Explore Moscow

Moscow Travel Guide

Moscow is the capital of the world's biggest country, situated in the centre of the European part of Russia. At the very heart of the city, and indeed the country, is the Kremlin, the Russian centre of governmental and religious power for almost eight centuries, including five palaces and four cathedrals. The view over Red Square and the exquisite, colourful domes of Saint Basil's Cathedral is likely the most iconic image of the Soviet Union.<br /><br /> The city of Moscow is a fusion of both splendour and ugliness that is evident in the massive concrete slabs and high-rise apartments of the Stalinist era, but also in the ornate churches, beautiful neo-classical houses, and impressive architecture of the old city. Wide grey thoroughfares give way to narrow winding inner city streets, and golden church domes gleam between the looming skyscrapers. Moscow attracts all those eager to embrace new business and free enterprise, and the divide between affluence and poverty are always evident.<br /><br /> Since the fall of communism Moscow has been injected with a sense of urgency to change the face of its capital, embracing capitalism and shaking off the years of communism with flashy shop fronts housing Western franchises, new restaurants, glossy hotels, and the frenzied restoration of lavish Orthodox churches. The once dreary streets are now a vibrant commotion of life with markets and eager vendors offering an assortment of goods that were unavailable during the Soviet years.<br /><br /> It is also a city of entertainment, with theatres and the renowned Moscow Circus, museums and art galleries. It boasts the world's largest and most efficient metro system with gleaming stations deep underground, astonishingly decorated in elegant marble, with glittering chandeliers and magnificent mosaics. Moscow is the soul of the new Russia and an intriguing mix of history and politics, business and culture.<br /><br />

The Kremlin

Address: Moscow

The Kremlin is a fortress surrounded by a thick red wall interspersed with 20 towers that was built between 1482 and 1495. The complex consists of a number of glittering, golden-domed churches and palaces, museums, residences, offices, assembly halls and monuments. It was home to the royal regime during Tsarist rule and from 1918 the seat of the Communist government.<br /><br /> Cathedral Square is the religious centre of Moscow and the historic heart of the Kremlin. The attractive Annunciation Cathedral was set aside for the private use of royalty and contains beautifully painted murals and icons on the interior walls. The throne of Ivan the Terrible can be found in the Cathedral of the Assumption, which was used for the coronation of tsars; most of the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church are buried here and their tombs line the walls of the spacious, richly coloured interior. The Belfry of Ivan the Great is the tallest structure within the walls and a visible city landmark. At its foot lies one of the world's biggest bells, broken in a fall from its bell tower in 1701, and nearby is one of the world's largest cannons, the Tsar Cannon.<br /><br /> Also within the Kremlin is the Armoury Palace, the richest and oldest museum, housing a staggering collection of treasures gathered over the years by the church and Russian state, including jewel-studded coronation capes, thrones encrusted with diamonds, royal coaches and sleighs and the renowned jewelled Fabergé Easter eggs, each containing an exquisitely detailed miniature object of precious metal inside. The Diamond Fund Exhibition in the same building contains the 180-carat diamond given to Catherine the Great by Count Orlov.<br /><br />

Red Square

Address: Red Square, Moscow, Russia. Moscow

Red Square is a dramatic cobbled square in the centre of Moscow, originally the city's marketplace the square also served as a public gathering place to celebrate festivals, listen to government announcements or witness executions, especially common during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The Soviet state turned it into a memorial cemetery, and constructed Lenin's Mausoleum to one side - a crystal casket containing the preserved body of the founder of the Soviet Union that is still open for public viewing today.<br /><br /> The communist government destroyed several ancient buildings around Red Square, including the Resurrection Gate and chapel, to make space for and to allow easy tank access to the demonstrations and military parades that were often held in the area. The current Resurrection Gate and chapel are replicas that were built in the 1990s. Red Square's most impressive military parade involved the gathering of thousands of Russian soldiers ready to march to war against the Nazis in 1941; it was also the site of many parades during the Cold War.<br /><br /> The word 'red' doesn't apply to the colour of the brickwork, neither is it a reference to communism. The meaning of the word 'krasny' originally meant 'beautiful' in Old Russian, referring to St Basil's Cathedral at the southern end, but over the centuries the word changed to mean 'red' too, thus the square's present name. St Basil's Cathedral is the city's most well-known building and is crowned by the bulbous multi-coloured domes for which it is so famous.<br /><br />

St Basils Cathedral

Address: Red Square, Moscow, Russia. Moscow

Admission: The museum is open 11am to 5pm in winter, and 10am to 7pm in summer.

