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Welcome to moscow! Moscow is a city of tremendous power and energy. Hulking gothic towers loom over broad avenues that form a sprawling web around the Kremlin and course with traffic day and night. The Soviet past looms large, but the city embraces capitalism with gusto.
St. Petersburg - Russia's great northern capital. Many fans of travel, both Russian and foreign, dream of visiting Russia's great northern capital. Founded by Peter I in 1703, the city was always intended to be great, but the modern St. Petersburg has outgrown its old boundaries manyfold.
Russia’s other historic square is the heart of its imperial past, as well as the host to pivotal moments in Tsarist Russia’s demise. On Bloody Sunday in 1905, palace guards shot dead hundreds of peaceful protestors here, sparking the first of Russia’s revolutions. Housed in the pastel green and white Winter Palace, the Hermitage museum contains one of the world’s most important art collections. On par with the Louvre, the collection is housed in what was once the tsars’ family residence.
PETER AND PAUL FORTRESS
Peter the Great built the fortress in 1703 to defend Russia from the Swedes, making it the oldest building in the city. Inside the fortress walls, the cathedral’s gilded 400-foot spire is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
ST. ISAAC’S CATHEDRAL
It took more than 40 years to complete the world’s third-largest domed cathedral, now the dominant feature of St. Petersburg’s skyline. Climb up the 262 steps of the colonnade to get a spectacular panoramic view of the city.
This main drag is the center of the action (day or night) in Russia’s second city. Frequently described by Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment, the street is often compared to Paris’s Champs-Elysees and contains some of St. Petersburg’s most impressive imperial Russian buildings, including the Stroganov Palace and the Kazan Cathedral. Don’t miss the shopping arcade at Gostiny Dvor.
ALEXANDER NEVSKY LAVRA
Peter the Great had this Russian Orthodox monastery built in 1710 and named it after the Russian prince who defeated invading Swedes in 1240. Today the lavra still contains impressive baroque churches and a neoclassical cathedral. Most visitors go to see the graves of several of Russia’s greatest names, including Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky.
THE STATE MUSEUM
Housed in a former grand duke’s palace, the Russian Museum (as it’s known to locals) doesn’t get the attention that the Hermitage collection does, but in most Russians’ minds, it should. The museum is best known for its collection of paintings, which contains some of Russian art’s greatest masters, such as Kandinsky and Chagall. The park behind the museum makes a lovely spot to reflect on what tsarist St. Petersburg might have been like.
PETERHOF AND PUSHKIN SUMMER PALACES
A hydrofoil cruise on the Gulf of Finland to Peterhof’s cascading fountains and lavish gardens gets you in an imperial mood. The ornate, golden interiors and recently reconstructed Amber Room of the 18th-century Catherine’s Palace at Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo) offer a look into the extravagance of the Russian royal family.
WELCOME TO MOSCOW!
Moscow is a city of tremendous power and energy. Hulking gothic towers loom over broad avenues that form a sprawling web around the Kremlin and course with traffic day and night. The Soviet past looms large, but the city embraces capitalism with gusto. Although Muscovites are protecting some of their architectural heritage, they’re also creating a new, often controversial legacy in the form of soaring skyscrapers and shopping malls. With a population of more than 11 million, Moscow is Russia’s largest city and, indeed, the largest—and one of the most rapidly changing—cities in Europe.
Founded in the 12th century as the center of one of several competing principalities, Moscow eventually emerged as the heart of a unified Russian state in the 15th century. One hundred years later it had grown into the capital of a strong and prosperous realm, one of the largest in the world. But under Peter the Great (1672–1725), the city was demoted. Influenced by his exposure to the West, Peter deliberately turned his back on the old traditions and established his own capital—St. Petersburg—on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Yet Moscow continued to thrive as an economic and cultural center, and more than 200 years later, within a year of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the young Soviet government restored its status as the nation’s capital.
