Moscow is the capital of Russia, a beautiful megapolis with vibrant life. When you start planning your trip, you may be overwhelmed by the number of interesting places to visit in Moscow.
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What comes to your mind when you think of Moscow? Certainly, everyone will name the Kremlin, Red Square, and Bolshoi Theatre. Those are surely the must-see places. But what else? Let’s discover iconic places to visit and things to do in Moscow!
I am sure that even those who live in Moscow can’t define the best places to visit in the city. Moscow has too many places of interest. Talking about all you should see in Moscow can be endlessly long.
I have made my list of the most popular places to visit in Moscow. I’ve chosen the best examples that reflect Russian culture so that you could explore different sides of Moscow :
- Ancient Russian culture and history — the Kremlin and Red Square.
- the USSR architecture — VDNKH and Moscow metro stations
- Contemporary architecture — business centre Moskva City
- For art connoisseurs — fine art museums
- Cultural events — Bolshoi Theatre
- Walking in the fresh air — Sparrow Hills
At the end of the post, you will also find some unusual things to do in Moscow. I hope they will make your tour of Moscow unforgettable!
TOP PLACES TO VISIT IN MOSCOW
The Moscow Kremlin is the number-one attraction of the Russian capital. It certainly can be called the most significant landmark in Russia.
The Moscow Kremlin is a huge fortress, or rather, a whole city inside the fortress walls. Red-brick walls of the Moscow Kremlin are dominated by 20 towers. The most beautiful of towers is probably the Spasskaya Tower. Famous Kremlin Chimes are installed on Spasskaya Tower.
If you want to peek into ancient Russian architecture, visiting the Kremlin is a must.
The Kremlin is located on the same spot where Moscow was founded in 1147. Nowadays, visitors can admire magnificent ancient churches, bell-towers, and tsars’ palaces.
Must-see Places In The Kremlin
- Uspenski Cathedral. For many centuries, the Uspenski Cathedral was the main cathedral of Russia. It hosted coronations and the burial of Russian tsars and patriarchs.
- The Faceted Chamber (Granovitaya Palata in Russian). Lavishly decorated Faceted Chamber was used by Russian tsars as the ceremonial throne room for receptions. At present, the Faceted Chamber is still one of the representative halls at the Residence of the President of the Russian Federation.
- Belltower of Ivan the Great. The temple and the Belltower are great examples of ancient Russian architecture. Tall white bell tower with a gilded dome attracts our attention as soon as we enter Sobornaya Square in the Kremlin.
- Tsar Cannon and Tsar Bell. Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon are amazing examples of the foundry. Both bell and cannon have ‘tsar’s’ dimensions: the bell weighs 200 (!!!) tons, the cannon — 40 tons! Surprisingly, Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon have never been used for their intended purpose — because of their gigantic size.
Closest metro station: Okhotny Ryad. Entrance gate to the Kremlin is located in Aleksandrovsky Garden.
Moscow is not the only Russian city that has a kremlin. For example, you will see a well-preserved kremlin in Ryazan.
Red Square is a symbol of Moscow. This is the first of the places to visit in Moscow which comes to our minds whenever we mention Moscow or Russia in general.
Each time I visit Moscow, I go to Red Square. It’s impossible to get bored of this amazing place! If you come to the capital of Russia, I’m sure that Red Square will be the 1st place you visit (after airports or railway stations, of course).
In fact, Red Square in Moscow is not just a simple square. There are so many awesome places to discover in that area that you can easily spend a whole day exploring Red Square only.
St. Basil’s Cathedral, Monument to Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Lobnoye Mesto, GUM, Historical Museum — there are so many places of interest on Red Square that it is very easy to get lost.
Red Square is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Thus, even if you stay in Moscow for a few days, I highly recommend taking your time and exploring thoroughly Red Square sights. Those are the best examples of Russian architecture, culture, and history!
Did you know?
In Russia, Red Square is called Krasnaya Square. The Russian word ‘krasnaya’ (‘red’) has 2 meanings.
First meaning reflects the main colour of the square — red. Actually, many buildings of Red Square are made of red bricks.
The second meaning of ‘krasnaya’ is ‘beautiful’. Thus, we may also call Red Square as Beautiful Square 🙂
Entrance to Red Square is free. For visiting museums purchase an entrance ticket.
Must-see Places On Red Square
- St Basil’s Cathedral. St Basil’s Cathedral is undoubtedly one of the most famous churches in Russia. Its colourful domes and intricate towers always make us gasp in admiration and clutch at cameras 🙂 I recommend visiting the Cathedral and enjoying its stunning inner decoration. Ticket price: ~12 USD
- GUM. GUM is the main department store of Moscow, the most expensive and the most picturesque too. Go to GUM for a walk, explore its architecture, then take a couple of beautiful photos and eat the famous GUM’s ice cream.
