Recently voted ‘worst city in the world’ in the ‘Annual Cities Survey’ carried out by TripAdvisor, it looks like Moscow has
Recently voted ‘worst city in the world’ in the ‘Annual Cities Survey’ carried out by TripAdvisor, it looks like Moscow has some tough critics. Scoring poorly when it comes to family-friendliness, restaurants, shopping, and value for money, it is true that Moscow is perhaps not exactly what you would expect from a capital city.
One oddity that springs to mind is the unexpected ‘Americanness’ of the whole place, despite the severe lack of English speakers. The Hard Rock Café, Shake Shack and 24 hour Diners are, strangely, among some of the most popular meeting places. I would definitely suggest cyphering the Cyrillic alphabet before departure to ensure you can at least read a menu correctly.
A love of students
Sadly, the extent of the language barrier does make it quite difficult to interact with the locals, even if you are sharing a tiny ten-bed dorm for the weekend you are unlikely to come away any more enlightened than when you arrived.
Nevertheless, If you are looking for your own ‘home from home’ in Moscow, then Da! Hostel in the Arbat does make a very comfortable retreat. However, please bear in mind that the staff’s lack of English makes even basic communication a very difficult task.
Sadly, there’s no pussy-footing around the fact that food here is expensive, and if you don’t like cabbage – well good luck my friend! Due to the generally pricey nature of Moscow dining, it is well worth finding a Soviet style café, just for the experience. Regardless of what the grub tastes like, due to their old-Russia philosophy, these cafés provide the cheapest dinners that Moscow has to offer.
However, the general living expense is more than made up for by the fact that Moscow simply loves students. In fact, it seems as though Putin personally encourages both national and international undergrads to visit the city by giving them a significant discount to all of the major attractions in the city. What you save on entry to The Kremlin, you can spend in over-priced self-service restaurants later in the evening.
A hidden story
When visiting The Kremlin you really do get your money’s worth. The Armoury is seriously impressive and boasts one of the most magnificent collections in the world. The four unbelievably beautiful Russian Orthodox cathedrals, which are located directly opposite one another, mean you can literally travel through time without getting sore feet.
Without sounding like I’m trying to rush you out of the city, the over-night trains are definitely one of the most interesting and enjoyable ways to spend an evening. For a minimal price you get a rather plush carriage with a comfortable bed, packed snacks and even a hot breakfast to order for the following morning (although I really don’t recommend the omelette). This journey is a guaranteed way to make friends and is easily juiced up with a bottle of the dirt-cheap local vodka.
It’s clear that TripAdvisor’s sketchy reviews don’t quite tell the whole story about this city. Moscow is simply magical. Possibly due to the success of such negative reviews, Red Square is one of the least touristy places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.
Away from bustling crowds, excursion groups and snap-happy photographers, the Square and all its glory are literally yours to enjoy. As well as window shopping in one of the world’s most expensive shopping centres, GUM, a visit to Lenin’s Mausoleum is essential. The Mausoleum is both an eerie and an intriguing experience, and is just one of many examples that show Moscow as a bazaar of the bizarre.
Although we soon discovered that nightlife was surprisingly scarce for a capital (the one karaoke bar we did visit didn’t seem much in the mood for a sing-a-long,) partying was put on the backburner.
When you get to ogle iconic structures like that of St. Basil’s how could anyone fail to fall in love with Moscow? No matter what you’ve heard through the grape-vine, Moscow is a must-do.
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Image: Vcarceler / Wikimedia Commons