The city became the undisputed political and ideological center of the vast Soviet empire. And even though it has been nearly two decades since that empire broke apart, the city retains its political, industrial, and cultural sway as Russia’s capital. It’s the home of some of the country’s most renowned cultural institutions, theaters, and film studios. It’s also the country’s most important transportation hub—even today many flights to the former Soviet republics are routed through Moscow’s airports.
To fortify and spur forward Russia’s giant economy, the government and city’s business communities actively court outside investments and set ambitious economic agendas. For visitors, this translates into a modern, fast-paced city with an increased availability of Western-style services and products. But even as Moscow becomes a hub of international business activity, it’s determinedly holding onto its Russian roots. Restaurant kitchens, many of which strove to satisfy Russians’ thirst for foreign tastes in the ‘90s, are turning back to the country’s native cuisine, serving gourmet borscht and delicious pelmeni (bite-sized dumplings). Retro Soviet nostalgia is chic with young hipsters who were barely born before the Soviet Union split up. Business deals may no longer be made over a banquet table and sealed with a shot of vodka, but Muscovites take hospitality seriously, as a visit to any private home will show you. This tradition of welcoming with open arms has persisted alongside a less generous Soviet mentality, however: stubborn indifference remains the default attitude of staff at some hotels, restaurants, and stores. This is gradually fading, but you might still be faced with surly ticket sellers or even ungracious hotel employees, especially if trying to communicate strictly in spoken English.
As Russia enters its third decade of post-Soviet life, development and reconstruction are at an all-time high. Parts of Moscow, especially within the Boulevard Ring (Bulvarnoye Koltso), are now clean, safe, and well kept. Many of these buildings are designed to be harmonious with the ancient Russian style, but there are a growing number of shockingly modern steel-and-glass office towers, particularly in central Moscow. The decades ahead promise more change and hurdles to overcome. But this city has survived devastating fires, an invasion by Napoléon, and more than half a century of alternating demolition and breakneck construction by the Soviets. Moscow is ready for anything.
The best way to orient yourself in Moscow is via the city’s efficient and highly ornate metro system.TIP Most of the sights in this chapter are located on or within the metro’s brown line (#5) which circles the old historic center.Learning the Cyrillic alphabet will prove infinitely useful in helping you to distinguish between metro stops. When asking locals for directions, it’s often more fruitful to discuss locations by the nearest metro stop than by neighborhood names.
Moscow is laid out in a series of concentric circles that emanate from its heart—the Kremlin/Red Square area. This epicenter, encircled by the tree-lined Boulevard Ring (Bulvarnoye Koltso), is rich with palaces and churches. Although the individual streets that make up the Boulevard Ring have different names, most of them have the word for boulevard, bulvar, in their names. The Boulevard Ring passes by stations Arbatskaya, Pushkinskaya, and Chistye Prudy on its way around the city. Much of your time is likely to be spent near metro stop Pushkinskaya, a few hundred yards up ulitsa Tverskaya, the city’s main street, which goes north directly from the Kremlin.
Marking the outer edge of the city center is the Garden Ring (Sadovoe Koltso), a wide boulevard that has lost all the trees for which it was once famous. The metro’s brown (#5) line almost follows the route of the Garden Ring. Metro stations Smolenskaya, Barrikadnaya, Mayakovskaya, Sukharevskaya, Krasniye Vorota, Taganskaya, Paveletskaya, Oktyabrskaya, and Park Kultury are all located on the Garden Ring road.
The Kremlin and Red Square. The ancient heart of the city stands out for its grand palaces, towers, and some of the country’s most sacred churches, including St. Basil’s and Assumption Cathedral. In addition to the historical sights, there are also modern shopping centers and a lively atmosphere in this most central area.
Kitai Gorod. North and east of the Kremlin/Red Square area and within the Boulevard Ring, this neighborhood began as an outgrowth of the Kremlin. Its sights include the Bolshoi Theatre and Sandunovskiye Bani, as well as some of the city’s best restaurants.
Ulitsa Tverskaya. North of the Kremlin is the famous northern road to St. Petersburg, ulitsa Tverskaya, which extends from the Kremlin through the Boulevard Ring and out to the Garden Ring. This is Moscow’s main shopping street. The Museum of the Contemporary History of Russia, just north of the Boulevard Ring, provides an interesting look at Moscow’s evolution.
