1. Pay your respects at the Lenin mausoleum
Among Moscow’s more bizarre attractions, this granite-and-marble mausoleum in the Red Square (below) offers visitors the chance to come face-to-face (well, almost) with the most famous ‘modern mummy’ in the world. There, sealed in a glass sarcophagus, lies the embalmed body of Russian dictator Vladimir Lenin. Frozen in time, Lenin’s body has been on display here since his death in 1924, and today it is one of the city’s most-visited free attractions. Visitors have five minutes to view Lenin, dressed in his perfectly ironed suit – Lenin receives a new suit every three years. Just remember to keep quiet – talking while inside the tomb is forbidden.
2. Join the Moscow Free Tour
First time visiting the white stone city? Get your bearings by joining a free walking tour of Moscow’s major sights. The two-hour tours, which take place every day at 10.45am, are led by knowledgeable local guides and take you through the centre of Moscow. You’ll visit Red Square and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin and GUM department store, the Bolshoi Theatre (below) and watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – as well as a few places off the beaten track. En route, you’ll hear stories about the history of each landmark. The tours are in English, so no worries if your Russian is a little rusty.
3. Stroll Alexander Garden
While it will set you back several hundred roubles to visit the Kremlin fort, you can enjoy uninterrupted views of its soaring towers from Alexander Garden just next door, without taking your wallet out of your pocket. The park is made up of three separate gardens, which stretch along the length of the Kremlin’s western wall. There are lots to see besides the fort too, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – a war memorial with an eternal flame, where a changing of the guard ceremony takes place every hours, a faux ruined grotto, and rows of beautifully planted flower beds which change colour throughout the seasons.
4. Attend a free concert at Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory
The Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory is one of the most prestigious music universities in Russia. But you don’t have to be a student to step foot inside its grand music halls. Throughout the year, the conservatory hosts several hundred concerts – from symphony and choral concerts to organ and chamber concerts – where the public are invited to experience not only world class music, but also the grandeur of the halls. The Grand Hall is the most magnificent, with its lofty panelled ceiling and walls adorned with giant oval-shaped portraits of the world’s greatest composers. Many concerts are free – check out the online calendar for listings of upcoming performances.
5. Explore the sprawling grounds of the Kolomenskoye estate
This ancient royal estate (below), which overlooks the Moscow River, is the site of the oldest inhabited settlement in Moscow, some dating back to the Stone Age. While there is an admission fee to enter the estate museum, it is free to wander the grounds. Look out for the 16th-century Church of the Ascension – this is the UNESCO-listed jewel of Kolomenskoye and one of the first tent-roof stone churches in Old Russia. The grounds also boast an elegant pavilion guarded by two stone lionesses, a charming beekeepers’ cottage and lots of lovely greenery, including a lime grove and ancient oaks (among the oldest oaks in Moscow).
6. Step inside the Gorky’s House museum
This marvellously preserved art nouveau mansion (Malaya Nikitskaya ul 6/2) was designed by one of Russia’s most famous architects – Fyodor Schechtel – and presented as a gift to author Maxim Gorky in 1931. Also known as the Ryabushinsky Mansion, the interior is reason enough to visit, with its beautiful stained glass windows, ceiling murals and twisting marble staircase that looks like a giant wave. The house is filled with Gorky’s personal items, including his collection of Japanese china and extensive library.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.