The holidays in Moscow: Ten attractions for tourists

The holidays in Moscow: Ten attractions for tourists
The best attractions for tourists visiting Moscow during the New Year holidays.

The New Year holidays is a great time to visit Moscow. On the first week of January, over 80 museum, galleries and exhibition venues will open their doors to visitors free of charge. City mansions, parks and squares host New Year entertainment events. Even an ordinary stroll can turn into a fascinating adventure. Mos.ru shares 10 attractions you can visit in Moscow on 1–8 January.

The Moscow Kremlin and Red Square

The Moscow Kremlin and Red Square are the top tourist attractions not only of Moscow, but of all of Russia. The Moscow Kremlin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It will be open to tourists throughout the New Year holidays.

Red Square hosts a New Year Market with small cabin-like kiosks where people can buy painted Zhostovo trays, embroidered felt boots and knitted gloves, matryoshka dolls and jewel-boxes, Orenburg and Pavlovo Posad scarves. Visitors can also enjoy traditional Russian food, including blini pancakes with caviar, tea, pies, and baked potatoes. A skating rink has been installed in the centre of Red Square, where people can enjoy the views of Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower with its famous clock, and St Basil’s Cathedral. The skating rink and the market are open daily from 10 am until 11.30 pm.

Those who prefer guided tours can visit Moscow Kremlin museums, including the Armoury Chamber, the Assumption cathedral (the burial site of Orthodox metropolitan bishops and patriarchs), Archangel’s Cathedral (the burial site of Moscow Medieval Princes), the Annunciation Cathedral, the Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe and the Patriarch’s Palace. In addition, tourists can visit the museum of history of the Kremlin architectural complex in the Ivan the Great bell-tower. Located nearby is the Tsar-Canon, a 40 tonne, 890-millimetre calibre canon manufactured in the 16th century, considered to be the biggest cannon in the world.

All museums will be open throughout the holidays, with limited hours only for the Patriarch’s Palace and the exhibition Elegance and Splendour of Art Deco (women’s Art-Deco haute couture apparel by European fashion houses from the collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute), which will be open from 10.40 until 11.40 am and from 2.40 until 3.40 pm. On 7 and 8 January, the exhibition will not be open in the afternoon hours. The other museums will be open on 2–8 January from 10 am until 5 pm.

VDNKh

VDNKh’s central alley is home to the biggest skating rink in the world, with a total ice surface of 20,000 square metres. Throughout the holidays, VDNKh skaters can enjoy dance performances, games, various contests and quizzes.

The skating rink will operate on 2–8 January from 10 am until 11 pm, with a two-hour break from 3 pm to 5 pm.

The Moskvarium oceanarium, displaying marine and fresh-water fauna from across the world, is located near the skating rink. It covers an area of 12 hectares and has 80 pools and aquariums with rare and exotic fish, guitarfish, dolphins, sharks and other animals. During the New Year holidays, it will be open from 10 am until 9 pm.

Journey to Christmas

If you want to take a walk along Moscow streets, you should not miss the Journey to Christmas festival, where you can taste hot drinks and pastries, buy Christmas tree decorations and souvenirs and ride down a 100-metre slide, which has been installed between Revolyutsii and Manezhnaya squares.

The festival features 42 venues in all administrative areas of the city. Products from 40 Russian regions, including the Tver, Astrakhan, Ryazan, Orenburg, and Nizhny Novgorod regions, as well as 15 countries, including Belgium, Italy, China, Mexico, Peru and Morocco, have been delivered for the event.

The Journey to Christmas festival will run until 15 January 2017. Simultaneously with the Journey to Christmas, the 2nd Christmas Light International Festival will kick off in Moscow. The festival will last two months, until 19 February 2017. This festival has made Moscow burst forth in shining colour. Tourists can enjoy street lamps on Tverskaya Street that have been transformed into glowing wineglasses, as well as the biggest musical Christmas-tree decoration on Poklonnaya Gora.. The festival’s concept gives Moscow residents and guests the chance to walk across city squares and streets, seeing one eye-catching installation after another without noticing that the sun has set. The streets are filled with sculptures and others kinds of installations made of light bulbs and fairy lights. For instance, Father Frost’s sleigh with its snow-white horses can be seen near the Triumphalnaya Arch, and a light maze has been installed on the intersection of Tverskaya Street and Gazetny Pereulok.

For more details see the special project in Russian and English on mos.ru.

Gorky Park

Gorky Park invites visitors to see its extraordinary New Year tree, which is suspended horizontally under the main entrance’s vault. This piece of art measures 30 metres. A 300-metre string of lights decorates the structure. The suspended New Year tree has already made it into the Russian Book of Records and Achievements as the longest New Year tree in the country. Among the other attractions at Gorky Park is a street-art skating rink: an open area with light tunnels, mazes and an 8-metre frozen fountain. The skating rink is surrounded with urban installations covered in graffiti. The skating rink is open from 10 am until 11 pm. After enjoying the rink, tourists can visit the Museon art park, with more than 700 sculptures.

