Russia is one of those places that are in the news constantly for one reason or another. In 2018, it’s on everybody’s radar because of the World Cup, that will take place in 11 Russian cities. Moscow is one of them. Even though most people just stay in the city for a couple of days and stay in the area around the Kremlin and the Red Square, there’s more to the city, so today I will show you the top places to visit in Moscow.

Unlike St Petersburg which is a very European city (check out here the top things to do in St Petersburg, by the way!), Moscow is a truly Russian city in every sense of the word: it’s the political, economic and cultural capital and where people from all corners of the former Soviet Union travel to or migrate for work. The city is covered in grand historical buildings, museums amazing hotels and cool cafes and restaurants.

Also: Best Hotels In Moscow: Options For Every Budget

But before I tell you about the top things to do in Moscow, let’s just clear a few important points that need to be tackled. Shall we?

Is It Safe To Travel To Moscow?

Yes, Moscow is a very safe city. Despite everything you see on the press, there are no tanks around the streets, no mean army men asking what you’re doing in the city. Petty crime has declined enormously and walking around late at night is safe. Of course, in such a huge city, it’s important to take all precautions you would take when in New York, London or Rio de Janeiro. But overall, it is safe to travel to Moscow, by all means.

Just be aware that in less touristy areas, you will come across drunk locals and they might want to interact with you. By “interacting”,  I also mean they will probably bother you. So, better keep your bearings and discreetly steer away from heavily drunk people on the streets.

There used to be some police scams when they would stop you, ask to see your passport and request some money to give it back to you. That’s disappeared 99%, I would say.

One thing to say, though: do not drink alcohol on the streets or public parks. Just don’t. You will see a lot of Russians doing that, but remember that this is illegal and it is more likely that police will pick on you. Just to make it very clear, no matter how many Russians you see doing that, avoid that! Just to illustrate it, a couple of years ago, two friends of mine were taken to a police station for drinking in public. Otherwise, yes, it is definitely safe to travel to Moscow.

Best Time To Travel To Moscow

When it comes to the best time to travel to Moscow, it all depends on your personal preferences. But that doesn’t answer the question.

Spring: Spring is a good time to visit Moscow, when temperatures are getting better during the day, the snow has melted and the gardens and parks are getting prettier.

Summer: This is the best time to travel to Moscow, in my opinion. The city is generally hot (every time I travel to Moscow in summer I get a tan!), the parks are packed with Russians having a picnic, there are a number of concerts all around the city and the whole atmosphere is positive.

Fall/Autumn: With dropping temperatures, there will be fewer tourists around, the best theaters are back in season and temperatures are still in the low teens up to early November (roughly). After that, you can already get some snow and temperatures of up to -5C (23F).

Winter: It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Moscow is freezing cold in winter. It snows often, so bring with you some heavy winter clothes, thick gloves and non-slippery shoes. Despite everything, the lowest temperature I’ve ever got in Moscow in winter was -20C (-4F). There are a number of ice-skate rinks around the city, Christmas Markets on Red Square stays open until late January and if you’re looking for a winter wonderland, this is it. Also, it’s important to remember that Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7th, just to get the dates right. The celebrations really start on New Year’s Eve.

Places To Visit In Moscow: Things To Do Any Time Of The Year

Moscow has enough attractions to keep you busy for a whole week and more. Many of the top things to do in Moscow are within walking distance of the Kremlin. Others are just a metro ride away. The Moscow metro system is very reliable and covers the entire city, and is the 4th longest in the world, with 12 lines, 214 stations and 365km (226.7 miles) long. Now check out my ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Moscow and things to do in the city.

Red Square (Красная площадь)

Red Square (Krásnaya Plóshid in Russian) is the heart of Moscow. It is the main Moscow postcard and, in fact, the main postcard of Russia. This is where Moscovites come for official ceremonies, concerts and where the government often hosts events on national holidays. Many of the parades during the communist period and even today take place at this iconic place.

