In a recent blog, I talked about the regalia of riches to be found in Moscow’s iconic Red Square, from the unmistakably grand city focal point of St Basil’s Cathedral to the treasures of the Kremlin’s Armoury. And yet, move beyond Red Square’s perimeter and you’ll find a wealth of wonders to fascinate and inspire. Here’s just a few of the most notable.
Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts
Moscow’s equivalent of St Petersburg’s Hermitage, the Puskhin State Museum of Fine Arts originally opened in 1912 with the aim of serving as an educational facility. A century on, the museum plays host to a plethora of foreign artworks by the great and the good including Renaissance masterpieces by Rembrandt, Botticelli, Tiepolo and Veronese, 20th-century paintings by Gauguin, Cézanne and Picasso, and artefacts dating back to Egyptian, Roman and Greek times.
If the Pushkin is devoted to international works of art, then the Tretyakov lays claim to the world’s greatest collection of Russian art spanning the 11th to the 20th centuries. Housed in an intricate boyar castle, the gallery was founded in 1856 by a prominent and influential collector, Pavel Tretyakov, and was gifted to the city in 1892. Today, the collection contains a stunning wealth of Russian art ranging from exquisite and delicate 12th-century icons to selected works from each of the Russian masters, including paintings by Nikolai Ge, Vasily Polenov, Vasily Perov, Viktor Vasnetsov, Ilya Repin and Ivan Shishkin.
Literally translated as ‘big’, the Bolshoi is Moscow’s largest and oldest theatre and home to two of the world’s most renowned resident opera and ballet troupes. Formerly known as the Great Imperial Theatre, the Bolshoi was rebuilt after fire ripped through it in 1854 and was the setting for many of Lenin’s public speeches. As well as being awed by the performances (book well in advance!), you’ll be dazzled by the sumptuous interior design which boasts crystal chandeliers, gold-leaf trim, soaring balconies and intricate tapestries.
Also known as the Novodevichy Monastery, this distinctive and iconic 16th-century edifice plays a major role in Russian history for, having deposed his half-sister, Sophia, it was where Peter the Great imprisoned her and executed her supporters. Originally founded in 1524 in celebration of the acquisition of Smolensk from Lithuania, Novodevichy still retains its marvellous architectural grandeur with its majestic onion-shaped domes of the Smolensky Cathedral and its soaring bell tower, said to be the finest in Moscow. In its cemetery, you’ll find the graves of Chekhov, Khrushchev and Yeltsin.
Built in the late 13th century by the first Prince of Moscow as an outer city defence, the Danilovsky Monastery sits aside the Moskva River and is a classically beautiful white building resonating with an air of quiet serenity. Today the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church and the official residence of the Patriarch of Russia, Danilov was the last monastery to be closed under the Soviets, later to be reopened by Gorbachev in 1983.
Of course we’ve simply scratched the surface, there’s plenty more of Moscow’s gems to discover on a city break to this most fascinating city.