Ulitsa Bolshaya Nikitskaya. This main thoroughfare is lined with some stunning old mansions and the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. The area around Patriarch’s Ponds (Patriarshy Prudy) is full of posh cafés and shops and reminiscent of New York’s Greenwich Village.
The Arbat. Two streets radiating out of the Kremlin to the west are the Stary Arbat (Old Arbat) and the Novy Arbat(New Arbat). The Stary Arbat is referred to by Russians simply as “the Arbat” and is a cobblestone pedestrian street with cafés, street performers, and all manner of souvenir shops. Novy Arbat is a modern thoroughfare with shopping malls and upscale restaurants.
The Kropotkinsky District. Southwest of the Kremlin, the Kropotkinsky District is home to the monumental Church of Christ Our Savior, where the Russian Patriarch leads mass on the most important holidays. Also here are the venerable Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and the Tolstoy Memorial Museum.
Zamoskvoreche. This area is best known for its many churches, especially along the long north–south street Bolshaya Ordynka. Also here is the Tretyakov Gallery, the country’s best art museum and the entrance to the recently revamped Gorky Park.
Moscow Outskirts. Four magnificent monasteries are the main points of interest south and east of the city center. The can’t-miss among them is New Maiden’s Monastery, with its colorful battle towers and peaceful pond. To the west and south, parks and former estates outside the city give you a glimpse of the verdant Russian countryside. Perfect for a visit on a day with fine weather, these spots draw masses of picnicking Muscovites all summer long. For those on a tight schedule, and with an interest in World War II, the sprawling Victory Park is just a quick trip from the center on the Moscow metro.
WHEN TO GO
Far and away the best time to visit Moscow is in the late spring or summer. During the months of May to September, the weather is usually balmy, with averages in the 70s. It should be said that in recent years, it has also become uncomfortably and even dangerously hot at stretches. Even so, the warm temperatures and long days are ideal for
enjoying outdoor terraces at restaurants, music festivals at countryside estates, and lounging in the city’s parks. From October to April, the weather is unpredictable, usually with a lot of rain and snow, making it inconvenient for touring the city on foot.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
As the most important transportation hub in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, a quasi-confederation of states that includes most of the former Soviet Union), Moscow has several airports. Most international flights from the United States arrive at Sheremetyevo, about 29 km (18 miles) north of the city center. One of the most modern airports in Russia when it was built in 1979, Sheremetyevo’s terminals have undergone a huge upgrade. There are five passenger terminals, known by letters B through F; most international flights are served by terminals E and F. (There’s a terminal A as well, used for business air traffic.) The Russian carrier Aeroflot operates flights from Sheremeyevo to just about every capital of Europe, as well as to Canada and the United States, and codeshares with Delta Airlines. The airline also serves numerous domestic destinations.
Domodedovo, one of the largest airports in the world by passenger volume and Russia’s busiest, is some 48 km (30 miles) southeast of Moscow. British Airways, Swiss, and Lufthansa fly in and out of Domodedovo. Flights also depart from Domodedovo to the republics of Central Asia and other parts of Russia.
Vnukovo, 29 km (18 miles) southwest of the city center, has become more popular in the last several years after an extensive upgrade. Several international carriers, including Turkish Airlines, Virgin, and Lufthansa, use the airport. Vnukovo also serves regional flights to Georgia, the southern republics, and Ukraine.
For general information on arriving international flights, call the airline directly or check the airports’ websites—all three airports have made theirs more user friendly. Calling the airports usually takes longer and fewer people speak English.
It’s necessary to pass through metal detectors and bag scanners at the entrances to terminals at all three airports. As a result, you should budget extra time when departing (up to three hours for international flights), as the lines to enter the buildings, as well as those at ticket counters, passport control, and security, can be long.
