“St. Petersburg is our head, Moscow is our heart.” The Russian saying defines Russia’s feelings towards its capital city. Moscow, a city with a feel of a vivid, exhilarating and vibrant metropolis, yet with streets filled with Art Nouveau and Russian Revival mansions, flowering courtyards and icon-filled churches, is a city of mesmerizing contrasts and many textures. While St. Petersburg is reminiscent of European cities, Moscow is pure Russia. Built on the Moskva river, Moscow is architecturally stunning. Richly decorated buildings in several architectural styles adorn the city, providing unique contrasts to one another. From the onion domes of St. Basils to the precise exterior of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space to the dreary concrete Soviet apartment blocks, one can trace Russian history through Moscow’s architecture. With 13.2 million residents within the city’s limits and another 17 million in the surrounding metropolitan area, Moscow is truly a bustling city. The political and religious center of the country, Moscow has played a huge role in Russian history.
The Kremlin is perhaps the most well-known landmark in Moscow. The complex features political buildings, cathedrals, and residences that have been used by Russian leaders for centuries. Also contained within the Kremlin is the Armory Chamber, which is now open to the public as a museum of the largest collections of treasures from the Russian tsars. Moscow’s life spans many centuries, with the first written record of a settlement here in the 12th century, but there is evidence of earlier inhabitants. Moscow became Russia’s the capital in the 15th century, though it gave up the title briefly to St. Petersburg between 1713 and 1728 and again between 1732 and 1918 during the period of Imperialism. Fires, wars, and disasters trace Moscow’s past, continually pushing the city to rebuild and grow further. Throughout its years, Moscow grew from medieval wooden structures along the river, survived the Mongol Yoke, and became the center of the Russian Orthodox Church, then Imperial Russia, then Soviet Russia, to post-Soviet Russia and modern Russia. Moscow gives an unparalleled insight into the city that can only come from an understanding of its past and present: Red Square, the Kremlin, the colorful domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Arbat Street, Pushkin Museum and Bolshoi Theatre, with one foot grounded in the glorious past and one jumping into the future, Moscow has proved her mettle as a global capital.