Date of stay: Easter, April 2010
Where you stayed: Petrovka Loft
Travelled with: Group of friends
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned
In April 2010 my partner and I with another couple did some independent travel in Russia. Russia is not the easiest country to get into and the process to obtain a visa is not the cheapest. You’ll need to factor this into the length of time you’d like to stay. We went for four days but given the cost of the visa we probably should have gone for longer.
With regards to the visa you need to get an invitation. You can do this in one of 2 ways, either ask your hotel/tour company to provide this or if they can’t/won’t, you can buy one online. We did the latter through – http://destinationrussia.com/russian_visa.html. It was a fairly easy process and we received our tourist invitation via email, shortly afterwards. Click on the following link to view the Russian Visa requirments.
We then needed to submit this with our application, passport, application fee and visa fee at the Russian Embassy. The Russian Embassy in London was very specific as to when you can drop off and also when you can pick up, so make sure that you check times before making the journey.
Red Square is one of the first stops for tourists visiting Moscow. The Square was the Soviet parade ground and still is a show of armed forces on Victory day. Red Square is used for concerts, large events and other festivals. Each year the largest military parade takes place on 9th May, Victory day. As interesting as all of that is, the main reason that people visit the Red Square is to take photos of The Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral.
The Kremlin is on the UNESCO world heritage list. It’s a historical fortress and the largest in the world. The State Kremlin Palace is located within the walls. Check opening hours first as we tried to get tickets but missed out due to timing. The Kremlin is shut on Thursdays and tickets can be purchased from the ticket offices at the Kutafiya Tower and Cathedral Square.
St Basil’s Cathedral is the most famous landmark in Moscow. The colourful onion shaped domes are iconic. The Cathedral is now a museum and a very popular tourist attraction.
Due to the suicide bombings earlier this year on the metro trains in Moscow we’d advise travellers to check the following Safe Travel site prior to travelling and always exercise caution. With that said the Metro stations are breath-taking and we would definitely say they are a tourist attraction in themselves. The ornate and detailed ceilings are definitely photo worthy so make sure you practice your low light photo settings on your camera before you go.
Bolshoi Theatre is stunning inside, they hold Ballet and Opera. The theatre is the parent company of Bolshoi Ballet Academy, a world-leading school of Ballet.
Vladmir Lenin was a Russian revolutionary and led the Russian Red Army to victory in the Russian Civil war. His monument boarders the Red Square and within the Kremlin walls.
The Vernisazh weekend market near Ismailovsky park is a must see. It’s very large and here you’ll find a range of different souvenirs, Russian Dolls and other local crafts. The food within the market is also very nice.
Other sites worth visiting are The Cathedral of the Christ Savour and Triumphal Arch.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Petrovka Loft and would definitely recommend this Hotel. It was in a great location (although a little hard to find the first time), upmarket area and within walking distance to the main sites. Click on the following link for the Petrovka Loft. When booking we found it cheaper to book through venere.com, click here for the link.
Travel Tip: Catching an overnight train from Moscow to St Petersburg saves a nights accommodation and you arrive refreshed 8am the next morning. We’d recommended a 2 berth or 4 berth cabin. You can reserve tickets online before collecting but this is an experience in itself.
Very few people speak English, so learn a little Russian before you go and take a translation dictionary with you. We got lost numerous times but the police were really helpful to us and despite the fact that they couldn’t speak English, they found a way to get us to where we needed to be (either walking us there, or calling a friend who could speak English… so NICE!).
Moscow is an interesting city, as is St Petersburg. If you are planning to visit both, we would suggest that you spent 1.5 days in St Petersburg to every day that you spent in Moscow.
Would you recommend your hotel/hostel: Yes, Petrovka Loft
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
By: Nick & Jackie