• Moscow Mate

5 Great things to do around Moscow in winter

Updated: Nov 6, 2018

Moscow in winter

Photo by Nikolay Vorobyev on Unsplash

Coming to Russia in winter might seem like not the most sensible decision for some travelers. I often hear concerns about it being unbearably cold and about consequential shortage of things to do. Well, the first point might be the case, if you are planning to explore Siberian parts of the country or Russian Arctic with guaranteed at least -20 C in winter months. Moscow normally enjoys milder winters with only occasional more severe subzero temperatures. Thus, for example, it was ranging from +2 C to -2 C during my last two New Years celebrations. Weather of course cannot be booked like a table with a view to the Kremlin walls, and might bring very unpleasant surprises. But my point here is that given you packed a couple of extra warm layers and good pair of sturdy water-proof shoes, Moscow is such a wonderful city to visit during winter months. Let's have a look at some activities options:

1. Go ice skating

The first and obvious choice for a day when the temperature is just a little bit below zero and you have an afternoon free of sightseeing. Trust me, ice skating venues in Moscow will not disappoint. I get a feeling that every year they are trying harder and harder to outdo each other. Your job is to pick whatever you want to impress yourself with on this experience: skating away on the biggest ice rink in Europe? enjoying light installations and DJ sets? or maybe casually practicing your one-foot glide right in the middle of Red Square?

Ice skating rinks mentioned:

2. Visit winter markets

Moscow Christmas market
Christmas market on the Red Square

Similar to ice skating venues, winter markets in Moscow have been upping their game in the last couple of years. They make festive season feel truly magical and surely add one more reason to visit the city during winter months. There is a variety of items at the fair stalls you can treat yourself with, from hand-made mittens, Russian dolls, Christmas decorations, vintage toys to traditional blinis (thin pancakes) and mulled wine. On top of that, many of the main streets of the city center turn into venue for Christmas festival, which amazes spectators with light installations, concerts, workshops, ice ballets, snow tubing and much more.

There is an abundance of choice when it comes to winter markets in the city center, you can try these for example:

3. Be more adventurous with your winter sports

Here is something for those, who would like to diversify their sports routine and give something else a go, apart from ice skating to keep their blood pumping. Why not go for a swim in Moscow's legendary Chaika outdoor pool? The water is always of comfortable temperature around 28 C, and if you are lucky you can witness the magic of snowflakes softy falling onto the steam from the water while swimming.

Russian traditions

If you really want to test yourself with non-heated icy waters, take part in Orthodox Epiphany commemoration. Every ear, on the night between January 18th and 19th, no matter the weather Orthodox believers immerse themselves in rivers and lakes. The bathing takes place in specially prepared ice-holes (often in a shape of a cross). Popular locations in Moscow are ponds in Tsaritsyno and Ostankino, as well as Bol'shoy Sadovyy Pond

For fun that doesn't involve getting undressed and dipping yourself in water, head to numerous slopes for snow tubing and skiing. Good spots are in Novo-Peredelkino for skiing, snowboarding and tubing, and the city parks of Tsarisyno and Sokolniki offer great sledging and snow tubing opportunities

4. Watch The Nutcracker ballet

Nutcracker ballet
Nutcracker ballet

This Russian ballet classic, known to many from childhood, has been winning hearts of audience for decades. Enchanting decorations, fairy-tale costumes in the world of Tchaikovsky most famous pieces, where Nutcracker is fighting the Mouse king under the Christmas tree. Can this get even more festive? Add those world famous interiors of Bolshoi's historic stage, and it is a must-do experience.

The Nutcracker normally runs in different theaters of Moscow between mid-December and mid-January, so if you can't get hold of tickets to Bolshoi, there are plenty of decent alternatives (minus the grandiose theater decor). You are welcome to use Moscow Mate itinerary service if you need help with planning your visit.

5. Go to banya

Russian banya
Photo by Smarticvs on Wikimedia Commons

Make sure not to leave this sacred Russian experience outside your to do list. Don't cut any corners and follow the sequence of procedures to be able to rip all the benefits of this rejuvenating ritual:

  1. A warm shower before entering the steam room (parilka)

  2. Rotate 10 mins inside the parilka with a minimum of 10 mins of rest

  3. Once warmed up have a venik (a bunch of birch or oak twigs) massage

  4. Jump in cold pool/snow whatever available

  5. Repeat until you feel like a new human being

Here are a couple of addresses in Moscow

If you would like a more detailed consultation on planning a trip to Moscow or inspiration for activities in general, send me a message . I would love to hear from you.