Domodedovo.This easy-to-use airport is located about 48 km (30 miles) south of the city center. The Aeroexpress train from Paveletsky train station gets you to the airport terminal in 40 minutes, allowing you to avoid the heavy traffic on the shosse Kashirskoe. Several major international carriers fly into Domodedova (DME), including British Airways, Swiss Air, and Lufthansa. Flights to other parts of Russia and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia also depart from here. The website has up-to-date arrival and departure information. | Domodedovo | 142015 |495/933–6666 | www.domodedovo.ru/en.
Sheremetyevo. Most direct flights from the U.S. arrive at Russia’s second busiest airport (after Domodedovo), including those on Delta and its codeshare partner, Aeroflot. Sheremetyevo (SVO) is also the main hub for Aeroflot’s domestic destinations, most of which leave from the new Terminal D. The Aeroexpress train connects the airport with Belorussky train station and takes about 35 minutes each way. | Khimki | 141400 | 495/578–6565, 800/100–6565 | www.svo.aero/en.
Vnukovo. More international carriers, such as Virgin and Turkish Airlines, have begun flying into Vnukovo (VKO), and some of Luftahansa’s flights now use the airport. With less passenger travel than the other two major Moscow airports, the facilities can seem a bit more user-friendly. It’s easy to reach via the Aeroexpress train to and from Kievsky train station. | 12 ul. 1st Reysovaya | 119027 | 495/937–5555 | www.vnukovo.ru/eng.
You can make arrival a lot easier by arranging in advance for your transfer from the airport. Most hotels will provide airport transfers (for a fee, usually about 4,500R) upon advance request by a phone call or fax (which you should confirm). Various private taxi companies charge considerably less (1,500R to 2,000R, depending on the airport), usually have English-speaking drivers available, and can be booked online ahead of time.
If you don’t have many bags and feel comfortable navigating public transport straight off the plane, consider using the airports’ newly spiffed-up Aeroexpress trains to get into the city. You’ll see arrows pointing to the small stations from which they leave when you exit customs at each airport. A regular ticket (320R) takes you to one of the city’s central train stations—Belorussky station from Sheremetyevo, Paveletsky station from Domodedovo, and Kievsky station from Vnukovo—from which you can take a cab or the metro to wherever you’re staying. When heading to the airport on these trains, you can sometimes check into your flight at the train station (it depends on which airline you’re using) and even hand off any baggage you want to check.
There are plenty of unofficial gypsy cabs available at the airports, but there’s always a risk of being swindled. (If you do take one, be sure to bargain, bargain, bargain.) It’s better to use the services offered on the airports’ ground floors. These private firms are less risky, they can provide you with a receipt, and you may find their prices more reasonable than those of the gypsy cabs. The prices are still not cheap, however, ranging from 1,500–2,000R depending on your destination. Traveling to the airport from the city is cheaper. It’s best to book a taxi in advance to do this. The rate is typically 1,000R–1,500R.
The cheapest options for getting to and from the city’s airports are buses and marshrutka (minibuses), which shuttle back and forth from various outlying metro stations. Those going to Sheremetyevo leave from metro station Rechnoy Vokzal (at the northern end of the green line); and those going to Domodedovo leave from metro station Domodedovskaya (also on the green line but in the south). Those headed to Vnukovo leave from metro station Yugo-Zapadnaya, a name that translates as South-West, as it’s at the southwestern end of the red metro line. It can be confusing trying to find the next bus leaving, but you can usually just follow someone else carrying luggage once you’re outside the metro station. The buses each take about 30 minutes to get to the different airports. Traffic is unpredictable, though, and it can take longer, sometimes significantly so. The road to Sheremetyevo is particularly notorious for traffic, often becoming gridlocked for hours during the commuter rushes in morning and early evening.
The website provide schedules and ticket information for this handy service that links Paveletsky train station with Domodedovo airport, Belorussky station with Sheremetyevo airport, and Kievsky station with Vnukovo airport. |www.aeroexpress.ru.
