Your Complete Travel Guide To Moscow

The Russian capital is rich in history and bursting with contemporary artistry and innovation

Published: 18 June 2018, Text by: Mara Vorhees, Photos: Josephine Skapare

GETTING AROUND

Go Metro

The massive Moscow metro is not only an efficient form of transportation, it’s also an impressive artistic and historical display. Metro stations are decked out with marble columns, mosaics and bronze statues celebrating Soviet history and culture. The trains are frequent and speedy, costing only RUB55 (USD0.89/RM3.50) per ride.

Apps & Maps

The most popular mobile phone app for ordering taxis is Yandax.Taxi, which is easy to use with its interface in English. Lonely Planet’s Guides app provides detailed maps and professional reviews of museums, restaurants, bars, and historic sites.

Local Yokel

Get a local perspective when you sign up for a walking tour with Moscow Greeter, a network of English-speaking volunteers who are keen to share the best of their city.

HEART OF MOSCOW
Red Square

The centrepiece of Moscow is this expansive area of cobblestones, with majestic buildings all around. Ogle the iconic St Basil’s Cathedral, with its intricate brickwork and multi-coloured domes. Pay your respects to the founder of the Soviet state at Lenin’s Mausoleum. And do a spot of shopping in GUM, the former State Department Store, which is now a fancy shopping mall.

Fortress with the Mostest

St Basil's Cathedral
St Basil's Cathedral

The red-brick Kremlin is the founding site of Moscow and the seat of power for most of Russian history. Inside, gold-domed churches and plush palaces contain holy icons and royal tombs, while the Arsenal Museum is crammed with Imperial treasures. On the way out, stroll through Alexander Garden and catch the changing of the guard (hourly) at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Wild Urbanism

Moscow’s newest attraction is Zaryadye Park on the banks of the Moscow River. A walk through the park might traverse all four of Russia’s climate zones – forest, steppe, tundra and wetlands – all within a few blocks of Red Square. Don’t miss the innovative multimedia exhibits and ethereal ice sculpture gallery.

CULTURAL CLASSICS
Lords of the Dance

Moscow is renowned for its classical performing arts, especially opera and ballet. And no company is more celebrated than the Bolshoi Theatre. Top tip: You can see equally ravishing performances – sometimes for significantly lower prices – at other theatres around town, such as the State Kremlin Palace or Stanislavsky Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre.

Art Museums

Art lovers can choose between two massive museums showing off extensive collections of art through the ages. Visit the Tretyakov Gallery for a comprehensive look at Russian iconography, painting, and decorative arts. Across the river, the Pushkin Gallery of Fine Arts is the city’s premier collection of international works.

Holy Russia

Founded in 1340 by the patron saint of Russia, Sergiev Posad is Russia’s holiest pilgrimage site. Sparkling with gold-plated and star-spangled domes and surrounded by white-washed walls, the ancient monastery exudes history and Orthodoxy. About 75 kilometres northeast of Moscow, Sergiev Posad is a one-hour train ride from Yaroslavsky Station.

MODERN MOSCOW
Outdoor Living

When the weather is fine, Muscovites come out to play. Whether it’s ping pong, beach volleyball, bike riding, or swing dancing, the action goes down at the Gorky Park riverside. Across the street, wander through Muzeon sculpture park, littered with new art and old Soviet statesmen. 

Art & Design

Bolshoi Theatre
Bolshoi Theatre

A former wine bottling factory, Winzavod is now an artistic hub of avant-garde galleries; the former glassware plant Flacon is a modern market of funky shops, cool cafés and other oddball attractions. Once a blight on the capital’s cityscape, these post-industrial centres are now hot spots for Russian art and design.

Skyscraper City

Nowhere is the future of Moscow more evident than at the Moscow International Business Centre, better known as Moscow City, the massive riverside development shooting up west of the centre. Some of the 20 or so skyscrapers are among Europe’s tallest, dwarfing the Stalinist `Seven Sisters’ that also dot the skyline.

BOOKS & FILMS
Russian Literature

Wondering what to read before your visit to Moscow? Delve into Master & Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov’s fantastical Soviet-era cult novel that takes place in and around the capital. Alternatively, read the epic Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, to immerse yourself in the social mores and historical atmosphere of 19th-century Moscow.

Russian Footie

Get the scoop on the rebirth of Russian football—and of Russia itself—from Marc Bennett’s compelling book Football Dynamo.

Moscow In The Movies

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is an Academy Award-winning classic (1981) about three small-town girls who come to the capital to make their fortunes. Thirty years later, Elena (2011) explores similar themes of class and society in modern Moscow.

EAT & DRINK
Haute-russe Cuisine

Sample the cuisine of tsars at Pushkin Café, an exquisite restaurant housed in a replica 19th-century mansion. Feast on delicacies such as baked sturgeon, veal rissole, or beef stroganoff, washed down with plenty of vodka. Top tip: If dinner is too pricey, head next door to the patisserie for a delightful (and slightly more affordable) dessert.

Georgian Cuisine

The highlight of your Moscow culinary adventure may not be Russian at all, but rather food from the Caucasian country of Georgia. The cuisine is rich and spicy, featuring grilled meats, fresh herbs and ground walnuts. Sample it at simple joints like Minzandari or at more upscale restaurants like Elardzhi.

Dine, Drink, Dance

After dark, the place to be is Red October, a former chocolate factory turned nightlife mecca. The restaurants are good, but the bars and clubs are even better (and the Moscow views are the best), especially Bar Strelka or Rolling Stone. If you prefer to hunker down with a pint of Guinness and watch football, you’ll find what you need at Tap & Barrel, a classic Irish pub.

TOURIST ESSENTIALS
Hotels Historic & Modern

Several atmospheric, historic hotels are placed conveniently close to Red Square, such as the storied art-nouveau Metropol Hotel and the luxurious Four Seasons Moscow, a replica of a Soviet-era anomaly. Alternatively, check into a new breed of boutique hotels, such as Brick Design Hotel or Moss Boutique Hotel.

Souvenir Central

Traditional Russian souvenirs include Orthodox icons, Soviet military paraphernalia, and matrioshka nesting dolls. Nowadays, artisans paint the latter with many non-traditional faces, including your favourite football team or contemporary politicians. You’ll find the biggest selection of souvenirs at Izmaylovsky Market.

What’s In The News?

Pick up the free weekly Moscow Times for news and commentary (in English) on Russian politics, sports, arts, and entertainment.

What To Wear

Muscovites are a stylish lot, often showing off top names in European and American fashion. Look sharp when going out for a night on the town. By contrast, dress modestly when visiting working churches. Shorts and short skirts are generally prohibited, and women are required to cover their head with a scarf.

THE BASICS

Continental Climate

Winters in Moscow are long, cold and dark (and snowy), while summer in the city is hot and humid. The most pleasant seasons to visit are spring (May and June) and autumn (September and October).

No Troubles with Roubles

Most hotels, restaurants and shops accept credit cards. You can exchange US dollars or Euros for Roubles at the airport or at most banks, but it’s easier to withdraw them directly from your bank account at an ATM, or Bankomat.

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