What to do in Moscow in winter season

Russia is one of those mysterious and exotic countries that everyone desires to visit, yet people feel somewhat apprehensive about going there. Like any other country, stereotypes abound. Well, I am going to tell you that there are no walking bears on the streets, the seasons summer and spring actually exist, and no one going to kill you (unless you're a spy). Haha. Russia seemed generally safe while we were there. In big cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg, everything was orderly with plenty of police around. You can be the judge for why that is. They have tons of cameras in every single corner. I had never been in the capital of Russia before (airport transfers flying to/from Kazakhstan don't count). I have only visited the Siberian part of Russia when I was young, since it is so close to the North Kazakhstan border. This trip gave me a better understanding that balanced out the eastern and western parts. Across both places, one theme rang true - winter is truly crazy in Russia. Surprise! Even though we were traveling in March, winter was still in full swing, and the locals smiled when saying we were experiencing the "Real Russia." We got lucky to catch some somewhat warmer days though. We were even sweating in our layered outfits while walking around Red Square. However, the day we went to see Lenin was so cold. We froze waiting in a crazy long line to see a dead guy. LOL.

Anyway, let me share what can you do in Russian during the winter season. Since we were able to visit only Moscow and Saint Petersburg. I would happy to give you a few tips before you travel there.

Things to do in Moscow:

1. Red Square/ Kremlin. This goes without question. Red Square is really something else. I never seen anything like that in my life. Located in the heart of Moscow, it is surrounded by a fortified complex - the Kremlin (the former royal citadel), which is home for the Russian president. The Kremlin includes 5 palaces and 4 cathedrals. We were able to visit all 4 cathedrals inside of the Kremlin. The ticket price was 700 Russian Ruble (a little over $11) per person. Btw, you should definitely visit Red Square at night, because it has a totally different look and vibe. This place is truly iconic and captures the soul of the Russia people.

2. Lenin's Mausoleum. Of course, as a curious tourist, we decided to see Lenin's tomb. Vladimir Lenin's body has been on display since his death. In case you don't know about him, he was a Russian communist revolutionary, who was one of the key leaders who gave rise to the Soviet Union. To see his body for 10 seconds costs nothing, except your time. We spent about 1 hour standing in line during freezing weather conditions. I felt really bad for people with kids and even the security guides.

3. GUM is a main department store in Moscow, built between 1890 and 1893. I found it to be a really unique and cool place to hang out and escape from the cold. Besides fancy shops, we got to eat at one of its restaurants and even try traditional ice cream. It was weird how many people were eating ice cream despite the snow outside.

4. Saint Basil Church or the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed. The entrance cost us 500 Russian Rubles (about $8) per person. And it is totally worth a visit! Besides its beautiful architecture outside and inside, there was a group of vocalists inside performing ancient hymns that gave listeners goosebumps.

5. Tretyakov Gallery. If you love art and want to know more about Russian artists, you definitely have to visit it. We tried to get there in the afternoon, and after seeing an extremely long line, decided to return the next morning. We were so glad everything worked out. In the morning, there was no line, and I was so elated to see famous art by the likes of Aivazovsky, Shishkin, Perov, Pukarev etc.  This kind of collection isn't found anywhere else in the world.

6. Old (and New) Arbat Street. Want to try some Russian fast food or just to enjoy some street music? Old or New Arbat is a great place to hang out. The streets are very close and have different offerings. The art, music, cafes, and young people make this district come alive. We stopped for quick lunch at one a Russian Fast Food joint and tried their food. Not bad at all when considering the cost of eating in a sit-down restaurant. Afterwards, we went to the Sweet Museum.

 "Teremok" Fast Food Chain on New Arbat
 Sweet Museum 

7. Bunker 42 Museum is a museum of the Cold War that was once a secret military complex at a depth of 213ft below ground or 18 floors down. It was quite interesting to visit and learn what the Russian military was preparing for. You can see some retro military clothes, technology and papers. You can also see Stalin's personal bunker. Tours in English or Russian are available (check their website for prices and tour packages). Make sure you have a reservation! The museum is not welcoming to those who try to jump on a tour without making arrangements beforehand.

8. Izmailovo Kreml is a cultural park where you can find a lot of cool souvenirs, vintage items, maps, clothes, and even real fur carpets, hats or jackets. There are also plenty of small museums that we actually skipped, but we had a lunch at one of the restaurants where we tried delicious meat dishes. This place is a gem and a fun half-day trip.

9. Ride the metro and take your time to walk around. Enjoy the communist art and magnificently decorated stations. The most impressive metro stations we saw were Revolution Square, Arbatskaya, Kievskaya, Belorusskaya, Mira Prospect, Smolenskaya, Mayakovskaya etc. The metro stations make a tour of them an excursion all in itself!

Where to Eat:

1. "Turandot" is probably one of my favorite restaurants that we visited in Moscow. It was delicious, the atmosphere is amazing, and our waiter was super sweet by offering a tour around the restaurant to see all of the other rooms. I highly recommend to eat there, to enjoy live music, and just soak up the incredible architecture. It is not budget friendly though. Be prepared to pay $$$ like a Russian mafia boss.

2. "Pushkin cafe" is a perfect place to get a nice breakfast or brunch, and just enjoy excellent service.
It is a bit pricier than other places, but definitely worth it. I actually wanted to see their library, but when
we got there, it was still closed. I guess I'll have to return one day.

3.  Ketch Up. If you would like to try some delicious burgers in Moscow, this place is really nice.
The interior is delightful, and most importantly, they also have a solid selection of tasty burgers.
I really like their healthier option, the "Fit Burger". It is kind of hard to judge which burger place was
the best, because Moscow has plenty of these restaurants, but this place was advised by my blogger friend.

4. White Rabbit. I picked this place because of their view. I truly liked the menu and food, but the
service was pretty lame. It is a bit expensive, yet still doesn't come close to Turnadot prices.

P.S. Pictures were edited with my Lightroom Presets that you can shop here.