Telephone: +7 495 698 3304

St Basil's Cathedral, with its multi-coloured domes, is the most famous landmark in Russia. The cathedral stands on the edge of Moscow's Red Square, a striking design that was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his victorious military campaign against the Tartar Mongols at Kazan in 1552. Legend has it that Ivan was so overwhelmed by its beauty that he had the architect blinded to prevent him from creating anything to rival it.<br /><br /> St Basil's Cathedral includes a central chapel surrounded by eight tower-like chapels, each crowned with a different coloured and uniquely patterned onion-shaped dome. The church escaped demolition many times during the city's turbulent history and with the beginning of the Soviet regime the cathedral was closed and later turned into a museum. The interior is a dimly lit maze of corridors and delicately decorated chapels, one of them houses a priceless 16th century screen, decorated with icons, that shields the inner sanctuary. In comparison to the exquisite exterior, the interior can seem disappointing, but there is no question St Basil's is worth exploring.<br /><br />

Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre

Address: Theatre Square, 1, Moskva, Russia. Moscow

Admission: Ticket prices for performances vary. 11am-8pm

Telephone: +7 495 455 5555

Moscow's oldest and most famous theatre, the Bolshoi, dates from 1824 and is home to world-renowned opera and ballet companies. Completely rebuilt after a fire in 1856, the grand building is a masterpiece of Russian neoclassicism, including an eight-columned entrance porch topped by the horse-drawn chariot of Apollo, patron of the arts. The glittering five-tiered interior is richly adorned with red velvet furnishings, ornate gold detailing and chandeliers, and the size of the auditorium makes it one of the largest theatres in the world. The Bolshoi Theatre has hosted some of the world's most celebrated premieres, including Swan Lake, Spartacus, and concerts by Richard Wagner, - attending an evening performance at the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre constitutes one of Moscow's best nights out.<br /><br />

Tretyakov Gallery

Address: Lavrushinsky Ln, 10, Moscow, Russia. Moscow

Admission: Adults: RUB 500. Minors enter for free. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday: 10am to 6pm. Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10am to 9pm.

Telephone: +7 499 230 7788

The Tretyakov Gallery houses some of the great masterpieces of traditional Russian art from before the Revolution and has the world's finest collection of Russian icons from the 11th to the 17th-centuries. The gallery's collection of paintings, graphics and sculptures covers Russian art from the 18th to the 20th century. The gallery was named after its founder, Pavel Tretyakov, an art collector who donated about 2,000 works of art from his private collection to the city of Moscow, forming the basis of the collection to which state acquisitions were later added. He also donated his own house, which became the original site of the art gallery. Two separate buildings at different locations house the works selected for display.<br /><br />

Yasnaya Polyana

Address: Yasnaya Polyana, Tula Oblast, Russia. Moscow

Admission: Admission is RUB 100. A guided tour is RUB 350 on weekdays and RUB 400 on weekends. Students and senior citizens are entitled to a RUB 50 discount for admission and for tours. Tuesday to Sunday: 9am to 8pm.

Telephone: +7 487 517 6073

Located 120 miles (193km) from Moscow, Yasnaya Polyana is the estate where Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828. In 1921, the property became a memorial to the celebrated author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and contains a museum with his personal effects, including an extensive library of nearly 22,000 volumes. Nearly a century later, the museum is still run by Tolstoy's descendants.<br /><br /> Tolstoy spent 60 years living at Yasnaya Polyana with his family, and each of his 13 children were born there (although four died young). He founded a working farm and children's school on the estate, and is buried in an area called the Forest of the Old Order (so called because it was forbidden to cut down trees there).<br /><br />

Poklonnaya Hill

Address: Moscow, Russia. Moscow

Telephone: +7 499 148 8300

Poklonnaya, literally meaning 'bow down', lies in the west part of Moscow and was historically a spot for Western visitors to the city to pay homage before entering. Today it is a beacon to Russia's military strength, having withstood invasions by both Napoleon and Hitler. Atop the hill is Victory Park which provides a scenic walk and contains a memorial Mosque and Synagogue for victims of the war, and an open air museum dedicated to the victory over Napoleon. There are many tanks and other wartime vehicles on display in Victory Park, along with several impressive monuments and statues. History buffs will love exploring the many attractions of Poklonnaya Hill and Victory Park, and even those not interested in military history will enjoy the art and the views.<br /><br />

