Travel to Moscow – Episode 490

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What to See and Do in Moscow. Travel to Moscow - Amateur Traveler Episode 490


Hear about travel to Moscow as the Amateur Traveler talks to Alex Block of about his home town and Russia’s capital.

Alex says “These days Moscow is changing a lot. Probably for most of your listeners who haven’t heard about it in the last few years, Moscow is known as a very very expensive destination with unfriendly people with lots of problems with traffic. Lots of things changed in the last couple of years here. Also Russia is now going through big economic problems, the Russian ruble is going down so it’s a lot cheaper to come here, to live here, probably twice as cheap as a year ago. So for those who wanted to visit some time, now may be a great time to explore Moscow.”

Moscow has iconic sites like Red Square, The Kremlin, Lenin’s Tomb and St Basil’s Cathedral. It has world renowned culture including the Bolshoi Ballet. It has numerous museums and art galleries.

But Alex also gives us a local’s view. We learn in which department store you should not miss seeing the toilets. We learn how you can get a great view of the city from one of the tallest buildings in Europe… even though it has no observation platform. We learn which holidays are the biggest in Russia like Victory Day and New Year’s Eve. And we learn about a secret cold war bunker that you can now visit as a museum or rent out for parties.

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Show Notes
Red Square
Gum Department Store
The State Tretyakov Gallery
Pushkin Museum (Van Gough)
Lenin’s Mausoleum
Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Victory Day (9 May)
World War II casualties of the Soviet Union
VDNKh (permanent general purpose trade show)
Novodevichy Convent
Moscow Metro
Belorusskaya Metro Station (Zamoskvoretskaya Line)
Bolshoj Theatre
Cold War Museum at the Bunker-42 on Taganka


John (friend of my daughter’s from college at Leihigh) from wrote my daughter Liz:

I was looking for a good travel podcast, and through Google, stumbled onto Amateur Traveller. I really like the way it focused on really specific places and regions. I enjoyed hearing about travel to far flung places, and Katelyn loved hearing different takes on places we’ve been. We’ve become quite obsessed and hardly watch tv any more because we just listen to old episodes of the podcast instead. We were listening just this afternoon to one from 2010 about Pittsburgh, and the guest on the show said something about Bethlehem, and then YOUR DAD said his daughter went to school in Bethlehem, and Katelyn and I both wondered if it might be Lehigh. Then we realized it was from 2010 and that his last name was Christensen, and we had one of those crazy-eyed, looking at each other in slow motion moments. It was crazy. We’d listened to episodes in the past where he talks about taking trips with his daughter and Katelyn would say, “Wouldn’t that be so great to have Chris as your dad?” hahaha … I swear, we’re literally addicted to the show. I’ve been doing my own podcast about movies and stuff, and I’m really into it, and Katelyn wants us to travel to one random place enough times that we become experts on it and I can be a guest on the show haha.

What to See and Do in Moscow. Travel to Moscow - Amateur Traveler Episode 490

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

2 Responses to “Travel to Moscow – Episode 490”

John Belyea



Another fabulous podcast!

Your interview with Alex brought back great memories of our family’s trip to the city in the summer of 2013.

During our five day stay we managed to see most of the city highlights giving us great insight into this historical city. A couple of our observations include:

– you need a whole day to visit the Kremlin. It is a massive complex with several museums (the world’s largest collection of Faberge eggs), five cathedrals and many public spaces. On Saturdays in the summer there is the changing of the ceremonial guard in late morning. One warning – there’s no where to buy food or water inside the Kremlin.
– the GUM department store really isn’t a department store. Rather it is a mall chock full of western stores. Prices are outrageous and there’s nothing you could buy there you can’t buy at home.
– the best place to souvenirs is the huge Izmailovsky open air market. It is a short walk from the Partizanskaya station (Metro Blue Line). Come prepared to haggle!
– Alex didn’t mention any places to grab a meal. Moscow has some great restaurants including Cafe Puskin (a high end restaurant located in an historic Baroque mansion), GlavPivTorg (decorated in a 1950s Soviet style office complex – a lot of fun) and Barashka (a fabulous restaurant specializing in traditional Azerbaijani cuisine)

