Winter might not seem the most logical time to come to Moscow. But when you think about it... why not? The city is magically decorated, everything is white and snowy, and there are fewer crowds. Yes, it's cold, but not too cold - the temperature normally varies from -10 to +5°C, with some extreme plunges on a few days. If you have proper clothes, you will enjoy your winter Moscow adventure as much as its summer variation. We've prepared some cool ideas for Moscow winter trip to give you even more motivation to come!
Admire Christmas (New Year) Lights in Moscow
We hear from travellers that Moscow now beats European and US cities in terms of lights. Booya! Of course, it means that Moscow government spends hilariously large amounts of money on these decorations (in order to attract foreign tourists as well), but this is how it is - let's enjoy it.
You won't get it wrong if you go for some Christmas mood to the Red Square. In winter it is largely occupied with the ice-skating rink and the Christmas market. GUM store is beautifully decorated both on the outside and inside. Right in front of the main entrance to the Red Square, where Zero Kilometer is, there is also plenty to see. Nikolskaya street, which belongs to the former territory of China-town, is one of the most impressive locations with rain-like lights for more than 500 meters.
Beautiful festive lights are also installed along the Tverskaya street, from where you should peep into Kamergersky lane, Stoleshnikov lane and Tverskoy boulevard.
Just a small remark, why these lights are called by Russians 'New Year light'. After the holiday of Christmas was suppressed in the Soviet Russia, people started to celebrate New Year as the main holiday. Although Russia is a rather religious country today, we haven't broken off the old habit.
Show off Your Ice-skating Talent (or Try it for the First Time)
Ice-skating is a much-loved activity in Russia, as it helps us keep our spirits up during long cold winter. Russians usually start ice-skating in childhood, and therefore feel pretty confident being on ice. Ice-skating rinks are truly the epicenters of social life in the winter time: locals work out, meet with friends or arrange the dates there.
Then again, the Red Square is #1 place for ice-skating: there is a legendary skating rink right in front of the GUM with amazing views for Instagram pictures. The drawbacks are the small size of the rink and the large number of volunteers to enjoy it. That's why our favourite option in Moscow is the ice-skating rink in Gorky park. Some distance away from the Kremlin walls, it is a spacios rink with several alleys and magical lights.
The largest ice skating rink in Moscow is located in VDNH park, which is actually the biggest ice-skating rink in Europe also. Regardless of its size, VDNH rink is often packed, so try to avoid weekend evenings.
Good news: all the ice-skating rinks mentioned above have the service of skates rental. So no excuses!
See Russian Ballet Performace
Russian ballet is known worldwide and it's something really special for Russian people. Tickets are usually sold out out well in advance for performances by ballet enthusiasts. Winter is in the midst of ballet season, which runs from September to June, and the perfect activity for cold season for obvious reasons. Russia's best-known ballets include Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and La Bayadere. The Nutcracker is strongly associated with Christmas season, so this might be your perfect choice around that time. Take into account that the Nutcracker is widely perceived in Russia as a performance for children, so you may find yourself surrounded by lots of kids in the theatre.
Sure enough, Bolshoi Theatre is the main place to see ballet in Russia. Every show is a real peace of art, with exquisite dancing and magnificent scenery. The prices are also 'magnificent', starting from 5 000Rub for a decent seat. Anyway, if you want to make a once-in-a-life-time memory, go for it!
You can find more savvy options (still fabulous) in the Kremlin Palace and the Musical Theatre of Stanislavskiy and Nemirovich-Danchenko. English versions of the websites are not always flawless, so you can use our help with tickets purchase for a moderate fee.
And Again.. Get Into the Festive Mood at Christmas MarketsDo some holiday shopping or just sit back and sip your cacao at one of the numerous Christmas markets and fairs in Moscow. There you'll find plenty of Christmas decorations, creative crafts, and foodie treats. If you are looking for some creative souvenirs from Russia, this is where you need to go.
For the utmost dose of festive spirit in Moscow, there's no place better than GUM Market. Traditional-style wooden huts sell everything that you might desire, including matryoshkas, painted crockery and 'ushanka' hats. There are also carrousels, concerts and all manner of New Year fun. The best part - GUM market is open till the very end of February.
For young designers and hipster feel head to the Artplay center. Christmas fares are open during the December in the evenings only. Another good location is Danilovsky market, which is open daily in December and hosts concerts and events on weekends to jolly up your holiday. This is an iconic foodie destination where you should arrive hungry.
Get Really Warm in Russian Banya
Cold weather makes this unique Russian experience even more pleasant. Banya is a variation of sauna, but with higher humidity thanks to a large amount of hot steam. It is typical to be smacked with bath brooms as a kind of relaxing spa, but not obligatory.
The perfect image of Russian banya is a stand-alone wooden hut, which consists of the steam room itself and also the room where you hang out and communicate with friends. However, as a traveller you would be quite content with visiting a public bathhouse - and it is very popular with local too. There are always separate departments for men in women in such bathhouses.
The most popular baths in Moscow are Sanduny baths - founded in the end of 19th century! It is the largest banya complex in Moscow, with 3 male departments and 2 female departments. They vary from economy to luxurious, still all are equipped with excellent and tidy steam rooms. So choose according to your preferences and budget. If you need guidance - Sanduny baths tour will be your best option.