Before we look at some of the best attractions in Moscow, of which there are many, here are some interesting facts about Moscow that may change your view of Russia and its capital.
- More billionaires are living in Moscow than any other city in the world.
- Russia adopted equal rights for women in 1918, two years before the United States.
- With a population of 12 million, Moscow is the biggest city in Europe.
- Known as the “Lungs of Europe” the country’s forests are second only to the Amazon.
- Russia has 25 UNESCO world heritage sites.
Moscow is an intoxicating city. With over 800 years of fascinating history, the city is surprisingly modern, with a wonderfully sophisticated elegance. You will be taken in by its beauty and overwhelmed by the grandeur of the famous Moscow landmarks.
The Best Things to do in Moscow
Plan Your Time in Moscow
Moscow, much like Paris is a city you could spend a lot of time exploring at your leisure, especially if you are visiting Russia for the first time. However, with so many famous and iconic attractions, you don’t want to miss any of the best things to do in Moscow with the time you have available. With this in mind, we recommend you plan your Moscow itinerary wisely.
Get a Free Moscow Map
Russia can be quite challenging for tourists, especially when trying to read signage in the Cyrillic alphabet.
To help make the most of your time and make sure you see all the best Moscow tourist attractions; we recommend going straight to the Moscow Official Tourist Information Offices to pick up some free Moscow maps.
Make Use of the Tourist Information Centre
The tourist information offices in Moscow have all the information on Moscow’s best attractions, museums, and galleries and up to date information on any events or festivals in the city.
They can also help plan itineraries to cover all of the best things to see in Moscow with the time you have. They will also provide information on the latest free things to do in Moscow.
More importantly, they will have up to date opening days and times for specific attractions to help you better plan your time as opening times change seasonally.
Tourist information staff all speak English so can help plan your Moscow itinerary, so you don’t miss a thing.
It’s easy to find tourist information offices throughout Moscow including the following locations:
- World War of 1812 Museum, in Revolution Square.
- Next to Red Square.
- Paveletsky station.
- Kievsky station.
- Belorussky station.
- Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo airports.
You can get more information before you go on what to do in Moscow from the Moscow Official Tourism website.
The iconic Red Square. One of the most famous landmarks in Moscow and the site of some of the most famous places in Russia is the heart of the city in more ways than one.
Contrary to common misconception, the name ‘Red Square’ does not correlate the pigment of the brick buildings nor the country’s history of communism and its association with the colour red.
It derives from the Russian word “Krasnaya” which traditionally translated to “beautiful” but has come to mean “red” in contemporary Russia. Beautiful is probably a much more apt name because Red Square is possibly one of the most beautiful city squares in the world.
Red Square and the Kremlin are always inextricably linked as recognised by their combined UNESCO World Heritage listing.
Things to See in Red Square
The red and white facade of the Historical Museum and the candy coloured Kazan Cathedral next to the Resurrection Gate at the northern end complete a vivid and colourful panorama of one of the world’s most fascinating city squares. A stunning vision of the country’s incredible history.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan
Dedicated to the honour of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God is the restored Orthodox cathedral located on the northeast corner of Red Square. First mentioned in manuscripts as early as the first half of the 16th century, the cathedral has survived many changes including complete demolition.
Desecrated by French soldiers during the Napoleon Invasion of 1812 and demolished in 1936. Stalin ordered the square cleared of churches when the Soviets were preparing Red Square for the Soviet Union military parades. It was the first church to be rebuilt after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Monday – Sunday | 09:00 to 16:30
The State Historical Museum
The largest national museum of Russia, the museum contains over 4.5 million items collected over 100 years. The permanent exhibition only represents 0.5% of the total collection.
The museum was a vision of notable Russian thinkers and historians of the 19th century. Created by Architect Vladimir Sherwood and engineer Anatoly Semenov, the museum opened in 1883 during the celebrations of Emperor Alexander III coronation. The museum has survived many changes during this time until a complete restoration in 2006.
An interactive system also allows visitors to view pieces and documents in the museum’s storage.
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday | 10:00 to 18:00
Friday, Saturday: 10:00 to 21:00
The eastern wall of the Kremlin sets an imposing backdrop to the mausoleum of the leader of the communist movement – Vladimir Lenin.
Embalmed shortly after his death; the Russian dictator’s body has been on display in Red Square for over 90 years.
