Discovering Moscow in New Year’s Eve
Moscow in New Year’s Eve. I had been dreaming of visiting Moscow for the longest time and during the past Christmas holidays I finally managed to make this dream come true! Moreover, thanks to the fact that in Russia they won’t have been celebrated Christmas yet (the Orthodox Christmas will have been on January 7th), it was like living twice the magic of this moment… Read on to find out more!
Discovering Moscow in New Year’s Eve: My travel tips
To reach Moscow from Turin we took the Lufthansa flight with a stopover in Frankfurt, which, unfortunately, suffered a long delay in the first place, making us lose the flight connection. Fortunately, the company re-protected us on the next flight, allowing us to reach the destination by midnight. As timing, the first flight is one hour long while the second is just over three hours, for a total of approximately 5 and a half hours of travel.
The next morning, when we woke up, we found ourselves faced with an all white and enchanted landscape… We could not but be thrilled: nothing says Christmas more than the snow! And Christmas in Moscow is taken very seriously: a whole month of celebrations, from December 14th to January 13th, 2019, where you can find scattered throughout the city stalls selling souvenirs and unique art objects, home decorations, but also traditional foods and drinks of no less than 16 Russian republics and 42 regions! The streets of the city become a sort of open-air stage: shows, concerts and many activities make this festival one of the largest in the world on the theme of Christmas and the largest in Europe!
The day began with a walk in one of the oldest streets of the city, Tverskaya, in the direction of the Red Square: already here there was a strong Christmas atmosphere, with many bright decorations that I would have discovered later in the day , they make their best with the dark. We then reached the TSUM Department Stores, the largest luxury mall in all of Russia, where we stopped to admire its boutiques (and also to warm up a little: the indoor places are super heated)! Below there are some pictures of the beautiful settings!
We had lunch in the restaurant on the TSUM rooftop, along with the whole Moscow Seasons crew, aka the city tourism board that helped me organize this trip. This was the first time that we tried the typical Russian cuisine: I tasted my first bliny, or that sort of crepes accompanied by smoked salmon or salmon roe and caviar (in Russia they love caviar and use it to garnish many dishes)! Look at that magnificent table!
Then an herbal tea with ginger, lemon and honey (which here in Moscow goes for the most), with biscuits along with the Mayor, who wanted us to know what was our first impression on the city and if we had suggestions to improve some aspects of it. It was a unique experience, as well as a great honor for us to meet the Mayor in person and ask him some questions about what was most interesting to us about his work and the organization of the big party that would take place the next night on the occasion of the New Years’ Eve.
At a certain point the characters of “Alice in Wonderland” showed up: can you believe how much I had to fight a small two-year-old rival to have a picture with the Cheshire Cat?!
As I anticipated above, the most magical moment to walk in the more than 73 thousand square meters of Red Square is certainly after sunset, when they turn on lights, colors and Christmas decorations that, in the darkness, look completely different. And, if possible, even more magical.
From every possible angle we could see the Saint Basil Cathedral with its bright and vivid colors, which the snow made stand out even more compared to the surrounding landscape. Like a fairytale, isn’t it?
For dinner we had reserved a table at the Turandot restaurant. We had chosen it because it is housed in one of the historic buildings in Moscow, renovated with particular attention to the original details. It offers Asian cuisine (and not typically Russian as you might expect) and live music shows that help to recreate the opera atmosphere. I recommend you book one of the tables located right in the central rotunda, to admire the ceiling decorated with stucco and a Louis XIV style chandelier embellished with rock crystals and pendants in quartz and amethyst… Really spectacular!
It was December 31st: the first thing we decided to visit the inside of the GUM Department Stores, also located on Red Square. They are the department stores of the Soviet era, now converted into a temple of luxury shopping (but not only). The gallery that hosts them is very reminiscent of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan and the Parisian galleries: the architect who designed the structure back in 1890 was in fact inspired by these styles!
For lunch we stopped in a restaurant with local cuisine called Matrioshka, obviously entirely covered with these beautiful Russian dolls!
One of my favorite moments of the whole trip was definitely the New Year’s Eve. The photos do not do justice to the atmosphere of the evening, so I suggest you, if you have not yet seen them, to watch the videos I put in my Moscow highlights on my Instagram profile (@lauracomolli). In order to prepare the festival, the city center has been closed since the day before, when works related to the set-up began, and was opened to the public starting at 6 pm on December 31st. Several stages have been set up along Tverskaya street, the main street of the city, each with different performances. Elves walking suspended on wires that connected the roofs of buildings, the parade of Santa Claus and other typical Russian costumes including giant aries that hugged the crowd. A concert of classical music… I think it was the most beautiful New Year’s party I’ve ever been to: it seemed to be in a movie, in particular in some moments I felt in some scenes of Mary Poppins!