Top things to do in Moscow

Visiting the Red Square is one of the top things to do in Moscow.

The Red Square was created to be Moscow’s main marketplace and has been completely redeveloped over time. It’s easy to spend a full day around here, since there are a lot of things to see on Red Square.

Metro: Ohotny Ríad (Охотный риад), Line 1.

The Kremlin (Московский Кремль)

When you think about Moscow, it’s impossible not to think about the Kremlin (Maskóvskee Kreml in Russian), the fortified citadel right next to the Red Square. Built in the 15th Century, the Moscow Kremlin used to be the seat of the Russian government. Many of the decisions from the time of the Russian Empire to the Communist period, were taken here. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is open to the public and you can imagine, it’s among the best places to visit in Moscow, a real must.

Top things to do in Moscow

The Kremlin is definitely one of the best places to visit in Moscow!

To visit the Kremlin, I highly recommend buying your tickets in advance and having plenty of time. There are a strong security check and lines to get in, tend to be quite long. The ordinary ticket allows you to visit the main area independently and see the Kremlin Cathedrals and have a peak of the State Kremlin Palace. An additional ticket will allow you to see the Armoury Chamber, where you can see ancient arms, golden and silver pieces, jewelry and the famous Fabergé eggs.

Get your tickets to the Kremlin Cathedral Square

Get your tickets to the Kremlin’s Armoury Chamber

Metro: Ohotny Ríad (Охотный риад), Line 1; Aleksandrovsky Sad (Алекса́ндровский сад), Line 4.

Lenin’s Mausoleum (Мавзолей Ленина)

Located right on the Red Square, the Lenin’s resting place is a tourist attraction not to be missed. Located next to a small garden next to the Kremlin walls, Lenin’s Mausoleum (Mavzoléi Lénina in Russian) is open for public visitation. There you will see the Soviet leader’s embalmed body. The visit is quick, you have to walk around it without stopping. No photos are allowed.

Metro: Ohotny Ríad (Охотный риад), Line 1.

St Basil’s Cathedral (Собор Василия Блаженного)

St Basil’s Cathedral (pronounced Sóbor Vassíliya Blajénnaga in Russian) is the main focal point on the Red Square. This church with colorful domes built under the orders of Ivan, The Terrible, in the 16th century. The church is now a museum and you pay a small fee to visit. But in all honesty, the exterior is much more beautiful than in interiors.

Metro: Ohotny Ríad (Охотный риад), Line 1.

Best places to visit in Moscow

G.U.M. Department Store

G.U.M. Department Store (Г.У.М.)

G.U.M. (pronounced goom) is a Soviet-time department store that became luxury shopping mall in present time. Located right on the Red Square, it’s really worth a visit even if you have no intention to buy. Just wander around the aisles and do some window shopping. The decoration is really stunning and changes seasonally. Here you will find shops such as Armani, Gucci and Chanel, as well as some great restaurants. At least, try the delicious ice-creams sold in vintage carts all around the building.

Metro: Ohotny Ríad (Охотный риад), Line 1.

Novodevichy Convent (Новоде́вичий монасты́рь)

This is one of the most beautiful convents in Moscow. Novodevichy Convent (pronounced navadévichee manastír, in Russian) is surrounded by high walls, inside which there is a nicely manicured garden, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Smolensk, an octagonal bell tower and some smaller museums. When opened, back in the 16th century, it housed many women of Russian royal families.

Top things to do in Moscow

The Novodevichy Convent

During the Soviet period, the convent was closed down and worked as a Museum of Women’s Emancipation, an art museum and during Stalin’s period, it was turned into the Moscow Theological Courses.

Metro: Sportivnaya (Спортивная), Line 1. Lujniki (Лужники), Line 14.

