Your first encounter with Moscow Metro stations will surprise you. Never has a rail system been more appealing and just a little intriguing.
Most Beautiful Metro Stations in the World
We have travelled on a lot of public train systems all over the world. We have marvelled at the modern efficiency of some rail systems. Especially in Asia. We have baulked at the cost of others such as the Tube in the UK and in New York, we pondered which is uptown and which is downtown in relation to where we need to be. We have also enjoyed a polite attitude to public transport and ease of navigation, in places like Athens.
We have discovered first class can be anything but classy and navigated our way through some of the dirtiest and some of the cleanest train systems the world has to offer. However, we have never come across anything as impressive as the Moscow Metro stations.
Once described as a ” Subterranean paradise for the people”, the Moscow Metro is one of the most extraordinary subway systems in the world.
Stalin’s Vision For the Moscow Metro
Stalin had the vision to create a Metro system that would resemble “Peoples Palaces”. His vision was realised in 1935 when the Metro was opened with just 13 stations.
Now with over 180 metro stations in Moscow and more planned, the Moscow Metro is one of the most heavily used systems in the world, moving more than nine million people per day.
Moscow Metro History
The initial metro stations were built by forced soviet labour. Much of the design and artworks within the stations depict the Soviet Union’s greatest achievements and historical milestones as well as paying homage to Russia’s diverse artistic, literary and architectural legacy.
Interestingly, the British engineers commissioned for the initial project, due to experience gained on the London underground system were later arrested on suspicion of espionage. It was believed they knew too much about the underground system. Go figure!
Moscow Metro Art and Design
Every station has a unique design indicative of the era and political leader of the time. Stories of Russia’s history that make you want to keep exploring these “subterranean palaces“. Lined with marble and decorated with chandeliers, intricate mosaic artworks, heroic statues and gilded trimmings, the Moscow Metro stations are not merely decorated; they are works of art.
An entire day can be spent station hopping, admiring beauty and opulence that would have received a nod of approval from the Romanov’s themselves. Here is a small sample of what you will expect to find in this underground art gallery.
These are some of the best Moscow Metro Stations to visit.
Used as a bomb shelter during the war, a hospital and even a supreme command headquarters. In 1941, Stalin celebrated the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution at Mayakovskaya Station, complete with elegant catering for all the attending dignitaries while the Nazis bombed the city above. This was later depicted in the mosaics in the centre of each dome. The Moscow Metro is a fascinating place.
Named for the nearby Theatre Square, Teatralnaya Station opened in 1938 as part of the second stage of the Moscow Metro construction. Designed as a tribute to the arts, this pretty station is lined with fluted pylons and white marble salvaged from the demolished Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The central hall is decorated with crystal lamps and bas-reliefs depicting the theatre arts of the USSR made by the Leningrad Porcelain Factory.
Ploshchad Revolyutsii Station (Revolution Square)
Revolution Square is one of the most famous stations and one of the closest stations to Red Square. Easily one of the most impressive, it is lined with life-size bronze sculptures depicting the people of the Soviet Union; workers, peasants, soldiers, artists and children – 72 in total. Tradition states it is good luck to rub the nose of the dog depicted in one sculpture and as if by reflex, we barely noticed anyone who failed to do so as they passed.
Elektrozavodskaya Metro Station
A favourite, this station was named after the nearby electric light bulb factory. The concept was to make a ceiling covered with six rows of circular incandescent lamps- 318 in total. Built during the third stage of the Metro construction, it opened during WW II in 1944.
The station’s initial architect died during construction and the outbreak of the war halted works until 1943. Another architect finished the works incorporating an additional theme, bas-reliefs installed on the walls to document the struggle of the war.
By far the fanciest of all the stations, Komsomolskaya is more like a grand ballroom than a train station. Opened in 1952 as part of the second stage Metro expansion, this baroque masterpiece honours the memory of Nevsky, Donskoy and other great military leaders in the ornately gilded mosaics on the ceilings and walls.
Stain glass panels form the central theme for this station opened in 1952. Architect Alexey Dushkin had long wanted to utilise stain glass as the central feature of a metro station. Dushkin persuaded a renowned artist, Pavel Korin to compose the artworks for the panels and the rest of the station was designed around the 32 stain glass panels, each surrounded by elaborate brass borders. The concept was to create the impression of an underground crypt.
