The unique aspect of the voyage stories of the Team Onetimefashionista is the fact that we try to enjoy a location we explore from three perspectives if possible. In other words, along with curiously exploring the venues on ground, we always try to view the town or city from an altitude high enough to have a bird’s eye view. But frankly we never thought that we could ever experience how a city moves under the ground and that so beautifully, until we immersed ourselves with the common Muscovites and residents of St. Petersburg in the gorgeously designed metro networks of these Russian cities. The way the trains arrive and leave and the city keeps moving, as if it creates an amazing symphony of movement, motion all in the elegant settings of a public museum for the public and its proud past.
- Download and print from Internet or collect from your hotel a metro network map which will also have station names written in English
- Depending on length of your stay, buy tickets comprising of 11 or 22 or more rides. Every time you touch in, it is one ride. Unlike in London Underground, you don’t need to touch out in Russian metro.
- The travel card is transferable, you and your partner both can use same card, in which case it will count as two rides
- Learn basic Russian to convey how many rides you want, go to the counters which say “Kacca” and get the tickets. The staff we came across in the metro are shy to speak in English or not comfortable
- Dedicate atleast half a day to explore the best stations
- Avoid rush hours at any cost i.e. 8am to 10am and 4pm to 6pm
- It is true that the directions in the platforms are all written in Russian so atleast know how to read ‘Exit’ (Выход) and City Center (в город) so that you are not completely confused.
A brief history on Russia (or erstwhile USSR) will tell you how and why Stalin introduced this idea of glorifying the communist values and principles through its network of underground stations. He wanted these metro stations to become the ‘Palaces of the People’ and rightfully so – they are no less beautiful than any palace or five star hotel that you would visit otherwise. City dwellers who may be residing in bigger cities boasting a metro network like London, Stockholm, New York etc. must visit the metro stations in Russia to start feeling bad about their home stations. Especially we have completely fallen a bit out of love with the London Underground ever since our love affair started with the Russian Metro. This is especially more so because –
- We found the Russian underground stations to be so spacious, ancient-looking yet clean
- The trains arrived literally within 90 seconds of one another
- There were no reported delays (atleast during our stay) of any engineering works, any person (or rat) under the train, any falling snow flake or any autumn leaf causing disruptions – like so frequently taking place in London Underground
- There were exactly two platforms in most stations, each having trains to opposite directions, no confusing maze, no getting lost
- These stations looked more like museums or art galleries, lavish, luxurious and royal – something not seen anywhere else in the world
One interesting observation was the announcements made inside the train which were in male voice for trains towards the city center whereas the outbound trains were having announcements in female voice. Jokes have it that the male voice means your boss is waiting for you at work in the city center while the female voice is that of your spouse waiting for you at home outside the city. Sexism aside, this was introduced in the metro supposedly to help the visually disabled passengers.
We can safely say that almost all the stations we visited or transited in are somewhat a piece of art and looked like an art gallery. However for the sake of precision, we can make the list shorter (although we included some photos of other beautiful stations only for you all) so that you don’t miss the most gorgeous ones. Following are the top 10 recommendations Team Onetimefashionista will make to you so you make sure you immerse yourself in the beauty and design of these underground gems which keep Moscow and St. Petersburg moving day in, day out. These TEN jewels of the Russian metro network are shared with you in no particular order but purely based on our preference for their beauty, history and the feel good factor we experienced. So think of these seven stations as the jewel in the crown of the Russian Metro. Once you have visited all ten, you can imagine yourself wearing the crown yourself while you roam around in your own Palace – the Palaces for the People!
#1 Kievskaya Metro Station
Kievskaya station of Moscow metro is one of the veterans of the city’s underground network. Built in 1954, it was the first underground station that was finished after the rule of Joseph Stalin. The locals say that there is a joke in Russian “he’s so old who remembers Lenin”. Well, Kievskaya doesn’t remember neither Lenin nor Stalin, but it came in action right after Nikita Khruschev rose to power. Although by the time the station was open, Stalin was already dead, though the station was built strictly according to the old Soviet standards, which mean a lot of space, great design – and artwork. Abundance of artwork!
#2 Mayakovskaya Metro station
This station can be safely counted in the top two most beautiful stations in Moscow proudly boasting a superb pre-world war II Stalinist architecture with elements of Futurism all around. Let some trains be missed, as it will take some time for you to completely absorb the imposing decor of this station. Don’t forget to check out the fine details and depictions on the roofs of the station.
#3 Ploshchad Revolyutsii Metro Station
This is the most central metro station in Moscow, close to many attractions such as the Red Square. Beautifully built sculptures of the common People, men, women, children, even the accompanying trusted canine friend is engraved embracing the columns of this centrally located station. You will notice that some of the edges of the statues have worn out a bit. This is because the regular commuters keep patting the edges, knees or feet of the statues on their way in and out as some believe it will bring good luck.
#4 Prospekt Mira Metro Station
A bit toned down this, but the white marble and the white tiled decoration is very different to its cousin stations adorned with classy artwork.
#5 Komsomolskaya Metro Station
This is the station from which trains leave for St. Petersburg. Will it be exaggeration if we claim that this is the most beautiful of all the Moscow metro stations? The distinctive yellow ceiling and the imposing chandeliers narrating the glorious history of the Russian struggle for independence and freedom.
#6 Avtovo Metro Station (St. Petersburg)
This is the most beautiful metro station in St. Petersburg. By design and architecture it also looks similar to the Moscow metros but it is important to note that no two metro stations in Russia are the same, they are uniquely different and beautiful in design, construction and architecture.
#7 Admiralteyskaya Metro Station (St. Petersburg)
The deepest metro station in Russia (although the excited voice in the video claims it to be deepest in the world) and the 3rd deepest in the whole world. We clocked 3 minutes 37 seconds sharp on the escalator from underground to ground level.
#8 Novoslobodskaya Metro Station (Moscow)
Novoslobodskaya is best known for its 32 stained glass panels, which are the work of Latvian artists E. Veylandan, E. Krests, and M. Ryskin. The glass panels are surrounded by an elaborate brass border and are set into one of the station’s pylons and illuminated from within. The platform is a mosaic by Pavel Korin entitled “Peace Throughout the World.”
#9 Park Pobedy Metro Station (Moscow)
#10 Kirovsky Zavod Subway Station (Saint Petersburg)
This St. Petersburg metro station finds its place in our top 10 not because it is as majestic as its counterparts, but it is still impressive. In fact, it deserves a mention simply because it is the deepest subway in the world by the average depth of all the stations.
It is also comparatively a modern one opened on November 15th, 1955. Its name comes from the Kirov factory, which is nearby. In addition to grand halls and checkered floors, you can see a statue of Lenin here.
Like vessels spread across the body, the metro networks in the Russian cities carry the city dwellers and tourist alike in all directions relentlessly and punctually. No visit to Russia can be complete if you don’t see the beauty underground. So go deep down as the treasure of Moscow and St. Petersburg are not on street level – but hidden beneath.