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Discover Moscow - The Ultimate Travel Guide

Explore the rich history and vibrant culture of Russia's capital with our Moscow travel guide. Discover top attractions, hidden gems, and essential travel tips for an unforgettable visit. From iconic landmarks like the Kremlin and Red Square to local cuisine and nightlife, our guide has everything you need for a perfect Moscow adventure.

Author:Velma Battle
Reviewer:Michael Rachal
Jul 07, 2024
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17.3K Views
Moscow, the heart of Russia, is a city that seamlessly blends its rich historical past with a vibrant modern culture. From its iconic landmarks to its bustling streets, Moscow offers a unique experience for every traveler. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or an art lover, this ultimate Moscow travel guidewill help you discover the best of what Moscow has to offer.

Visiting Moscow

Not exactly a pretty capital city but one of the great contrasts and constant change, Moscow contains a collection of stunning, iconic buildings at its heart – a record of Russia’s amazing, turbulent history from medieval times through Tsarist excess to communist simplicity and back to excess again. Moscow’s cultural treasures are spectacular, diverse, and unique, while the confusing, capitalist chaos and new neon life give Moscow a potent and exciting dynamic. The metro/subway is sensational, especially if you’ve had the displeasure of London’s dingy system.

Downsides

Moscow is currently the most expensive city on the planet. Petty crime is not uncommon and police may be less than helpful, or even perpetrate their tourist scams. Aggressive drunks, beggars, and hideous apartment blocks can interrupt the flow of vodka-enhanced onion-dome appreciation.

Moscow Weather

Best: April, May (still very cool but dry and sunny, averaging 2C-10C), June (getting humid, fair chance of rain, averaging 12C-22C), October (high humidity, possibility of snow, averaging 2C-8C).OK: July and August are usually warm, with long daylight hours, but they will be crowded and can be brutally hot, with high humidity and a 1:2 chance of rain. If you go in midsummer check accommodation has air-conditioning. Worst: November-March If you’re cold-sensitive as these months will be well below zero and days are short and dark but the snow-shrouded scenery is gorgeous – try February. ; early spring in March OK but slushy.
Kremlin Cathedral, Moscow
Kremlin Cathedral, Moscow

Moscow’s Top Tourist Attractions

Starting naturally in Moscow’s heart at historic Red Square, with St Basil’s bizarre technicolor cathedral; Lenin’s dull Mausoleum (tomb) – where you can see his shriveled corpse (not Monday or Friday); the Kremlin, a famous political complex that occupies one side of the square and offers a collection of magnificent palaces, churches and the ultimate in jewelry collections – including Fabergé eggs – at the Armoury Chamber.
Opposite the Kremlin is the old GUM shopping center, now an attractive and busy upmarket shopping precinct. Away from Red Square, take a substantial walk west or hop the metro to Arbatskaya station for a fun and productive stroll along Arbat pedestrian street, which has many varied sights.
North of the center is VDNKh, once a state-of-the-art Russian goods exhibition, now more of a cheapo flea market but still set in grand Soviet style and worth an hour or two. Southwest of the Kremlin is Moscow’s Gorky Park, a riverside rest cure that provides fresh air and an amusement center in the summer and outdoor ice skating in winter. Nearby is the famed Tretyakov Gallery and a superb collection of Russian icons.
Among other attractions are the Novodevichy Convent, the KGB Museum, and the Grand Kremlin Palace. Otherwise, the best things any tourist can do are ride the magnificent Moscow metro, jump off at random chandeliered and muralled stations, or simply stroll the streets, absorbing the chaos and contrasts of this great city.

Short Trips Out Of The City

22 km (14mls) west of Moscow is Arkhangelskoe, a great estate complete with a palace, gardens, and endless artistic treasures. Towns near Moscow are well worth a visit as they present a picture of the real Russia, ranging from the glorious and well-preserved to the poor and dilapidated, yet tranquil after Moscow. Get there ideally in a rental car, with or without a guide, though local tour agencies will offer many options.
The number one tourist target is The Golden Ring, a group of ancient, picturesque, pre-Soviet towns just north of Moscow, headed by the sublime Suzdal, though at 210 km (131 miles) this is not an easy day trip, so consider a few nights away from the big city.

Festivals

25 Dec-5 Jan, Russian Winter is celebrated with traditional activities such as music, dance, sleigh rides, and folk shows in Izmailovo Park. New Year’s Eve tends to be a family/friends occasion, so not wildly exciting. late Feb-early March, Goodbye to Russian Winter, as Russian Winter.Easter Sunday, procession and service in stunning Kolomenskoe (Orthodox) church.April/May, Moscow Music Spring Festival, classical music.May 9, Victory Day Parade. A stirring military procession.
New Russia Moscow State Museum
New Russia Moscow State Museum

