Moscow for the art, history and culture lover

Whenever I travel, I always attempt to visit a few museums or historical sites. However, this visit to Moscow focused on research, which meant I had to plan my cultural activities around an already packed schedule.

Here are a few of things that I missed out on – Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Novodevichy Convent, State Darwin Museum, Muzeon and Park of Fallen Monuments, and Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. Another site that I desperately wanted to make it to was Gorky Park. The park is legendary, and has inspired many novels and movies. When I think of Gorky Park, I visualize John Le Carre’s tales of espionage with spies lurking on benches in the cold dark night. But in reality – it is a top tourist attraction located along the Moscow River, with teahouses, restaurants, evening events, sports, and many walking paths. And of course, it is a great alfresco dining spot.

On to the sites I actually visited…

The Armoury Chamber at the Kremlin was fascinating. It had fashion, house wares, and amazing extravagant carriages for adults and children; also, armor and weapons.
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The Central Armed Forces Museum is a tour through Russia’s military past. It has uniforms, banners, medals, weapons, tanks, planes, statues and Soviet era art propaganda posters. If you have time, make sure to stop at the café for a meal. The atmosphere is great – soviet era military – and the food is fantastic. It has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options for those so inclined.

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Tretyakov Gallery is a traditional gallery full of fabulous classical Russian art and worth checking out. Also, Sok, one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Moscow is opposite the museum.

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The Gulag History museum (prison camps) is tucked away in central Moscow and is fairly small but worth the visit to see a part of Russia’s history that is not often discussed.

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The Chambers of the Romanov Boyars was an interesting experience. It is a house, so it is a rather quick tour but if you are interested in history and want to see the Tsar’s first home, then this is for you. Be prepared to duck at the doorways, people were fairly vertically challenged in the XV-XVII centuries.

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Finally, a shopping tip for good measure. I’ll be honest; I bought a few souvenirs at Red Square. But the best bang for your buck is the Izmailovsky Market, where haggling is expected. I believe it is only open on the weekend and it’s a bit of a trek on the subway but worth it. Plan to be there a while – there is plenty of food to be had. Unfortunately, my group only allotted an hour and a half. We were a little grumpy when we realized that we were only about halfway into the market with fifteen minutes to meet the rest of our group outside the gates. The market is much more than tourist items, though you will find plenty of those stalls. Vendors are selling military items, medals, posters, art, music, antiques, jewelry and other Russian items. I’m not a huge shopper but I could have easily stayed for three hours.

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