- Historical Museum. The State Historical Museum on Red Square is one of the largest Russian museums. Exhibition halls of the museum tell us different periods of the development of Russian art. Old printed books, ancient icons, personal belongings of Russian tsars, weapons, and jewellery are always interesting to see. Ticket price: ~8USD
Closest metro station: Okhotniy Ryad.
CATHEDRAL OF CHRIST THE SAVIOR
Beautiful Cathedral of Christ the Saviour strikes by its size and sumptuous decoration.
Like many churches in Russia, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior has a tragic destiny. Initially, the cathedral was built in the XIXth century while Russia was still an empire. Russian Emperor Alexander I ordered to build a cathedral to commemorate the victory of the Russian Army over Napoleon in 1812.
During Soviet times, all religious things were banned and forbidden. Many amazing churches were looted, destroyed, or used as warehouses. In 1939 the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was blown up and replaced by… an open-air swimming pool!
The pool existed until 1994. Then Moscow authorities decided to destroy the pool and to build back a cathedral… The reconstruction finished in 2000. Thus, we can consider the Cathedral of Christ the Savior as one of the youngest Moscow landmarks.
Entrance to the cathedral is free.
Closest metro station: Kropotkinskaya
Sparrow Hills is one of the most popular parks in Moscow. It is located not far from Red Square and the Kremlin.
The observation deck on Sparrow Hills is the main Moscow’s observation deck. It offers the most amazing views on the Russian capital. Standing on the open-air terrace, we can admire an amazing panorama of the city.
Besides, many other places to visit in Moscow are visible from the height of Sparrow hills. For example, you can contemplate a beautiful bend of the Moscow River, the Kremlin towers and the Luzhniki Stadium, skyscrapers of Moscow-City, Neskuchny Garden, and shining domes of Novodevichy Convent.
The observation deck on Sparrow Hills is never empty. Tourists and photographers come there for stunning photos. It’s also a popular place for newly-weds.
Moscow is often called ‘a city on seven hills’. Another city standing on seven hills is Rome. Sparrow Hills is the name of one of those 7 natural Moscow hills.
Another iconic sight of Moscow — Moscow State University — is also situated on Sparrow Hills. Impressive towers of the University look stunning! The main building of Moscow State University is 240 metres tall. This 36-level skyscraper built during Soviet times is one of the famous Moscow skyscrapers.
After admiring Moscow from bird’s-eye view, go wander to the park. Stroll along the embankments of Moskva River, hire a bicycle or take a ride on the cable car.
Closest metro station: Vorobyovy Gory
VDNKH is the largest exhibition, museum and cultural complex in the world. This is one of the most popular sights in Moscow.
What does ‘VDNKH’ mean?
The official name of VDNKh is the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. In Russian, it sounds as Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva, abbreviated as VDNKH.
As for me, the main reason to visit VDNKH is to explore the best examples of Soviet architecture of various styles: from Art Deco and Stalin’s Empire style to Soviet modernism.
VDNKH will impress you by its size. Everything there was meant to be colossal: territory, buildings, fountains, monuments:
For example, take a look at the famous statue Worker and Kolkhoz Woman which is almost 25 meters high. The statue is considered as “Ideal and symbol of the Soviet era”.
The Monument to the Conquerors of Space honours the achievements of the Soviet people in space exploration. The monument is 107 meters high.
The territory of VDNKH is huge as well. It includes lots of sights: multiple pavilions and exhibition centres, fountains, copies of spaceships, forests, ponds, and alleys.
I am sure that you have heard of the fountain ‘The Friendship Of The Peoples’, one of the main symbols of VDNKH. Gilded feminine statues of the fountain symbolise the former republics of the USSR.
Pavilions on VDNKH used to be exhibition halls glorifying different industries and republics of the USSR. Thus, there are pavilions Abkhazia, Republic of Belarus, Space / Engineering, Culture, and many others. Every pavilion has a unique design. So take your time and discover at least 10 of them!
I would also suggest visiting VDNKH for those who are interested in space. Opt for Museum Of Cosmonautics, fly to space in 5D cinema Space Sphere, and take a look at the models of spaceships exhibited outside on the Square of Industry.
In summer or winter, VDNH always hosts many concerts, lectures and exhibitions. While planning your Moscow tour, take a look at the site of VDNKH to find some interesting events.
Closest metro station: VDNKH
FINE ARTS MUSEUMS IN MOSCOW
Moscow is the home of more than 400 museums. I think that whole life is not enough to visit them all 🙂 If you visit Moscow for the first time, there are the places you may want to include to your bucket list:
State Tretyakov Gallery. The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow is often called ‘treasury of Russian art’. Museum expositions include the best examples of Russian paintings of XI-XX centuries. World-known masterpieces by Vrubel, Serov, Vasnetsov, Repin are exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery.
