Moscow is one of Europe’s largest cities, as well as its most populous. Located along the banks of the beautiful Moskva River, this enchanting city has centuries of history, and a never-ending list of monuments, buildings, cathedrals, and museums to explore. From the busy, bustling Moscow Metro, to the quiet, solemn, and striking St. Basil’s Cathedral, here are 10 things to do in Moscow if you ever find yourself in the beloved Whitestone city.
- Red Square:
The Red Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990, is one of Europe’s largest and oldest historic squares, holding immense importance. It is home to iconic buildings like the Monument to Minin and Pozharsky, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Eastern Kremlin Wall, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and Kremlin Wall Necropolis. Walking through its historic streets feels like walking through the pages of Russian history.
- Lenin’s Mausoleum:
Lenin’s Mausoleum attracts countless tourists as one of Russia’s most popular destinations. As the final resting place of Russian leader Vladimir Lenin, it features his embalmed body, preserved like a modern-day mummy, perpetuating the memory of a significant historical figure.
- Bolshoi Theatre:
For theatre enthusiasts, the Bolshoi Theatre is an absolute must-visit. As one of Europe’s oldest and most esteemed theatres, established in the late 18th century, it stands as a symbol of Russian cultural heritage. It acts as the parent company to the two largest ballet cum opera companies in Europe and boasts over 200 talented dancers.
- Maly Theatre
The Maly Theatre, founded in 1824, occupies a vital place in Russian cultural history and has greatly influenced the development of Russian theatre. With a rich repertoire of classical plays and operas, it continues to captivate audiences through artistic excellence. Boasting a staff of over 700, it remains a shining example of Russia’s theatrical heritage by continuing the breathe life into Russian heritage plays.
- Moscow Metro:
Inaugurated in 1935, the Moscow Metro stands as a testament to Soviet engineering prowess and grandeur. As the 8th-largest metro network globally, its extensive and beautifully adorned subway system plays a crucial role in Moscow’s transport network. Covering over 500km and serving nearly 7 million riders daily, this architectural marvel is more than just a means of transport; it’s a tourist destination in of itself.
- The Moscow Kremlin
Dating back to the 12th century, the Moscow Kremlin serves as a potent symbol of Russia’s political and cultural heritage. Throughout history, it has been the residence of tsars, Soviet leaders, and now the President of Russia. Welcoming millions of visitors yearly, it serves not only as a seat of power but also as a fascinating museum showcasing Russia’s rich past.
- Saint Basil’s Cathedral:
An architectural marvel constructed in the 16th century, Saint Basil’s Cathedral is renowned for its vibrant onion domes and unique design. With its nine domes, this classic example of Russian architecture has even found its way into popular culture, being featured in the former best-selling game of all time, Tetris. Standing as a symbol of Russia’s triumph over Mongol rule, it remains an iconic representation of Moscow.
- The Great Bell Tower of Ivan the Terrible:
Part of the Moscow Kremlin complex, the Great Bell Tower, constructed in the 16th century as Russia’s first stone watchtower, stands as the tallest structure in the Kremlin. It holds historical significance as a symbol of the grandeur of the tsarist era, adding to the allure of this historical site.
- Moscow River Cruise
A river cruise along the Moskva River offers picturesque views of Moscow’s iconic landmarks, and a unique perspective on the city’s architectural magnificence. This enchanting experience offers visitors an unforgettable way to explore the city.
- Old Arbat and New Arbat Streets
Old Old Arbat Street, with its centuries-old history dating back to the 15th century, holds a special place as a cultural hub for artists and intellectuals. Its older sister, New Arbat Street introduces modern architecture, shopping, and entertainment facilities, showcasing the booming urban landscape of Moscow. Together, they represent a captivating contrast between the city’s glorious past and exciting present, drawing visitors into the heart of Moscow.
What is the best time of year to visit Moscow?
The period of April to September is generally good for experiencing Moscow. Since Moscow is one of the coldest cities in the world, one can evade the harsh Russian winter by visiting in the summer. That being said, one might be better off visiting from April to May, as hotel and ticket prices tend to be much cheaper, due to the reduced tourist rush. That being said, while winters are extremely cold, they offer a genuine glimpse of the Moscow experience that most tourists don’t experience.
Are there any English-speaking tour guides available in Moscow?
While there is no shortage of English, Spanish, or even Italian-speaking tour guides in Moscow, it is generally recommended that tourists learn some basic Russian phrases and sentences to communicate with the local populace when necessary, like asking for directions or placing an order for a meal.
Is it safe to travel to Moscow as a tourist?
Moscow has an average crime rate, consisting mostly of petty theft, pick-pocketing, and vandalism, however, the threat of terrorist attacks in Moscow is quite high, and due to Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, U.S. citizens are advised to err on the side of caution and plan accordingly.
Are credit cards widely accepted in Moscow?
The local credit card operator, Mir, is widely accepted and generally hassle-free. However, major U.S. firms like Visa and MasterCard have suspended operations in Russia in protest of its war efforts against Ukraine. However, this ban affects only foreign transactions, and not domestic ones, meaning that if the funds are being transferred within Russia, the transactions are valid.
Are there any festivals or events happening during my visit to Moscow?
Some popular festivals to look out for during your Moscow visit are:-
•Unity Day (November)
•Wild Mint Folk Festival (June)
•Taste of Moscow (June)
•Moscow International Film Festival (April)
•Russian Winter Festival (December/January)
•Afisha Picnic (August)
•Maslenitsa Festival (February/March)
•The Orthodox Christmas (January)
•The International Book Fair of Moscow(August-September)
•Moscow Golden Mask Festival(April-May)
.What are some etiquette tips and cultural norms to be aware of in Moscow?
There are few major cultural differences between Russia and most other Western countries, however, it is important to be mindful of certain gestures that are considered disrespectful in Russia, these are:-
•Making the ‘OK” sign with your hands.
•Crossing your legs when sitting.
•Finishing the food on your plate, leaving nothing.
•Not bringing a small gift or flowers to a gathering, however, if you do bring flowers, make sure they aren’t yellow.