Russia is, for sure, a country that counts numerous incredible places to visit, some of which so unique that you will not see anything similar anywhere else in the world.
It is impressive in all the possible ways – it’s enormous, it’s luxurious, it’s traditional… the president of the country is a living cult, religion is Orthodox Christianity and there is vodka.
Well, that is what we all know, but there is much more.
Here we list 11 best things to do and best places to visit in Moscow – these places are, in our opinion, some of the best and definitely a MUST for anyone traveling to this incredible Russian city.
Beginning of a Great Russian journey starts in Moscow, no doubts.
Moscow, as every capital in the world is a center of everything and reflects all that the country has to offer to a tourist – full of unique places to visit and, even though it is difficult to make a summary of the top ones – we selected these 11 as the best things to do in Moscow.
We are also including some travel tips that will, hopefully, help you to organize better your big Russian journey.
1. St Basil Cathedral – finally seeing it in person
This one is the most recognizable picture of Moscow and, in our opinion, the most stunning building in Moscow. It is usually referred as the most beautiful and the most colorful cathedral in the world.
Have you ever imagined yourself standing face to face with the St Basil Cathedral after seeing it’s stunning photos all around internet?
I surely did and therefore this was the first thing I wanted to do while in Moscow – finally getting there and admire it in person.
It was built as an orthodox church in 16th century on the order from Ivan the Terrible – who was not that terrible btw – it was more what marketing made of his name.
Nowadays the Cathedral does not serve its initial religious purpose but opens its doors to tourists who can enjoy exploring its unique interior.
There are many controversies about the construction and architects who designed and build the church, so identity of the main architect seems to be uncertain.
One of the legends says that Ivan The Terrible blinded the architect so that he could never re-create or make any similar masterpiece elsewhere. Maybe he was that terrible indeed? Anyway, nothing similar has ever been created anywhere else.
History behind this church is quite rich and interesting since it’s construction, throughout the period of state atheism during the Soviet era, till nowadays when it serves as museum, and it is part, together with Kremlin and Red Square, of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Even if you are on a short visit to Moscow, this legendary building should not be missed at any cost.
Interior of the church preserves a lot of it’s old glory and original decoration and, if you have a chance to come with a tourist guide or at least with audio guide you will, for sure, have a memorable experience.
Assuming that trying to describe this unique architecture and one of a kind design of the exterior is not going to picture the real experience not even a tiny bit, I will just say that you have to go there and admire it in person.
Cost → exterior – Free, interior – 500 Rubles *free for children up to 16 years old
Location → St. Basil Cathedral
Time for Visit → 40 min
Opening Hours → 11AM – 5PM (may vary from month to month – for current schedule visit the official St. Basil Cathedral Official Web)
2. Explore the secrets of Kremlin
Kremlin is a fortress inside of the city, complex of buildings, palaces and churches overlooking the Moskva river from one side and the Red Square from another.
The famous Grand Kremlin Palace, once tsar’s residence, now serves as official residence of the president with a part of it being open to public as museum and a living witness of the Russian history.
As a tourists, you will need the whole day for visiting this impressive complex and walking around this historical place but, we can assure that this activity is one of the best you could possibly be doing while in Moscow – you will learn a lot and you will see truly amazing things inside.
The main points to visit are: Kremlin towers, Cathedral Square with three cathedrals and two churches, Ivan the Great Bell Tower with an amazing view on the city, Grand Kremlin Palace, Ivan III’s Palace and Terem Palace and Armory building with its unique collections of Russian imperial jewelry, carriages, weapons, armors and more…
It is advisable to plan early morning start of the visit since the queues are quite long and ticket can only be bought on the day of visit (unless you buy it online).
For more info on the ticket prices and admission schedules please visit official web page Kremlin Official Site
We highly recommend buying tickets online since the queue is huge, it moves slowly and tickets are sold out really quickly so plan ahead, don’t waste precious time.
For online ticket visit official web page Official Kremlin Tickets. Otherwise, ticket office is located at Aleksandrovsky Sad (Alexander Garden) and tickets can be bought there only on the day of the visit.