Moscow has a river-taxi service that runs from Kiev train station to the Southern River Terminal from April to October, with stops at Gorky Park and the bottom of Sparrow Hills. The open-top boats are more of a tourist attraction than a form of commuter transport, although they can beat the traffic snarls. Tickets cost 300R for adults and 150R for children, and the timetable can be found at the ferry stops. Trips last about 1½ hours, and it’s possible to buy drinks and snacks on board. The same company organizes longer tours in and around Moscow.
Bus, Tram, and Trolley Travel
You’re unlikely to want to travel by long-distance bus in Russia, since trains are frequent, cheap, and reliable. Most bus services go to provincial towns that lack good rail links.
For travel within Moscow, the municipal buses, trams, and trolleys all use the same tickets (30R), which you can buy in special kiosks, usually near metro stations. The tickets come in various denominations, ranging from one ride to 60 rides. You have to get on at the entrance next to the driver and put the ticket through an electronic turnstile, front-side down. Single-ride tickets are valid for a ride on one bus only; if you transfer to another bus or to a tram or trolley, you must pay another fare.
At metro stations, you can purchase smart cards in various denominations for multiple uses, including the “Troika” card introduced in 2013, which is good for all forms of city transportation both above and below ground. Another version of the smart card allows unlimited travel on buses, trams, trolleys, and the metro within 24 hours for 200R or 11 trips for 300R. Buses, trams, and trolleys operate from 5:30 am to 1 am, although service in the late-evening hours and on Sunday tends to be unreliable. Trolleys are connected to overhead power lines, trams to metal rails.
Newspaper kiosks sell a map that shows all of Moscow’s transport routes: it’s called karta Moskvy so vsem transportom.
The tram can be a fun way to take in part of the city while also resting your legs. A nice tram ride is the 39, which goes from Universitet metro station on the red line in the southwest of the city to Chistiye Prudy metro station, past Donskoy Monastery and Danilovsky Market. The B trolley bus runs around the Garden Ring and can be a pleasant way to see the Ring when the traffic’s not heavy.
Bus, Tram, and Trolley Contacts
Mosgortrans. This organization runs all the city’s bus, trolley, and tramcar lines. The website has schedules and maps in Russian only. | 495/950–4204 | www.mosgortrans.com.
Moskovsky Avtovokzal (Moscow Central Bus Station). This is Moscow’s central bus station, serving towns and cities in the oblast as well as those farther out. The website is Russian only. | 2 ul. Uralskaya, Eastern Outskirts |107207 | 499/748–8029, 499/748–8964 | turizm.mostransavto.ru | Station: Shchelkovskaya.
You can reach Moscow from Finland and St. Petersburg by taking the Helsinki–St. Petersburg Highway through Vyborg and St. Petersburg and continuing from there on the Moscow–St. Petersburg Highway. Using a car for getting around Moscow isn’t advised, though, as driving in Russia is invariably more of a hassle than a pleasure. Roads are very poorly maintained, and many streets in the city center are one-way. Renting a car can also be much more expensive than in the U.S. To top it all off, Moscow traffic police are infamous for seeking out bribes, especially from foreigners, and they’ll often demand that you pay a shtraf (fine) whether you have all the proper documents or not. If you do decide to drive, be sure to carry a notarized translation of your current license.
The Moscow metro, which opened in 1935, ranks among the world’s finest public transportation systems. With more than 300 km (186 miles) of track, the Moscow metro carries an estimated 8 million passengers daily. Even though it scrapes by with inadequate state subsidies, the system continues to run efficiently, with trains every 50 seconds during rush hour. It leaves New Yorkers green with envy.
If you’re not traveling with a tour group or if you haven’t hired your own driver, taking the metro is the best way to get around the Russian capital. You’ll be doing yourself a big favor and saving yourself a lot of frustration if you learn the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet well enough to be able to transliterate the names of the stations. This will come in especially handy at transfer points, where signs with long lists of the names of metro stations lead you from one major metro line to another. You should also be able to recognize the entrance and exit signs
Pocket maps of the system are available at newspaper kiosks and sometimes from individual vendors at metro stations. Be sure that you obtain a map with English transliterations in addition to Cyrillic. If you can’t find one, try any of the major hotels. Plan your route beforehand and have your destination written in Russian and its English transliteration to help you spot the station. As the train approaches each station, the station name will be announced over the train’s public-address system; the name of the next station is given before the train starts off. Reminders of interchanges and transfers are also given. All trains have the transliterated names of stations on line maps, and newer trains have electronic displays next to the doors that show the names of all the stations on the line and the train’s progress.
