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Where to Go in Russia

Moscow Kremlin and the Red Square
Fireworks over the Moscow Kremlin and the Moscow river. Moscow, Russia.

The Moscow Kremlin, or simply the Kremlin, is the oldest structure in Moscow, and it is viewed as one of the greatest architectural feats in the world.

It has been conferred the World Heritage Site status by UNESCO for its historic and cultural value to Russia.

The Kremlin consists of four cathedrals and four palaces, all enclosed within its walls and guarded by towers.

And right beside it is the Red Square, the best-known city square in Moscow.

Surrounding the Red Square are several tourist attractions, such as St. Basil’s Cathedral and the huge Russian GUM department store, where you’ll find the best collection of the most fashionable shops in Russia. Indeed, once you get to the Red Square, you can go in any direction and you’ll definitely find something interesting to see.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Red Square with Vasilevsky descent in Moscow
View of the Red Square with Vasilevsky descent in Moscow, Russia

Saint Basil’s Cathedral towers over the Red Square, eliciting a sense of festivity with its whimsical colors and unique architecture. There have been numerous debates as to why the cathedral was made as such, with theories ranging from homage to Jerusalem churches to representation of the eight-pointed star.

Would you have guessed that this cathedral’s official name is “The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat”? Its popular name St. Basil’s refers to Basil the Blessed, a Muscovite considered a “holy fool,” who was buried on that site before the cathedral was built.

Currently, St. Basil’s is a museum. When the cathedral was being restored during the 1970s, workers discovered a spiral staircase within the cathedral’s walls. That staircase leads to the previously forgotten central church, which boasts of an amazing tented roof and tantalizing iconostasis from the 16th century – a wall of religious paintings and icons. Tourists can catch a glimpse of this gallery along with the patterned paintwork that designs the cathedral’s hallways.

Those wishing to hear mass at St. Basil’s must plan their visit. There is only one service at the cathedral yearly. It is held in October on the Day of Intercession.

Mamayev Kurgan
World War II Memorial in Volgograd Russia

The Mamayev Kurgan commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad. Also known as The Motherland Calls, this memorial complex holds the remains of Vasily Chuikov, one of the lieutenant generals responsible for the Soviet Union’s victory in the encounter.

The Battle of Stalingrad, which lasted from August 1942 until February 1943, snuffed out Hitler’s ambitions of total European conquest. This hill was the site of a very intense battle between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which happens to be one of the most famous battles in history.

Both forces aimed for control of the hill in Stalingrad, now known as Volgograd, because of its strategic location over the city. Mamayev Kurgan rose 102 feet above sea level, providing a clear vantage point of the city, the nearby Volga River, and the area beyond it. It was said that whoever controlled the hill, controlled the entire city.

The Mamayev Kurgan is the site of one of the most notorious battles in history, and it is a humbling experience to step on where thousands upon thousands of soldiers have fought and died for their country.

The Summer Palace
Samson Fountain of the Grand Cascade near Peterhof Palace, Russia

If you are a fan of Baroque architecture, then the Summer Palace in St. Petersburg is a must-see destination for you. Constructed for Czar Peter the Great, the palace has porcelain ductwork and beautiful ornamental paintings that are a treat for the eyes.

The Summer Palace was built by St. Petersburg’s famous architect Domenico Trezzini sometime between 1710 and 1712. The small palace, consisting of just 14 rooms, was the summer residence of Czar Peter the Great until his death in 1725.

You wouldn’t think that the structure is a royal residence because of its modest exterior. The palace has a very high roof and big windows, allowing a significant amount of light to brighten the interior.

Tourists are allowed to visit the inside of the Summer Palace and see the rooms where Czar Peter the Great and his family once resided in. What you would see is a testament that in a country where everything is large in scale, a quaint palace still holds a sense of importance.

Inside famous GUM department store in Moscow.
GUM Department Store

GUM (pronounced /goom/) stands for “glavnyĭ universalʹnyĭ magazine” or “the main department store.” While there are several GUMs in Russia, the best-known one is the one that faces the eastern side of the famous Red Square.

At first glance, you wouldn’t even suspect that the Moscow GUM is a department store. With its medieval architecture and glass roof, it looks more like a museum.

Although it began as a state-operated department store, it was fully privatized at the end of the Soviet era. Today it holds boutiques, fashionable brand names, and luxury goods.

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