Cost → Architectural Complex of the Cathedral Square and Ongoing Exhibition 500 RUB, 10am–5pm | Armory Chamber 700 RUB, 10am – 6pm | Bell Tower: 250 RUB, 10:15 – 5pm | Tickets for Bell Tower are not available online, only in the ticket office 45 min before the session starting time.
Time for Visit → 4-6 hours
Opening Hours → 10AM to 6PM (for more info visit Kremlin Ticket Office)
3. Visit Lenin’s Mausoleum
Is a place that you should not miss visiting and it is situated on the Red Square so you will not have to walk far from the previously mentioned places to visit.
It is a resting place of the famous Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin whose body is preserved and displayed to public.
Mausoleum is open to visitors only from 10 am to 1pm and the entrance is free.
Queue is quite long but it moves quickly since the visit itself is not so long.
The whole place is under strict protection and visitors are advised to move quickly and taking photos inside is strictly prohibited.
The entire experience is surreal and kind of intimidating. The room where the coffin is presented is dark and cold with lights only directed to the preserved Lenin’s body.
Numerous police officers and security staff are arranged discretely all around the place and any sudden move is monitored closely and reacted upon quickly.
Tip: Don’t even try to reach to your pocket hoping to get quick shot with your phone!
For more info visit Lenin Mausoleum Official Webpage
Location→ Lenin’s Mausoleum
Time for Visit: 30 min
Opening Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm
4. Walk around the Red Square
Could it even be possible to start your Moscow sightseeing anywhere else?
Red Square is a central square in Moscow and a great starting point for exploring the city. The location of the square is in real center of the city and all the major city landmarks are just around – the walls of Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, St Basil Cathedral, Historical Museum, Historical shopping center Gum…
The best way to arrive to Red Square is by metro. Nearest metro stops are Okhotny Ryad, Teattralnaya and Ploshod Revolyusti. From these stops you can just walk around and enjoy view to all the main Moscow attractions.
The square is a meeting point for both locals and tourists, main spot for public happenings and events and performing stage for concerts and manifestations. From the square you can enjoy impressive architecture of surrounding buildings and admire their beauty from outside and take some stunning photos.
There is no doubt that a walk around the Red Square is 1 of the best things to do in Moscow any time of the year.
Cost → Free
Location →Red Square
Time for Visit → 1.5 hour
Opening Time: →10AM -10PM daily.
5. Stroll along the Old Arbat Street
This is one of the oldest streets of Moscow – now pedestrian zone with lots of souvenir shops, kiosks, bars and street sellers.
It is located in historical center of Moscow and it’s about 1 km long street.
It’s one of those streets that every city has – the main one, traditional and modern at the same time where you can see both locals and foreigners walking up and down the street, enjoying nice weather, buying some typical souvenirs or taking some quick bites on the go.
Location → Old Arbat Street
Time for Visit → 45 min
Opening Hours → 24/7
6. Learn about history in State central Museum of contemporary Russian history
In Russian -Muzey Sovremennoy Istorii Rossii.
We liked this museum because of its comprehensive permanent exhibitions on Russian history from the 12th century until recent times.
It gives quite good chronological overview of all the changes in social life in Russia.
Exhibitions are detailed with lot of material, household items, arts, books, documents, weapons, military awards, personal items of famous Russian characters…
Besides the fact that the museum possesses quite impressive collections followed by lot of written, audio and video material, it can be not that easy for foreign visitors who are not much familiar with Russian history (if that is even possible) due to the lack of English translations.
For this reason, maybe its not a bad idea to hire a guide to walk you through the museum and explain a bit of the rich Russian history.
Some of the most interesting parts of the museum, for us, were: exhibition dedicated to the revolution and its leaders, section dedicated to space with Yuri Gagarin’s personal items, stories about his travel to space, Laika, and all the space stuff from Soviet Russia.
