17 things and places you should not miss while in Moscow

Overview of Moscow city, with Kremlin not far away
A view of Moscow, with the Kremlin and its cathedral in view. Just so much things to do and see in Moscow.

Moscow is an exciting place to be, with a sophisticated history evident in its well preserved architectures and monuments. To really maximize your trip in Moscow, two days in the city is probably not enough. In fact, you will need to be prepared for a tight schedule if you are spending only 4 days or less. 

A week is a pace more comfortable if you intend to visit the museums and flea markets, stroll along the streets, chill at the cafe to people watch and really immerse yourself in the city’s atmosphere. This post shall introduce to you 17 things to do if it is your first time in Moscow!

Tips: Open your google map and pin all the places you read in this article. This will help you decide where you want to go and plan the best route for your itinerary later on

Tours
Museums
Cathedrals
Street and Sightseeing
Shopping

Tours

1. Join a free walking tour in Red Square

For us, it is always a good idea to start the trip with a free walking tour. Walking tours are good ways to get to know people if you are a solo traveller. I love it because it helps to orientate us to the key places of interests and give us some historical understanding of the city.

Moscow walking tour
A walking tour is a quick and efficient way to orientate yourself to the destination. Ask your guide to point you to places for food and drinks!

Both Saint Petersburg and Moscow offer free walking tours. We booked with MoscowFreeTours while we were there, and the tour was comprehensive and well-structured. They also offer paid walking tours packages if you like their services.

2. Do your own Metro-tour

Moscow Metro railway subway @amarriedtraveller
Visiting the Moscow metro is not just about getting a ride, but is also an historical tour.

The metro is a comprehensive underground railway system built by the Soviet Union. In each station, you will find interesting monuments, sculptures, paintings and architecture that reveals some aspect of the Soviet Union’s glory, its controversy and its propaganda.

Moscow metro propaganda

Moscow-metro-4

The promise of a good life was often a propaganda used during the Soviet Union to motivate and inspire its people.

Moscow metro sculptures @amarriedtraveller
People stroking the sculptures as a sign of good luck. Sculptures often depicted men and women in their various roles as farmers, herders, hunters, soldier or engineers in the times of the Soviet Union. The men and women are often youthful and well-built to inspire a generation of people

For the self-tour, we found this website, Moscow 360, that provided a comprehensive guide about which stations to visit and what to look out for when you are there. You can do some modification to your tour, just as how we did so that we did not have to exit the stations.

Moscow metro propoganda @amarriedtraveller
Originally an image of Stalin depicted as a saint, but was removed by the people and replaced with this image after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Below are some guides to help you with the metro tour.

Avoid peak period – You will often see other tourists wandering around the station while you are there. Try to avoid the peak period as you might face annoyed passengers trying to rush to or get off from work.

Recognize the colors – All the metro lines are colour coded to ease your planning. The names of the stations can be quite long and hard to grasp, so just for your convenience, below are the stations that you should visit on your metro tour.

Tips: You can quickly save these station on your google map for easy reference. Also, download and print the official English metro map here

  • Station 1: Ploschad Revolyutsii (Transit station between Blue/Green/Red line)
  • Station 2: Kurskaya (Blue – transit to Brown)
  • Station 3: Komsomolskaya (Brown)
  • Station 4: Novoslobodskaya (Brown)
  • Station 5: Belorusskaya (Brown line transit to Green)
  • Station 6: Mayakovskaya (Green)

Museums

You will probably not be able to cover all the museums during your trip. The museums in Moscow are huge, and depending on your interests, you might want to pick a couple to visit. Below are some museums that you can consider during your trip in Moscow.

Tips: Some museums have machines that you can purchase tickets using your credit cards. This will help you skip the long queue at the ticket booths. Overseas student pass are generally not accepted in Central Moscow, but can be helpful if you are travelling along the Golden Ring of Moscow

3. Lenin’s Mausoleum 

The resting place of Vladimir Lenin, the founding father of the Soviet Union. There are contraversies about whether the body is a wax replica or Lenin’s genuine corpse. You can visit the place to catch a glimpse of his body at rest to make your own judgement.

  • Opening hours: 10 am to 1 pm.
  • Closed on: Monday, Friday and Sunday
Lenin-Mausoleum Red Square Moscow @amarriedtraveller
Entrance to the Mausoleum

4. State Historical Museum

Historical museum with artifacts dating back to the prehistoric tribes, and paintings collected by the Romanov Dynasty. Good place if you are a fan of history. Strongly encourage you to buy the English audio guide to really understand what is at display.

