When I first told friends and family about my upcoming trip to Russia in December, I was met with skepticism. The most common remarks ranged from “But WHY?”, to “Can’t you just wait until it gets warmer?”. In fact, even while I was already there, Russians kept encouraging me to “come back in Summer”.
Despite the naysayers, I am so glad that I went when I did. Seeing Moscow at its most “authentic” was truly an unforgettable experience. Yes it’s cold and it gets dark early, but this is how Russians spend at least 6 months out of every year. I developed a much better understanding of the attitudes and mindsets that make Russians so notoriously tough. Further, there were hardly any tourists around, which meant that we had the opportunity to enjoy major attractions to ourselves with little to no lines. There’s just something really cool about being one of only a few visitors walking around the Kremlin…it feels so exclusive!
Here are some additional benefits of visiting Russia during Wintertime:
1. Christmas/New Years’ Markets and Festive Decorations- If you visit Russia over the holidays, be sure to check out the Christmas markets. They sell candies, matryoshka dolls, baked goods, and other Christmas-y gifts and souvenirs.
Other interesting sights at the Christmas markets include ponies, reindeer, and Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost). Every market has different features, making each one fun to discover. Near Cafe Pushkin in Moscow, for example, we enjoyed walking around an outdoor art gallery.
There are also plenty of ice sculptures. Some of my favorites included an ice maze and ice slides. Ice displays are a time-honored tradition all over Russia, and exist in both large cities and way out in Siberia.
Stores and businesses are also outfitted for the holiday season. GUM shopping centre in Moscow, for example, has quite the display, with Christmas stalls throughout.
2. Sparkling Night Lights- Moscow is a beautiful city at night. While these lights can be seen year-round, longer hours of darkness during Winter means there are more opportunities to literally see the city in a different light.
In fact, one of the best ways to see Moscow at night is on the River Moskva. Luckily, all of the major sites lie along the river and are easy to spot. The Radisson hotel runs dinner cruises all-year long, and even has ice-breaking capabilities for when the river is frozen over.
3. The Snow makes for great pictures- If anything, Winter in Russia often results in heavy snowfall. We were lucky enough to get snow on the first day we arrived in Moscow. The sights were very picturesque, and exactly like I’ve always imagined it would be. It just added that extra magical touch to everything we saw.
As you can see, Russia is absolutely gorgeous during this time of year. So don’t let the weather deter you. Trust me, you’ll be thankful for the experience and will walk away with a new appreciation of this beautiful country and its people!
© Destination Duo, 2014-2015