5 Things To Do In Russia If You Don't Like Soccer
FIFA World What? Forget the football, Russia should still top your travel list.
Ah Russia -- you’re a crazy beast.
Forget politics for a moment if you can and simply marvel at this -- the biggest country in the world is a cheap holiday destination for Aussies right now, thanks to the exchange rate with the ruble.
If you want a holiday that assaults your senses then Russia's capital is the place for you (even if you’re not into the World Cup).
Here’s what you should tick off.
Head to Red Square
Yes it’s a real no-brainer, but in case you were thinking of skipping it because it’s a tourist trap -- don’t. The imposing size of Red Square is incredible and photographable. The Kremlin and the out-of-this-world beauty of St Basil’s Cathedral are worth seeing, as is the creepiness of Lenin’s tomb (where he’s been lying embalmed since 1924). The department store GUM is also here -- at the time of the Soviet Union, the top floor was home to a secret clothing store only open to the highest echelons of the communist party. These days it’s a must for tourists and a great place to wander. If you want to immerse yourself in culture, the State Historical Museum here is filled with artefacts from Russia’s past.
Eat the Food
Russia’s food scene isn’t just borscht and caviar (though you can get plenty of both here!) there’s also a thriving new breed of chefs, and White Rabbit is at the forefront of change. Under a glass dome high up on the 16th floor above a shopping complex, chef Vladimir Mukhin is making old Russian dishes in new ways. Caviar, fresh seafood and offal dishes make this a real experience. Something more traditional? Café Pushkin is famous globally for old-school Russian food and it’s in the most gorgeous building filled with late-Tsarist splendour … the waiters come in period costume to boot. Try the stroganoff.
Tour the subway stations
Underneath Moscow is another world - even if you’re not a train spotter, the stations of the Moscow Metro are astoundingly beautiful. Marble columns, friezes, chandeliers and grand stair cases are everywhere — in fact, the stations are more like ballrooms than transport hubs. It’s picture perfect and well worth the price of a subway ticket (about $1) for the chance to see it. Moscow’s trains can be daunting (nothing is really spelled out in English) so if you’re not au fait with Cyrillic, then the circle line is your best bet. It goes around the main part of the city, and here you will get to see some of the most beautiful stations, including Komsomolskaya, Belorusskaya, and Kievskaya’s amazing architecture, built to honour Stalin.
Head to the Bolshoi
They say that you shouldn’t come to Moscow without seeing a performance at the wonderful Bolshoi Theatre, and that is true, even if ballet and opera aren’t really your bag. It’s worth it for the people watching -- Russians love to get dressed up for the theatre. While bookings are advised (and you can book online easily), you can often get cheap tickets simply by heading to the box office 30 minutes before a show.
Go supermarket shopping (yes really)
There is a lot of good shopping to be had here, and with the exchange rate you’re sure to pick up a bargain. For designer goods, wander around Kitai Gorod - a funky area filled with exclusive boutiques. Then check out the busy Tverskaya Street, walking up towards Pushkin Square. If you want a taste of old Russia, head to Yeliseyevsky - one of Moscow's oldest grocery stores. While not everyone wants to go supermarket shopping on holiday, it’s worth a visit. It’s quite possibly the best looking supermarket in the world - we’re talking chandeliers, neo-baroque cornices, the works… This Tsarist relic is here on Tverskaya, only 15 minutes walk from Red Square, and is also a good place to stock up Russian treats to bring home.