Novodevichy Cemetery (Новодевичье Kладбище)

If like me, you also like to visit cemeteries, this is THE one to visit in Moscow. In fact, even if you’re not into that, it’s worth a visit. Novodevichy Cemetery, right by the convent, is where rich and famous Russians were buried. You can see the tomb of Russian authors such as Aleksey Tolstoy, Vladimir Mayakovsky, former First Lady Raisa Gorbachova and former president Boris Yeltsin, among others.

Metro: Sportivnaya (Спортивная), Line 1. Lujniki (Лужники), Line 14.

Best places to visit in Moscow

An interesting tomb at Novodevichy Cemetery

Tretyakovskaya Gallery (Третьяковская галерея)

This is one of the main museums in Moscow, created in 1856 by merchant Pavel Tretyakov, who bought some Russian pieces of art with the intent to found a museum of national art in the future. The picturesque façade was designed to evoke a Russian fairy tale.

Metro: Tretyakovskaya (Третьяковская), Line 2.

Cathedral Of Jesus The Savior (Храм Христа Спасителя)

This is an impressive Orthodox cathedral on the banks of the Moskva river. At 103 meters, it is the tallest Christian Orthodox church in the world. The one standing today is a reconstruction, since the original one was demolished under the orders of Josef Stalin.

Best places to visit in Moscow

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Moskva River

The interior is completely covered by frescoes depicting Biblical stories. There is usually a big line to get through security before getting in, which gets even bigger on Orthodox holidays. Taking photos is not allowed inside.

Metro: Kropotkinskaya (Кропоткинская), Line 1.


Bolshoi Theater (Большой Театр)

The Bolshoi Theater is among the most famous theaters in the world and that alone makes it one of the best places to visit in Moscow. Russians love opera and ballet, and there is always a performance going on. The name is a literal translation of “grand theater” and being grand, it has premiered important operas, such as Tchaikovsky’s The Voyevoda and Mazeppa.

Best places to visit in Moscow

The Bolshoi Theater at dusk

Guided tours of the Bolshoi Theater in English and Russian are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Check Bolshoi Theater guided tour tickets here.

Metro: Ohotny Ríad (Охотный риад), Line 1; Teatralnaya (Театра́льная), Line 2; Plóshid Revalutsi (Площадь Революции), Line 4.

Gorky Park (Центральный парк Горького)

Gorky Park, or Tsentralny Park Górkava, as it is called in Russian, was created during Soviet times by a constructivist architect and underwent major renovations in 2011. This is Moscow’s version of Central Park or Hyde Park, right on the bank of the Moskva river. With fountains, a lake, a modern art museum,  tennis courts and skate rinks, Gorky Park is one of Moscovites’ favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Best places to visit in Moscow

Gorky Park is among the best places to visit in Moscow

In winter, when the park is completely covered in snow, you can come here to go ice-skating. All year-round you can walk on the promenade by the Moskva river and enjoy the sunset overlooking the giant Ministry of Defence building.

Metro: Park Kultury (Парк Культуры), Lines 1 & 5.

Cruise On The Moskva River

When in Moscow, one of the things I would highly recommend you do is a cruise on the Moskva River. The river that gave the name to the city (Moskvá is Moscow in Russian) crisscrosses the city and I find it interesting how many people come here and don’t go on a daytime or evening cruise. Most cruises depart from the pier by Gorky Park and some services pick you up at the hotel.

Book your river cruise ticket with pick-up service here.

Top things to do in Moscow

A river cruise on the Moskva river, with the Ministry of Defense building on the background.

Pushkin Museum (Музей Пушкина)

Located right opposite the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Pushkin Museum is the largest museum of European fine arts in Moscow. The name is just a homage to Russian poet Aleksander Pushkin, but apart from that, it has nothing to do with him. The museum has several galleries with paintings, sculptures and Greek and Egyptian archeological pieces. There are works by famous artists, such as Botticelli, Rembrandt, Paul Cézane, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso.

Metro: Kropotkinskaya (Кропоткинская), Line 1; Borovitskaya (Боровицкая), Line 9.

