I love doing tours because you get so much information that you would never get otherwise. I also like the interaction between the tour guide and tour participants and getting questions answered on the spot. We decided to do a night walking Moscow tour during a free evening, and when it started to snow, it made it even more fun.
We booked the tour from Get Your Guide and booked the Moscow: 2-Hour Guided Night Tour. If you choose this tour, make sure you choose the correct language of your tour guide (English or Spanish). It was a fantastic tour. Our tour guide was Katya, and she was extremely knowledgeable and had many photographs to back up her stories about different sites on the tour.
We started at the Bolshoi Theatre which is very close to the Red Square. The Bolshoi Theatre is a very historic building which hosts primarily ballets and opera. The building has gone through many renovations including burning down a couple of times, construction halted for many years and other issues. The current building was renovated in 2011 and is stunning at night. You can book tours of the inside during the day or buy tickets to the many evening shows. That is definitely something on my list if I got back to Moscow.
From the Bolshoi we set off towards toward the Tsum, a huge department store selling high end brands of clothes, shoes, makeup/perfume and more. It is an impressive store and beautifully lit up for the holidays. Moscow really goes all out with decorating with lights for Christmas and even had signs for Black Friday shopping sales.
We continued down the street and saw the Central Children’s Store which houses small individual stores in one building. It also has a museum and one of the largest clocks in the world.
The ironic thing is right next to the children’s store (on the right in the photo) is Lubyanka home of the FSB (the principal security agency of Russia), which was also the former national headquarters of the KGB. We were told by our tour guide that the prisoners of the KGB could be seen walking on the roof at times when they were let outside. They now have a museum of the KGB, but it wasn’t open to the public at the time we were there.
Our walk went to Pushkin Square on the Boulevard Ring (a semicircular road made of several boulevards that was built in the 1820 to replace part of the wall that surrounded the Kremlin and central city. This square is surrounded by art galleries, theatres and the Ministry of Culture. Pushkin Square is one of the busiest squares in Moscow, but on this evening with the cold temperatures and snow, it was fairly empty. The structure you see behind the statue of Pushkin is something that was being put up for the holidays.
There always seems to be a McDonald’s in every country we visit so seeing this one wasn’t too surprising, but we found out the that McDonald’s in Pushkin Square was the first western business opened in the Soviet Union in 1990. There were lines for miles when it opened and people wanted to find out what freedom tasted like. There were even weddings performed in this McDonald’s
The McDonald’s restaurants scattered all over Moscow were interesting. We decided to go into one to get something to drink while we were out touring around and was wondering how easy it was to order since we don’t speak much Russian. They have huge flat screen tablet that you switch to English and order, pay and get a number. When your order is ready, the number flashes up and you can get it. Much more advanced the the McDonalds we have in the U.S.
Walking along the streets of Boulevard Ring, was a grocery store called Yeliseev’s Food Hall. This grocery store had to be the fanciest grocery store I have ever seen. According to our guide, it was built to be a store for the VIPs and wealthy residents of Moscow was very exclusive. Once everything changed in the communistic area it was changed to be a store for the public, but they didn’t destroy the interior. Now today, it is an interesting grocery store that sells things that you see everywhere else in Moscow, but it is fascinating to walk around.
Going further on Tverskaya Street, we saw beautiful buildings with art nouveau style architecture. There was a mix of different designs and materials invoking old Russian with more updated Russian styles. These buildings were even more interesting to know that were moved when the street (which is an incredibly busy road) was widened. They wanted to keep the old buildings preserved, but needed more room for the expanding transportation needs of Moscow.
In 1939, the buildings around this area were to be lifted up on rollers and moved to its new location. In order to keep things orderly, the process was completed at night while the residents in the various buildings were asleep. Some of them didn’t even know this was happening and woke up to their entire building in a different location than it was when they went to sleep.
After we were done on Tverskaya Street we headed back toward the Red Square. The lighting displays on the pedestrian streets and alleys were absolutely beautiful and added to the holiday atmosphere.
We walked through Red Square to the new park with a floating bridge, Zaryadye Park. By this time, the snow was coming down pretty hard and the temperatures were getting colder, but we did get some photos of one of the Seven Sister buildings which are seven different skyscrapers built in the Stalinist style. They have a very similar look so they are easy to spot.
This tour was a great addition to our walking around on our own. It told a full story of some of Moscow’s past and went past the traditional landmarks. We would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Moscow.