While Lenin now resembles a wax replica, a team of dedicated scientists dubbed the “Lenin Lab” continue to maintain the body. During the peak of the Soviet era, the Lenin Lab had over 200 specialists tasked with the maintenance of Lenin’s body.
The team is much smaller now, but Lenin still requires around the clock care and must be washed and re-embalmed every 18 months. You can read more about the fascinating story of the first Soviet leader embalmed in Moscow here.
Open: Tuesday -Thursday | Saturday – Sunday | 10.00 – 13.00
Closed: Monday, Friday & Holidays
Note: Camera’s, hats and bags are not permitted inside, and you will be asked to remain quiet at all times.
Go Shopping at GUM Moscow Department Store
Pronounced “Goom” the magnificent 19th-century building was built to replace the old hall of trading rows that once stood opposite the Kremlin walls after they burned down in 1925.
GUM is a Moscow institution and one of the cities most prominent landmarks.
This beautiful department store once represented everything that was bleak about Soviet Russia. People would queue for hours only to find empty shelves.
GUM Department store now represents what is great about Russia. The elegant arcade rivals the best in the world boasting over 1,000 high end shops with no shortage of customers. It represents some of the best shopping in Moscow.
Even if shopping is not on your agenda in Moscow, GUM is still worth a visit. The glass-roofed arcade is often beautifully decorated to represent the season and also offers a variety of classy eateries.
St Basil’s Cathedral
The iconic domes of St Basils Cathedral, a reminder of the reign of Ivan the Terrible sit to the south of Red Square.
Built between 1555 – 1561 by order of Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the 1552 capture of Kazan from Mongol forces, St Basils has become a symbol of Russia. It is also one of Moscow’s most celebrated and iconic landmarks.
At first, it may not be apparent, but there is a method to the madness in the structure of the colourful domes in that each represents a different chapel. Eight churches arranged around a ninth central church, all said to honour the various struggles.
St Basils Cathedral has always attracted urban myth and much debate. Architectural specialists still debate the idea behind the design, whether the intention was to pay homage to the churches of Jerusalem or was it a representation of the medieval eight-pointed star.
But by far the most intriguing urban myth around its design is the legend Ivan the Terrible had the architects Barma and Yakovlev blinded so they could never create anything to compare.
Unlike the governing idea behind the design, the story has been proven a myth. Documentation shows the architects built an additional church 25 years later, well after Ivan the Terrible’s death.
Could it be that Ivan was just terribly misunderstood all along, a victim of urban myth perhaps?
Visiting St Basil’s Cathedral
Monday – Wednesday | Friday – Sunday | From 09:00 to 16:30
Entry: It is free to wander the perimeter of the cathedral. Entry into the cathedral is from ₽500.
For over 800 years, the fortified complex known simply as The Kremlin has been the heart of Russia. This city within a city covers over 68 acres (275,000 square meters).
Enclosed in the Kremlin walls, recognisable by the twenty characteristic Kremlin towers are five palaces, four cathedrals and, of course, the official office of the President of the Russian Federation.
We were so excited about getting a glimpse inside the Kremlin and, as expected, were suitably impressed. A visit to the Kremlin is a must for anyone visiting Moscow.
Tips for Visiting The Kremlin
- You cannot go inside the Kremlin walls unless you are visiting a museum or are part of a tour group.
- All of the exhibitions and museums have different opening times and entry cost.
- Some attractions have allocated viewing times such as the Armoury Chamber.
- If you want to visit the Kremlin independently, it is recommended to either buy all of your tickets online before you go to avoid long queues. Also, you should be familiar with viewing and opening times to plan your visit.
- We recommend either a private Kremlin tour or group tour as all tickets are included in the price and your guide will know the times and entry procedures for each attraction. Both of these tours are great options.
Visitors are welcomed daily but be mindful there are fairly strict security screening processes.
- Large bags or backpacks are not allowed. Do not bring anything you will not be prepared to leave at security just in case.
- Be prepared to queue as visiting the Kremlin is one of the top things to do in Moscow.
- Plan your trip to the Kremlin early in the day to try to avoid large tour groups at the entry/security screening area.
- You can buy Kremlin tickets online. You must purchase individual tickets for the various sites within the Kremlin walls. This does not guarantee you will not have to line up at the security entrance. See here for more information.
Cost: Ticket prices range from ₽250 – ₽700.