Bunker 42 (Бункер-42)

This is an amazing bunker ordered by Josef Stalin after the USA invented the atomic bomb. The bunker was built in downtown Moscow in order to protect the USSR government from a possible attack. Built in a record speed, the Bunker 42 is a good example of how ingenious USSR engineers were, and how scary the world post-WWII was. At the time, civilians were completely unaware of the construction and it also escaped foreign intelligence. Not a cheap attraction, but definitely one of the best things to do in Moscow.

Tickets are available on their website.

Metro: Taganskaya (Тага́нская), Line 7.


Sparrow Hills (Воробьёвы горы) 

Sparrow Hills is a viewing platform located 85 meters above the Moskva River, from where you will have one of the best views of Moscow. Below, you will see the Lujniki Stadium, which hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics, the Moskva River. You will also see the Novodevichy Convent and the Moscow Financial District.

Metro: Vorobyovy Gory (Воробьёвы горы), Line 1.

Moscow State University (Московский государственный университет)

A few hundred meters from Sparrow Hills you will find the amazing building of the Moscow State University. Standing at a “mere” 240 meters high, it is the tallest educational building in the world and covers an area of 1,000,000m2. You may not be able to get into the building, but admiring the giant structure will surely suffice.

Metro: Vorobyovy Gory (Воробьёвы горы), Line 1.

Best places to visit in Moscow

Moscow State University

State Historical Museum (Государственный исторический музей)

This is an impressive red building right between the Red Square and Ohotny Riad station. Often neglected by tourists, the museum was established to create a self-awareness of a Russian identity. There are a number of gold artefacts, Russian ceramics, coin collections and a long boat found on the banks of the Volga River.

Metro: Ohotny Ríad (Охотный риад), Line 1; Plóshid Revalutsi (Площадь Революции), Line 4.

Tour Moscow Metro Stations (Московский метрополитен)

The stations at Moscow metro were built to be the palace of the people and a tour is definitely among the top things to do in Moscow. These opulent stations were built with marble walls, chandeliers, grand statues and details you would only see in real palaces.

Some stations you can’t miss include Komsomolskaya, Arbatskaya and Kurskaya. It is certainly possible to see them independently, but given the tricky layout of some stations with multiple platforms, it’s better to see them on a guided tour.

Book a tour of the Moscow metro stations here.

Museum of Cosmonautics (Музей космонавтики)

The Museum of Cosmonautics is a great place to learn about the Space Race that took place (sorry about the rhyme!) during the Cold War period. Exhibits here include original astronaut outfit, replicas of spacecraft and full details of the history of the USSR and Russia in space. It is one of the best places to visit in Moscow, especially if you are traveling with kids.

Best places to visit in Moscow

The Museum of the Cosmonautics

At the entrance, you can even buy some space food to try at home. Ticket are available at the entrance and you can also have a private tour.

Book a combined tour of the Museum of Cosmonautics and Moscow metro.

Metro: VDNKh (ВДНХ), Line 6; Vistavochnyy Tsentr (Выставочный центр), Line 13.

Ostankino Tower (Останкинская башня)

Many people are not aware, but Ostankino Tower is the tallest free-standing structure in Europe and the 8th in the world. It’s a TV and radio tower, as you might have imagined, and there is an observation platform available. It’s located 2km (1.3 miles) from the Museum of Cosmonautics.

Metro: Butyrskaya (Бутырская), Line 10; Teletsentr (Телецентр), Line 13.

Best places to visit in Moscow

The entrance to Izmaylovo Kremlin

Izmaylovo Kremlin (Изма́йлово Кремль)

The Kremlin of Ismaylovo is located in the outskirts of Moscow, near Ismaylovo Hotel, the largest hotel in the world. Kremlins all around Russia are fortified structures built to protect villages and cities. But Izmaylovo Kremlin was only built in 2001 to celebrate Russian culture. It is a cultural center with an “Old Russia” amusement park for children with replica houses showing old Russian architecture and it even has a wooden church replica. The place is used for weddings and other celebrations. If you come in winter, you will be greeted with an all-white scenery.

