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Backpacking in Moscow
October 1, 2008 18:39

In the last ten years, Moscow has undergone something of a transformation. Once notorious for its gangsters and economic woes, the city is now a buzzing modern metropolis with the culture, restaurants and nightlife of a major international city.

Moscow is now a blend of its elegant imperial architecture, communist past and vibrant new clubs, making it an extraordinary city for young or student travelers to explore.


For student and youth travelers, theres certainly no shortage of great accommodation. Hostels in Moscow provide both cheap beds and a sociable vibe with their shared facilities, creating a great base for seeing the sights.

From solo backpackers to organized trips in group accommodation, the hostels also help visitors to Russia validate and register their visas, as required by immigration.


In a city packed with recognizable landmarks, the Kremlin is still Moscows most famous monument. The word kremlin actually just means citadel but has come to be associated with Moscows historic (and current) seat of government. Now home to the Grand Kremlin Palace and Armory Museum (known for its Faberge Eggs), its become as significant for travelers as politicians.

The Kremlin is located on Red Square (krasnaya ploschad), which is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Across the square lies St. Basil's Cathedral, an impressive example of Russias characteristic fusion of European and Asian influences.

Lenin's Mausoleum is also situated nearby, along with the world-class Tretyakov Gallery and celebrated Bolshoi Theatre, making this part of the city a must on every travelers itinerary in Moscow.

However, there are of course many more interesting sights across the city, such as the Park of Sculptures. After communism collapsed in Russia, this became the home of unwanted statues and relics from this era so that the park is basically a graveyard of Moscows Soviet past, with the eerie atmosphere to match.

The lesser known Novodevichy Monastery and cemetery are also worthy of a visit and, thanks to the cheap and efficient metro, as easily reached from anywhere on the Moscow hostels map as the sights near the Kremlin.

Built in 1524, the monasterys beautiful architecture includes the superb bell tower and Smolensk Cathedral which is adorned with frescoes. Whats more, the peace at the monastery creates a haven from the bustle of the city and its visitors.

The adjoining cemetery is equally intriguing and holds some of the countrys most notable graves from former Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev to playwright Anton Chekhov and the composer Dmitry Shostakovich.

Eating Out

Now home to the majority of Russias billionaires, Moscow is no longer exceptionally cheap but it is still affordable when it comes to eating and drinking. There are plenty of restaurants with serve traditional Russian cuisine too, with the chains Mu-Mu Café and Elki Palki offering some of the best value for budget travelers.

Self-service Mu-Mu Café has six venues around the city that are frequented by students and families for their cheap prices and Elki Palki, with its kitsch décor and Russian pop music, is similarly popular with locals.

Moscow is also a great city to sample unusual specialties from neighboring countries such as Mongolia, Georgia and Uzbekistan. Cheap and tasty Shesh-Besh is again a chain available around the city with an old-fashioned atmosphere and Azerbaijani dishes.


Moscow has a massive resident population of over 12 million, with a varied and exciting nightlife scene to match. Theres enough entertainment to keep every visitor to the city entertained, from huge dance clubs and intimate jazz bars to concerts, casinos and bowling alleys.

Theres one unusual thing about Moscows nightlife, however each venue is seldom just a bar or club, its usually a restaurant and more at the same time. Whilst this means Moscow is not the best city for bar hopping, it is rather convenient and certainly saves on pricey taxis and exposure to the winter cold!

Overall, though, its a rare visitor to Moscow who isnt charmed by the eclectic nightlife and the fun-loving crowds.

Alice Woolliams


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