Kremlin Opening Hours:
- Spring/Summer – 10.00 – 18.00 (Ticket office 09.00 – 17.00)
- Autumn Winter- 10.00 – 17.00 (Ticket office 09.30 – 16.30)
Take a Moscow River Cruise
The Moska or Moscow River runs through central Moscow. Whether you take a cruise on the Moscow River or stroll along the banks and bridges, there is plenty to see on this picturesque waterway.
Take the Views From The Patriarchal Bridge
The Patriarchal Bridge, one of the most popular bridges in Moscow for newlyweds, offers some of the best and most iconic views of Moscow.
On one side an impressive view of the Kremlin and to the other, the enormous commemorative statue paying tribute to Peter the Great and 300 years of the Russian Navy.
The Church of The Christ Saviour
The Church of The Christ Saviour, the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world and one of Russia’s most visited cathedrals sits on the northern banks of the Moscow River.
The cathedral was built in the ’90s on the site of a 19th century church demolished by the Soviets in 1931. Styled on the design of the original church; the cathedral houses the icon Christ Not Painted by Hand by Sorokin, which miraculously survived Stalin’s demolition order.
The original 19th century church took more than 40 years to build and was where Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture premiered in 1882.
In 2012 the new cathedral gained notoriety as the scene of the infamous Pussy Riot protest against Putin.
Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Mon: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
See the Bridge of Kisses
Further along the Moscow River, you will find the Bridge of Kisses famous for its padlock trees.
When the tradition of fastening padlocks by newlyweds to the bridge became so popular, metal trees were planted in the centre of the bridge to hold the locks.
Once the trees are full, they relocate them to the walkway along the river and new trees are installed on the bridge.
Take a Tour of The Bolshoi Theatre
The Bolshoi Theatre is one of the most celebrated theatres in the world. Home to the Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera, it is among the oldest ballet and opera companies in the world.
The Bolshoi Ballet, with over 200 dancers is the largest and possibly most famous ballet company in the world.
The Bolshoi traces its history back to 1776 although the theatre, depicted on the 100 ruble note opened its doors in 1856.
A renown Moscow landmark for the beauty of its neoclassical facade and it’s contribution to the history of performing arts in Russia, it has long been a Moscow attraction in its own right.
Tours of the Bolshoi Theatre
Bolshoi Run Tours
The Bolshoi Theatre runs one hour guided tours on the following days-
- Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11.00 in Russian and 11.30 in English.
- Numbers are limited to 20 people.
- Times and days may change seasonally.
- Tickets can only be purchased on the day of the tour except on Thursdays when tours are conducted by e-ticket. These are purchased on the Theatre website.
Pre Booked Guided Bolshoi Theatre Tours
If you wish to guarantee your place on a Bolshoi Theatre tour, there are some pre-book tours available. Some include backstage, VIP access.
Explore The Moscow Metro
The Moscow Metro is one of the most extraordinary train systems in the world. Opened in 1935 with only 13 stations, the Moscow Metro was described as a “Subterranean paradise for the people” or in Stalin’s words “Peoples palaces“.
More like a trip through Russian history, the Moscow Metro is one of the most heavily used metro systems in the world, moving more than nine million people each day.
Now with over 180 stations and further expansions planned, it is on track (excuse the pun!) to be in the top three largest metro systems in the world.
The Moscow Metro was built by forced soviet labour under the supervision of British engineers who were later arrested for espionage. It was assumed they knew too much about the underground system.
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 the Mayakovsky station, complete with catering while the Nazis bombed the city above.
The Moscow Metro is a fascinating place and one of the best things you can do on a visit to Moscow.
Every station has a unique design indicative of its era. Marble, chandeliers, intricate mosaic artworks, heroic statues and gilded trimmings. An entire day can be spent just hopping from station to station admiring the beauty and opulence of the metro stations.
Cost: A one-way ticket on the metro is ₽50.00 regardless of the length of the trip.
Take a Moscow Metro Tour
Visit Gorky Park
Moscow’s most famous green leisure space Gorky Park, immortalised in the 1981 novel of the same name. The cold war crime thriller was subsequently adapted into a movie starring William Hurt and Lee Marvin.
First established in 1923 as a Central Park of Culture and Leisure, Gorky Park underwent a massive reconstruction in 2011.