Metro: Izmaylovskaya (Измайловская), Line 3.

Top things to do in Moscow with kids

There are plenty of things to do with kids at Gorky Park

Things To Do In Moscow With Kids

Moscow is actually a child-friendly city and there are a number of things to do in Moscow with kids. Out of the attractions I mentioned above, the most child-friendly places I would consider are:

– Red Square, with plenty of space for kids to run around.

– G.U.M. Department store, which has some toy stores, colorful decoration and delicious ice-creams.

– Izmailovo Kremlin with its small amusement park, colorful buildings, children’s theater.

– Gorky Park is a great place to bring the kids and it’s easy to walk around if you have a buggy (pushchair). Kids will love the gardens, the fountains and the food carts available everywhere.

– The Museum of Cosmonautics is probably the most child-friendly of all attractions above, especially for older kids.

– The Moscow Planetarium has many interactive exhibits where children can do some science experiments.

Tours In Moscow And Vicinity

Moscow, like any of the major world capitals, really has a huge number of attractions in the city itself and the surrounding areas. While it’s always possible to move around and do things independently, there are also a number of tours with English-speaking guides available.

If that’s something you’re considering for your trip to Moscow, here is a link to our partner Get Your Guide, with the most comprehensive list of sightseeing tours in Moscow and vicinity.

Have you been to Moscow? What was the highlight of your trip?

 

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17 Responses

  1. Indrani

    Moscow has evaded me till now. Such a lot to see and experience. I am particularly excited about photographing the beautiful facades there. Good to know it is a safe city to visit.

    Reply
  2. Sandy N Vyjay

    Moscow is indeed one of the most charming and enigmatic cities of the world. Have never been there, but this iconic city always captures the imagination. Places like the Kremlin, Bolshoi Theatre, Red Square seem familiar from countless books and movies. This is a wonderful post with details that would be of immense value to the first time traveller to Moscow.

    Reply
    • Pedro

      Hi Sandy, hopefully you’ll have the chance to visit Moscow some time soon. It’s quite an incredible city.

      Reply
  3. Karla Ramos

    I think Russia is a really beautiful country! Moscow is also really picturesque and it is kind of sad that their country is depicted by the press as an unsafe place. The picture of the Izmaylovo Kremlin entrance is just magestic! I wish to go there soon!

    Reply
    • Pedro

      Hi Karla, you will love Russia! The country is so diverse and exciting, there’s loads of things to do even in Moscow, which is in the same league as London and NY.

      Reply
  4. Vasu Devan

    This, to me, is one of the most comprehensive guide to Moscow. I am bookmarking it to help me plan when I go there someday. The architecture is so different from other parts of Europe. I think I could spend a day lounging around at Red Square itself. 🙂 🙂

    Reply
    • Pedro

      Definitely, you can spend a full day around the Red Square and another just exploring the surroundings.

      Reply
  5. Ryan Biddulph

    What a guide Pedro. Moscow seems to be in the NYC and London vein of travel, meaning you could spend 400 life times doing different stuff daily and still not make a dent in the place as far as activities. Love it. Even if I do not need much to do in a city, nice to have some sweet options here and there.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Pedro

      Hi Ryan! You’re so right, Moscow is one of those places with endless things to do. There’s always something new opening up around the corner.

      Reply
    • Pedro

      Hey, I hope you’ll have an amazing time there. I was supposed to go to the World Cup, too, but unfortunately I had to cancel.

      Reply
  6. Michael

    Moscow has only one river though it’s quite big and goes through the city center which gives you a chance to see the main sites from a different angle. There are many variations of the cruises from a standard river excursion to luxury yacht trips with music and dinner.

    Br
    MJ

    Reply

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