We found it relatively easy to navigate the city on our own. We relied extensively on the Metro (and it is truly a sight to be seen on its own) though learning the Cyrillic alphabet will help and walking everywhere is the best way to get a true feel of the people and the history. We never felt unsafe though you’ll likely get tired of policemen and security guards blowing whistles at you because you crossed the street in the wrong place, are sitting on the wrong stairs, walked on grass you shouldn’t have and so on. No wonder the people can come across as being dour!

Looking forward to some more great podcasts.

John Belyea
Toronto, Canada



As always another great podcast from the Amateur Traveler, my favorite travel podcast.

I had the opportunity to visit Moscow in the summer of 2005. Our small group visited Moscow for several days before & after traveling to southern Siberia for a whitewater rafting trip on the Katun River. Moscow was our gateway and staging city for traveling to Barnaul Siberia. There are definitely lots of interesting things to see and do in Moscow. Good food and restaurants too.

– the Kremlin museums are nice
– the changing of the guard at Kremlin is impressive
– St Basils and Red Square are amazing
– visiting the Lenin mausoleum and saying hello to Vladimir is one of the most bizarre and surrealistic experiences I have ever had. I do recommend it.

Probably the most memorable overall experience was simply standing in Red Square and taking in the entire surrounding view with beautiful St Basil at one end, the Kremlin and Lenin tomb on one side, and old soviet “department store” (mall) opposite. As a child of the Cold War it was a pinch-me experience.

There are lots of police and security scattered about Red Square. We had been warned to avoid them. As I walked the square, I would zig zag my way to avoid encountering police. Supposedly, a common scam was for them to ask to see your documents (passport), claim there was a problem or discrepancy, and then offer to ignore it if you paid them a bribe. This was in 2005. Not sure if it’s still an issue but I probably wouldn’t give them an opportunity to test their integrity if you can avoid it. I had no problems myself.

I also recommend visiting Lenin’s mausoleum. It was the most bizarre surrealistic experience I have ever had in my travels around the world. You must wait in a long line but it moves rather quickly as the minders don’t really allow you to linger too long. You descend a darkened staircase with a military guard lighted in spotlight at bottom of stairs. You are directed into room where Vladimir himself is displayed in repose in a glass case in all his glory. You actually can get relatively close and the controlled orderly procession has you walk 3/4 around the leader. It is darkly lit with military honor guard in corners of room. No cameras allowed. After exiting, you ascend staircase and your back out in the hubbub of Red Square. It’s an odd experience and perhaps not one for everybody but I found it fascinating and would recommend it.

Unfortunately I missed seeing Chairman Mao in Beijing as we were there on wrong day for viewing. Perhaps someday I can chalk up the communist trifecta by seeing Lenin, Mao, and Kim Jong-il.

The logistics of visiting Russia was probably the most difficult that I have encountered in all my travels. I have traveled to all 7 continents and visited some rather obscure places and countries. And yet I found the logistics of visa, travel reservations, permits, and bookings for Russia to be most difficult of any place I have traveled. (It rivals if not surpasses traveling to Tibet.) And this was with my rafting company taking care of most things. I couldn’t imagine taking care of everything completely on my own. I must condition this comment with the fact that my trip to Moscow and Russia was in 2005. So I’m not sure if the logistics of traveling there is still as difficult. It probably is easier now.

Moscow is one of the great historic cities of the world. I highly recommend it. You can easily spend 3-4 days there. It would probably be best to combine it with visiting other cities or destinations and not just a as a single destination.

Thanks for your continued podcasting work. I always look forward to the next episode.

Randy, Annapolis MD

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