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Exploring Alternative Moscow: Three Underrated Gems

Wandering Red Square is only the start to an unforgettable trip to Moscow. From underground military bunkers converted to medieval monasteries and stunning fortresses seemingly from fairytales, Moscow has plenty to see beyond the main tourist hubs.

Bunker 42

About 200 feet beneath the Taganskaya metro station, a secret site provides a unique window into Moscow’s Cold War past. Bunker 42, formerly a top-secret military bunker, takes visitors back in time. Bunker 42 is now a converted museum run by hosts wearing KGB uniforms and guests inspecting a world hidden from the public for decades.
Bunker 42 is not your typical museum, however. A flood of modern touches makes Bunker 42 a happening place for locals and visitors alike. In the space transformed into a restaurant and night club, guests come for traditional Russian cuisine and stay for a night of karaoke and live entertainment. There are also multipurpose conference rooms and banquet halls that are regularly rented out for weddings and special occasions.
Combining Moscow’s recent history and a spread of recreational activities, Bunker 42 stands as one of the most interesting and overlooked spots in the city.

Izmailovo Kremlin

The Moscow Kremlin is certainly worthy of its fame and status. About half an hour from central Moscow, however, the Izmailovo District is flush with spectacular scenery and Russian history. At the heart of the district, recently built kremlin surrounds the lush green landscape overlooking the Serebryano-Vinogradny Pond. This creates a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city.
Drawing visual inspiration from various Russian fairytales, the white-walled Izmailovo Kremlin was completed in 2007, though the village of Izmailovo goes back to medieval times. Inside the complex, an open-air market has been around in one form or another since the 1600s. Today, visitors at the market can find items from both Old Russia and the modern country. The mostly white kremlin also serves as a visual counterpoint to the vivid splashes of color of the Red Square.
You can also peruse a series of museums within the district, including the Museum of History of Vodka, where more than 1,000 different flavors of Russia’s famous liquor are typically on display. You may even find your way to museums featuring the history of Russian chocolate or folk toys.
Nearby, the Izmailovo Park offers plenty of activities as well, from riding in a horse-drawn sleigh to two Ferris wheels that provide excellent views of the neighboring countryside. In the winter, you can expect to find plenty of locals sharpening their ice skates to zip across the pond beneath the tall towers of the kremlin. Across from the kremlin lies a beautiful chateau formerly inhabited by Russian icon Peter the Great and generations of royalty. It’s not only a trip into the past at Izmailovo, however. The neighboring Izmailovo Hotel has been one of the biggest hotel complexes in the world since it was built for the 1980 Summer Olympics and is an attraction in its own right.

Gorky Park

Gorky Park is a stunning site that is a must-see while in Moscow. A favorite public gathering space for nearly a century, Gorky Park traces its roots to the 18th century, when it was an imperial estate that held the now-famous Neskuchniy Garden. By the 1920s, the rich lands along the Moskva (Moscow) River were transformed into a huge park that would become a prototype for other parks all over Russia.
The park underwent substantial renovation less than a decade ago and now has two distinct portions, including a section with family-friendly amusement rides and the area that includes the Neskuchniy and Golitsynskiy gardens. In the spring, colorful flower fields fill in the background for a park that now has too many activities to count. There is plenty of boating, sunbathing, yoga, and horse riding in the summertime. Open-air ice skating under the lights in the enormous rink make Gorky Park a hot spot year-round. In warmer months, the beach area of the park’s riverbank also converts into an outdoor night club.
Just across from the park, visitors can also find the Fallen Monument Park, a collaboration of different Soviet statues and monuments that were moved there in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the neighboring Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is an excellent stop for art aficionados, as is the outdoor movie theater built on the roof of the museum. With many spots of cultural interest and a top-notch entertainment scene, Gorky Park is worthy of multiple stops during any trip to Moscow.

Other Spots Worth Checking Out

Golosov Ravine

Steeped in mysterious tales and stunning natural surroundings, Golosov Ravine is the perfect place to recharge your batteries while still absorbing interesting tidbits of Russian history and culture. Complete with a soothing brook, rolling green hillsides, and recently created pedestrian pathways, Golosov Ravine is only a 25-minute drive south of central Moscow and is a great spot for a hike. The area has also been the subject of plenty of local superstitions, myths, and legends.

Novodevichy Convent

There is no shortage of cathedrals and churches throughout Moscow, but the simple elegance of Novodevichy Convent is hard to surpass. Loosely falling under the parameters of the Moscow Baroque style, the series of buildings appeared in stages during the 16th and 17th centuries. The complex stands today as a stunning testament to Moscow’s medieval roots. Initially both a fortress and a nunnery, the convent has a range of majestic buildings worth exploring and boasts a beautiful perch along the river.
Though the mainstays of Moscow’s historic district are undoubtedly worth seeing, there are plenty of other things to do to keep you busy on a trip to the Russian capital. Countless historical sites, quirky spots, and excellent scenery make Moscow the perfect getaway.


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