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Address: ulitsa Volkhonka, 15, Moskva, Russia. Moscow

After Napoleon retreated from Russia, Tsar Alexander I declared that a cathedral be built in remembrance of the soldiers who had died defending Mother Russia. The original cathedral took more than 40 years to build. Decades later the cathedral was demolished by Stalin (who found the monument abhorrent) to make way for the colossal Palace of the Soviets, intended to be a symbol of Russian Communism, which was never actually built. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was rebuilt again, on the same site, between 1990 and 2000 as a faithful duplicate of the original. It is currently one of the largest and tallest Orthodox Churches in the world. The contemporary Russian artwork, statues and memorials to the Russian Tsars, as well as a small indoor museum, are well worth a look.<br /><br />

Borodino Panorama Museum

Address: Kutuzovskiy prospect, 38, стр. 1, Moskva, Russia. Moscow

Admission: 150 RUB (excluding guide). Saturday to Wednesday: 10am-6pm. Thursday: 10am-9pm. Closed on Fridays.

Telephone: +7 499 148 1967

The battle of Borodino is regarded as the bloodiest of the Napoleonic battles, seeing over 70,000 casualties in a single day and leading Napoleon to brand the Russians as 'invincible'. The Borodino Panorama Museum was inaugurated in 1960 and serves as an exhibit of artefacts and displays from the Napoleonic wars, with a collection of wartime memorabilia on one level and the enormous panorama on another. The panorama referred to in the name is, incidentally, not an outdoor view but a 360º painting by Franz Roubaud depicting a crucial moment in the battle itself. The mural is 115 meters long and 15 meters high.<br /><br /> The museum will delight military history buffs, but should also impress the uninitiated. Those with smartphones can download the museum's interesting audio guide, helped along by free wifi.<br /><br />

Moscow Metro

Address: The Moscow Metro covers most of the city. Moscow

Admission: Daily 5:30am to 1am.

Moscow's Metro stations together amount to the most beautiful public transport facility in the world. Visitors to Moscow should not miss taking a ride on this glorious underground rail system, and exploring the stations. Each one has its own, distinct aesthetic, variously adorned with Realist artworks, chandeliers, ornate pillars and marble floors. Moscow's Metro caters to something like two and half billion passenger rides per year, making it one of the busiest underground metro systems in the world.<br /><br /> Despite this, the stations are more akin to palaces or five-star hotel lobbies rather than functional spaces. The depth of the elevators is also astounding. Most travellers will encounter the Metro system for practical reasons, but many will find that they choose to spend more time than necessary underground! There are nearly 200 stations but some of the most beautiful and ornate are Kiyevskaya, Dostoyevskaya, Prospekt Mira, Mayakovskaya and Ploschad Revolyutsii.<br /><br />

Golden Ring

Address: Moscow

Consisting of a circuit of historic cities northeast of Moscow, the Golden Ring (sometimes called the Golden Circle), is a popular tourist route for travellers in Russia. The cities are popular for their distinctive architecture (recognizable for the uniquely-Russian onion-shaped domes and colourful ornamentation), and their tradition of handmade craftsmanship, offering tourists a good opportunity to buy beautiful Russian souvenirs.<br /><br /> The official list of towns in the Golden Ring includes Ivanovo, Kostroma, Pereslavl Zalessky, Rostov Veliky, Sergiev Posad, Suzdal, Vladimir, and Yaroslavl. They are all spaced close enough to each other (and to Moscow and St Petersburg) to reach on horseback within 24 hours, making them ideal for a driving tour. The cities are fairly similar, so it is not necessary to visit them all, and most travellers choose to see only four or five.<br /><br /> One city that should not be missed, however, is Sergiev Posad, the centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and home to the impressive Sergiev Posad Monastery. Suzdal is another highlight on any Golden Ring tour, home of the St.Euthymius Monastery and the enormous Spaso-Evfimiev Monastery, which houses 10 museums and is nearly as impressive as St Basil's in Moscow.<br /><br />

Arkhangelskoye Palace

Address: Arkhangelskoye, Moscow Oblast, Russia, 143420. Moscow

Admission: Admission costs vary widely based on areas viewed. Pricing can be found on the official website. Weekdays: 10am to 5pm. Weekends: 10am to 6pm.