  • Opening hours: Daily, 10 am to 7 pm
State historical museum Moscow Redsquare @amarriedtraveller
You can spend around 3 to 4 hours here if you are into the historical stuff, but if you are the kind that browse through the displays, 2 hours is more than enough.

Stuff-in-museum-1

Stuff-in-Museum

For non-history lovers, keep a lookout for interesting stuff to keep yourself entertained!

5. Kremlin & the Armory Chamber

Behind the Kremlin walls houses various cathedrals, the Armory chamber and the President’s office. You can either buy a ticket to the main Kremlin square, where you can walk around the Kremlin square and access the cathedrals, or purchase the ticket that gives you access to the Armory Chamber as well.

Kremlin, President house
The President House within the Kremlin. They say whether the flag is flying suggests if Putin is in the house. Though everyone always see it flying.

The Armory Chamber houses treasures collected by the leaders of Russia, including art pieces, carriages, jewelries, the famous Faberge eggs, thrones (including the famous twin throne) and gifts from Sweden, Britian etc to the Czars. The following website might give you a better understanding about the Kremlin, what you will see and how to go about buying the tickets.

  • Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm
  • Closed on: Tuesday

Walking-within-Kremlin

Kremlin-Cathedrals

Within the Kremlin there is the cathedral squares mostly ordered to build by Ivan the Great (III), where you will see at least up to 6 ancient cathedrals and churches parked around each other

6. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

A collection of European art pieces in Moscow, you can probably spend a whole day walking through the art museum.

  • Opening hours: 11 am to 8 pm
  • Closed on: Monday
the pushkin museum of Fine arts
Image sourced from weheart.moscow

7. The State Tretyakov Gallery

If you have only time to visit one art museum, I will recommend this.

The first depository of Russian fine arts, the Tretyakov Gallery was started by Moscow merchant Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov. The merchant acquired by Russian artists during his time, which eventually led to the opening of a museum to display the finest work from Russia.

  • Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm
  • Closed on: Monday
StateTreyakovGallery
Image sourced from Wikipedia

 

Cathedrals

8. Saint Basil’s Cathedral 

Aside from the cathedrals in the Cathedral Square within the Kremlin (Assumption Cathedral, Church of Laying our Lady’s Holy Robe, Annunciation Cathedral etc), the other cathedral worth visiting is definitely the Saint’s Basil Cathedral in Red Square.

It was built by Ivan the terrible between the 1555 to 1561, to commemorate the capturing of Kazan and Astrakhan. You will notice that the interior is slightly different from the other cathedrals, with 8 side churches around a core, instead of a central opening to a main cathedral.

  • Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm
  • Closed on: Tuesday
Saint-Basil's-Cathedral Red Square Moscow @amarriedtraveller
Saint-Basil's-Cathedral-1

The iconic Cathedral stands tall in the middle of Red Square

 

Streets and sight seeing

9. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the unknown soldier
Witness the change of guards parade, which happens every hourly if you can.

Also located around the Red Square is the Tomb of the unknown soldier. The tomb is guarded by royal guards, and there will be a change of guard parade every hour. You can try to catch the change of guard and take photos as the guards march into their post with their escorts.

10. Zaryadye Park 

The space where the park is currently located has been under contestation by developers to build fancy hotels, restaurants, and apartments, until Valdimir Putin finally declared a park to be built on the space for the general public.

Zaryadye-park1 Moscow @amarriedtraveller
The house of the early Romanov families can be seen here, right behind that concrete structure between the two cathedrals. Can you see the insignia?

This amazing small space was once homes to the reach Romanov families, a Jewish enclave, earmarked by Stalin to be the site for the 8th Stalinist building and was a monolith hotel with 3000 rooms, before it was finally demolished and became Zaryadye park.

Zaryadye-park view
The view from Zaryadye park. The Rossiya Hotel built during the Soviet Union stretched across this whole image and was a grand building that was demolished only in 2006.

One key highlight of the park is the angular floating bridge that hangs over the canal, where you can walk on to take panoramic views of the Red Square and its surrounding.

11. Arbat Street

Arbat street is a long pedestrian walking street lined with restaurants and bars. You will see street artists singing and performing as you walk.

Grab a drink along the bars and enjoy a relax evening people watching. There are many souvenirs shops along the street, though the things there are pricer than what you can get if you head out of Moscow central.

Arbat street
Arbat street is a good place to relax and chill in the evenings, at any of the restaurants and bars.

