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5 Things to Do on Your Days Off in Moscow
Moscow is such a gigantic, intimidating city at times that getting out and exploring can feel like a daunting task. Add that to the fact that there’s a bounty of amazing places to visit right in the city center, like Red Square, GUM, the Sculpture Park, Gorky Museum, and the Tretyakov Gallery, that going further afield doesn’t seem as appealing. For those willing to navigate the bus and train systems, though, there are amazing places to spend weekends and holidays. Here are five accessible favorites:
Kolomenskoye (1/2 day)
A former royal estate, Kolomenskoye is a short trip south of the city center on the green metro line. It’s a wonderful place to visit any season of the year, and is particularly enchanting when covered with snow. Although the best thing to do while visiting is to walk around the grounds and experience the clean air and peaceful atmosphere, there is also a Museum of Wooden Architecture to visit and some souvenir shopping to do if you are so inclined. Arguably, the most beautiful building is the Church of the Ascension of the Lord, which dates back to the mid-1500s and was built to commemorate the birth of Ivan the Terrible.
Sergiev Posad (1 day)
If you want to see a traditional monastery, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiev Posad is a quintessential example and considered to be the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church. Part of the “Golden Ring” of monastic sites around Moscow, Sergiev Posad is an easy day trip by train from the Yaroslavsky train station. It’s a worthwhile journey to see the beautiful architecture and learn about the rich history of the site. The monastery was first built in the 14th century and has been the focal point of several major events since. While in town, there are also opportunities to taste some traditional drinks like medovukha and kvas.
Suzdal (2 days)
Also part of the Golden Ring, Suzdal is one of the oldest towns in Russia and dates back to the 11th century. It is home to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the Saviour Monastery of St. Euthymius. Furthermore, the town is federally protected, so there has been minimal development to the picturesque, rural cottages and fields over the past century. It is easy to find a quaint bed and breakfast to relax in while you escape the noise and pollution of Moscow. There is great food at the local restaurants and amazing souvenir shopping. Unfortunately, there are no trains to Suzdal from Moscow, but there is a daily bus from Shelkovskaya station.
Petersburg (3 days)
Considered a kinder and more livable city than Moscow by most, St. Petersburg is a must-visit. You can take the overnight train from Moscow – the Red Arrow being the most famous – and experience a sleeping car. You’ll wake up refreshed and ready to explore the sites, like the world-renowned Hermitage museum and the stunningly beautiful Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood. If you’ve got more than a couple days it’s also worth heading over to Peterhof, Russia’s answer to Versailles. Additionally, St. Petersburg has White Nights in June and early July, and that is the ideal time to go if you can manage. The sun never fully sets and there are festivals and celebrations to take part in.
Tallinn, Estonia (4 days)
Tallinn is a 14-hour train ride from Moscow, just a bit further than St. Petersburg. The city seems frozen in another time, with medieval fortresses and gorgeous cathedrals densely packing the UNESCO-recognized Old Town. It’s easy to pass a few days strolling the cobbled streets and learning about the city’s rich history. There are also many music festivals in Tallinn throughout the year, and there are tons of charming pubs and beer halls where you can try the local spirits. If you have more than a long weekend, there are amazing national parks nearby and other, smaller Baltic villages to explore. You could also make your way to Riga, Latvia, which is the largest Baltic city and a bit more modern than Tallinn.
All photos by Erica Lederman
Erica Lederman is an ESL teacher and teacher trainer who has had classroom experience on four continents in addition to online tutoring. She is currently focused on teaching academic English to university students in Chicago and also running intensive CELTA courses with Teaching House as a freelancer.
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