Speaking about Disney, during the evening we met them.
They are two of the luna park guards, wearing their uniform. They reminded me of two Disney characters: Tweedledum e Tweedledee! They’re identical, aren’t they?
Manu and I were so fascinated by the atmosphere of streets of the city, to be decided, despite the cold, to stay around and make an alternative New Year’s Eve dinner outdoors to not miss a single instant of the show that Moscow had to offer. The luna park and the Christmas markets offered a huge selection of street food for all tastes. To warm up, the opportunity to practice a lot of winter sports: there was an ice skating rink, one dedicated to hockey, a snowboarding slope or a toboggan run and even a small chairlift!
Just before the clock struck midnight, we climbed to the top of the snow park with a special pass: we were only 10 people up there, to admire from a privileged position the fireworks!
As you can imagine, the next morning I woke up with a terrible cold (there were more than ten degrees below zero), which forced me to stay warm all day and relax a bit in the hotel. I went out later in the afternoon for a walk and to have dinner in another beautiful restaurant called Pushkin: I have to admit that I chose it because the façade of the building, fully lit, caught my attention!
To end the evening I decided to challenge the cold by going ice skating!
On our last day we did a tour that I recommend a lot: the Moscow Metro tour, which is beautiful, as well as being one of the first, largest and most crowded in the world. Some of its stations are real underground museums, with works of art that are absolutely worth visiting: it does not seem at all to be hundreds of meters below the surface. Here is our itinerary!
We first visited the Komsomolskaya stop. It is called this because it is dedicated to the Komsomol (Union of Youth Communist), the young workers who contributed to its realization… Look at the ceilings!
Second stop: Prospekt Mira, which offers bas-reliefs depicting Soviet agriculture. People planting trees, picking fruit and living life in harmony with nature.
Third stop: Novoslobodskaya and its 32 wonderful stained glass windows in Art Nouveau style that show the intellectual professions (including architects, geographers, agronomists, engineers, artists and musicians).
Fourth and last: Mayakovskaya. This station was awarded at the 1939 New York EXPO: in Art Deco style, on the ceiling there are mosaics inspired by the theme “Soviet Skies in the 24 hours”.
On our last evening in Moscow we moved to a neighborhood that we had not yet visited, Presnensky, to go to dinner at the Ruski restaurant. It is located on the 84th floor of the Eye Tower, 354 meters high (which makes it the tallest in Europe), and the view from up there was really lovely. The food was delicious too: there is an open kitchen with a traditional Russian oven where I saw the chef baking the Russian hot pocket!
Before ending this blog post I would like to give some practical advice to those who are planning to organize a trip to Moscow. This tips works for my Italian reader only. To enter you need a tourist visa: getting it is not difficult but it will take some time and, above all, you will need to send your passport for a few days to the Embassy. First you need to book the hotel and request a letter of invitation to visit the country. Then you have to fill in the visa application on the official website visa.kdmid.ru, print it and go directly to the Russian Embassy (in Italy it is in Milan or Rome), or in one of the agencies specialized in consular visas for Russia. I chose this second option and I did everything with an agency called Box Office located in Turin. Among the documents to be presented, in addition to the letter of invitation and the visa application, there is also a passport, a photo card and a copy of the health insurance policy. We have obtained the visa in about ten days at a cost of € 200 each, but you can also do the standard procedure (which takes about 4 weeks) at a cost of € 80 per person.
Finally a last mention at temperatures and how to dress to survive the Russian winter. Although the temperatures in December and January are very cold, ranging from -5 °C up to -25 °C (thankfully not while we were there), this is one of the best moments of the year and you must not let ourselves be discouraged from the cold. I survived at -10 °C, which I found on average during my stay, thanks to layers of thermal and wool clothing. Never forget gloves, a hat and a pair of extra socks. I had also bought a packet of warmers for hands and feet (about 2 per person for each day of stay) for an extra dose of heat, but in fact it was enough for me to take a hot takeaway tea or a mulled wine and one of the typical cockerel loolipops (honey flavored) to feel immediately better!
Thank you Moscow Seasons, the mayor and the sweet Victoria for allowing me to realize my dream of visiting Moscow at Christmas and New Year’s Eve and for making this trip absolutely unforgettable!
Happy Friday and see you soon with new posts!