The Top 10 Things You Can’t Miss in Moscow
It was a lifelong dream of mine to live in Russia, and now here I am in Moscow, already for almost 4 years! This is an amazing city, with never a dull moment. As a tourist, you can pack your days as full as you like, because Moscow is endless, and you always find something to interest you!
1. Red Square and the Kremlin
Every tourist to Moscow immediately gravitates towards Red Square. Here you will feel the beating heart of Russia, and be smack in the middle of the picture that represents Russia to the world! Red Square “Krasnya Ploshad” is the biggest square in Europe, full of people, and with an unforgettable atmosphere!
There is so much around the square, that you can easily spend a full day here or even two. Alternatively, come back more than once, you won’t regret it! There are so many things to do in Moscow Because you must see:
Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Is shown on every international news broadcast about Russia. Enjoy the colourful onion domes up close, and try to imagine that what you are seeing is real. Ivan the Terrible had it built in the 16th century and according to legend, the architect had his eyes removed after so that he could never build something more beautiful. He must have been one of the best architects in the world to have imagined such beauty! You can buy a ticket to go into the church, worthwhile just for the contrast.
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The elegant building flanking the east side of Red Square is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world. It is both stunning and elegant, not to mention one of the the most beautiful shopping malls you will ever visit. Make sure to go inside, where you can find something for every budget!
The resting place of the leader of the Communist Revolution in Russia is open for visiting from 10:00 to 13:00, Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday. Vladimir Lenin is well preserved and his resting spot is the holy grail of aspiring communists and others who wish to see, in the flesh, the man who completely changed Russia. Leave your camera in your pocket and keep your voices down in the Mausoleum. Defiantly a great one of the activities in Moscow.
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The Kremlin is the most important part of Red Square and is the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation. The Kremlin is immediately distinguishable by the red walls surrounding it. You can admire it from Red Square, but if you want to go inside you will need to visit one of the museums or be a part of a tourist group there are many walking tours in Moscow.
The Kremlin’s Armoury has an impressive collection of weapons, jewelry, and tsarist household items. Most importantly, the Armoury is where you will find the famous collection of Faberge eggs. It also holds houses unique,
The Kremlin houses four cathedrals and a number of permanent exhibitions, including the world’s largest cannon that was never fired, and the largest bell that has never been rung. There are many guided walking tours in Moscow who can give you a running commentary whilst showing you around.
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The Great Bell Tower of Ivan the Terrible
Here you will discover the history and architecture of the bell tower and the Kremlin, see some original pieces of the Kremlin prior to its renovation by Ivan III, and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the superb views of the Kremlin and its environs.
State Historical Museum
Sitting on the opposite end of Red Square from St. Basil’s, the State Historical Museum opened in 1883 and is the largest national museum of Russia. In all, the museum’s collection has over 4.5 million items from pre-history all the way through to the history of the Russian Empire until its end in the early 20th century. There are definitely some very interesting artefacts here and it’s worth checking out! Closed on Tuesdays, prices range from 500-700 RUB, depending on the time of year (more if you want an English audioguide).
2. Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Not far from the Kremlin is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the largest Orthodox church in the world and Russian Orthodoxy’s most important church. Stalin had the original cathedral destroyed in 1931. An outdoor swimming pool was then built on the site. The current structure has been here since 2000 and is a strong
symbol of Russian Orthodoxy’s resurgence following the aggressive anti-religion policies of the Soviet leadership.
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3. Bolshoy theatre
The world famous Bolshoy Theatre is a stone’s throw away from Red Square. Ballet and opera performances are held in the gorgeous Tsarist interior. Russian ballet is known as some of the very best anywhere in the world, but even if the performances are not your thing, it is well worth attending a show just to experience the neo-classical interior. You are guaranteed not to be disappointed!
Getting an inexpensive ticket isn’t easy. You might be able to get tickets on the official website 3-4 months in advance, but for last minute tickets expect to pay 200 euros and up.
Metro: “Teatral’naya”, “Okhotny Ryad”
4. Moscow metro
Having been on many underground systems around the world, I still haven’t found one that comes close to the beauty and efficiency of the Moscow Metro! It is a sprawling underground art museum, with trains every 2 minutes or less.
