Did you know? Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood isn’t an usual church (despite its name) but rather a memorial! Do you struggle identifying Church on the Savior on Blood and Saint Basil’s Cathedral? Well, no worries, in fact the architecture of the first mentioned was inspired by the lattest, which explains why they resemble each other so much. You’ll get more comfortable with it by reading about both of them.
The Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood cathedral has been built in 1907 following the orders of Tsar Alexander III. However, it has been erected as a memorial and mourning place following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, the Liberator, on March 1st 1881.
In fact, and even if weekly requiem and sermons are given to remember Alexander II, Christ the Savior on the Spilled blood became a cathedral only in 1923. It has been closed about nine years later on the orders of the Soviet leadership to become a garbage dump. Nowadays Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood is an annex of St Isaac’s museum due to its stunning mosaics. That’s why if many believes that this world-known building is one of the most important church of St-Petersburg, it rather is, due to its history and architectural style, a memorial symbolising the Russian dilemma between liberalism and conservatism. And of course, it demonstrates (if needed) the Russian savoir-faire when it comes to architecture and religious art.
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Tourists, tourists and again tourists… tourists are everywhere! Taking pictures of the same buildings and bringing home the same “so original” souvenirs. But you’re not like them. No, you’re a true explorer. Someone that wants to do what locals do, and bring home truly unusual objects and memories. You’re not a redneck and neither are we, so follow this top and experience another Russia!
Take Height at 354 ‒ Restaurants & Observation Deck
You were considering in taking a “Russian tea” at Caffé Pouchkine ? Seriously ? Well, first, Russian tea doesn’t exist. Second, Caffé Pouchkine is amazing but kind of Moscow’s must-do. Instead go take a cocktail at Ruski at the 85th floor of OKO Tower. More than diving into contemporary Russia by exploring Moskva-City, you’ll jump into the highest restaurant in Europe and in the very heart of Moscow’s “hypeness”. Take height and enjoy some fresh air, by letting your kids in the children’s room and entering the highest ice bar in the world! With its set of restaurants and bars, the terrace in summer and the highest skating rink of Europe in winter, the 354 will offer you an unusual and magnificent view!
But maybe, you’ll prefer to stay down-to-earth and visit Moscow by night in a soviet military van (called UAZ) or even enroll for a pub-crawl!
Mystic Moscow & Russian Superstitions
You may know that if you whistle inside a house in Russia, it’ll bring misfortune to that household… As every city, and because it’s the former Soviet Capital, Moscow has many legends, stories, tales and dark secrets to deliver. Diving into these will require bravery, strength and abnegation (act of renouncing) in order to explore the dark secrets and stories of Moscow and its famous people. It probably also requires a good guide whether by enjoying a walk, or using transport. But be careful, in the end you’ll never know which are tales and which are true stories…
The Dark Secrets of Lubyanka
Remember when your parents threatened to put you in the cellar without light if you didn’t calm down? (or is it just mine?) Well, explore Lubyanka around former KGB headquarters and you’ll regret your cellar. For those who don’t know, Lubyanka has been the black heart of the Soviet secret intelligence, enforcing “security” inside and outside USSR. For this one, bring your own kinds. Stories of torture, prison and disappearance will give you a real and efficient leverage on these monsters. And well, except you already know all these dark secrets, you’ll need a guide!
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Children are nice and cute when they’re not yours (some people say), but they can be real monsters (when not a mortal plague to be honest). As we don’t want to ostracize parents, and help you in raising smart kids, here is a top of things to do in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. Go for these and you’ll enjoy good quality time with your children away from the cold and the overcrowded antic museums!
Moskvarium ‒ The Largest Oceanarium in Moscow
This one will entertain you and your kids at least for a day, away from the cold, and keep them smart. The Moskvarium aims at presenting Russian aquatic inhabitants but also species from all over the world. This oceanarium, located in VDNKh in Moscow, is a living encyclopedia of the underwater world which was thought both for children and grown-ups with shows of killer whales, dolphins belugas and walruses. Perfect to entertain your children and let them know more about marine animals… and don’t tell them but you can also swim with dolphins!
Ice-Skating at VDNKh (Moscow)
One of the top Russian activities, ice-skating is a traditional, children-friendly and fairly cheap outdoor activity. You’ll surely be ashamed when you’ll realise that even a 4yo kiddo is ice-skating better than you, but don’t let it stop you from expressing your very personal style. In winter there are many ice-skating rinks inside Moscow but the best (and biggest) one is definitely the ice-skating rink of VDNKh! You can alsoskate at the 354 (divine) but it’s a bit less children-friendly.
