Moscow

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Arkhangelskoe

Accessible from Tushinskaya Metro station, Arkhangelskoe, 22km (14 miles) west of central Moscow, is the perfect place to escape Moscow's grime and noise. Founded in 1670, this famous country palace and estate passed through several hands before it was bought by Prince Nikolai Yusupov (1751-1831), an influential patron of the arts. Parts of the extravagant palace and its formal gardens are open to the public. Dotted around the grounds are a temple to Catherine the Great, a two-storey summer house and a Stalin-era military convalescence home. The palace is open Wednesday to Sunday 1030-1630, while the gardens are open daily 1000-2000.

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Arkhangelskoe
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Khram Khrista Spansitelya (Christ the Saviour Cathedral)

Christ the Saviour Cathedral is a monument to the struggles of 20th-century Moscow. The original cathedral was constructed between 1883 and 1889 to commemorate Moscow's victory over Napoleon, but in 1930, Stalin ordered the church to be demolished, to make way for one of his vain-glorious skyscrapers. On discovery that the ground was too soft, the area was turned into a huge outdoor swimming pool instead. The decision to resurrect the cathedral was the brainchild of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzkhov, and the gleaming new cathedral, completed in 1997, was paid for by public donations from school children, babushkas, public officials and rich benefactors alike.

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Khram Khrista Spansitelya (Christ the Saviour Cathedral)
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Krasnaya Ploshchad

Krasnaya Ploschad, usually referred to as Red Square, is bordered by some of Russia's best known monuments - the Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral and the GUM department store. This enormous, 700m-long (2,300ft) public space was used for patriotic May Day parades back in the Soviet era, but nowadays serves as a major tourist attraction. The GUM (Gosudarstvenny Universalny Magazin) department store now functions as an extremely upmarket shopping mall - a metaphor for Russia's recent enthusiasm for capitalism. In contrast, the square's west side has Lenin's Mausoleum. In 1990, Red Square and the Kremlin were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. The square is sometimes closed for state functions.

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Krasnaya Ploshchad
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Kremlin

Nerve centre of the Russian state, the Kremlin (literally 'fortified town') is undoubtedly Moscow's most famous monument. Dominated by churches and palaces dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, this walled fortress was actually founded way back in 1147. From 1276 to 1712, it was the seat of government for the grand princes and tsars; and from 1918 to the early 1990s, that of the Communist government. Undeniably iconic, the Kremlin is inexorably linked to the most monumental events in Russian history. This importance is reflected in its UNESCO World Heritage status - there's no better place to consider the fascinating complexities of Russian history.

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Kremlin
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Novodevichy Monastyr

Founded in 1524 by Grand Prince Vassily III, Moscow's Novodevichy Convent contains the Sobor Smolensk Bogomateri (Cathedral of the Virgin of Smolensk), with its distinctive golden onion domes and tiered bell tower dating from 1690. The cathedral itself was built in 1525 and features 16th-century frescoes, as well as a magnificent late 17th-century iconostasis. The convent, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, was a place of exile for noblewomen in mourning or disfavour. The adjacent Novodevichy Cemetery is equally interesting and contains the graves of many distinguished Muscovites, including Nikita Krushchev, Nikolai Gogol, Sergei Prokofiev and Anton Chekhov.

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Novodevichy Monastyr
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Sergiev Posad

One of the most magical sights in Russia is the monastery of Troitsko - Sergieva Lavra (The Trinity - St Sergius Crypt) in the town of Sergiyev Posad (formerly Zagorsk). This monastery complex, founded in the 1340s by St Sergius of Radonezh (the Russian Orthodox Church's greatest saint), is one of Russia's most important pilgrimage sites and one of only four in the Russian Orthodox Church to have the honorific 'Lavra', the Orthodox term for revered retreats for hermits. Sergiyev Posad is part of the Golden Ring, a group of ancient Russian towns northeast of Moscow that are practically open-air museums. It is open daily 1000-2000 and admission to the church is free (the parts of the monastery used by monks are not open to the public).

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Sergiev Posad
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