In Moscow, the metro is almost always the fastest way to get around, and is quite easy to learn how to use. But even if you plan to travel by taxi or other means, you definitely need to go underground and see some of the stations.
Most of the stations are like museums, each uniquely decorated and themed! Doing a Moscow metro tour between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. is recommended to avoid the commuter crowds.
You can find a knowledgeable guide who will tell you the metro’s many tales, but if you decide to explore by yourself the following stations should not be missed: Mayakovskaya, Ploshad Revolutsii, Kievskaya, Kropotkinskaya, Kurskaya, Komsomolskaya, Novoslobodskaya, Park Pobedy, and Dostoyevskaya.
5. Tretyakovskaya gallery
The state-run Tretyakovskaya Art Gallery was originally established by the Tretyakov brothers, wealthy 19th-century philanthropists. This is one of the best places to dive into the incredible world of Russian painting. There is also an incredible collection of Russian icons here. If you only plan to see one museum while in Moscow, you can’t go wrong with the Tretyakovskaya. Admission is 500 RUB. Closed on Mondays.
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6. Moscow River cruise
Why not take a river cruise and see the historic center from another perspective. This is a great way to get away from the crowds and pass a relaxing summer afternoon (or evening). Many outfits are plying the river, so you have no shortage of options and price ranges, but one of the most popular is the Radisson Royal cruise boat. It’s a bit more expensive, but you will be comfortable watching Moscow float by while sitting at your table enjoying good food and a glass of wine. Cruises leave promptly at the scheduled times, so don’t be late! The cruise is 2.5 hours long and tickets are 1 300 RUB for adults and 950 RUB for kids.
Metro: “Oktyabrskaya”, “Park Kultury” for Gorky Park Pier
7. Sparrow Hills and MSU
The Sparrow Hills are situated on the banks of the Moskva River, near the main building of the Moscow State University (MSU). It’s one of the highest points in Moscow, with splendid panoramic views of the city.
A short walk from the lookout point is the MSU building, the tallest of the Seven Sisters, characteristic skyscrapers that epitomize Stalinist architecture. The other six “Sisters” are spread out around the city center and absolutely worth checking out as well.
Metro: Use “Vorobyevy gory” if you want to walk about the Sparrow Hills first or “Universitet” for MSU.
8. Izmailovo Kremlin
Not to be confused with the real Kremlin on Red Square, the Izmailovo Kremlin, built in 1998, lacks the history of other kremlins (“kremlin” translates as fortress), but is nonetheless a charming pleasure to behold! Essentially, Izmailovo is a cultural complex that blends Russian history and fairytale with the modern world.
Creative workshops are available here, and you can check out the Vodka Museum and take a ride in a horse carriage among other things! But Izmailovo is best known for its market, which is an excellent place to do your souvenir shopping. You’ll find everything you’re looking for here, including Russia’s famous matryoshka nesting dolls and much more, and at far better prices than you’ll find elsewhere!
A few steps away, escape the crowds on the island that was once a country estate of the Romanov Tsars. Peter the Great spent time here and got his idea for a Russian Navy after finding a boat nearby.
If you head out in the other direction from Izmailovo, in less than 10 minutes you’ll come across Stalin’s Bunker, a secret military bunker built in the 1930s. You can visit, something I strongly recommend for anyone interested in Cold War history! 800 RUB.
There are a number of decent and well-priced hotels in the immediate vicinity of the Izmailovo Kremlin.
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9. Moscow Parks
Moscow is an amazingly green city and spoiled for parks! The parks are truly one of the highlights of the city that you won’t want to miss. Here are some of the best:
Gorky Park is the most famous and centrally located. It’s a favourite place to hang out, and there’s something for everyone! Whether you want to dance, play ping pong or beach volleyball, rent a bicycle, skateboard, or scooter, take some free yoga lessons, or watch a movie in the outdoor cinema, you won’t run out of things to do. A stroll with an ice cream along the riverfront to Sparrow Hills is also a great way to relax. And why not pop in to the Muzeon Art Park across the street, with its collection of 700 sculptures, including many discarded monuments of the Soviet era.
