On the international stage, Moscow serves as the indisputable symbol of Russia’s political and historical strength. And as it should: over the course of its near millennium-long role as the country’s capital, Moscow has made its mark not only on the development of the former Soviet Union and current Russian state, but on the world as a whole. Today, the influence of its current world status and the remnants of its at once austere and opulent past are on full display, brought to life through mind-boggling 15th century cathedrals, monuments to victorious battles and fallen heroes, and splendid museums full of priceless Imperial treasures.
At Moscow’s core are the country’s most recognizable icons—the Kremlin and Red Square—the geographical and spiritual heart of Russia. Loaded with insurmountable symbolism and history, these architectural marvels are recognized by UNESCO and play host to some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Lining the Red Square’s massive 45-square-mile frame are the GUM shopping arcade, Kazan Cathedral, State Historical Museum, and the Kremlin wall, which occupies the entire western perimeter. Those who have the opportunity to enter the Kremlin walls are rewarded with a labyrinth of ancient marvels, among them the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, the official residence of the President, and the world’s richest museum, the Armoury. Finally, at the southern end of the Red Square is the image from all the travel books: the multi-colored, asymmetric onion-and-helmet domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral. Legend has it that the cathedral’s architect was later blinded by Ivan the Terrible so that he could never repeat such a building that is so traditionally Russian.
Despite their validated allure, there is so much more to Moscow than its Red Square and Soviet past. Under its skin is a thriving, pulsing cultural scene, the likes of which allow travelers to follow in the footsteps of such greats as Chekhov and Tchaikovsky. What could be more thrilling than taking a backstage tour of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre, witnessing the ballerinas take flight in the Bolshoi Theater, or listening to a private choir concert in the beautiful Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker? And what could be more historically meaningful than a visit to Pushkin’s home on the bohemian Arbat Street, a tour of the world’s finest Russian art collection at the Tretyakov Gallery, or a concert featuring Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture just a few blocks away from where it premiered more than a century ago?
If artistic abundance, palatial metro systems, and a bottomless supply of billionaires are any indication, Moscow, paired with Ker & Downey’s unmatched luxury, promises a journey of fit for a modern-day tsar.