Stations are built deep underground (they were built to double as bomb shelters); the escalators are steep and run fast, so watch your step. If you use the metro during rush hour (8:30–10 am, 5–7 pm), be prepared for some pushing and shoving. In a crowded train, just before a station, you’re likely to be asked, “Vy vykhódíte?” or whether you’re getting off at the next station. If not, you’re expected to move out of the way. Riders are expected to give up seats for senior citizens and small children.
Fares and Schedules
The metro is easy to use and amazingly inexpensive. Stations are marked with a large illuminated “M” sign and are open daily 5:30 am to 1 am. The fare is the same regardless of distance traveled, and there are many stations where lines connect and you may transfer for free. You purchase a magnetic smart card (available at all stations) for 1, 5, 10, 20, or more journeys and hold it near the yellow circle on the right side of the entry gate. Wait until you see the red light replaced by a green one, signaling that your card has registered, then walk through. A single ride costs 30R and discounts are available for multiple-journey cards—for instance, unlimited travel on the metro as well as on buses, trams, and trolleys within 24 hours for 200R, or 11 trips for 300R. You can purchase smart cards at any metro station.
Exercise caution when using taxis. There are standard taxis of various makes and colors, but professional ones all have taxi lights on top. Official taxis also have a “T” and checkered emblem on the doors (but there aren’t many of them). When you enter a cab, check to see if the meter is working; if it isn’t, agree on a price beforehand. Everyone with a car is a potential taxi driver in Moscow, and there are huge masses of people who make extra money or even their entire livelihood driving people in their private vehicles (often beat-up Soviet models), so you never have to wait long for someone to stop. This is generally a safe practice, but it’s best to avoid it, particularly if you don’t speak Russian, as most drivers will try to swindle you. Some private drivers also don’t know the city very well and may not be able to reach your destination without directions from you. If you do choose to take a ride in an ordinary car, take some precautions: never get in a car with more than one person inside, and if the driver wants to stop for another fare, say no or get out of the car.
The easiest thing to do if you want a cab is to order one by phone or through your hotel. Moscow has numerous cab companies, most with 24-hour service. There’s sometimes a delay, but a cab usually arrives within the hour. If you order a cab in this way, you usually pay a set rate for the first 20–40 minutes (around 350R–500R) and then a set rate per minute (usually around 10R per minute) after that. Always ask for an approximate price when you telephone for a cab. Unfortunately, most operators don’t speak English, so when possible ask your hotel concierge (or a restaurant’s maître d’) to order one for you. Formula Taxi provides city cabs (typically silver Renault sedans) as well as airport service from hotels or private residences. Novoye Zhyoltoye Taksi (New Yellow Taxi) is a cab firm with a good reputation. Yandex Taxi is a smartphone app and a website that allows you to locate the closest cab, depending on your location.
Formula Taxi. | 495/777–5777 | www.formula-taxi.ru/en.
Novoye Zhyoltoye Taksi. This is one of the larger taxi companies operating in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Prices start at 22 rubles a kilometer. Bookings can be made on the phone or via the online system. | 495/940–8888 |www.nyt.ru/en.
Welcome Taxi. English-speaking drivers make airport pick-ups and trips around the city. They’ll purchase a mobile SIM card for you and meet you at the airport with it. Bookings may be made online. | 499/922–0674, 499/553–0158 |welcometaxi.ru.
Yandex Taxi. This site, with a smartphone app, allows customers to book a taxi online. The system uses Yandex maps to locate your phone, and then allows you to choose a taxi service that’s closest to your location. The site is in Russian, but you can type your location in English. | taxi.yandex.ru.
