Things to Do in Moscow

Travelling to Russia’s capital, Moscow, may sound like a daunting prospect to some, but those that do make the effort discover just how unique, interesting and exciting it really is.  From it’s turbulent history to it’s unique, eye catching architecture to it’s recently found creativity, there is truly something for everyone. While it’s never going to win awards for the most friendliest city in the world, a little bit of extra effort with it’s people and you will see them open up and share with you their lives and experiences.

While there are hundreds of things to do in Moscow, let me share with you some of the things that shouldn’t be missed on your next visit.

Red Square

Red Square
Red Square

Without a doubt this is one of the grandest city squares in the world and I can almost guarantee, it will take your breath away. This pedestrian only square (except for the odd limo coming in and out of the Kremlin) is located in the heart of the city and is surrounded by the city’s most important buildings including St Basil’s Cathedral, The Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, GUM department store and the State Historical Museum. Used on occasion for military parades, protests and landmark moments in time, Red Square has seen more history pass over it’s cobblestones than any other part of Moscow. It’s the perfect place to start any visit to Moscow as it showcases the city’s grandeur in all its glory. Don’t forget to visit both during the day and at night to see the square all lit up.

The Kremlin

The Annunciation Cathedral at the Kremlin
The Annunciation Cathedral at the Kremlin

The Kremlin is where you will probably spend most of your time when in Moscow. This complex of palaces, cathedrals and grand government buildings is the home of the President and is fortified by massive walls tat are up to 19 metres high and 6.5 metres thick in parts.  Located between the Moskva River to the south, Red Square to the east and Alexandrovsky Gardens to the west, the Kremlin is hard to miss. While your inside you can check out the Assumption Cathedral with its five golden domes, the Armoury containing treasures from Russia’s past, Terem Palace with its eleven domes, Ivan the Great Bell Tower and the giant bell and the Diamond Fund Exhibition of royal jewels.  Entry into the Kremlin is via the gate in Alexandrovsky Gardens just off Manezhnaya Pl with left luggage nearby under the Kutafya Tower. Be sure to also take a walk along some of the walls on the outside. I recommend the path along the Moskva River for a nice walk and a great perspective of the size of these walls.

St Basil’s Cathedral

St Basil's Cathedral
St Basil’s Cathedral

The coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral are probably Moscow’s most photographed sight and the symbol of the city. You won’t be disappointed as you approach the Cathedral as it is just a spectacular in person as in the photos you may have seen. Created between 1555 and 1561, legend has it that Ivan the Terrible had the architect blinded after completion so he could never create anything similar. Start your visit on the outside with a walk and view it from all sides to see the different colours and patterns on each of it’s domes. Then head inside where you will find the interior is equally spectacular. Made up of nine beautiful fresco walled chapels, exploring all of it’s nooks and crannies is a delight. Regular restoration on these frescoes may mean you won’t get to see everything, but it is interesting watching the men and women as they worked to restore this historic interior.

Bolshoi Theatre

Bolshoi Theatre
Bolshoi Theatre

Even if you’re not a fan of theatre, the Bolshoi Theatre is still definitely worth checking out even just for the exterior of the building. This historic theatre is home to both ballet and theatre companies performing Russian and foreign works with the likes of  Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and The Nutcracker having premiered here in 1877 and 1919 respectively. Out the front of the theatre during the day you will find locals and tourist on bench seats enjoying the small gardens and animated fountain. It’s a great spot to rest for a moment and watch the locals going about their day. If you are inclined to see a show, tickets can be purchased from the box office by phone, online or in person at least 7 days in advance. Or you can try your luck with the one of the many scalpers (make sure you bargain with them) out the front of the theatre just before show time.