Telephone: +7 495 363 1375

The Arkhangelskoye Estate, just outside Moscow, is an old aristocratic estate home that has been a museum since the fall of the Russian tsars in 1917. It was built in 1703, featuring classical and neo-classical design elements. The estate is composed of various buildings including the main palace, a smaller palace called Caprice, a church, and a theatre. Beautifully decorated interiors can be found throughout, augmented by a very impressive collection of art. Unlike many other old aristocratic Russian estates, Arkhangelskoye is in very good condition as special, dedicated efforts have been made in recent years to ensure its upkeep.<br /><br /> The estate is easily reached by train, a 30-minute journey from the Yaroslavsky train station in the west of Moscow. In the summer and early autumn, all of the buildings are open for viewing. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and can bring picnics to enjoy in the gardens. There are also usually several music concerts hosted by the estate throughout the summer months. While still beautiful and worth a visit during the winter, the gardens are obviously not much of a sight, and some of the buildings are occasionally closed in the winter.<br /><br />

Winter Festival

Where: Izmailovo Park,Moscow

When: Mid-December to mid-January annually.

Celebrated over the Christmas and New Year period, the Russian Winter Festival combines different celebrations and holidays and is an opportunity for visitors to enjoy Russian customs and festivities, such as traditional folk music, troika (sleigh) rides and games, Russian food and lots of vodka. There are also musical and dance performances, and characters dressed as popular Russian mythological figures are there to greet the crowds. The Winter Festival is a celebration of all things Russian, but also of the season, as the name suggests, with outdoor ice rinks coming alive and lights glittering on snowy streets.<br /><br />

Maslenitsa Festival

Where: ,Moscow

When: 18 February 2018

Annually in February or March, Moscow residents engage in a festival of last minute debauchery before the sober month of Lent sets in. Because dairy and eggs are traditionally not allowed during Lent, the most common indulgence is bliny (pancakes), leading to Maslenista also being referred to as Pancake Week or Butter Week. Over the years, the Russians have used the practice of eating pancakes and the culture of general indulgence to celebrate Russian heritage. Celebrations in true Russian style include bare knuckle fist fights, bear performances, effigy burning and puppetry. Although the pancake eating tradition in the run-up to Lent is practiced in many Christian countries and communities, Maslenitsa is special because the Russians have turned it into a hedonistic celebration, making it a fun time to explore the country.<br /><br />

Fashion Week Moscow

Where: ,Moscow

When: 21 - 26 October 2018

Following in the vein of Fashion Week London, Pairs, Milan and New York, Fashion Week Moscow is a growing draw for fashionistas the world over, with well over 50 prestigious fashion houses showcasing their designs to more than 100,000 guests bi-annually in the proud capital of Moscow. The Moscow event aims to promote and showcase the fashion industry in Russia and has helped raise to fame big names like Igor Chapurin, Andrew Sharov and Tatiana Parfenova. The event is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and the full title is Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Moscow brings it's own special flavour to Fashion Week, making March and October the best months for the fashion-conscious to visit Russia's capital.<br /><br />

Burgers/Hot Dogs

Address: 27/2 Tverskaya Ulitsa. Metro Mayakovskaya. Moscow

Food Type: American

Moscow's culinary scene has evolved exponentially in recent years, and, as has been typical in other food revolutions, one of the pioneers was the burger. Some of the best burgers in Moscow are to be found in a little little hole-in-the-wall at 27/2 Tverskaya Ulitsa, near Metro Mayakovskaya. It has no official name but sign outside reads, "Burgery/Khotdogi" (Burgers and Hotdogs). Inisde, visitors will find Moscow's take on the classic dive bar aesthetic, replete with local hipsters.<br /><br /> Each burger is made to order using high quality ingredients, but are also reasonably priced. Be sure to check out the classic burger for RUB 280 (it comes with a slice of orange): gone are the days of poor quality diner-style burgeras in Moscow, and travellers are advised to ride the wave.<br /><br />

Filimonova &amp; Yankel

Address: Profsoyuznaya St., 45A, Moscow. Moscow

Food Type: Seafood

A favourite seafood hot spot, Filimonova and Yankel serves up seafood cooked in a variety of styles. A large banquet style dining room makes for a festive atmosphere perfect for larger gatherings. A live but mellow jazz band sets the ambiance further with a classy yet casual atmosphere. The seafood is exceptionally fresh.<br /><br />

