Christmas and New Year in Moscow: what to do, where to go? We are getting more and more questions about Christmas and New Year in Moscow and St. Petersburg. So I decided to write two articles for each city to give you as much information as possible about the magical holiday season in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. I will then talk about things not to miss, places to see and of course the Moscow Christmas markets and decorations. Moscow at Christmas time and New Year is magical!
So, how can you enjoy the holiday season in Moscow at Christmas and at New Year Eve? Let’s go!
Winter holiday in Russia
First, a small point on the calendar. Orthodox Christmas takes place on January 7. There is therefore no special event on December 25. On the other hand, New Year is celebrated well on December 31 and it is the most awaited and appreciated holiday of the Russians. In fact, in Russia, Christmas is truly a religious event. Therefore, it’s more like New Year that we give gifts and party. So, Moscow at Christmas time is not as festive as we can imagine.
The heart of the holiday season extends between December 31 and January 7. But the first decorations begin to appear in mid-December. We must therefore aim for this period, if you wish to celebrate Christmas and New Year in Moscow. You can already see Moscow Christmas decorations in early December.
New year in Moscow or in Saint Petersburg?
Even though I love my hometown of St. Petersburg, if you have to choose between New Year in Moscow and St. Petersburg, I would recommend Moscow. This is clearly the destination for those who love this holiday and expect something magical. In Saint Petersburg, it’s also very festive, but much more modestly. However, Moscow Christmas decorations are the best in Russia.
Christmas and New Year in Moscow
This time of year is wonderful! If you enjoy Moscow Christmas markets and decorations, mulled wine, skating rinks and everything associated with this period: do not hesitate to spend Christmas and New Year in Moscow!
Moscow Red Square: the place to be!
It’s the most magical place in Moscow during the holiday season! To celebrate Christmas and New Years in Moscow, it is essential to go to the essential Red Square.
In the evening, all the lights come on and make the place even more beautiful.
GUM’s Moscow Christmas market is very very cool: skating rink, mulled wine and candy stands, games for children, entertainment, a real party atmosphere! On the other hand, during the week, there are far fewer people and less entertainment than at weekends.
Once in Red Square, don’t forget to enter the GUM. Inside this store, it feels like walking the streets of a European city. There are 3 aisles, 2 floors (3 if you count in the Russian way, because floor 0 does not exist). So it’s a nicely decorated and friendly place to warm up a bit.
Don’t be surprised to see several ice cream vendors. The favorite ice cream for Russians is Plombières ice cream. At GUM, it is served “as before”, that is to say as in Soviet times: in a fine waffle in the shape of glass. It’s called “stakantchik”, a little glass in Russian.
Around Red Square
If you are coming for Christmas and New Years in Moscow, there are neighborhoods not to be missed! Even if the city is decorated everywhere, the concentrate is near the Red Square. Ploshchad means “place” in Russian, ulitsa means “street”.
- Ulitsa Nikolskaya, emblematic street of the 2018 World Cup where all the fans met.
- Ploshchad Revolutsii, opposite the Bolchoi Thetre
- Manezhnaya Ploshchad
- Ulitsa Tverskaya
- Ulitsa Bol’shaya Dmitrovka
- Sloteshnikov Pereoulok
- Ulitsa Kuznetsky Most
- Ulitsa Petrovka
- Nikitsky + Tverskoy Boulevard
- Zaryadye Park, which runs along the Moskva River, where a magnificent view of the Kremlin and the city opens up and small hills covered with snow (except this year … where the temperatures are abnormally high for this period.)
Here are some photos of Zaryadye Park that I took with my phone (it’s even better in reality!).
Moscow Christmas markets
Christmas and New Years in Moscow, first of all the Christmas markets! Moreover, in September 2018 the British daily newspaper The Telegraphe had included Moscow in its TOP 10 of the most beautiful destinations for Christmas markets.
It’s impossible to name all the Christmas markets in Moscow: there are so many! Some last several weeks, others – only a few days. All the parks have their Christmas market, not counting all the other places… Here are the 3 most beautiful in terms of location, duration and decorations:
- On Red Square, opposite GUM, of course! (in general, open from the beginning of December)
- On Ploshchad Revolutsii square
- In Stoleshnikov Pereoulok street (small market)
Here are some pictures of Stoleshnikov Pereoulok and its Moscow Christmas market: Moscow Christmas decorations are fantastic!
Interesting places at Christmas and New Year in Moscow
In the blog post What to do in Moscow in winter? I already indicate the main places to see in general in winter. They are valid for the holiday season, if not more. If you’re celebrating Christmas and New Years in Moscow, rest assured, it’s not just Red Square to visit.
VDNKh. This huge Soviet-era exhibition center is getting a makeover. Besides, the place is interesting to visit already without the festivities. Here everything is huge: don’t expect a cute Christmas market. By cons, very few people on weekdays, except the week of January 31 to 7.
Izmailovo. Far from the city center, it is a kremlin (fortress) recently built in the old style where there is a flea market. In winter, with snow, the place takes on the appearance of a Disney tale. There are places to stop for a hot drink or … vodka! A vodka museum is located on the territory of the Kremlin.
