full time for four years.
#2. What do you love the most about the city?
Like the ridiculous DJ Smash songs says “Moscow never sleeps”! Coming from a town of just over 3,000 residents I could never get over how amazing it was to have options 24/7. Whether you want to have a drink, go grocery shopping, or just wander around the city, Moscow is always awake and full of excitement.
#3. What are your favorite local meals?
Being a vegetarian in Moscow can be a bit tricky as the culture – like plenty of places – is very meat and carb oriented. That being said, there’s still some great stuff to enjoy. First of all, blini (thin pancakes) are always great. S smetanoy (with sour cream), s dzemom (with jam)… pretty much with anything they’re amazing!
#4. What is the best place to have breakfast in Moscow?
Brownie Cafe, one of the new wave of cafes in Moscow that have western sensibilities and amazing food. Their dishes are huge and beautifully presented, plus you can watch everything being made in the open kitchen. Plus you can grab one of their insanely decadent cakes if you’re feeling naughty!
#5. What is the best place to have dinner in Moscow?
There are some really great places but I’d have to recommend Sixty for a great splurge. Not only is the food great, but you’re on the 62nd floor of a new skyscraper in Moscow City which means you get a 360-degree panoramic view of the city. While the menu is pretty pricey, you won’t mind as you gaze out over the sprawling city as it glows with lights in the dark!
#6. What are the top three attractions in Moscow?
- Red Square. Obviously, as it’s the historical, cultural, and political center of the country. From here you can visit Lenin’s Mausoleum, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, the State Historical Museum, and snack at GUM department store.
- Old Arbat Street. Located an easy 15-20 minute walk from Red Square, Arbat is Moscow’s oldest street and serves as a gathering area for the city’s more eclectic citizens. The pedestrian-only street is filled with souvenir shops, caricaturists, street dancers, musicians, roaming bands of teens, and more! Head over later in the evening or on the weekends to get the full effect of Moscow’s artsy weirdness!
- Ostankino Tower. For my last choice, I’m going to pick something I bet most people won’t think to visit: the Ostankino Tower next to VDNKh. A still-functioning television tower, visitors are able to go up to the view platform at the very top of Europe’s tallest freestanding structure for an unbelievable view of the surrounding city.
#7. Where can you get the best view of Moscow?
As I mentioned, the Sixty restaurant is a great way to get a bird’s-eye view of everything in central Moscow. If you’d like to get a great aerial view of Red Square, head to the Ritz Carleton’s rooftop bar, O2. Not only will you get a beautiful shot of Moscow’s very center (particularly lovely at sunset), you can also people watch in an area that brings in Moscow’s most rich and beautiful!
#8. Your favorite cultural attractions or activities?
In terms of art, no visit to Moscow is complete without a visit to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art (traditional European art), the Tretyakov Gallery (Russian art) and Artplay (contemporary art from around the world).
Additionally, you’d be remiss if you didn’t visit some of the amazing tsarist estates still maintained by the government. My favorites are Kolomenskoye (around since at least the 14th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Kuskovo (the summer house of one of Russia’s richest families), and Izmailovo (the childhood home of Peter the Great).
#9. Are there any possibilities for exciting day trips from Moscow? Where to?
- Sergiev Posad. An easy 2-hour train ride north of Moscow, Sergiev Posad is a must for the Trinity Monastery of Saint Sergei. Located in the very center of the city atop a steep hill, the lavra (the highest rank an Orthodox monastery can receive) remains a bastion of Orthodox religion for pious pilgrims.
- Istra. Home to the unabashedly extravagant New Jerusalem Cathedral, Istra is a pleasant little town to wander around for a few hours. It’s just about an hour outside of Moscow but is a great example of a ‘real’ Russian city. Istra is also easily accessible by train from Moscow.
- Losiny Ostrov (Elk Island). Russia’s very first protected national park, Losiny Ostrov is an amazing place to spend the day if you enjoy being outside. During warm months you can hike the trails or find the elusive beach; in snowy weather you can find hills for sledding or enjoy cross-country skiing.
#10. What are the best traditional festivals or events throughout the year?
- Novy God. Because of the Soviet’s deep repression of any religious activity, New Year became Russia’s biggest holiday. Grab a bottle (or ten) of champagne, some vodka, mandarins, your closest friends, and commercial-grade fireworks, and you’re all set to ring in the new year, Russian-style!
- Maslenitsa. Also known as Butter Week, it’s a folk holiday that is celebrated in the week before Lent. Initially derived from an ancient pagan sun ritual, Maslenitsa is basically Russian Mardi Gras with tons of blini, traditional Russian costumes, and burning effigies.
- Victory Day. One of Russia’s most important holidays, Victory Day is a Soviet holiday which celebrates the Soviet Army’s victory over Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War (WWII). Most of central Moscow is shut down for a massive military parade, a festival that goes on all day, and epic firework displays all through the night.
Have you been in Moscow? What is your favourite place there or the place you would love to see the most?
Check out how to Holiday like a local in Lisbon, Mostar, London, Sarajevo, Sofia, Barcelona and Riga. Also, check out these 8 essential tips to holiday like a local. If you want to participate in “Holiday like a local in…” series on Travelling Buzz, send an email to: [email protected] with the city you live in. Currently wanted: Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Paris, Valencia, but always ready to include other European cities. Stay tuned on Facebook!