Moscow is the capital city and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural and scientific center in Russia and in Eurasia. According to Forbes 2013, Moscow has the largest number of billionaire residents in the world. Moscow is the northernmost megacity on Earth, the second most populous city in Europe after Istanbul and the 6th largest city proper in the world. It is the largest city in Russia, with a population, according to the 2010 Census, of 11,503,501. By its territorial expansion on July 1, 2012 southwest into the Moscow(#Moscow) Oblast, the capital increased its area 2.5 times; from about 1,000 square kilometers (390 sq mi) up to 2,511 square kilometers (970 sq mi), and gained an additional population of 233,000 people.
Moscow is situated on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District of European Russia making it the world’s most populated inland city. It also has the largest forest area within its borders – more than any other major city – even before its expansion in 2012. In the course of its history the city has served as the capital of a progression of states, from the medieval Grand Duchy of Moscow and the subsequent Tsardom of Russia to the Soviet Union.
Moscow is the site of the Moscow Kremlin, a medieval city-fortress that is today the residence of the Russian president. The Moscow Kremlin is also one of several World Heritage Sites in the city. Both chambers of the Russian parliament (the State Duma and the Federation Council) also sit in Moscow.
The city is served by an extensive transit network, which includes four international airports, nine railway terminals, and one of the deepest underground metro systems in the world, the Moscow Metro, third to Tokyo and Seoul in terms of passenger numbers. It is recognized as one of the city’s landmarks due to the rich and varied architecture of its 188 stations.
Over time, Moscow has acquired a number of epithets, most referring to its size and preeminent status within the nation: The Third Rome (Третий Рим), The Whitestone One (Белокаменная), The First Throne (Первопрестольная), The Forty Forties (Сорок Сороков), and The Hero City (город-герой). In old Russian the word “Сорок” (forty) also meant a church administrative district, which consisted of about forty churches. The demonym for a Moscow resident is “москвич” (moskvich), rendered in English as Muscovite.
Moscow has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) with warm humid summers and fairly cold winters usually lasting from mid November through the end of March. Weather can fluctuate widely with temperatures ranging from −25 °C (−13 °F) to above 0 °C (32 °F) in the winter and from 15 °C (59 °F) to 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer. Typical high temperatures in the warm months of June, July and August are around a comfortable 20 °C (68 °F) to 26 °C (79 °F), but during heat waves (which can occur between May and September), daytime high temperatures often exceed 30 °C (86 °F), sometimes for a week or two at a time. In the winter, night-time temperatures normally drop to approximately −10 °C (14 °F), though there can be periods of warmth with temperatures rising above 0 °C (32 °F). The highest temperature ever recorded was 38.2 °C (100.8 °F) at the VVC weather station and 39.0 °C (102.2 °F) in the center of Moscow and Domodedovo airport on July 29, 2010 during the unusual 2010 Northern Hemisphere summer heat wave. Record high temperatures were recorded for January, March, April, May, August, November and December in 2007. The average July temperature from 1981–2010 is 19.2 °C (66.6 °F). The lowest ever recorded temperature was −42.2 °C (−44.0 °F) in January 1940. Snow, which is present for three to five months a year, often begins to fall at the end of November and melts by mid-March.
On average Moscow has 1731 hours of sunshine per year, varying between a low of 8% in December to 52% in May–August. Between 2004–2010, the average was between 1800 and 2000 hours with a tendency to more sunshine in summer months.
Credit cards usage is becoming more and more widespread, but many cheaper stores and restaurants won’t accept them, so cash is a necessity. Be sure to break your 5000 or 1000 RUB notes where you can, as the smaller merchants, street vendors and even many metro clerks will likely refuse them. While you are able to get some smaller vendors to accept U.S. dollars and Euros, it is always best to change currency, which is not a problem as currency exchange spots are everywhere, displaying the daily rates in large yellow letters. Read the terms carefully; even if the offer seems attractive, there may be a fixed-sum commission on top of it, or the advertised rate might apply only to large transactions (US$1,000 and up), while a less favourable one is in effect for smaller ones.
Don’t forget to check the change returned to you (the most common scam is to let a banknote “stick” inadvertently to the back of the little turnstile which the clerk is using to pass the money back and forth) and do not simply say yes to what you do not understand. A good approach to exchanging currency is to use bank (“Банк” in Russian) offices. There are lots of them in the centre of city (broadly defined as the inside of the Garden Ring). Better yet, use your own bank card from home at an ATM to draw money directly from your checking account, as the machines are almost all compatible with major Western money systems (Cirrus/MasterCard and PLUS/Visa) – not only you’ll get a decent fixed bank rate, but also often a screen menu in friendly (albeit somewhat broken) English.
Buying souvenirs can be quite a chore if you do not stay in the centre of Moscow. You can get cheaper souvenirs from Izmaylovskiy Market in Izmalylovo Park. Walking out in the middle of a bargaining session will most likely NOT get you the price you want.