Moscow Planetarium

During the Christmas and New Year holidays, the Moscow Planetarium will offer visitors a chance to take part in scientific experiments, and assemble rockets and even robots. See the museum’s website for a detailed schedule of holiday events. The regular exhibitions will also be open during the holidays, including a 4D movie about outer space, a star show projected on the biggest dome in Europe, and more.

Open 2–8 January from 10 am until 9 pm.

The Moscow Zoo

The Moscow Zoo has become a must-see destination for tourists. It is the oldest zoo in the country, with more than 8,000 animals, including a polar bear, fox, and from the Red Book of endangered species, an Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard. There are also rare animals such as Przewalski's horse and Pere David's deer. The year 2017 will be the year of the rooster, which can also be found in the zoo. Special shows featuring roosters will take place on 4–8 January. During the New Year holidays, visitors can attend animal feeding sessions, and learn about the diets of pandas, skate fish and white spotted bamboo shark. See the zoo’s website for a schedule of animal feeding sessions.

From 2–8 January, the zoo will be open from 9 am until 5 pm with the ticket office closing at 4 pm.

Novodevichy Convent

This Orthodox Convent was founded back in the 16th century to honour the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, the most praised relic of ancient Smolensk. The Novodevichy Convent ensemble is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The oldest building, the Cathedral of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, is located at the centre of the convent. The Assumption Church with its refectory is also an interesting structure, with an arched ceiling covering a space of 400 square metres that does not rest on a single pillar.

There are also two gatehouse churches in the convent over the North and South entrances, the Transfiguration Church and the Church of the Mantle of Our Lady.

During the first two centuries of its existence, the Novodevichy Convent was used as a prison for women from the royal family. For instance, Tsar Peter, who would later become Emperor Peter the Great, ordered his sister, the regent Sophia, to be placed there in the late 17th century.

The Novodevichy Cemetery is located nearby. Many prominent people were buried there, including Decembrists and heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812, professors and prominent figures such as the poet Denis Davydov, Prince Sergei Trubetskoy, Matvey Muraviyov-Apostol, Petrashevsky Circle member Alexei Plescheev, historian Sergei Soloviyov and the father of essayist and philosopher Alexander Herzen.

Open 2–8 January from 9 am until 7 pm.

Tsaritsino and Kolomenskoye

Tsaritsino and Kolomenskoye are rightly considered to be the two most stately museum reserves in Moscow. Empress Catherine the Great ordered the construction of the Tsaritsino estate back in 1776, and its gothic architecture still fascinates all who see it. It includes palaces build according to Bazhenov’s designs, the Bread House, the Big and Small palaces and the Opera House. During the New Year holidays, visitors can enjoy an exhibition entitled, “The Empress’s Play Comes to Life” about the Enlightenment and the creative interests of Catherine the Great. Those interested in painting can visit the exhibition, “Russian Fine Arts of the Silver Age. From Yury Nosov’s Collection.”

Kolomenskoye is a museum reserve based on an estate established in the 17th century by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. During the New Year holidays, it offers a fascinating and diverse programme. It will host New Year exhibitions, entitled “Father Frost, his company and…” (about the adventures of fairy tale characters) and “A Fairy Tale in Colour” (about illustrations to popular books). Christmas tours will be offered in the museum reserve, along with workshops on how to make Russian toys, and felt and clay crafts. Sleigh rides in three-horse sleighs will also be available.

Tsaritsino and Kolomenskoye will be open 2–8 January from 6 am until midnight.

The Izmailovo Kremlin

The Kremlin in Izmailovo is an unusual museum. It recreates the atmosphere and culture of the 17th century, when Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, the father of Peter the Great, ruled the country. In fact, the current complex is located near the place where the tsar had his residence. Although the building itself was constructed in 2003, it offers a glimpse into the history of Russia and its capital city Moscow. The complex includes the Museum of the Founding of the Russian Navy, the Toy History Museum, the Bread Museum, the Russian Vodka Museum, the Chocolate Museum and the Museum of Ill-Mannered Children. Those interested in ancient crafts can discover a pottery workshop, a workshop for making and decorating gingerbread, a blacksmith shop and a soap factory. During the New Year holidays, guests will be greeted by the rooster Petrucco, the symbol of the year 2017. Children can attend games and quests, while adults can watch performances by folk bands.

Open 2–8 January from 10 am until 6 pm.

The Apothecary Garden

When Moscow’s streets are covered in snow, experience summer by spending a couple of hours in Moscow State University’s Apothecary Garden. The Palm Tree Greenhouses recreate a subtropical climate. It boasts Russia’s biggest orchid collection, as well as one of the biggest cactus collections in the world. The garden also has a pond that was created back in 18th century.

The Apothecary Garden will host the Tropical Winter festival during the New Year holidays. Visitors will discover tropical orchids unusual in their size and form, as well as an iguana named Iriska. A zoologist will conduct feeding sessions.

Open from 10 am until 8 pm, 2–8 January.