Read More: Getting Around Moscow | Russia Travel Guide


River Cruise

The Kremlin from the Moskva River
The Kremlin from the Moskva River

One of the things I always recommend people do in any place that is near water, is take cruise. It gives you another perspective to view the city from without the hassle of traffic and is usually a very relaxing experience. The Moskva river cuts through the city past some of the city’s most important sights including The Kremlin, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and the Peter the Great statue, so it’s definitly a good city to take a cruise. The main sightseeing cruise company in Moscow is The Capital Shipping Company. They offer cruises on the Moskva River on vessels with open/closed top deck roofs so on nice sunny days you can laze in the sun while taking in the views. You can use your ticket to go one way, return or hop on and off at various points throughout the cruise.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

There is a very interesting story behind the creation of this church. After Napoleon retreated from Moscow, The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was built to thank Christ for saving Russia. It took 40 years to build and was subsequently blow up my mad Stalin to make way for a palace which never happened and then the Russians decided in 1995 that the original Cathedral should be rebuilt. The glistening gold domes are one of the city’s most iconic and stunning sights these days.

Pushkin Museum of Fine Art

Pushkin Museum of Fine Art (photo by jaime.silva on flickr)
Pushkin Museum of Fine Art (photo by jaime.silva on flickr)

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art is the largest museum of European art in Moscow and one of the best fine arts museums in the world. Inside you will find famous works by the likes of Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and Gaugain. There is also a collection of archaeological items including ones taken from Troy and items lifted by the Soviet Army from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin during WWII.

State Historical Museum

State Historical Museum
State Historical Museum

Located in Red Square the State Historical Museum in contained in a striking red brick building with while rooftop that looks like it’s covered in snow year round. Inside you will find Russia’s largest collection of Russian history with exhibitions that range from prehistoric times to the present day. If you are interested in learning more about Russian history then this is certainly the best place to start.

Peter the Great Statue

Peter the Great Statue
Peter the Great Statue

While it is one of the tallest monuments in the world, it has also been repeatedly voted one of the ugliest, and I have to agree. I hadn’t heard of or seen pictures of this statue before visiting Moscow, so as soon as my boat rounded the bend and it came into sight I just had to laugh. It’s a monstrosity that has to be seen to be believed. The statue was built in honour of Peter the Great, who established the Russian Navy.

Moscow Metro

Moscow Metro (photo by Marc Veraart on flickr)
Moscow Metro (photo by Marc Veraart on flickr)

The Moscow Metro is truly like no other in the world. Head underground to some of the stations and you will be amazed to find chandeliers, wall adjournments, marble detailing, sculpture and works of art. Some of the most popular ones to visit are Mayakovskaya, Prospekt Mira, Arbatskaya, Komsomolskaya, Novoslobodskaya and Belorusskaya.

Lenin’s Mausoleum

Lenin's Mausoleum
Lenin’s Mausoleum

To me, the idea of seeing an embalmed body doesn’t really scream top tourist site. But apparently Lenin’s Mausoleum is one of the most visited places in Moscow. Lenin’s embalmed body have been on display in the Mausoleum for almost 90 years with a short break during WWII when it went into hiding in Siberia due to fear of Nazi invasion. Queues to see the body can be long because it is uncertain how much longer it will be on display for. Get in quick!

Lomonosov Moscow State University Building

Lomonosov Moscow State University Building
Lomonosov Moscow State University Building

In the post war era, Stalin ordered seven huge tiered neoclassical buildings to be built around Moscow, known today as The Seven Sisters. Since the 1950’s, one of these buildings has been home to the main building of Lomonosov. It’s hard to argue that this is one of the most beautiful architectural buildings in the world. The main tower of Lomonosov is 240 metres tall and it was the tallest building in Europe until 1990 and is thought to be the tallest educational building in the world.


Looking for more reasons to visit Moscow and Russia? Check out the Gamin Traveler for 10 reasons Russia should be your next destination.


Where to Stay in Moscow

Here are my picks for the best places to stay in Moscow.