In honour of Soviet fighting men, seven octagonal ceiling mosaics, bas-reliefs and cast bronze portraits depict soldiers of the Red Army and Russian war heroes. The large, ornate marble benches that line the platform walls were taken from the cathedral of Christ the Saviour and original floor lamps give Novokuznetskaya Station a special ambience.
Completed in 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, Arbatskaya Station was intended as a bomb shelter. At 41 metres below ground, this station represents Stalin’s love of baroque. Arched ceilings decorated with ceramic bouquets, ornate bronze chandeliers, and glazed tiles. Hardly the standard decor of a bomb shelter. This station was built not long before criticism of luxury Soviet architecture resulted in austerity and functionality began to prevail.
The Future of the Moscow Metro
So while Stalin’s initial vision of “People’s Palaces” may have waned somewhat during the peak Soviet years where function was favoured over form, the concept of original and unique Metro stations never faded. As Russia continues to expand its Metro system to become the third largest in the world, their desire to create unique and beautiful spaces continues.
If it is the baroque opulence of the Stalin years that tickles your fancy or the beautiful sleek designs of modern stations you seek, the Moscow Metro stations have an array of designs that will take you on a journey through Russia’s history and quite simply impress you.
A day spent exploring the Moscow Metro Stations is a day well spent in Moscow.
How to Use the Moscow Metro System
Not only is the Moscow Metro beautiful, extremely clean and very safe, it is also a cheap way to get around Moscow. Although, travelling on the Moscow Metro can be a little daunting. It is the second busiest rail systems in the world so it can get very crowded. Also, all signage within the metro system is in Russian which makes finding your way a little more challenging. Here are some tips to help you navigate the Moscow Metro.
Avoid Peak Hour
As mentioned, the Metro moves roughly nine million people each day around Moscow. If you are planning to spend some time exploring the Metro system, it would be wise to avoid peak hours. During rush hour, the trains get very crowded and you will have to move fast to get on and off the trains as well as trying to avoid being pushed around too much. It will also be more difficult to read the station names from inside the train. This will make trying to navigate the system more difficult and will not be as pleasant an experience.
Watch Your Belongings
Like any busy city, the Moscow Metro attracts large numbers of people including pickpockets. Be extra careful at the most visited tourist stations, especially, at the Circle Line. Its fascinating ballroom-like stations not only attract tourists but is also connected to the 7 out of 9 Moscow railway stations so it always feels busy there. Make sure your bags are secure and zipped up at all times and valuables are secure in inside pockets.
You can find out more here about the best anti-theft bags for travel.
Get a Moscow Metro Map
There are several multicoloured maps of the metro system in each car and there will be an announcement each time you arrive at a station. However, these announcements will only be in Russian so it will be handy to have a map, or app in English to help you navigate your way.
Moscow Metro Map: You can download a map of Moscow Metro in English here.
Tip: Usually, the announcement of the next station will be by a man’s voice on the trains travelling to the centre of the city. On services travelling away from the city centre, announcements will be a woman’s voice. On the circular line – the maroon coloured line, a man’s voice announces the stops if it is travelling in a clockwise direction and a woman’s voice if it’s travelling counter clockwise.
Moscow Metro Tickets
- A one way ticket or one trip ticket on the metro is ₽55.00 (less than USD $1) regardless of the length of the trip. Two trips ₽110.00.
- There are no zones so it doesn’t matter how far you travel or how long your trip is. You’ll need a ticket only once at the entrance to the metro. You may change lines as many times within the system on the one fare.
- A day or multiple day passes are also available. You can visit the Moscow Metro website here for full schedule of fares.
You can purchase metro tickets in two basic ways:
- Automatic machines – They are in both Russian and English so are relatively easy to use.
- Ticket booth – If you are not comfortable using the machines look for the ticket booths marked “KACCA”. You don’t need to speak Russian, just hold up the number of fingers of tickets you need. Once you pay, you will receive a card that will serve as your ticket.
- It is wise to have cash with you in small denominations to purchase tickets as cards may not be accepted.
Take a Moscow Metro Tour
If all of that sounds too daunting, get yourself a Moscow Metro guide who will guide you through the metro system. They will take you to the most beautiful stations while revealing the history and stories that make this one of the most unique underground rail systems in the world. Guided Metro tours are available for as little as USD $19.00 pp. A guided tour is also a great way to learn how to navigate the metro system so you feel comfortable to explore further on your own.
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