For more info visit Official State central Museum of contemporary Russian HIstory
Cost→ 250 RUB
Location → Muzey Sovremennoy Istorii Rossii
Time for Visit → 2 hours
Opening Hours → 11an – 7pm (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
12pm – 9pm (Wednesday) – Monday – day off
7. Souvenirs shopping at Izmailovo Vernisazh Market
This is a real fun place to visit in Moscow – it’s a complex of old wooden buildings and constructions reminding of an Old Russian village but serving as a huge open market.
After you enter a small wooden doorway you will find yourself in a real Russian fairy tale village, full of stalls with the most unusual things – traditional Russian souvenirs, handmade gifts, old soviet posters, flags, pins, military items, fur and woolen clothes, traditional Russian foods and drinks, cult Russian national characters inspired gifts all the way from TSARs, soviets to current president Putin themed t-shirts, tea cups and fridge magnets.
Not to forget matryoshkas – typical Russian nesting dolls – they are being sold all around in different sizes and decorations, from the cheap ones to the very expensive and unique ones.
Whatever you do and whatever you are into, matryoshka is an absolute must as a gift to family and friends back home.
Almost everyone on this market sells them – in different sizes, designs and styles – from the most traditional ones to the ones that are made with currently trending global characters – you can find ones with the face of cartoon characters, politicians as Tramp and Putin, even the ones with the faces of famous football players (I guess these were only for the World Cup).
Replicas of famous Faberge eggs are also a big thing in Russia – you will learn about that in some of the museums and hand-made replicas that are being sold on this market, are also a nice and unique souvenir.
Besides the souvenir part of the market, there are numerous stalls selling antiquities – there is also of everything, art pieces, house decorations, paintings, books, pottery and much more.
As most of the markets all around the world, here is not different – bargaining is a must.
Some of the sellers will be in the mood to negotiate prices, some not at all, but its worth of a try and its part of the fun.
We recommend buying souvenirs here since it is the most comprehensive place and you can find literally all sort of things there, and the prices are somewhat lower than in Old Arbat street for example.
Besides the souvenir hunt, the entire place is really interesting, with all the wooden houses brightly colored and with a real atmosphere of an Old Russian village.
If you are into antiquities inspired by Soviet times – this is a place where you can find really cool stuff.
Location → Izmaylovo Vernisazh
Time for Visit → 2-3 hours
Opening Hours → 9am – 5pm (Saturday, Sunday) | Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – off
Opening hours may differ. For more info visit the Official Website
8. Visit the Historic Toilet in the Gum Shopping Center
This place is what nowadays is called a shopping center – during the soviet era such places were known as State Department Stores.
The main and the most famous one, was this one located in the real heart of Moscow.
The building is iconic and packed with big branded stores like the ones elsewhere all around world’s shopping malls.
Even if you are not a big fan of shopping this one is wort of a visit for its impressive architecture and unique design.
If none of that, you might need to use a bathroom after a long sightseeing around the Red Square and this is the most iconic place to do it in Moscow. And probably much more elegant than in a normal bar, restaurant or any public toilet around.
Shopping center Gum has a very unique toilet – historic one – royal looking, done in marble, impeccable clean and with lot of amenities – to do all you need to do – with style.
Using the Historic Toilet is not free but it is well wort it if you appreciate a good toilet experience.
Cost→ entrance to Shopping center is free but can cost you a lot :), entrance to the Historic Toilet – 200 RUB
Location → GUM Center
Time for Visit → 30min or the whole day if you are shopaholic.
Opening Hours → 10am – 10pm
9. Admire the Cathedral of Christ the savior
This one is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world.
Interesting story behind this church is that this is actually the second one build here, not the original one. The original church was destroyed on the order of Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
The current church rebuilding started in 1995 and finished in 2000.
One of the significant events in modern history is the one from 2000 when the canonization of the Romanovs when the last Tsar Nikolas II and his family were glorified as saints, took place here.
Among the numerous Russian churches and cathedrals, even though they are all truly impressive, this one is definitely more than worth of a visit.
For better understanding of its history and significance, we recommend taking an audio guide or guided tour.