Gorky Park. Gorky Park is the most visited park in Moscow. Another nice Muzeon park is nearby. It is therefore possible to do both. In both parks will be installed Christmas markets from December 26. Many more people on weekends than weekdays.
Hermitage Park. It’s a nice little park in downtown Moscow where you meet more Muscovites than tourists. During the holiday season, the park organizes entertainment.
New Year in Moscow
If you come to spend Christmas and New Year in Moscow, know that the most important event for Russians is New Years Day. December 31 is also the most festive time of the year. Some of the Muscovites will stay at home with family and friends, but many will go out to celebrate the arrival of the New Year on the streets of Moscow.
Where to celebrate New Year in Moscow?
We find more or less the same places. For example, you can build an itinerary of several places to make the most of New Years Eve in Moscow.
Red Square. The evening of December 31, Red Square will not finally be open to everyone. There are very few tickets: they are distributed on social criteria and to the active inhabitants of the city (there is a portal where the inhabitants can participate actively in the life of the city by voting, giving proposals … etc). Another possibility to access Red Square the evening of the 31st is to buy tickets for the ice rink. But there are only 500 places and they leave very quickly. In addition, staying all evening on the ice rink (9 p.m. to 1 a.m.) is not necessarily great. The vast majority of people will not be there, but all around. For example, the Zaryadye park from which we can see the Saint Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin!
Around Red Square. Very close to Red Square, the party will be on Manezhnaya ploschad and Tverskaya street which will be completely pedestrian. Outdoor concert, street entertainment, music, Moscow Christmas decorations: party atmosphere guaranteed! For example, to give you an idea, here is a Youtube video showing the street on December 31, 2018:
Zaryadye Park. Also close to Red Square is a new park that runs along the Moskva River. For New Year 2019, Zaryadye park offers a program from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.: songs, dances, acrobatic show, midnight countdown! In addition, all cafes, restaurants and other park services will also be open. Further information on the official Zaryadye website in English. If you decide to stand Christmas and New Year in Moscow, it is a place to discover without a doubt.
In the parks of Moscow. There are party programs in almost every major city park. Gorky Park, Gorky Park and Pobedy Park (with its ice castle) are therefore nice places where you can go. Programs vary from year to year.
Good to know! From December 28, 2019 to January 6, 2020, one end of Tverskaya Street and other streets close to the heart of the city center will be pedestrianized. However, this change will modify the circulation of buses in this area of Moscow.
New Year’s fireworks in Moscow
There is not one article fire, but several! On December 31 in Moscow, fireworks were launched from more than 30 locations.
- When? The big fireworks take place at 1 a.m. This is the time all of Russia will pass in the New Year.
- Where? Pretty much everywhere. The midnight fireworks are the most central, between the Kremlin and Zaryadie Park. You must therefore position yourself near this area, if you want to stay in the heart of the city center. But the fireworks (more than 30 launch sites!) Will cover other places in the city. It is often said that Sparrow Hill is the perfect place to see the fireworks. However, it is located quite far from the city center.
New Year in Moscow: public transport
Public transport in Moscow operates throughout the night of December 31, according to the official website of the Moscow city hall. It’s very convenient to move around and enjoy the party in several places in the city! To find out more about Moscow transportation cards, read the blog post: Moscow public transportation and taxi. In 2019, public transport will be free the night of December 31 (from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.).
For the record, the night of December 31, 2017, 35,000 people celebrated the arrival of New Year at midnight on Moscow’s public transport! In addition, almost 500,000 people took advantage of overnight transportation.
Moscow at Christmas time
Orthodox Christmas in Moscow (and in Russia globally) is January 7, more preciously the night of January 6 to 7. It’s an important holiday. However, it is not as festive as New Years Day.
Liturgies take place at night in cathedrals and Orthodox churches. The main cathedral in Moscow at Christmas time is the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It is therefore the liturgy in this cathedral which is transmitted on the main channels of the country live.
In 2020, public transport will operate until 2 a.m. in Moscow at Christmas time.
Moscow is the best destination for Christmas and New Year in Russia!
Moscow city hall really does the utmost to decorate the city: streets, squares and parks. So if you are looking for when to go to Moscow and enjoy the holiday mood, Christmas and New Year in Moscow is perfect for you, because Moscow Christmas decorations are really exceptional.
Before departure, here is what you may find useful:
- How to get a tourist voucher for Russian visa?
- Where to stay in Moscow?
- Airport transfer: how to get to Moscow?
- What to visit in Moscow?
If you hesitate between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the moods in the two cities are different. For the holiday season, Moscow is much more decorated than Saint Petersburg. The budget in terms of decorations and entertainment is clearly not the same. Christmas and New Year in Moscow, it’s excitement! However, if you are looking to celebrate New Years Day much more calmly, St. Petersburg is more suitable.
Will you plan to got to Moscow at Christmas time? Or later during the winter? Our travel tips could help you to prepare your trip, here are some of them.