Moscow is believed to be about 850 years old. The first record of it in the chronicles is dated 1147, and its history starts with a legend about how Prince Yuri Dolgoruky (the Long-armed), who is considered to be the cityâ€™s founder, invited his neighbour, another Russian prince, to a council meeting, in honour of the event, there was in honour of the event, there was “a great dinner” in Moscow. The monument to Prince Yuri stands in a central square, right across the Moscow Mayor’s Office.
Many centuries ago, the town was built on seven hills. It is rather difficult to discern them now, with exception of the Borovitsky (“Pinery”) Hill, where one of the 20 Kremlin towers stands. The Kremlin (this word means “a steep hill” in Greek) and Red Square are definitely the main Moscow sights, symbols of all of Russia.
The intricate towers and walls of the Moscow Kremlin were designed and built by Italian architects. The Moscow Kremlin is the residence of the Russian Government. Ancient cathedrals, the Armoury Chamber, Russiaâ€™s oldest museum, and the Diamond Fund with its unique collection of precious stones and jewellery, are also located with the territory of the Moscow Kremlin.
Near the 81-metre high Belltower of Ivan the Great, which once used to be the tallest building in Russia, the world’s biggest Tsar-Bell stands in the Kremlin, weighing 202 tonnes and reaching a height of 6.14 metres. The bell has never rung: a huge piece of it split off during a big fire in 1737, right after it was forged; now that piece lies near the bell. The 40 tonne Tsar-Cannon, a monument of the 16th century foundry art, stands nearby: it has never been fired either.
Moscow is a real megapolis: the city extends out 40 kilometers from north to south and over 30 kilo meters from east to west. The population of over 10 million (including the vicinities) makes Moscow the world’s fifth largest city; also, over a million visitors, mostly tourists, come here daily. All those who have business in Moscow, and those just passing through, try to delay their departure for one or two days, willing to learn more about the city.
There are 5 airports and 9 railway, 3 intercity bus and 2 riverside stations in Moscow. The first sub-way line was opened in 1935. Now the subway network consists of 170 stations (and new ones are being built on a regular basis); the Moscow subway’s total length exceeds 270 kilometers today. The palace-like halls of the Moscow subway are some of the most beautiful in the world: Mayakovskaya (1938) and Komsomolskaya (1951) stations are considered the best in terms of their architectural design. The Moscow subway carries about 9 million passengers each day.
Moscow’s architectural silhouette is also recognizable owing to the so-called Seven Sister buildings constructed in the 1940s and 1950s by Stalin’s direct order. The most famous among them are Moscow State University on Vorobyovy Hills and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Smolenskaya Square; in the other towers there are either hotels and offices or regular residential apartments. The pompous spired sky-scrapers of Moscow, decorated with sculptures, are still a matter of contradictory assessments; however it is already as impossible to imagine Moscow without them as to imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower.
The Bolshoi Theatre is definitely the most famous among the several dozens of Moscow theatres. Getting familiarized with Russian classical ballet is part of every tourist programme. Both Moscow circuses are also quite popular.
The bridges across the Moscow and Yauza rivers are the cityâ€™s adornments – especially in the evening, when they are illuminated in a grandiose manner. The longest one is a 2 kilometer metro bridge in Luzhniki; the shortest one is a 20 meter bridge across the Yauza. The subtle, one-bay cable-stayed Krymsky Bridge is perhaps the most beautiful in Moscow. New bridges are under construction and the existing ones are being renovated; sometimes the bridges are even transported on barges during the construction work.
The highest point of Moscow is Vorobyovy Hills. An observation platform there opens a great panorama of the Moscow River and the roofed Large Rink of the “Luzhniki” Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games were held in 1980.
Moscow has over 60 museums, among which the most popular ones are: the Kremlin, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and the Tretyakov Gallery, with their unique collections of modernist and classical paintings respectively.
There used to be nearly 500 churches in Moscow. Now, about 150 of them are operational and about 100 others are under reconstruction. The most impressive monuments are: the Cathedral of St. Basil (Red Square), the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and the complex of Navodevichy Monastery, including its cemetery where prominent public and national figures are buried.
Starting from the beginning of the 1990s, Moscow has rapidly become a modern European capital. The city is undergoing a real construction boom: hundreds of buildings are being reconstructed and repaired, new trade, entertainment and business centers are being erected, bridges and junctions are being built. The giant mole which was used during the construction of La Manche tunnel was brought to Moscow, creating 2-3 kilometer long road tunnels here.
The Outskirts of Moscow
Numerous old estates, exquisite samples of landscape architecture inside and outside the city, are worth visiting as well. A typical 18th-19th century noble estate near Moscow was not only a villa encircled by a nice park but also served as the centre of spiritual life in pre-revolutionary Russia. These estates were home for famous painters, writers, musicians and actors. Ilya Repin, Valentin Serov, Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Vrubel and others were frequent guests in the Abramtsevo estate owned by the Mamontovs who were patrons of the arts.
The Yasnaya Polyana estate, situated 240 kilometres to the south of Moscow, has become a pilgrimage site: it is here that Leo Tolstoy, the author of famous War and Peace, Anna Karenia and other novels, wrote for many years.
Kuskovo is the former country estate belonging to Counts Sheremetev, a powerful noble family that lived during the Russian Empire. The gorgeous palace and “French Park” (symmetrically planned), as well as a museum which has a unique collection of ceramics, are quite notable. In Ostankino, which also belonged to the Sheremetevs, there is a building where the Counts’ private theatre used to be (the actors were the Counts’ “serfs”); nowadays, classical music performances are given here.
The former tsar’s village of Kolomenskoye I svery beautiful: at one time, the wooden palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich Romanov (1645-1676), father of Peter the Great, used to be here.
The town of Zvenigorod, situated 40 kilometres to the west of Moscow, is a nice place to visit. The old Friary of Savva standsin a majestic pinery on a steep bank of the Moscow River, near its tributary the Storozhka.
The New Jerusalem Monastery of the Resurrection complex, which was built in the same manner as the Holy City of Jerusalem, is unique indeed. Even the Istra River (a left tributary of the Moscow River) flowing under its walls is called “the Jordan River” here. The friary is also famous because the disgraced Patriarch Nikon (1605-1681), the greatest reformer of the Russian Orthodox Church, lived in exile and is buried here.
Moscow is both the beginning and ending point of the Golden Ring, the most interesting of all the tours through the ancient cities and towns of Central Russia.