Judging from personal experience, when non-russian people hear the word "Moscow", a lot of them immediately think of eternal cold, vodka as a regular meal and bears walking down the streets (possibly doing drunk ballet to warm themselves up). Not gonna lie, it sounds fun and I wish it was like that sometimes, but alas. Real Moscow is slightly different.
1. It is always cold in Moscow, because in Russia it is cold everywhere. Not true.
First of all, Russia has different climate zones, including subarctic, continental and subtropical (surprise surprise). Moscow is located in a humid continental climate zone, where summers are warm (usually around 23-25 °C, sometimes 30°C - as the highest temperature), winters are cold (-10°C, with periods of warmth - slightly above 0°C).
2. People in Moscow never smile. Partially true.
A lot of Russian people just usually don't smile at those they don't know well. A random smile at somebody you don't know might be also read as insincere. And yes, we might act distant at first, but as soon as you get more familiar with a Russian person, they can be the warmest and most easy-going ever, as well as really good friends.
3. Everybody drinks vodka in Moscow, and overall Russia. Somehow not true.
I actually even have some non-drinking friends in Moscow. And though I personally don't mind having a drink on a night before a day off, a shot of vodka would definitely not be an option to consider. If my friends and I ever drink vodka back home, we'd rather have it mixed. However, of course it is our national drink, like Scotch whiskey in Scotland, ouzu in Greece, or baijiu in China, so drinking vodka is undoubtedly an experience to have in Russia.
Places to visit
Moscow is a fascinating treasure trove of Russian culture, history and art. Let's take a look at 5 popular tourist destinations in Moscow that are, in my opinion, must-see.
1. Red Square.
Back in 16-17th centuries, the square itself used to serve as a marketplace. It also has been used for official ceremonies by Russian governments until nowadays. Fun fact - in winter time there's also a skating rink open for everybody. At Red Square you can visit Kremlin (currently the official residence of the President of Russia), Lenin Mausoleum (the place for the preserved body of Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet leader), St Basil Cathedral, State Historical Museum and GUM store.
I personally especially enjoy Saint Basil Cathedral that is gorgeous from the inside and outside. As it is a museum now, you can buy the tickets at the entrance to get on a time machine that will take you back to 16th century (this is how it felt like when I entered the Cathedral).
2. Kremlin in Izmailovo.
Opened in 2007, this cultural and entertainment complex is another amazing throwback to 16-17th centuries. Apart from the beauty of the Kremlin, you can also enjoy impressive views from the bell tower, visit Vernissage souvenir and flee market, see different kinds of Russian arts and crafts, come to the museum of Russian vodka and the museum of Russian bread.
3. Bolshoi theatre (Big theatre)
The Bolshoi ballet and Bolshoi opera are considered to be among the most famous opera and ballet companies in the world. Bolshoi theatre's ballet is the world's biggest ballet company.
Built in 19th century, the theatre represents one of the most popular landmarks in Moscow and Russia in general. It is also depicted on a Russian 100 rubles note.
4. State Tretyakov gallery
It is the biggest treasury of Russian art. Built in the beginning of 20th century. Now you can see more than 130 000 works of Russian art in the gallery, including the ones created by such famous Russian artists as Andrey Rublev, Wasily Kandinsky and Kasimir Malevich.
5. Moscow metro (opened in 1935).
Yes, you read it right - a metro can be exciting, too! It has more than 200 stations, and every each of them has its own design!
Food/Russian restaurants in Moscow
Russian food is not just about borsch (борщ), although it is definitely worth trying. Here are some other traditional and beloved Russian dishes.
1. Pelmeni (пельмени) - dumplings with pork, beef or salmon. Often served with sour cream.
2. Bliny/blinchiki (блины/блинчики). Basically bliny are pancakes, blinchiki are crepes. Served with or without fillings. Fillings can be quite different, like sweet quark cheese with raisins, sour cream and salmon, beef, caviar or honey.
3. Zharenaya kartoshka s gribami (жареная картошка с грибами). Fried potatoes with mushrooms.
4. Olivie (Оливье). Olivier salad. A salad that contains diced boiled potatoes, carrots, boiled chicken, onions, eggs, pickles, mayonnaise.
Now let me introduce some of the best places to try Russian cuisine.
1. Varenichnaya #1. (Вареничная #1) Awesome Russian dishes. A cosy interior in a soviet style. Regular price for a meal - 1500-2000 rubles
2. Lepim i Varim (Лепим и варим). A vegetarian friendly restaurant with great pelmeni. Regular price for a meal - 700-1000 rubles
3. Pushkin (Пушкин). Named after a famous Russian poet, it is a classy restaurant where you can enjoy delicious Russian cuisine and beautiful interior. Regular price for a meal - >2500 rubles
Hope you will find this information useful while traveling to Moscow.
Добро пожаловать в Москву! (Welcome to Moscow!)