Izmaylovo Kremlin & Market (Moscow)
Izmaylovo Kremlin is something between Wonderland and a Russian Disneyland. This colorful wooden kremlin is a good way to spend a half-day with your children, you may also want to have a walk in the Izmaylovo forest just nearby. In Izmaylovo Market, you’ll be protected from the wind while discovering the Russian craft & antiques (and also many mainstream souvenirs). Kids are always hungry, and always when it’s not time to eat, but this is not a problem as you’ll find delicious shashliks (meat skewers) and many different Russian meals. Though Izmaylovo Market entrance is free, you’ll face much temptation to treat yourself and your family!
NB: don’t hesitate to negotiate prices, this is part of the game and an interesting experience for your children!
Tickets for the Bolshoi are expensive and kids can’t cope with opera, ballet or theater for more than 5 minutes (if so, how the hell did you manage to do that?). If you still want to enter this world-known cultural house but can’t handle the embarrassment that would cause your own blood, you have another option! Indeed, it’s possible to visit the Bolshoi backstages and historic scene with a guide. Lucky you! Cherry on the cake you may have the chance to watch some rehearsals.
Cruises in the Venice of the North and on the Moskva River (Saint-Petersburg & Moscow)
Children have small legs, energy when they should be sleeping, and interest for things they can’t have. Based on that, visiting the city center of a Russian city can become “Mission: Impossible”. Hopefully, there is another way. A way that would blow your kids’ mind and offer you some peace and time to discover Russia. This secret transmitted generations after generations is called cruises. While cruises in Saint-Petersburg’s are very famous for the canals and the Neva River (that’s one of the reasons why it’s also called the Venice of the North), cruises in Moscoware famous for the Moskva River from where you can admire the most beautiful places in the city!
Submarine Museum (Moscow & Saint-Petersburg)
In the same way, children can’t cope with museums. Seriously, why? We all try to improve their knowledge and prepare them for the future, but no, they simply don’t care. Anyway, be ready to appear as a super-parent. Bring them to the Submarine Museum in Moscowand they will be amazed, feeling like a real sailor under the USSR. On the plus side they, and you, will learn a lot on the Russian Navy, submarines and Soviet times! Are you in Saint-Petersburg? Then, the C-189 Submarine Floating Museum is made for you!
Nikulin Circus (Moscow)
Another Russian tradition, often forgotten, is the circus. Animals, clowns (not the scary American ones), magicians and acrobats are all part of the Russian circus. Of course, children are more than welcomed and everyone will be amazed. But to be sure to enjoy the show, you have to pick the good one, which means Nikulin’s Circus.
The Bunker 42 of Taganka (Moscow)
As for the Submarine Museum, and even if it’s is a real labyrinth, the Bunker 42 of Taganka is a great museum, aka the Cold War Museum. As you’ll stroll down the steps and floors into the depth of the earth, you’ll dive into the Soviet era and learn how the USSR was preparing itself for a nuclear conflict. It’s an exceptional opportunity to observe old objects, movies, documentaries, weapons, bots… that all come from Stalin’s ruling of the Union, and which will please everyone!
Babayevsky Chocolate Factory (Moscow)
No matter if your child is an Augustus, Violet, Veruca, Mike or a Charlie, you can go and discover the Babayevsky Chocolate Factory, it’s gonna be safer than in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the most important: tastier. Clearly, kids will be amazed by all the tasty konfety or konfetki produced over there, everyone will love these lil chocolate candies, and also learn about the chocolate-making process. And best of all, you can try Babayevsky konfety at any time during your visit which means your kids will stay calm and you probably won’t have to struggle finding a meal to please them for dinner.
Sokolniki Park: Sledding Race and Ice-Sculpting (Moscow)
Once a year, always on the Defender of the Fatherland Day, i.e. 23rd February, Moscow organizes a sledding race in Sokolniki Park. But this isn’t just a race. Indeed, what matters the most is the originality of the sledge and the final fall! Each year a new theme is settled for the greatest pleasure of all. Lucky you, it’s often held at the same time than the ice-sculpting competition. Don’t miss these two events, your kids will love them!