Last year was a magical Christmas. Jacob and I visited our dear friend Nikita in Moscow. Celebrating Christmas in Moscow was magical and one of my favorite parts of spending the holiday season in Russia meant that we got to visit some of the Christmas markets in Moscow, including the Red Square Christmas Market. Keep reading for tips for attending the Christmas markets in Moscow.
Which Christmas in Moscow!?
Whether you’re visiting during Western Christmas or Orthodox Christmas, you’re in luck: You’ll be able to experience a bit of Christmas spirit in Russia. Although Christmas is celebrated in Russia according to the Orthodox calendar, you’ll still find Christmas decorations set up in December in time for Christmas in Western Europe. These decoration will be up through January, which is when Orthodox Christmas occurs.
Russia has a unique history in terms of Christmas as it was banned during the Soviet period. Officials tried to combine Christmas into New Year’s Eve, which is a popular family holiday in Russia today. However, in post-Soviet Russia, Christmas is a big deal. Many tourists come to Moscow as well as other Russian cities to enjoy the festive atmosphere, shop, and take selfies.
You’ll find Christmas decorations as well as smaller markets all throughout the city. Each neighborhood typically has a tree as well as some kind of festivities, however the most popular area to visit is along Tverskaya Street.
If you’re planning on visiting Moscow for Christmas, be sure to book your hotel room in Moscow early as this is a popular travel time for Russians. We waited to book our room until we got the visa documents together and ended up paying a premium compared to when we first checked prices.
You might be required to have your accommodations booked in order to request a visa. Some hotels will assist you in getting an invitation letter, if required, for an additional fee. We stayed at Legendary Historical Hotel Sovietsky, a grand Soviet-era hotel that offered visa assistance.
Not surprisingly, it was chilly in Moscow during Christmas, however the crowds were intense enough that I ended up partially unzipping my jacket! If you’ll just be enjoying the city center of Moscow, a good pair of boots (or booties) for walking around, a winter jacket, pants (possibly with tight underneath for added warmth), gloves, a hat, and a scarf. I ended up layering up with a sweater and a t-shirt underneath my jacket.
Avoiding the crowds during Christmas in Moscow
The period between New Year’s Eve and Orthodox Christmas is one of the busiest times for Moscow. Many Russians will come to the city center to enjoy the spectacular lights and shop.
Avoiding the crowds will prove more difficult than you imagine. We attempted to go to the Red Square a few times, but ended up being frustrated with the crowds.
The Red Square Christmas Market
The Red Square Christmas market has beautifully decorated stalls, multiple selfie spots, children’s rides, and enough stalls to purchase some unique gifts. It took us about 1-2 hours to browse the market.
I was a bit put off by how crowded the Red Square Christmas was. It was a bit chaotic and claustrophobic, however it was definitely worth viewing. I recommend avoiding wearing backpacks and ensuring that your bag is zips securely as we were warned about pickpockets.
Like Christmas markets elsewhere, you’ll find numerous drinks, including glintwine. Glintwine is the Russian equivalent of gluhwein, a delicious mulled wine made with cloves and oranges. You’ll also find lots of tea in giant samovars, a great treat during the winter months in Moscow. Additionally, you’ll find cookies as well as food stands serving typical foods, such as Georgian-style meats.
Souvenirs worth getting from the Christmas Market
Birch is a typical wood from Russia and it is credited for keeping the Soviet army alive during World War II. (Its bark can be burned for warmth!) You’ll find numerous stalls selling birch souvenirs, including containers for coffee. I paid about 7 euros for my birch coffee container. You’ll also find the famous matryoshka dolls, which originate in Sergiev Posad, a great souvenir from Russia.