The winters in Moscow can start as early as November and continues right up to March. 5 months of grey and darkness can leave you lost and empty! However Moscow is such a vibrant and fluid city you will have a myriad of choices to remedy this darkness!
By December the city's temperature could plunge to -10 degrees. Normally by the first week of December many parks in and around Moscow are transformed into ice skating rinks. Gorky park boast one of the largest skating rinks in the world. It turns into a disco on ice when night falls while you glide on ice and hopefully still keeping your dignity in check after consuming loads of mulled wine or vodka which are available on site of the skating rink! It last right up to end March and sometimes till first 2 weeks of April depending on the temperature.
Ice skating in front of the RED SQUARE is the most iconic activity you could do in winter. This age old activity has been on going since the time of the Tzars. However this skating rink in the red square is open only from mid-December till mid-January. If you are here during that time it is definitely worthwhile to glide right next to Lenin's Mausoleum!
Watch a Ballet
It is always a cliche to watch ballet in the Bolshoi Theater. The pompous, grand theater with gigantic chandelier, prima donna with glamorous ballet troop, live orchestra music, wash it down with champagne at the interval and continue the magic again!
However the less glamorous State Kemlin Palace Theater has ballet with the entrance to the Kremlin to offer. The ticket prices here are much cheaper compared to the Bolshoi and the performance is equality as good and you get a much bigger stage!
Visit the Metro Stations
When the temperature plunges and when it is too cold to spend hours walking outside, it is time to visit the Metro Stations. Each one of them are unique in their on beauty, extravagant, ornate, full of propaganda, Soviet bust, army status larger than life, vaulted halls, every one of them with a story to tell.
The first project of Moscow metro was created in 1901 but the first line – Sokolnicheskaya (line 1, red) – was opened only on 15th May 1935. During World War 2 Moscow metro served as air-raid shelters, some of the trains were removed from the tunnels to give the space. The most beautiful line is Koltsevaya (the circle line 5, brown on the map), built in years 1950-1954.
Visit Bunker 42
During the height of the cold-war, 65 meters underground, the red army had constructed an anti-missile nuclear bunker.
This is the only declassified military object in Moscow, God knows how much more secrets the Red Army holds!
Decent to Bunker 42 to feel the atmosphere of the “Cold war” time- period, when the whole world was on the edge of The Nuclear War.
Observe the FROZEN MOSKOVA
I love walking on snow that has freshly fallen, so pure, white, untouched and when you walk on it, it crushes the little crystals and it makes a squeaky, rubbing sound against your boots that feels so different from walking on any other surfaces.
On snow, every sound seem so muffled, the city's bustling noise is toned down, no gurgling from the river, it is frozen, no sound of footsteps, and then, children in park, they break the silence, they are out for the snowball war, snow sleigh, cross country skiing, making snowman, snow angle, everything snow!
Visit the Russian Banya or Sauna
Banya or public bathhouse, in Russia, it is a steam bath with a stove! The bath takes place in a small room or building designed for dry or wet hear sessions. Typically after the warm steam bath you hang out with friends and sip hot honey and repeat if you want to. Each time after the bath your body feels so strong against the Russian winter winds.
Sandunovskie Baths or Sanduny (1808) are among the most impressive Russian public baths featuring huge hall, sculptures and high ceilings decorated with mouldings and marble. Sanduny is located in the historical heart of the capital. This bath dates back to the 19th century; it was named after its founder Sila Sandunov, who built his first bath at the corner of Neglinnaya Street and what is now Sandunovsky LaneRussian: Sandunovskiy pereulok or Сандуновский переулок in 1808. The baths were later extended with new buildings and finally occupied a whole city block.
Today, Sandunovskie Baths are located in a massive building with incredible architecture. Its large rooms with high ceilings are decorated with mouldings, marbles, gold-plated sculptures, and myriads of elegant small details.
Normally they sell dried birch branches to be soaked in soak water and you could ask someone to give your back a good beating! It releases a lovely scent in the sauna and the beating is like a form of massage......if it is not too hard!
My visit to Sandunovskie Bath is exciting as it was inviting! I am very familiar with Japanese onsen (hot springs) but the Russian style is a totally different setting and it is not always mineral water or natural springs. I stripped with the fervor of an excited 3 year old and went into this hot, dark room with the fresh scent of the birch woods and naked women. Each of us found our favorite spot, if you are there together with your friends, try to keep it down in the room as many people seek to have a relaxing and calming time in there.
Some of them cover their heads with a cap, to protect the head from extreme tempreture of hot and cold. Each time when you get out from the sauna you can chose to plunge yourself in warm, cold, or icy water, depending on your choice! And keep repeating it!! Typically if you are in the countryside, you will go in and out into the wilderness and jump into a pool that is half frozen or frozen with a hole in it!
I wasn't so brave and opted for warm water, maybe that explains why my tolerance for cold is rather low!
The Russian banya experience believes to rejuvenation the body through the contrast of hot and cold, specific scents, foaming soap and bathing brooms. Russian banya experts and fans believe that not only does it help cleanse your body and regain strength but it also increases energy levels.
I don't know how true and far the rejuvenation goes but each time after a bane experience I feel really warm inside and so ready to face the cold!
Sandunovskie Bath is truly grandiose and ornate and such a great experience, besides, what's good for Roman Abrabovich is surely good for me too, except maybe for the exception of the Chelsea Football Club!
Winters in Moscow although long, you could fill them with such a lot of activities. The list of to do things really goes on and on......visit art exhibitions, and art gallery opening and drink the free champagne, go for an art auction and bid for an art piece when you are on champagne or vodka induced impulse, go skiing in the city (there are 2 places Moscow) watch the different layers of ice form in the river, go for a museum visit, a piano concerto. The city never sleeps in winter!