Budget

I hope this Moscow Photo Gallery inspires you to visit someday soon. - The Trusted TravellerRusapart at Lenivka Apartment
Excellent location, just a few minutes walk to some of the city’s best museums including the Kremlin, Fine Arts Museum and Red Square plus the Metro and plenty of cafes and restaurants. Each apartment is decorated in a simple style and features private bathrooms with hairdryer, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, flat-screen TV and fully equipped kitchen. Book Now

Mid-Range

I hope this Moscow Photo Gallery inspires you to visit someday soon. - The Trusted TravellerCourtyard by Marriott Moscow City Centre
Located in the heart of Moscow, within a 10-minute walk from Red Square and the Kremlin. The hotel’s classic-style non-smoking rooms offer a flat-screen TV, minibar, free Wi-Fi and work desk. Guests can use a private bathroom equipped with free toiletries. The onsite restaurants have you covered for all meals. Book Now

Luxury

I hope this Moscow Photo Gallery inspires you to visit someday soon. - The Trusted TravellerFours Seasons Hotel Moscow
Located in the heart of Moscow, a minutes’ walk from the Kremlin, Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre. Each elegant room and suite will provide you with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, a Nespresso coffee machine and an Ipad. Multiple onsite restaurants provide fine dining experiences at all times of the day. Book Now


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Over to you!

Which of these things to do in Moscow are you most interested in doing?

Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

32 thoughts on “Things to Do in Moscow”

  1. Love the Peter the Great statue and the metro! What would I like to do in Moscow? Good question! Probably all of the above 🙂 Oh and dancing the night away in a Russian nightclub!

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  2. I really want to go to Moscow but I am really hesitant mainly due to the language and alphabet barrier – It really daunts me thinking about going to a country where I can’t even begin to read or pronounce signs etc – How did you find this? Really great photos, I think I quite like Peter the Great monument haha, its certainly “different”

    Reply
    • Different is one word I describe it Paul. I found the language barrier no troubles, it’s the alphabet that caused a few issues. I have to admit that I naively didn’t know about the different alphabet until I got there. We did struggle for the first few hours but after a good night sleep and a very good map from our hostel we had no trouble after that. We even managed to figure out the metro by the end. I honestly think that you would be fine Paul, it just requires a little more effort than some other places.

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  3. This all looks so spectacular. I’d love to go to Moscow just to see the architecture – it’s like something out of a beautiful fantasy movie to me. Even the metro looks cool! Is Moscow the place where one of the metro cars is like an art gallery and has reproductions of famous pieces of art?

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    • I’ve never heard if that before Jessica. It may very well be, there are so many surprising things to be found in Moscow.

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  4. I have never been to Russia, but like many places this is high on my list and has been for quite some time. I agree seeing a place from the water gives a great perspective. I always visit churches when travelling and to be in a place where I can’t read or speak the language will make it a real learning experience. Thank you so much for sharing one of my cherished bucket list places.

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  5. Wow. Thank you for this summary of the top things to do in a place I didn’t know much about. I would just LOVE to see a ballet in the Bolshoi Theatre – wow!

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    • My pleasure Alli! I’d love to go back someday and catch the ballet myself. The theatre was being worked on when I was there so no performances were happening.

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  6. I love that you mentioned to visit during the daytime AND nighttime! Yes!! That’s a great tip for traveling in general. After a day of amazing sight-seeing in Berlin we watched a movie that got out long after the sun had gone down, and walking back to the hotel I was in awe at how wonderfully different the city looked.

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    • Sounds wonderful Dana. A city can be a completely different place after dark and should definitely be explored day and night.

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    • That’s very exciting Bianca! You will have a very different experience to most visitor because your visiting people who live there. Enjoy!

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  7. I’d love to visit Moscow some day. There’s so much history and so many unique things to see. I visited St. Petersburg last year and was blown away by the beauty of the city. It made me really want to see Moscow, too.

    Reply
    • It’s the other way around for me Amy. I’ve been to Moscow but have heard St Petersburg is so much more beautiful, so I can’t wait to visit it someday.

      Reply

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