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    Moscow and central Russia - Reasons to go

    • © Yulia / age fotostock

    Moscow and central Russia + Arts and culture

    Of course the cliché image of Moscow is the Kremlin on Red Square between the Lenin Mausoleum, the GUM department store and Saint Basil's Cathedral, which is topped with onion shaped domes that look like they've come straight out of a fairytale. But the former capital of the Soviet empire has much more to offer! Europe's largest city is full of churches, convents, monasteries and other Orthodox places of worship with their superb icons and their golden domes. The metro is truly an underground palace that takes you to Café Pushkin, the Izmaylovsky flea market, Novodevichy monastery and the Bolshoi theatre in the blink of an eye. After nightfall, enjoy the world famous Muscovite nightlife. Don't just stick to the centre, though, extend your adventure to the Golden Ring, northeast of Moscow, where you'll find a wealth of ancient cities once inhabited by the tsars and princes of Holy Russia. A multitude of golden domed citadels, which will take you on a journey through the history and legends of the former empire, line the banks of the Volga. You may also wish to travel out to Smolensk, 250 miles west of Moscow, renowned for its citadel and magnificent Cathedral of the Assumption. Just some of the many gems to discover on an excursion of a few days from Moscow.

    Arts and culture

    Whether you're a connoisseur or a novice, it's easy to lose yourself in the cultural maze of Moscow with so much to see. If you're a fan of history or art you're sure to find a collection you'll enjoy in the numerous museums. One such museum is the State Tretyakov Gallery, which exhibits the largest collection of Russian art in the world. The works displayed are on a par with those at the Pushkin Museum, home to stunning Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiques. You'll also find paintings by Picasso, Rembrandt and other great artists. For those who prefer the beauty of books to paintings there's the Leo Tolstoy State Museum with its literary salon atmosphere. Architecture lovers can explore the region's monasteries in the Muscovite suburbs to their heart's content. Saint Andrew's, the Virgins' Convent, Donskoy Monastery and Novospassky Monastery, a myriad of religious buildings all with their own characteristics that are worth a visit even if it's just for their frescoes and stunning ornaments.

    Sites

    The city of Moscow has gradually expanded in a series of concentric rings around the Kremlin. The result is four defined rings divided into sections by the wide avenues branching out from the centre. Beyond the Kremlin, the second circle is made up of the old district of Kitai Gorod, which was once encircled by fortifications but today only has a few remains. The third ring, the Boulevard Ring, used to be the outer boundary of the 'White City'. The last ring, known as the Garden Ring, marks the border between the city and its modern suburbs. The Moscow Ring Road delineates the outer limit of the city .

    Activities and leisure

    Like most capital cities, Moscow has plenty of open spaces where tourists and Muscovites alike can go to unwind. Gorky Park is without doubt the most enchanting of the city's parks. The roller coasters might not be the most relaxing attraction in the park, but the panorama over the city from the Ferris wheel is phenomenal, and if you're there in winter, the ice-skating rinks are magical in the run-up to Christmas. Other options include the more romantic parks of Fili, Kolomenskoe or Sheremetev, which open out onto the Church of the Ascension, Summer Palace and Ostankino Palace.

    The Russian capital comes alive at night. After a dinner in one of the city's gastronomic temples, such as the Grand Imperial, the Ousadba or the panoramic Sedmoïe Nebo restaurant, why not let your hair down in one of the city's trendy bars? The Propaganda, the Vermel and the Hungry Duck are all perfect such hot-spots. And to finish off the evening in style there are plenty of nightclubs to let loose and hit the dance floor.

    Excursions

    Russia has been the scene of many historic events which have contributed to its rich history. These fragments from the past rise to all their grandeur in the Golden Ring. Churches, cathedrals, palaces with glistening gilded domes follow one another along the Volga. You can also visit the monastery of Vladimir here, the ancient capital of Kievan Russia. The Rotov monastery also shouldn't be missed, with its green domes that brightly reflect the sun when a blanket of snow is covering the ground.

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