For more info visit Cathedral of Christ the savior
Location → Cathedral of Christ the savior
Time for Visit → 30min – 1hour
Opening Hours → 10am – 5pm
10. Explore the Pushkin state museum of Fine Arts
This is the largest museum of European art in Moscow and it is located just opposite the above-mentioned Cathedral of Christ the Savior, so it is convenient to visit these two places in a same day.
Contrary to the somehow misleading name of the museum, it has nothing to do with the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. It is not a museum of Alexander Pushkin.
The museum possesses around 700,000 paintings (including the earliest examples of byzantine art: icons and mosaics), sculptures (more than 600 pieces of European sculptures), archeological items (ancient artifacts from Cyprus, Ancient Greece, Italy and Egypt) applied works and photographs.
Besides permanent expositions, museum also holds temporary exhibitions bringing the world’s famous collections of art.
Our experience confirms that the museum is worth of a visit with lot to see and discover. However, we have to say that, besides original pieces, museum holds numerous replicas of famous paintings and sculptures that can be found in other European museums such as the Louvre or El Prado.
For more information and online tickets visit official Pushkin Museum Website
Cost→ 400 RUB for the main building, 600 RUB main building + 19th and 20th century European and American Art Gallery
Location → Cathedral of Christ the savior
Time for Visit → 2-4 hours
Opening Hours → 11am – 9pm
11. Travel by Moscow Metro
Metro is usually just a mean of getting somewhere, usually more convenient and more efficient than bus or tram.
In Moscow, metro works perfectly, like other European capitals, if not even better I would say.
Tickets are not too expensive and time of waiting for the train is minimal.
Well, those are not quite all the information about Moscow metro that you will need on your Moscow trip. Besides its practical use, metro in Moscow is also a much more – a real museum looking metro stations are what makes Moscow metro unique and different than anywhere else.
Metro in Moscow was built in the time of Stalin and it was one of the most extravagant architectural projects of its time – Russian designers and architects had a task to depict country’s power and wealth through design of Metro Stops.
Marble walls, high ceilings, grandiose chandeliers, bronze statues and Soviet symbolic on the walls – you can see all that in the Moscow Metro.
These are just some of the interesting ones to see – Komsomolskaya, Kievskaya, Prospekt Mira, Park Pobedy, Ploshchad Revolyutsii, Elektrozavodskaya, Elektrozavodskaya, Mayakovskaya, Novoslobodskaya.
Cost→ Metro Ticket (201 RUB daily metro ticket)
Location → Moscow
Time for Visit → 30min – 3hours
Opening Hours → 5.30AM –1AM
Besides these places that we visited during our 6 days stay in Moscow, there are many others that we didn’t manage for such a short stay and we will definitely plan them for the next trip:
Bolshoi Theatre – historic theatre in Moscow – we saw it from outside but would love to visit it from inside and see some of the world-famous ballet or opera performances.
State Historical Museum – prehistoric tribe relics, Russia’s largest coin collection, Romanov dynasty artworks are just some of the things this museum has, and we would love to see it next time.
Gorky Park – outdoor space with lot of attractions, outdoor games, skiing rinks, and open-air movie theatre – sounds like a nice chill out zone for spending lazy Sundays.
Sparrow Hills – this is another city park, nearby the above mentioned Gorky, famous for the view on the tallest of the seven Stalinist skyscrapers (Moscow State University). It is said to be a great spot for enjoying the view from the observation deck or taking a ride by cable car.
One more IMPORTANT thing to do while in Moscow – try some of delicious Russian food – caviar pancakes, Russian salad (in Russia known as Olivier), Borscht soup, Piroshki, Pelmeni, Shashlyk… and not to forget – drink some VODKA!
Moscow is one of the biggest cities in the world and it has a lot of attractions and interesting places to visit. It is impossible to see all those places in just few days and we suggest staying at least one week which would give you enough time at least for the main ones.
If you have more time, I can assure you that this city can keep you entertained for long and you are about to learn a lot.
To learn more about Russia and find out some interesting facts about it read our post FACTS ABOUT Russia and WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT IT.
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