From Russia with Love
Whether or not you’re a fan of the ‘beautiful game’, let yourself be carried away by Moscow’s festivities and admire the effort it has put into making it an attractive and welcoming destination for the 2018 World Cup. Sidse Rolskov takes you on a tour of Moscow – a city we at Connect are crazy about.
2018 is Russia’s year to impress as host for the meeting of the world’s best footballing nations. The World Cup is being held in June in 11 Russian cities, and the tournament is a great opportunity to get to know the country better.
The city has spent a good few years and staggering sums of money on getting ready for kick off on 14 June, when it will be elevated to the status of football capital of the world and millions of people will be following the events at the city’s two stadiums, Luzhniki and Spartak.
There will be a total of 12 matches taking place in Moscow itself: the opening match and another seven group stage games, two quarter-finals, a semi-final and the final. This means the city will be hosting 16 national teams and their fans!
Central Moscow – a historical playground
Take your time in the city centre – alongside its gloomy reminders of war, it’s also home to majestic abundance. Grab a tour of the Bolshoi Theatre and experience the beautiful stage and foyer, walk through the city’s old streets and soak in the atmosphere. Have breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton – the restaurant at the top of the hotel has the best views of the city.
Red Square is also a must-see and walking from Red Square to the Kremlin is truly magnificent. Before reaching the Kremlin you will cross the Alexander Garden, right up against the walls of the Kremlin. The Alexander Garden was created in the early 19th century and is situated along the course of the Neglinnaya River. The river was covered up to make room for this lovely garden. At the entrance nearest to Red Square, you will find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives in the Second World War. The entrance to the Kremlin is also part of the Alexander Garden.
The Kremlin – a journey through Russian history
Enlist the services of a local guide when visiting the Kremlin. The stunning buildings and cathedrals have so much to tell – get the whole story from a local, and allow yourself plenty of time. The cathedrals in the square are imposing from the outside, but on the inside they are absolutely overwhelming. This is where life began and ended for the country’s great princes and tsars. They were baptised and married in the Cathedral of the Annunciation, crowned in the Cathedral of the Dormition and buried in the Cathedral of the Archangel.
It is a good idea to visit the Kremlin late in the day, to give yourself the chance to enjoy the buildings in the wonderful evening light.
An artistic underground
Go underground and immerse yourself in the Moscow Metro, which houses a wealth of Russian art that is both extravagant and beautiful. Try to get there outside rush hour, which starts after 4pm. The metro is a piece of art history situated clearly in the Soviet era, full of strong symbols of social realism. For example, here you will find the most exquisite mosaic and glass art portraying subjects such as proud, happy Russian workers and farmers. To the delight of the many tourists who visit it, the metro now has signs in English as well. For example, information on the metro line to the airport can be found integrated into the floor – a work of art in itself, of course.
Back at street level, it’s time to explore the Arbat pedestrianised streets. This is a lovely old district boasting impressive buildings, a wealth of souvenir shops and lively streets.
Experience the sensation of life in the Cold War
Moscow also offers an insight into what life here was like during the Cold War. In an enormous bunker located a full 65 metres underground, you will find the Bunker 42 museum. A tour of the museum starts with a welcome from a guide/actor, who gives you an admission ticket identical to the identity cards carried by those who worked in the bunker during the Cold War. The original lift takes you 65 metres underground where you spend a little over an hour walking through Bunker 42, created in 1955 as a strategic headquarters for the Soviet nuclear programme. You will gain an insight into what life was like at the time for those who worked here during the Cold War, and hear about the more technical details of the nuclear weapons programme, the history of the atomic bomb and present-day nuclear policy.
It is possible to hold events in the bunker, and there is also a small restaurant here.
An abundance of art and culture
If you are interested in history and art, set aside at least a day or two for museum visits. Start with the Historical Museum at the north end of Red Square, directly opposite St Basil’s Cathedral with its brightly coloured onion domes. The museum opened its doors in 1894 to celebrate the coronation of Alexander III.
