Sergei Sobyanin opens the Journey to Christmas festival

Sergei Sobyanin opens the Journey to Christmas festival
Photo: Photo by the Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Denis Grishkin
More than 12 million visitors are expected at festival venues this year.

Sergei Sobyanin opened the traditional Moscow festival Journey to Christmas on 16 December. Surrounded by children and Father Frost, he pressed the symbolic button to switch on the festive lighting and open all venues.

Forty-two lavishly decorated sites have opened in many parts of the city, entertaining visitors from 15 countries and 40 Russian regions, the Mayor said.

“There are wonderful stalls here, Christmas trees, merry-go-rounds, entertainers, and street theatres. We have also launched a parallel festival, Christmas Light. Look how many lighting installations there are – all made by Italian, French and Russian artists. I think the Christmas festival 2016/2017 will be unforgettable – interesting and full of pageantry, and Muscovites will like it,” Mayor Sobyanin said.

Celebrations for Muscovites and tourists

The 4th Journey to Christmas festival will be held in Moscow from 16 December 2016 through 15 January 2017, parallel with the 2nd Christmas Light installation festival, to finish on 19 February 2017.

Journey to Christmas opens another cycle of Moscow Seasons universally accessible street events, including City Day, nine major city festivals, and several dozen other events. Moscow Seasons gathered more than 50 million visitors in 2016.

Moscow Seasons has become a new tradition that does a spectacular job of promoting Moscow as a tourist destination, including the shopping, food, hotel and other opportunities the city has to offer.

Moscow is one of the top 10 cities most attractive to travellers, according to Lonely Planet travel guide publishers, and the top 7 according to National Geographic.

Moscow ranks first among Russian cities for 2016/2017 winter holiday offerings on Momondo.ru.

This year the number of tourists visiting Moscow is up 250,000 over 2015, reaching 17.4 million.

Retail space at festival venues is awarded for free by the Organising Committee jury. Anyone can apply online or otherwise. An average 320 business people take part in every festival. About 25 of them are new to the business community and the festival gives them a good introduction to customers.

Every festival generates an average 600 million roubles in tax revenue, and the largest festivals have an even greater economic effect. Last year’s Journey to Christmas brought the city an extra 2.5 billion roubles in tax revenue.

42 venues, 200 stalls and 12 million visitors

This year’s Journey to Christmas has 42 venues in the city centre and other Moscow districts. Fairs will open for the first time near large malls. Downtown venues will be open until 3 am on 1 January for the first time.

All told, the festival will have 200 stalls, 70 restaurants and 40 workshop pavilions.

Over 700 applications were submitted to participate in the festival – 50 percent more than last year – and 413 of them were accepted. Forty Russian regions will be represented at the festival, including the Tver, Astrakhan, Ryazan, Orenburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Vladimir,  Tula and Ivanovo regions, the republics of North Osetia and Karelia, and the Krasnodar Territory, as well as 15 foreign countries, among them Belgium, Italy, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Serbia, Armenia, China, Mexico, Peru and Morocco. New participants make up 60 percent of the total.

Over 12 million Muscovites and tourists are expected at the festival.

European Christmas fair in the heart of Moscow

A European Christmas fair is open in Tverskaya Square, opposite City Hall. Part of the Journey to Christmas festival, it is a town unto itself, with a central square and a courtyard.

Large pavilions offering visitors a chance to relax and warm up from the cold weather have been placed round the Yury Dolgoruky monument.

There are several stalls round the garden fountain, a merry-go-round, Santa’s house, and two open-air fireplaces for getting warm.

A Christmas tree, nine metres tall, and original light installations are the most notable decorations.

Retail outlets are grouped according to country – Russia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Spain, France, Denmark, Austria, Germany and Latvia. Pottery, candy, interior decorations and other goods are on sale.

The fair offers honeyed Christmas drinks, hot frankfurters, trdlo pastries, and other ethnic specialties.

The Christmas Drawing Room pavilion houses an entertaining programme with theme days on the different holiday traditions – Russian, Finnish, Scandinavian, Austrian, Czech, French and Spanish.