Mu-Mu Café

Address: Myasnitskaya St. No. 14, metro Lubyanka, Kitai. Moscow

Food Type: Local

Mu-Mu operates a string of popular restaurants in Moscow all serving cheap traditional Russian food. Very popular with locals looking for quick eats and tourists wanting to try specialty Russian food without spending a fortune, the restaurants usually sport a pleasantly busy atmosphere. If you need fast food in Moscow on a budget Mu-Mu is a good option.<br /><br />

Cafe Pushkin

Address: 26a Tverskoi bulvat, Tverskaya Moscow

Food Type: Russian

Café Pushkin is a wonderous example of old Russian sophistication and elegance. Opened in 1999, Café Pushkin has been designed to resemble a 19th century aristocrat's apartment and is tastefully decked out with heavy gauge fabrics, wooden panels and plenty of antiques. The food is classic Russian cuisine and diners will not be disappointed whether they opt for a pancake breakfast, Tsar's Sturgeon, or the myriad desserts.<br /><br /> Café Pushkin is also open 24 hours a day.<br /><br />

Shinok

Address: 2 Ulitsa, Garden Ring. Moscow

Food Type: Local

There's a strange paradox at work in this swanky, themed restaurant. While waitresses dress as milkmaids, goats and chickens (live ones) occupy cages near the restaurant centre and the decorative furniture consist of haystacks, the calibre of service and meals are up to the standards of the upper echelons of society. Indeed, most of the restaurant's clientele dress smartly for dinners here. It is a Ukrainian restaurant serving up Ukrainian and Russian specialities, open for breakfast, lunch and supper. Reservations are recommended but may not be necessary.<br /><br />

Moscow's notorious nightlife features an amazing selection of bars, clubs, bowling alleys, billiards rooms, casinos and concert venues. The most popular party scenes can generally be found in and around Kitai Gorod, Arbat and Garden Ring, and a stroll along 1905 Goda Street is a must if you're on the look for the latest hot spot. Be aware that many Moscow bars and nightclubs operate on strict face and dress control systems, meaning that the bouncers will actively turn away people they don't find attractive or fashionable enough.<br /><br /> There are a handful of prime nightlife spots near Red Square, as one might expect, but travellers should be wary of tourist traps - often the clubs and bars frequented by locals are the best.<br /><br /> For those keen on a little gambling or gaming Moscow's casinos include Carnival and Casino Desperado, and bowling alleys and billiard rooms are numerous. Luzhniki Stadium hosts massive international music concerts, while Hermitage Garden is good for open-air performances and contemporary electronic concerts, and also boasts the Novaya Opera Theatre and an ice-skating ring. Good live music is not hard to find in Moscow and the city is world-famous for it's performing arts.<br /><br /> Russians are traditionally enthusiastic consumers of alcohol and drinking laws are seldom strictly enforced, but the legal age for purchasing alcohol is 18.<br /><br />
Shopping in Moscow is surprisingly rewarding. This previously-deprived nation loves shopping and Moscow's city centre has numerous malls and upmarket boutiques, offering all the big name brands and some pricey local goods.<br /><br /> The GUM building in Red Square hosts names like Hugo Boss, Dior and Calvin Klein. Tverskaya Ulitsa, running north from Red Square, is Moscow's most trendy shopping street. More modest, high-street fashions such as Benetton, Guess, Nike and Reebok are available from Okhoktny Ryad, under Manezh Square. Izmailovskii Park has a market at the weekends, selling traditional Russian arts and crafts, such as nesting dolls, which make for good souvenirs.<br /><br /> Eliseev Gastronome was an 1880s palace and retains many of its original features, such as curling marble pillars and candelabras, but is now an exclusive supermarket where visitors can find the finest Russian vodka or caviar; the Cheremushinsky Rynok market also sells fresh local produce. Warehouses in the suburbs sell cheap electronic goods, DVDs and software, as do vendors at the Gorbushkin Dvor market.<br /><br /> Shops are generally open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm; some larger retailers stay open until 8pm, and many smaller shops are closed between 1pm and 3pm. Ensure that all necessary export permits are in order, and beware of purchasing illegally manufactured or pirated goods.<br /><br />
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