Ticket price: ~8USD
Closest metro stations: Tretyakovskaya or Novokuznetskaya
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Collections of the Pushkin Museum of Fine art include a large number of paintings, sculptures, graphics and rare archaeological artefacts from all over the world.
Except for permanent exhibitions, the Pushkin Museum often hosts temporary world-class exhibitions. For instance, there were solo exhibitions of Raphael, Picasso, Caravaggio, and Titian.
Ticket price: from 8USD
Closest metro station: Kropotkinskaya
Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow is one of the oldest Russian theatres. I would even say that the Bolshoi Theatre is one of the most significant opera and ballet theatres in the world.
The interiors of the theatre are worth seeing too. Magnificent staircases, chandeliers, ceiling painting will make you believe you’re in a royal palace. At present, the theatre’s repertoire consists of many classical opera and ballet performances. For instance, you may want to watch classical ballet like Giselle, Swan Lake, Nutcracker, or Sleeping Beauty.
— Bolshoi Theatre is very popular among Russians and foreign tourists too. Book tickets in advance!
— Bolshoi Theatre has several stages in different locations. You may want to visit the most known building (that from the photo above) — the Historical Stage. Before you book a ticket, check the stage!
Ticket price: 60-100USD
Closest metro stations: Teatralnaya or Okhotniy Ryad
SKYSCRAPERS OF MOSKVA-CITY
Skyscrapers of Moskva City became the symbol of contemporary Moscow.
Moskva City is the name of the Moscow International Business Center. It is situated in the historic centre of Moscow, 5 km from the Kremlin. Moskva City houses business offices, apartments, shopping malls, restaurants, museums, and exhibition halls. Nowadays Moskva City consists of 18 skyscrapers, and it’s still under development.
The main reason to visit Moskva City is to admire the amazing view of Moscow from one of the observation decks. They offer breathtaking views of the Russian capital from the 56th floor of the Imperial Tower!
There is also a museum of skyscrapers and high-rise construction. It is dedicated to the history and the building of Moskva City skyscrapers.
Closest metro stations: Vystavochnaya or Mezhdunarodnaya
Metro in Moscow is recognized as the most beautiful metro in the world. Like many other places to visit in Moscow, metro requires quite a lot of time for being explored.
Indeed, the Moscow metro is not just about public transportation. Many stations can be considered as underground palaces. Numerous statues, paintings, mosaics, stained-glass windows decorate walls and ceilings of the Moscow metro.
The most picturesque Moscow metro stations: Okhotniy Ryad, Kiyevskaya, Komsomolskaya, Prospekt Mira, Novoslobodskaya.
You can explore the metro on your own. However, I’d recommend opting for a guided tour. Guides will reveal to you the secrets of this underground city. You will see many fascinating things that metro passengers usually don’t even pay attention to.
WHAT ELSE TO DO IN MOSCOW?
1. Discover amazing Moscow at night. Have you noticed that many things look different at night? Explore the downtown of Moscow glowing in the dark. The guide will take you on a fascinating journey through Moscow’s squares, monuments, and parks.
2. Enjoy a river cruise on a yacht. River cruises offer the possibility to see the splendour of Moscow from a yacht. You’ll spend 2 wonderful hours relaxing and taking photos of the most beautiful places to visit in Moscow.
3. Traditional Russian dinner with local hosts. You can certainly eat in cafés and restaurants. But have you ever thought of having dinner with locals?! A Russian couple invites you to try Russian dishes and to take part in chayepitiye, Russian-style tea-drinking ceremony.
4. Golden Ring Moscow folk show. Do you want to go deeper into Russian culture? Then enjoy one of the oldest dance shows in Russia — Golden Ring folk show. Peek into a colourful performance full of dance and songs from different regions of Russia.
EXPLORE MOSCOW WITH LOCAL GUIDES
Even if you travel to Moscow independently, you can always opt for a city tour with a local guide. Touring the city with a local expert has many advantages:
- You do not have to spend time on planning your itinerary. Your guide will plan everything for you;
- travelling with locals is one more opportunity to connect with local culture and contemporary life;
- local guides are always in love with the places they show, so you will certainly have a joyful and immersive walk;
- and many guides are able to take there where normally you can not go on your own.
Wrapping It Up
Probably, this list of the main places to visit in Moscow may seem short. However, it is quite enough for a 2-3 days visit to Moscow.
Try to include all those places of interest to your itinerary. Your trip to Moscow will be incomplete if you don’t visit Red Square, the Kremlin, or VDNKH.
Let me know if you have already been to Moscow. I’d love to hear about your experience!