Nearly completely demolished, the 12.2 hectares (30 acres) park has been re-established with new paths, lawns, and flowerbeds: the aim – to transform the park into an eco-friendly recreational zone and one of the epicentres of life in Moscow. It is the first Russian park to compete with some of the leading parks around the world.
Things to do in Gorky Park
Gorky Park boasts contemporary design zones, a year-round events program including dance, yoga and fitness classes all summer, as well as an open-air movie theatre, lectures and masterclasses. There’s even a beautiful co-working space.
You’ll find beach volleyball and ping-pong, rollerblading, skateboarding, as well as bike, Segway and boat rentals.
In winter, half of the park becomes a 15,000 square meter ice rink, with separate zones for children, hockey, dancing, and general skating. Gorky Park is also home to the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art.
Entry is free, and you’ll find Wifi coverage throughout the park.
©A.Savin from Wikimedia Commons
From Gorky Park, take a stroll along the right bank of the Moskva River to Sparrow Hills.
While the Sparrow Hills Park does not offer the same entertainment value as Gorky Park, it does provide the best views in Moscow. It is also where you will find the tallest of Stalin’s Seven skyscrapers (The Seven Sisters) – the Moscow State University
Sparrow Hills, formerly known as Lenin Hills is the highest of the seven hills of Moscow. An observation deck sits on a steep bank 85 m (279 ft) above the river.
Behind the observation deck is the Moscow State University. A fantastic mix of neo-gothic and baroque styles and a typical example of Stalinist Russia.
©Dmitry A. Mottl |from Wikimedia Commons
Visit the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics
Russian Yuri Gagarin was the first man to go to space. A feat Russia is so proud of they celebrate Cosmonautics Day on the 12th of April each year.
In the northeast of the city, located within the base of the impressive Monument to the Conquerors of Space is the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics, a museum dedicated to cosmonautics and the Russian history of space exploration.
The museum boasts a collection of over 85,000 pieces relating to Soviet and Russian space exploration, the history of flight, astronomy, space technology; and space in the arts.
One of Moscow’s premier attractions the museum attracts over 300,000 visitors each year.
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun: 10:00 – 19:00
Thu, Sat: 10:00 – 21:00
Ticket office closes 30 minutes prior.
Take a Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics Tour
If you make an effort to venture a little from the centre, a five-minute walk from Partizanskaya station, you will find the sprawling and colourful Izmaylovo Market.
During the week it is here you will find the biggest and best selection of tourist trinkets in Moscow. Russian nesting dolls (Matryoshka dolls), and Putin paraphernalia ranging from T-Shirts to T towels.
On the weekend, the market expands with the flea market vendors peddling a fantastic array of Soviet-era knick knacks and memorabilia such as household items, coins, flags, propaganda posters and so much more. It is a veritable treasure hunt.
You’ll find ladies wheeling carts with tea and Russian snacks around the market which only enhances the atmosphere.
If an item doesn’t have a price be sure to bargain.
If you don’t want to go it alone, a private tour of Izmaylovo including hotel pick up and a visit to the Vodka Museum is very reasonably priced. See here for more details.
deror_avi | Wikimedia Commons
Moscow Travel Tips
Getting Around Moscow
Taxi: Expect to pay a minimum of $30 – $40 USD equivalent (~₽1,000) for a taxi from the Airport to the city. Make sure you get a metered taxi. It is not uncommon to get hustled by a non-metered taxi (speaking from experience!).
Many people prefer to arrange for a private transfer to collect them from the airport on arrival in Moscow to save the hassle or the hustle. You can get details here.
Public Transport: All public transport in Moscow costs a flat fee of ₽50 per trip no matter how far you are travelling.
We find the Hop On, Hop off Bus a great way to get around any city and the best way to get your bearings. A two-day unlimited ticket will cost around $27 USD. Find out more here.
Russian Visa Requirements
Most foreign nationals will require a tourist visa for Russia. You can read more about getting a Russian visa here.
It is important to check your requirements and plan well in advance of your travel.
Best Time to Visit Moscow
The best time to visit Moscow is from early spring – April and May. The temperatures are on the rise – 11°C to 20 °C but peak season prices have not yet arrived.
Spring is also when you can enjoy Victory Day Celebrations and the Spring Festival.
From June through to September temperatures will range from 23 °C to 25°C and the city is at it’s busiest with tourists and summer festivals. Prices are also at their highest.
Early autumn is also pleasant in Moscow although generally sees more rainfall and less sunshine.