Moscow is the hub of the Russian railway system, and the city’s several railway stations handle nearly half a billion passengers annually. There are several trains daily to St. Petersburg, and overnight service is available to Kiev, Helsinki, Riga, and Tallinn. All the major train stations have a connecting metro stop, so they’re easily reached by public transportation. The most important stations are Belorussky station, for trains to Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, and France; Kazansky station, for points south and to Central Asia and Siberia; Kievsky station, for Kiev and western Ukraine, Moldova, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary; Kursky station, for eastern Ukraine, the Crimea, and southern Russia; Leningradsky station, for St. Petersburg, northern Russia, Estonia, and Finland; Paveletsky station, for eastern Ukraine and points south; Rizhsky station, for Latvia; and Yaroslavsky station, for points east, including Mongolia and China. Trains to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railway depart from Yaroslavsky station. Both overnight trains and high-speed day trains depart from Leningradsky and Kursky stations for St. Petersburg. The daytime high-speed Sapsan trains take four hours and leave at various times throughout the day. Of the numerous overnight trains, the most popular is train number 2, the Krasnaya Strela (Red Arrow), which leaves Moscow at 11:55 pm and arrives the next day in St. Petersburg at 7:55 am. The Grand Express has a similar schedule, departing Moscow at 11:40 pm and arriving in St. Petersburg at 8:35 am. There are half a dozen categories of accommodation; the higher-class compartments have showers, and some have satellite TV and other amenities.
Fares and Schedules
Note that although there are phone numbers for each station, it’s all but impossible to get through to them. If you want to check schedules and ticket prices ahead of time, you can use the booking function on the Russian Trains website. The system can be finicky, but should improve over time. You can also purchase tickets at the railway stations, but expect long lines and brusque clerks, most of whom have little patience for those who speak no Russian. The easier route is to ask your hotel for help, as they typically have a connection with a travel agency who can arrange tickets for you. In either case, have your passport or a photocopy with you. You need it to buy tickets (they print your name and your passport number on the ticket), and you’ll need to show your passport to the attendant on the train.
Russian Railways. Every train station in Moscow has a ticket counter, and other ticket agencies are located around the city. You can also buy tickets online, but only through the Russian pages of the website. | 5 pl. Komsomolskaya |107104 | 800/775-0000 | www.rzd.ru | Station: Chistiye Prudy.
Train Station Information
Belorussia station (Belorussky Vokzal). | pl. Tverskaya Zastava, Northern Outskirts | 125047 | 495/266–0300 |Station: Belorusskaya.
Kazan station (Kazansky Vokzal). | pl. Komsomolskaya, Northern Outskirts | 107140 | 495/266–2300 | Station:Komsomolskaya.
Kiev station (Kievsky Vokzal). | pl. Kiyevsky, Krasnaya Presnya | 121059 | 499/240–7071 | Station: Kievskaya.
Kursk station (Kursky Vokzal). | pl. Kursky, Eastern Outskirts | 105064 | 495/266–5310 | Station: Kurskaya.
Leningrad station (Leningradsky Vokzal). | pl. Komsomolskaya, Northern Outskirts | 107140 | 495/262–9143 |Station: Komsomoskaya.
Pavelets station (Paveletsky Vokzal). | pl. Paveletskaya, Southern Outskirts | 115054 | 495/950–3700 | Station:Paveletskaya.
Riga station (Rizhsky Vokzal). | pl. Rizhskaya, Northern Outskirts | 129272 | 495/631-1588 | Station: Rizhskaya.
Yaroslav station (Yaroslavsky Vokzal). | 5 pl. Komsomolskaya, Northern Outskirts | 107140 | 495/266–6300 | Station:Komsomolskaya.
Every major hotel maintains a tourist bureau that books individual and group tours to Moscow’s main sights. In addition, there are numerous private agencies that can help with your sightseeing plans.