Back in Red Square, grab a coffee and walk on from the Historical Museum to the Tretyakov Gallery – a lovely walk via Moskvoretsky Bridge over the Moscow River.
The Tretyakov Gallery is teeming with Russian art. You can also satisfy your hunger here with a good, cheap Russian meal in the gallery restaurant, which pays tribute to the traditions of Russian cooking.
Moscow houses modern art too, and here the relatively new Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is a must. It is situated in Gorky Park, which was opened in 1928 when the avant-garde architect Konstantin Melnikov took on the urban renewal of the area in the heart of Moscow. And, while you’re in Gorky Park, you might be lucky enough to enjoy one of the concerts that are held in the park’s restored 1950s summerhouse, where the city’s intellectuals – poets, authors and musicians – used to meet.
Caviar, cocktails and more in Moscow
Cocktails and dinner with a view
Time for a cocktail. A good place to enjoy a drink is Swissotel Krasnye Holmy, located in the city’s business district. The hotel has one of the city’s highest lounges, with a panoramic view of the city – intoxicating even without a drink in your hand.
An impressive view, great food and good prices
The unique Karlson restaurant is slightly unusual: located at the top of a rather dull office building. But looks can be deceiving, and the inside of this restaurant boasts a truly stunning view of Moscow. Karlson offers delicious food, wonderful wines and a fantastic interior that creates a unique atmosphere. On a hot day, dinner should of course be enjoyed on the terrace with a view of the Kremlin and a beautiful sunset to bring the day to a close.
If you wish to arrange a team building event, Karlson can arrange cooking classes, for example, or other types of event.
Don’t leave Moscow without visiting the iconic Café Pushkin restaurant, which is teeming with life.The setting of Café Pushkin is a stunning Baroque building, a time capsule that takes you back to aristocratic Moscow. The café is on Tverskoy Boulevard, which was a meeting place for members of the city’s high society in the late 18th century. From here they could be seen strolling down the boulevard, and visitors would often have met the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. It was in this area that he spent his evenings. The church where Pushkin and his wife were married is also on the boulevard.
Explore more of Russia’s host cities for the 2018 World Cup
This year’s World Cup is a chance to get acquainted with many other fantastic Russian cities. So seize the opportunity, extend your visit and take home as many memories as you can. As well as Moscow, there are another 10 Russian cities helping to make the tournament an unforgettable experience:
Beautiful architecture, the grave of the philosopher Immanuel Kant or take a trip underground in the bunker museum.
Stroll down Nevsky Prospect, enjoy the Winter Palace, and walk a walk around the Peter and Paul Fortress
Visit a wooden architecture museum (yes, really), with wonderful timber houses in lovely surroundings. Take to the sky in the city’s cable car.
Yekaterinburg, a cultural centre of the Ural region bordering Europe and Asia. Explore the city centre and visit the Cathedral on the Blood, which was completed in 2004. The cathedral is located on the site where the Russian Tsar Nicholas II Tsar and his family were executed in 1918.
This city, which is over 1,000 years old, is a must-see – a mixture of beautiful architecture from both east and west. In 2000, the city was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Saransk is in the Mordovia region, an exciting region that you can learn more about in the city’s folk culture museum.
Head to Ploshchad Slavy and enjoy a fantastic view of the Volga River, or go underground into Stalin’s bunker.
This city, previously known as Stalingrad, is known for its war history and has a number of war monuments. The Battle of Stalingrad was one of the major turning points of the Second World War.
Gate to the North Caucasus, it is a green city with many lovely parks. The city is known for having a cultural life with strong roots in Cossack culture.
Sochi located on the Black Sea is probably best known for its role as host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. The museum opened in 2014 to coincide with the Winter Olympics. Visit Stalin’s summer house or “dacha”, which remains intact and is now a museum.