48 Hours in Moscow: Sunshine, Great Beer, and Pétanque
48 Hours in Moscow: Sunshine, Great Beer, and Pétanque
Visiting Russia has got to be on every single traveler's bucket list, after all, it is the largest country on Earth. However, you cannot tackle the entire country in a weekend so we jumped over for 48 hours in Moscow just to get a taste, and boy were we surprised!
As anyone who has read this blog for more than 10 seconds knows, I am extremely American and with this comes some unfortunate stereotypes about the world - one of which is that Russia might not be the friendliest place right? Wrong. 100% wrong. We were so happily surprised by how amazing Russia was from the friendliness of the people to the warm greeting at our hotel, beautiful weather (ok, we might have got lucky here), to delicious food and by far the cleanest city in Europe we have even been in - especially the metro!
Flying from Dubai to Russia for 48 hours in Moscow might sound a bit nuts, but direct and well-timed flights from DXB are easy to come by and we landed bright and early on a Friday morning ready to explore the city!
If you are visiting Moscow for any length of time, do yourself a favor and check out the Radisson Royal hotel, right on the banks of the river in one of the most iconic and stunning buildings in all of Moscow. It is not only one of the most beautiful buildings we have ever stayed in, but the staff extremely friendly and the location could not have been better. The Instagram photos nearly take themselves!
If you've followed Anne and I around on our travels you'll know how much we like to just throw down our bags and get lost on foot, and this could not have been truer in Moscow. After nailing the Super Breakfast at the Radisson Royal and getting our must deserved filling of pork, we headed off down the river in search of some of Moscow's most famous sites.
Now, if you prefer to enjoy Moscow from a seated position, check out the amazing Radisson Flotilla, a beautiful open aired boat which sails down the Moskva River and shows you all of the sites from Gorky Park to the Kremlin and offers amazing food, drinks and live music as well - truly the easiest and most scenic way to take in Moscow!
Being that we had a beautifully crisp and sunny day, we didn't care much about our exact directions and just walked in the direction which felt right, and within 20 minutes we were face to face with the entrance to the Kremlin in the heart of downtown Moscow.
Wanting to take full advantage of the sunny day we had been given we went straight to St. Basil's Cathedral and took every single possible picture combination we could think of. After seeing that the line to get into the Kremlin was horrifically long, we did what any sane person would do when faced with sunshine in a beautiful new city - we looked up the closest rooftop bar!
Just steps from Red Square is the O2 Lounge with a stunningly beautiful and relaxed outdoor terrace with sweeping 360 views all across Moscow. If you have even a bit of sun and it isn't freezing outside, head up to the roof and enjoy a couple cocktails and nibbles!
As the sun doesn't set until nearly 10 pm during the summer months we took off for dinner as the sun was going down to get lost again in the streets of Moscow in search of some fun nightlife and good eats. To say there were more than a few dinner options is an understatement with amazing restaurants of every single type seemingly on every corner you pass.
After all buying matching Russia National Team swag and looking like proper idiots, we opted for a quiet cafe and enjoyed classic Russian dishes and even ordered the horse - which was delicious.
Waking up early the next morning we knew we had to explore Gorky Park, the Central Park of Moscow, while we still had the sun, which turned into quite possibly one of our most favorite travel days of the year. A sprawling and beautiful park filled with families, children, couples, lakes, small boats, birds, food trucks, cafes and endless walking paths, we were happy to simply get lost and we were soon rewarded when we stumbled on Le Boule, the coolest little outdoor pétanque and bar you ever did see.
If you don't know what pétanque is, educate yourself! This laid back French sport of lawn bowling is the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon in Moscow and enjoy your 48 hours in Moscow, complete with delicious cherry and grapefruit beers on tap!
It is one of our greatest joys to show up to a country we have never been to, in a city we've yet to explore and be completely shocked and surprised at the amazing things we find - and a hidden and unexpected garden lounge with delicious beer on tap, friendly people and great music is pretty high up on the amazing list! We could have stayed all day (we did stay for four hours) but we had to tear ourselves away and head off for more adventures.
Again fooled by the late daylight, we continued our stroll through Gorky Park passing many more tempting outdoor cafes, people dancing by the river and endless locals out enjoying such a perfect summer afternoon in Moscow.
Now, if you are only spending 48 hours in Moscow and are looking for an amazing Russian dining experience, more people couldn't have recommended Cafe Pushkin, one of the most iconic restaurants in Moscow. Make a reservation and be ready for a long, relaxed and delicious meal. And if you accidentally end up next door at the French/Asian fusion restaurant with the in house band singing Evanescence, enjoy that too! (that totally didn't happen to us though...)
Changing our hotel from the Radisson Royal to the Radisson Blu Belorusskaya we shifted to a different part of the city where we were able to find a whole new slew of hole in the wall local cafes and stumbled on the Moscow Zoo early one morning as well - where we will always take the time to see the animals no matter what city we are in.
Located steps from a metro station, we started our last morning out by visiting as many of the famous beautiful Moscow metro stations we could. It goes without saying that you need to see as many of the metro stations as possible while in Moscow as they are truly stunning and more beautiful than many countries art galleries. Jump on the metro, go any direction, and pop out at any stop you wish and admire the ornate decorations and art as you wait for the next train.
If you're really keen to learn more, Urban Adventures has an awesome Moscow Underground metro tour which will give you a proper education and take you to all the best stops.
Now, being that Anne and I jump headfirst into being obsessed with the history anywhere we go, (we watched documentaries on aliens for months after visiting the pyramids on our 48 hours in Egypt trip...) we, of course, had to plan a visit inside the Kremlin, explore everything we could there, and then go to the Gulag Museum to learn everything about Russia's communist past as we could as well.
Not an easy topic to learn about, but as an American, I find myself poorly educated on a lot of world history so take the chance to learn everything I can while I can.
To finish off your 48 hours in Moscow, head about 15 minutes outside of the city center to the incredibly fun and funky Izmayovsky Market, which is half tourist market, half garage sale and 100% awesome. You can find everything from your Babushka Russian nesting dolls, to old Societ coins and military uniforms to old
Russia is definitely one of the most fascinating countries in the world and while 48 hours in Moscow wasn't nearly enough to appreciate all of Russia it not only made us want to come back to explore more but changed our perception of the country and overwhelmed us with the amazing food, scenery, cleanliness and warm greeting we received at every turn.
Visiting Russia can seem daunting, believe me I know, especially as most have to get a visa before arrival. But trust us, the process was easy, straightforward and only took about 72 hours and cost $30 - easy enough that we will easily do it again and won't hesitate to plan another trip back to Russia in the near future.
So, are you planning a trip to Russia? Hoping to spend 48 hours in Moscow? Let us know how we can help, what questions you have and how we can make sure you have the most fun and get the most out of an upcoming trip to Russia. Enjoy!