Patriarshy Dom Tours conducts unusual day and overnight tours in and around Moscow and St. Petersburg for groups or individuals. Among the tours are Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery and the Andrei Sakharov Museum, literature and architectural walks, and the space-flight command center. Capital Tours handles group and individual tours in Moscow, including a guided trip through the most interesting metro stations and a tour of a former Soviet nuclear command bunker. They can also arrange custom tours or even whole itineraries through Russia.
The new hop-on, hop-off bus tour service operated by City Sightseeing Moscow is a good, cheap option for getting your bearings in Moscow and seeing some of the major sites.
City Sightseeing Moscow.
Moscow’s new hop-on, hop-off bus tour service gives visitors a good overview of the city’s main sights at a reasonable price. The route has 18 stops, and audio guides are available in English, German, and Russian. A good jumping-on point is stop No. 10 on Theater Square across from the Bolshoi Theater. | 495/227–7996 |hoponhopoff.ru | 600R | Daily 10–10.
Capital Tours. | 4 ul. Ilyinka, Kremlin/Red Square | 109012 | 495/232–2442 | www.capitaltours.ru | Station: Kitai-Gorod.
Patriarshy Dom Tours. | 6 per. Vspolny, Ulitsa Bolshaya Nikitskaya | 123001 | 495/795–0927, 650/678–7076 in U.S.| www.toursinrussia.com | Station: Barrikadnaya.
Travel agents in all the major hotels offer their guests (and anyone else willing to pay their fees) various tourist services, including help in booking group or individual excursions, making a restaurant reservation, or purchasing theater or ballet tickets. The Moscow city government offers very little assistance to tourists, in part because the established Soviet travel service monopoly, Intourist, was sold off by the government during the ‘90s privatization spree. However, there’s an official Moscow tourist office that runs a hotline you can call to ask questions and obtain information regarding museums, tour agencies, emergency services, and other tourist activities. The operators speak English, but don’t count on them for a great deal of detailed information.
Tourist Hotline. This service is hit or miss in terms of getting the answer you want. They usually have information about the major sights in the city, however. English is spoken. | 495/690–1301, 800/220–0001, 800/220–0002.
Weclcome to Russia!
Moscow. Cosmopolitan in flavor, Russia’s capital exudes prosperity and vigor. From Stalin’s carved-marble metro stations to the sprawl of modern business complexes, Moscow flaunts its ambition with a penchant for going over the top. It’s an all-night-party town whose days offer endless opportunities for those who can keep up. A merchant capital by birth, Moscow was fashioned for big spenders, and money has always made the wheels go ‘round here. Now counted as one of the world’s most expensive cities, the only possible limit is the size of your wallet.
Moscow Environs and the Golden Ring. In the 12th to 14th centuries, the Golden Ring cities were the most important political, religious, and commercial centers in Russia before Moscow usurped all power. Nowadays these ancient enclaves are perfect destinations for rolling back the centuries. A visit to their medieval convents, ancient trade chambers, and kremlins is like stepping into a living encyclopedia of Russian culture, complete with picture-postcard views of onion-domed churches set on the banks of the Volga River.
St. Petersburg. Serenity and reflection reign in this city. Tsars don’t rush—it would be undignified. St. Petersburg was founded as the new capital of the Russian Empire in 1703 by Peter the Great and still carries itself with austere regal grace. The city built on the marshy banks of the Neva River today attracts more tourists than anywhere else in Russia. A brilliant fusion created by Italian and French architects, St. Petersburg invites comparisons with Amsterdam, Venice, and Stockholm. The big attractions here are the pastimes of the nobility—artwork, classical concerts, ballet, and idyllic promenading in the 19th-century landscape.
Summer Palaces and Historic Islands. Several of St. Petersburg’s imperial summer residences have been meticulously restored to their original splendor, and the sheer opulence is stunning. Peterhof’s (Petrodvorets) park is Russia’s answer to Versailles, while Catherine’s Palace at Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo) houses the legendary Amber Room. Lomonosov (Oranienbaum), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Konstantine Palace have both undergone restoration and are great places for a summer stroll or picnic. The islands of Kronshtadt and Vallam showcase another side of the city’s history.