Europe’s Largest City is Fascinating

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Often people guess that London or Paris is Europe’s largest city, but it’s actually Moscow. Moscow has over a million people more than the next biggest European city, London. Conservative numbers put Moscow’s population at a little over 8 million, but the city claims that the number is closer to 12 million. In fact, Russia boasts 34 cities of the top 100 largest European cities! That means that out of the top 100 largest European cities, only 66 are outside Russia.

Moscow is a city of paradoxes

Moscow is one of those delightfully charming and yet curiously bewildering places that leaves you speechless one minute and laughing the next. It’s the most fascinating city I’ve ever been to.

Some days you will see the fanciest fur coats you’ve ever seen. Or women wearing impossibly high heels to stroll through the park.

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And then other days you will see this.

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Moscow is a city of parks

For being such a large city, Moscow has a lot of green space. There are over 100 parks within the city limits, and that’s not counting all the other gardens and green spaces around the city. Or the large estates and parks just outside the official city limits but well within easy traveling distance via metro. There are parks everywhere. Russians love kids and the abundance of parks on every corner attests to that. Children are doted on and there is no shortage of fun things for them to do.

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One of many amusement parks around Moscow

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Moscow is a city of romance

I’ve been to Paris a couple of times, I’ve been to London and Rome and the French Riviera and, well, a lot of beautifully romantic places. But none compares with Moscow. Muscovites love being in love and you will see cards and presents and flowers and balloons galore. You will see PDA like no place you’ve ever seen it before! The small 24 hour flower stands on most corners attest to the fact that Russian men are constantly giving their women flowers. Or balloons. And there are lots of romantic activities to be found in the city. Whether it’s ice skating under the stars in Gorky Park or Red Square, or talking a stroll through one of Moscow’s ubiquitous parks there are lots of activities to be shared in Moscow.

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Moscow is a city of churches

While Russians as a whole don’t seem to attend church too often, they do mostly align themselves with the Russian Orthodox church. Easter seems to be an especially important occasion with people flocking to the church to have their Easter cakes blessed by the priest. But whether they are full of congregants or not, there are big, fancy churches to be found on every corner.

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Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
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This church showcases another popular Moscow favorite: flowerbeds!

Moscow is a city of flowers

Muscovites love flowers. And I love their love of flowers. It makes the city so pretty.

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Huge temporary flowerbeds line the pedestrian street Nikolskaya Street.
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Carefully manicured flower beds are a staple of Muscovite parks

Moscow is a city with incredible public transport

Not only are most of Moscow’s metro systems incredibly elaborate and fancy (there are tour groups that charge for tours of Moscow’s metro stations) but their metro system is very efficient. Trains come on average every 90 seconds during peak hours and the longest you usually have to wait at other times is a couple of minutes. Not only do trains come frequently, but the cost is very inexpensive. When I left in 2014, rides cost around a dollar and you could buy a 1 month or 3 month pass for unlimited rides. I rode it so often that I usually got my cost per ride down to around 60 cents a ride. Most other big cities charge much more for their transportation system. And in Moscow your metro pass also works on the bus system, light rail system, and trolley car system. It’s very convenient to not have to buy passes each time you change modes of transport around town.

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A rare sight in Moscow: an empty metro. (picture taken late at night) Not one of Moscow’s prettiest stations.

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And yes, Moscow is also a city of snow and ice

People often express surprise when they find out that I have lived in Russia. Then they invariably comment on how cold it must have been. And while yes, Moscow is cold in the winter, it’s not as cold as you might think. I did wear boots and gloves and scarves and hats and coats, but I can honestly say that I was colder when I lived in Wisconsin than I ever was in Russia. Moscow is very far from Siberia, and the winter isn’t as cold as you might imagine. But that said, you do get a lot of snow and ice there. And it’s simply magical and beautiful. I loved winter in Moscow! They offer so many fabulously fun things to do when winter rolls around. And if you own your own ice skates there are parks that flood their walkways and then let you ice skate their frozen paths to your heart’s content, for free.

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An ice bar
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Inside the ice bar
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I saw a middle aged couple laugh their way down this ice slide moments before I took this picture.

Moscow is a city of very rich and very poor

There is no real middle class so to speak of here. Muscovites tend to be poor or rich. No real in-between. The fanciest malls I’ve ever been in were in Moscow. And at the same time you will see old babushki selling hand-picked, wilting flowers outside the metro. Or selling old, unwanted items. It really is a city of contrasts.

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Elevators inside the Evropsky Mall
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Escalators inside the Evropsky Mall

There are so many more things to say about Moscow. I absolutely love this city. In my opinion it truly is Europe’s most fascinating and most contradictory city. It should be on everyone’s bucket list. I will feel forever grateful and blessed that I was privileged to spend a year and a half of my life living there.

Have you been to Moscow? What did you like best about the city?

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