Arts/Culture

Museums- The Kremlin’s Armoury Palace is the place to see those incredible tsarist treasures, eggs, jewels, and the like (despite a substantial entry fee), while the Tretyakov Gallery offers magnificent icons and other artworks in a gorgeous building. Not comparable to St Petersburg’s Hermitage the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts offers a superb collection of Russian, European, and Ancient Egyptian arts. Not Mondays.
Classical Music- The famed State Symphony Orchestra can be heard at Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, while Russia’s main music school, the Moscow State Conservatory, offers very good value tickets.
Dance/Opera- The Bolshoi is the place to be, see below, but other excellent ballet/operas are staged at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses and the Stanilavsky & Nemirovitch-Danchenko Musical Theatre.
Bolshoi Ballet- Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre hosts both the Bolshoi Opera and the Bolshoi Ballet – one of the world’s greatest ballets and well worth the effort to see, in spite of some problems with the 220-year-old building. Tickets can be bought at the last moment from touts outside for a reasonable price, but check the ticket date carefully, they sometimes sell way out-of-date paper. Both Opera and Ballet run from 1 September – 30 June only.
Live Music & Clubs- The city turns into party-central after dark, with all sorts of pubs, cafés, clubs, and live music places from ridiculously expensive to dirt cheap. Ask the hotel concierge for recommendations or read the listings papers. Popular clubs often have a ‘face control’ (dress code) operated by doormen so get advice before wasting your time.
Banya Baths- Don’t forget to get yourself baked, beaten, and frozen at every Russian’s favorite social event, the hot baths/sauna. Moscow’s most spectacular and oldest is the Sandunovskiye Baths, though there are plenty more around the city. Extremists could also try mid-winter bathing with the thermometer at 20C, either in frozen lakes or in heated open-air pools in cities.
Circuses- Moscow’s Old (Nikulin) Circus specializes in acrobats and clowns while the New Circus is more clown-oriented. Check the ‘Moscow Times’ for event info/listings.

Moscow Police Visa Scam

Tourists in the center of the city may be approached by police for visa checking. This will invariably be found to have a ‘fault’ that earns a fine. The best protection, apart from a local guide, is getting your visa registered in Moscow, show the plod a photocopy of your passport and visa, do not give plod your passport, pull out your mobile (cell) phone and tell the plod that you’ll call your embassy to ask for assistance. It might be handy to have that number on your speed dial! You almost certainly won’t have to use it or pay the fine.
One Of Moscow's Metro
One Of Moscow's Metro

City Transport

The underground (metro/subway) stations are spectacular and the network is excellent and cheap, with connections at all of Moscow’s nine main rail stations. Car rental is a liability in the city but useful for short trips out, though many local agencies will require you to take a driver. Booking from outside Russia is often the best route. Taxis are easy to find but. . .a) don’t take it if you don’t like the look of the driver, especially late at night) negotiate a price at the start since meters are rarely used. Buses and trams also cruise the streets but are less easy to use unless there’s a conductor.
Several Russian dishes
Several Russian dishes

Russia Food

Moscow now serves all kinds of cuisine at all kinds of prices, though low prices can equal shoddy service and unattractive eats. Cafés are best for good, solid, budget food while Georgian restaurants are usually excellent value with tasty food and a cheerful environment. Upmarket restaurants need to be chosen with care as some are aimed solely at nouveau riche Russians or affluent foreigners and charge silly prices for a mediocre nosh, though a little research will reveal other establishments that are just as good but won’t break the bank. Café Pushkin is such a place, with a stunning tsarist décor. Needless to say, fast food is widely available. Do check if the place takes credit cards – not all do.

Moscow travel guide - FAQs

What is the best time to visit Moscow?

Best Time:The best time to visit Moscow is during the late spring (May to June) and early autumn (September to October) when the weather is pleasant and the city is bustling with events and activities.
Winter:If you enjoy winter activities and festive holiday decorations, visiting in December and January can be magical, but be prepared for cold temperatures.

Do I need a visa to visit Moscow?

Visa Requirement:Yes, most travelers will need a visa to visit Moscow. The process typically involves applying at a Russian consulate or embassy in your home country. Ensure you have an invitation letter, which can be provided by your hotel or a travel agency.

What are the must-see attractions in Moscow?

Top Attractions:
  • Red Square:Home to St. Basil's Cathedral, Lenin's Mausoleum, and the Kremlin.
  • The Bolshoi Theatre:Famous for its ballet and opera performances.
  • Tretyakov Gallery:A treasure trove of Russian art.
  • Gorky Park:Perfect for outdoor activities and relaxation.

What is the best way to get around Moscow?

Metro:The Moscow Metro is efficient, affordable, and an attraction in itself with its beautifully designed stations.
Buses and Trams:These are also reliable options for getting around the city.
Taxis:Use official taxi services or apps like Yandex.Taxi or Uber to avoid overcharging.

Is Moscow safe for tourists?

Safety Tips:Moscow is generally safe for tourists, but it's important to stay vigilant. Avoid poorly lit areas at night, be cautious with your belongings in crowded places, and use reputable transportation services.

What are some traditional Russian dishes to try in Moscow?

Must-Try Dishes:
  • Borscht:A beet soup often served with sour cream.
  • Pelmeni:Russian dumplings filled with meat.
  • Blini:Thin pancakes served with various fillings.
  • Beef Stroganoff:Sautéed beef in a creamy sauce.

Do people in Moscow speak English?

Language Barrier:While English is spoken in major tourist areas and by younger people, it's not widely spoken throughout the city. Learning a few basic Russian phrases or using a translation app can be very helpful.

What is the currency used in Moscow, and where can I exchange money?

Currency:The official currency is the Russian Ruble (RUB).
Exchange:Currency can be exchanged at banks, hotels, and official exchange offices. ATMs are widely available, and credit cards are accepted in most places.

Final Words

Moscow is a city that captivates with its blend of history, culture, and modernity. Whether you’re exploring its famous landmarks, savoring its diverse cuisine, or simply soaking in the vibrant atmosphere, Moscow promises an unforgettable travel experience. Use this ultimate travel guide to make the most of your visit and discover the many facets of this remarkable city.
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Velma Battle

Velma Battle

Author
Travelling Expert
Michael Rachal

Michael Rachal

Reviewer
Travelling Expert
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