IF YOU’RE ALL ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES…
Not to get too Will Ferrell on this one but can you think of any other city that has “so much more room for activities!?” I mean, Moscow is pretty big!
Ok, in all seriousness, I bet you didn’t think Russia would make this list. Given its communist history, in the days of the Soviet, Christmas was not celebrated; instead, New Year was made into the important celebratory time. Following the 1917 revolution, Christmas was banned as a religious holiday in 1929. Christmas Trees were also banned until 1935 when they turned into 'New Year' Trees! Post-Soviet Union, Christmas was reinstated…and it came back with a bang!
Moscow’s Red Square is the host of one of the country’s most beautifully decorated, popular Christmas Markets. Nestled between the Kremlin and GUM department store, you’ll easily be able to locate it…all you need to do is listen out for the Soviet New Year music ringing out of the speakers! That’s right, you aren’t going to be jamming out to a bit of George Michael here but, hey, who’s complaining?
The overall style of the Market is pretty unique. From the decorations to the produce sold, there is something so typically folkloric Russia about the Red Square Christmas Markets. It takes nostalgia and festive cheer, mixing them up into a big doughy Christmas delight. Maybe it’s something to do with the wooden Russian dolls on sale? Maybe it’s something to do with traditional buildings that tower over the little wooden chalets? Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that that the market is centred around a giant ice rink?
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention! The Red Square Christmas Market stalls are placed around a huge ice rink that you’re able to gracefully glide (or clumsily stumble) across. You’ll catch me clinging onto the side, refusing to venture out further onto the ice, that’s for sure! The rink is around 18,000 square metres large; it will take you 15 minutes to make the full loop – that’s massive! Not to forget the illuminated ski tracks and ice slides too, the Red Square Market is catered to all those who want to add an element of adventure to their festive fun.
The activities at Red Square Christmas Market heavily contribute to the magical festive atmosphere. Each winter Moscow transforms into a postcard-worthy snowy landscape, with festively decorated fir trees and light installations by international artists. Not forgetting the 30-metre-tall Christmas tree, the ice skating at Red Square is the cherry on top of the icing (of the Christmas cake no one expect Grandad likes!)
If you can’t get enough of the ice at Red Square, check out the 45 different ice rinks across the city. That’s right…45! Spread throughout 30 parks, there’s a grand total of 107,000 square metres of ice to skate across. Is that enough for you, d’ya reckon?
But back to Red Square: after some fun on the ice, be sure to make a pit stop at some of the stalls for a crepe or a Bratwurst. Ok, the folkloric nostalgia of old-time Russia doesn’t exactly extend to the menu but is a Christmas Market even a Christmas Market without a mug of mulled wine? If mulled wine isn’t quite your thing, maybe consider opting for a typical Russian honey mead. It has a little bit of alcohol in it, but not enough to knock you sideways – and it’s a great one to keep you warm in even the coldest of Russian winters.
Speaking of which, a quick side note when it comes to the weather: don’t be scared of Russian winters. Yep, they’re cold, but just pack wisely and you’ll be fine! (Moscow or Mossnow…amirite!? I’ll see myself out!)
The Red Square Christmas Market gets crowded; there’s no beating around the bush. It’s pretty chaotic at peak times, so if you don’t like crowds perhaps opt to go earlier in the day. It means that you can wander freely at your own pace, weaving between the little wooden chalets on your own time. If you are into souvenirs and want to bring home a special something to remember your Moscow festive adventure, see if you can spot a Birch stall. Birch, yep, the type of wood. Go with me on this one, it’s actually pretty cool. Birch is credited for keeping the Soviet army alive during World War II. Its bark was burned for warmth. At the market, you’ll find plenty of stalls selling Birch souvenirs, including coffee containers and placemats. If you’re a bit behind on your Christmas shopping, then these would make the perfect gift.
If there’s one thing that Moscow gets right, it’s Vodka. Oh, and Christmas. Red Square Christmas Market is a must-see for anyone who wants a more active edge to their festive fun. It isn’t one you want to miss.