12. Tverskaya Street

This is a street recommend by many online. We did not manage to walk the street due to our tight schedule. It holds multiple historical buildings with unique architectural designs from the 19th to 20th century.

Moscovery provides you with a great overview of what to expect at Tverskaya if you decided to pay the street visit.

Street-of-Moscow

13. Watch a play at Bolshoi Theatre

Swan lake is probably the most famous ballet in Russia, and Bolshoi is probably one of the most famous and historical theatre in Moscow.

Bolshoi Theatre
We didn’t catch a play here due to the cost. Decided to catch Swan Lake at the Comedy theatre in Saint’s Petersburg instead.

Catch a play, ballet or opera in Bolshoi Theatre, just to get inside and view the majestic auditorium. Do note that the price for plays in Bolshoi Theatre can be quite costly though.

Where to shop

Prices in most of the flea market in Russia is relatively fair and not exorbitant. Surprisingly, during our trip there, most shoppers were Russian, even at souvenir shops around tourist hotspots.

People do not smile much, but you’ll realize that the store owners are friendly and helpful once you greet them. Ask all the questions you want about the history of the antiques or about their products, and they will gladly respond without demanding you to make a purchase.

Tips: You can request for a bargain, but discounts usually range between 10 – 20%

14. GUM

Also known as the State Departmental Store during the Soviet Union period, GUM used to hold thousands of vendors selling daily products and necessities. Today, it has turned into a high-end retail outlet populated by big and luxurious brand.

GUM, Moscow State Departmental Store
Catch the lighting of GUM after the sun set.

While not exactly a place to shop for us, it is still worth a visit just because of its history. Who knows, some of you might want to visit these shops to check and compare the prices of luxurious products.

GUM, Moscow state departmental store @amarriedtraveller
Speak of eco-friendly architecture. Think the Soviet has gotten it right years ago with its glass ceiling to maximize lighting.

15. Discount-Center Of Ordzhonikidze 11

There are multiple factory outlets for brands such as Nike and Adidas around Moscow. We headed to the Discount-Centre of Ordzhonikidze 11, near Leninskiy Prospekt metro station as the Married Girl wanted to get a Russia World Cup jersey with her Russian name printed.

The outlet has some brands and you can get some of the sales item at discounted rate. Brands include Oasis, Karen Millen, Columbia, Samsonite, Quicksilver, Roxy, Tommy Hilfiger, GAS, Fred Perry and others.

16. Izmailovsky market 

This place feels a little like Disney land upon our arrival. The main entrance brings you into a Kremlin, looking something like a castle. Within the main square are food stalls and some museums and craft-shops, such as the Vodka Museum, Bread Museum or Weapons Museum. The museums are not worth visiting as they are relatively small and targeted at tourists.

Head out of the main square to the flea market. From the main square, you will connect to the second level of the flea market. This is where you can find antiques, from religious paintings and sculptures to vine recorders, Soviet union badges and coins. The lower level of the flea markets sell more touristy products, such as Matryoshka doll, Farberge eggs and apparels made of animal furs.

The prices here are not the lowest, but fair compared to Moscow central. The quality of some products are really great and you may not be able to find them back at central Moscow. We saw a series of finely hand-painted Matryoshka dolls, which we could not find elsewhere. However, expect the prices to be a little more premium for these products. You can expect a bargain of around 10% to 20% for some items.

  • Opening hours: Weekends

17. Levsha Flea Market (Novopodrezkovo station)

This place is a wonder, with loads of antiques, glasswares, soviet union badges, coins, tech gadgets to paintings and sculptures  from the 19th and 20th century. Walk the place and take your time to look at the products as they can be stacked in a mess within some stores.

However, if you are not interested in antiques and decors, you might not find this place enjoyable. We found the place totally worth it and bought some antiques at a discount as compared to elsewhere.

Levsha market Moscow @amarriedtraveller
Not much information on this market online, but all you need to do is find Novopodrezkovo Train Station on Google Map, and you will see the market.

This is not an easy place to find on Google Map. But if you search for Novopodrezkovo station, you will see Barakholka “Levsha”, which is the flea market itself. It is a little further out of the city, and will take you approximately 45 minutes of car ride to get to the spot. Alternatively, you will need to take the metro to Komosoml’skaya and transit to a train from Leningrad Station to Novopodrezkovo station.

  • Opening hours: Weekends

Check out my other relevant articles on Russia:

AMarriedTraveller

AMarriedTraveller.com is a couple's travel blog that aims to inspire others to create their own travel adventures and embark on their journey of discovery.

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