Metro: “Park Kultury”, “Oktyabrskaya”
For an even more central park, the landscaped urban park of Zaryadye is Moscow’s newest. It is divided into four distinct climate zones: forest, steppe, tundra, and floodplains, and also features a concert hall.Metro: “Kitay-Gorod”.
Not far from the city center, Sokolniki is the city’s oldest park, first laid out by Peter the Great in the 1700s and established as a municipal park in 1878. This is my favourite Moscow park! It offers most of the same entertainments as Gorky Park, and also contains an amusement park, ponds of various sizes, a monastery, and a large and gorgeous forest with comfortable walking paths. The park was completely renovated less than 10 years ago.
VDNKh and Ostankino Tower
In Russian, VDNKh is short for the All Russian Exhibition Center. This is a Soviet era park designed to showcase the different cultures of the Soviet Union and their agricultural practices.
Russia put the first man into space and you can visit the fascinating Museum of Cosmonautics while at VDNKh. The Moskvarium is also in the park and features a wide variety of sea life. A definite winner if you’re traveling with kids! And in winter, VDNKh boasts the largest skate rink in Europe.
Not far from the park is the Ostankino TV tower, the tallest structure in Europe and 8th tallest in the world! Don’t miss the view at 340 meters up on the open observation deck or while looking down through the glass floor! Catch a bite to eat at the revolving restaurant inside the tower. Please keep in mind that the number of visitors per day is limited. Entrance is at scheduled times and you need to book your ticket in advance. Don’t forget your passport as you’ll need it to pass through the security.
Catherine the Great used Tsaritsyno as one of her residences more than two centuries ago. The park is an absolute delight and covers more than 400 hectares.
Enjoy the tranquil forest paths, musical fountains, and greenhouses. You can also pay a visit to the palace itself.
Kolomenskoe is another large park overlooking the Moskva River. You can sample medieval architecture here. Don’t miss the Church of the Ascension and the charming wooden palace of Tsar Alexis I, which seems straight out of a fairytale! Kolomenskoe is great for a stroll or a picnic on the grass, and hosts a very good music festival in the summer. Try to find Golosov Ovrag, considered to be mystical place which can transport you to another world!
10. Historic Streets and Neighbourhoods
With so much to see and do in Moscow, it could be easy to forget to take some time to simply explore. There are so many neighbourhoods just dripping with history and full of life at all hours of the day. These are great places to people watch, find nice cafes, and take in the atmosphere. Nikolskaya is one of the most famous streets, coming out of Red Square and leading to the Lubyanka (Headquarters of the infamous KGB and now the FSB) at the other end. It’s fully pedestrianized and is near the Kitay Gorod neighbourhood, also well worth exploring. From there, you could leisurely make your way down Kuznetsky Most, another pedestrianized street, all the way to Tverskaya Street, the main street in Moscow, which leads right into Red Square and is a good choice for boutique shopping.
Or, you could head up to the Chistie Prudy (Clear Ponds) area and take in this hip neighbourhood’s ponds and historic architecture. Speaking of ponds, Patriarshie Ponds was once a district for poets and artists. Now it hosts countless posh cafes, restaurants, and clubs. Fans of Mikhail Bulgakov and his famous “Master and Margarita” will not want to miss this area! The novel’s opening scene takes place at the pond. Then there’s the area around Pyatnitskaya Street, where you’ll find more pedestrianized alleys, lots of great places to eat, and the Tretyakovskaya Gallery.
Last, but not least, Old Arbat is the main tourist street in Moscow. It is also one of the oldest and fully pedestrianized. It’s a good choice for souvenirs, people watching, or finding a cafe to take a break in.
This top ten list is really just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to see and do in Moscow, you will never have a dull moment. And all the while, the atmosphere will envelope you and have you feeling like you’ve arrived in some magical fairytale land! I hope Moscow is at the top of your list of places to visit! I certainly would recommend a Walking tour In Moscow.