End of an era the old Moscow circus

Moscow Lions

Moscow Nikulin Circus Lion Performance

The Moscow Nikulin circus brought gasps of “oohs” and “ah’s” from me and my friends. It must have been a sight to see four grown men with smiles from ear to ear clapping and gasping with the crowd like the children that surrounded us.

You can get cheap seats at the Moscow Nikulin circus for 600 Rubles ($20 USD). This is a great deal since the arena provides excellent views from all vantage points and the expensive tickets can cost up to $75 USD. To my surprise, this circus did not smell like animals and the arena did not have a dirt floor. It was a beautiful building, and the show combined both contemporary and classic circus acts that blended the old with the new.

As one of the oldest circuses in Russia I knew visiting Nikulin was going to be a great experience. However, with the reputations circuses have for animal rights abuses, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. Luckily, there weren’t any acts with sad looking animals, and the ones that did have our furry friends running around were impressive, withstanding the lion act which was a little hard to watch.

Preparing for the lions

Preparing for the lions at the Moscow Nikulin Circus

The acts of animals and performers were accompanied by a live band who toyed with the emotions of the crowd. The live music was a great addition to the show and encompassed a contemporary sound that gave the show a modern twist. At one point during the show a trapeze artist soared through the air, her blond hair flashing steaks of gold like a dangling locket spinning from the ceiling.

Lions performing

Lions performing at the Moscow Nikulin circus

The animal acts were also a lot of fun to watch. Some of the highlights were the poodles and white huskies who performed unbelievably intricate routines. Dancing on two paws, balancing off each other in an Eiffel tower position, and moving in way’s that must have taken years to learn was incredible watch.

The bears had a cool balancing acts where they did hand stands on blocks that were stacked on the edges of 10 foot high platforms.  More amazingly, during another act, one of the bears performed a play with two actors. It followed the story line of a bear competing for love both animal and human acting seamlessly together.

What would a circus be without Lions and just as expected there was a lion performance at this Moscow circus.  During this part of the performance 10 males were paraded around, the climax being when the trainer put his head in one of the lion’s mouths.

This part of the show was difficult to watch because in the back of your mind you know that the lions had to be mistreated in order to establish dominance and train them. Also, they were completely out of their natural habitat and seeing 10 males, who usually roam alone with their pride, together was bizarre.

When all was said and done the Moscow Nikulin Circus was one of the highlights during my visit to Moscow. In the end it was a great experience filled with all the wonder a circus act should have. Of course there were animal acts, but for the most part they were fun to watch and the animals didn’t look sad.

It was great to see the magic show and the traipse artists whose death defying acts brought some of the young crowd to their feet screaming and laughing. So if you’re in Moscow and wondering what to do for the evening definitely check out the Moscow Nikulin circus, you won’t be disappointed.

Have fun,



Ian Yacobucci

Traveling the Trans-Siberian, mountaineering the Himalayas, or teaching in Tokyo, I'm always trying something new. As a someone who's worked, studied, and traveled to 40+ countries around the world, I'm here to share my experiences so you can do the same.

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