Moscow: Russia’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
Moscow is not only the capital of the Russian Federation but, with a population of around 12.7 million people, also one of the largest city in Europe. It’s the political, economic, scientific, and cultural center of Russia and home to many universities, research institutes, churches, theaters, museum, and art galleries.
Moscow can also boast some of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe, such as the Seven Sisters the continent’s largest building, the 540-meters-tall Ostankino Tower. The city also has some UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Both the Kremlin and Red Square have been on the list since 1990. Thanks to its eight train stations, four international airports, and three ports, Moscow is also the Russia’s most important transport hub as well as an influential industrial center.
To help you prepare for your trip to Moscow, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the city. We’ve also compiled a list of the 10 sights you really don’t want to miss!
Moscow in a Nutshell
Moscow is influenced by the continental climate, resulting in an average temperature of around 5.4 °C (or 41.72 °F). It’s the perfect place to escape the sweltering heat of the summer. It never gets too hot here, and once the snow arrives, Moscow transforms into a magical winter wonderland. If you’re here in the summer, however, you can, of course, also expect some sunshine. Anyway, it’s probably a good idea to plan your trip based on which sights you want to see rather than the weather report.
Russia is famous for its pancakes, also called blini. You’ll often eat them only garnished with some cream. Don’t forget to try pelmeni, a delicious pasta dish filled with meat. Another staple of Russian cooking is buckwheat. There are several ways you can prepare it, although most of them involve some kind of meat. Our final recommendation is to have some cabbage rolls, golubtsy, which you can find in basically any Russian restaurant. Traditionally, the rolls are filled with ground meat and rice, but there are some vegetarian options available as well.
More than 16 million journeys are made on the Moscow public transport network every day. Around half of them involve the metro, which is also the most reliable part of the network. Its only disadvantage is its small number of stops outside the city center. But if this should ever become a problem, there are, of course, still enough buses and trams available that will take you wherever you need to go. In addition, Moscow has a lot of minibuses (marshrutkas) and taxis, which you can pre-book online. They will cover any areas left unserviced by the public transport system.
As long as you’re exploring the city center and the most popular sights, however, you shouldn’t run into any issues with the metro coverage. In order to travel into the city from the airport, we would recommend using the Aeroexpress trains that connect all four airports to the downtown area.
If you’re in Moscow between April and October, you have another option for getting around – the boats on the Moskva. They won’t only take you to your destination but also offer you a whole new view of the city.
The “Taste of Moscow” Festival is a great opportunity to learn more about Russian cooking. It takes place every year throughout June and July. The festival brings together 30 of the most popular restaurants in Moscow and includes many exciting events, including some cooking classes.
If you’re spending May 9 in Moscow, you’ll notice a change in the city. It’s the date on which Russia celebrates Victory Day with a large military parade on the Red Square. Open-air concerts, exhibitions, and many other events are also part of this holiday. You won’t have to worry about the weather during the celebration, because the Russian government uses airplanes to dissolve any clouds on this day. This strategy also ensures that the sky is clear for the magnificent firework display in the evening.
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Moscow
In the Heart of Moscow: The Kremlin/The Red Square
Moscow’s Kremlin is the oldest part of the Russian capital and also its historical center. The palace on the banks of the Moskva was first built in the Middle Ages, but the current structure is from the 15th century.
Today, the Kremlin is both the seat of the Russian government and the city’s most famous landmark. Because of its political function, members of the public only have restricted access to the Kremlin. For example, you mustn’t bring large bags or rucksacks inside.
As the Kremlin is located directly on the Red Square, in the heart of Moscow, why not take this opportunity to explore the area a bit more?
Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Saint Basil’s Cathedral is the nickname of the Orthodox church from which the Virgin Mary protects the capital of Russia. Today, the cathedral is actually part of Moscow’s National History Museum. That’s why you’ll not only see frescoes and religious icons here, but also a permanent exhibition of weapons from the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The cathedral is open to the public six days a week – it only closes its doors on Tuesdays. Since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, there are also church services here from time to time.
Another building on the Red Square is Lenin’s Mausoleum, where you can see the revolutionary’s mummified remains. At the victory parade in 1945, Soviet soldiers left hundreds of German standards in front of the mausoleum as part of a symbolic display. It’s also the place where Joseph Stalin gave his Victory Day speech. After his death in 1953, Stalin’s body was displayed next to Lenin’s for a few years before being removed again.
The State Tretyakov Gallery is an art gallery in the heart of Moscow. Housing around 140,000 paintings and icons, it’s one of the biggest and most important galleries in all of Russia. It’s also the largest collection of Russian art worldwide. You can see both permanent and special exhibitions here. If you have even the smallest interest in art, we highly recommend spending an afternoon in the Tretyakov Gallery!
One of Moscow’s most beautiful green spaces is Gorky Park. It opened in 1928 and commemorates the famous author Maxim Gorky. Around 20,000 visitors come here every day to enjoy a walk along the Moskva. You don’t have to worry about it getting too crowded, though – the promenade is around seven kilometers long and offers enough space for everyone.
The Bolshoi Theater is the largest and most important opera and ballet venue in all of Russia. In addition, it’s also one of the largest theaters in Europe. Anyone who’s anyone in the world of theater and music has performed here.
The tickets to any event in the Bolshoi Theater are always sold out very quickly. They go on sale around three months before the actual performance, so remember to get your tickets early!
Another great place near the Red Square is the department store and former trade center GUM. Even if you don’t want to go shopping, we still highly recommend making a stop here because of the mall’s amazing architecture! GUM is located on the Red Square, opposite the Kremlin and Lenin’s Mausoleum.
The next entry on our list is the Novodevichy Convent, which is located slightly outside the city center. It was built in the 16th century and is one of Moscow’s most important landmarks. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While you’re here, don’t forget to visit the cemetery to the south of the convent. It opened in 1898 and is the resting place of many famous people, including members of the Tsar’s family. On the other side of the convent, you can find a beautiful lake with a rather special atmosphere.
The Moscow Metro
You might be wondering why the metro has got its own spot on our list of sights. Well, to answer that question you’ll just have to step into one of the metro stations. Many of them are beautifully decorated with paintings and sculptures. Be careful, though – if you have any interest in art or architecture, you might run the risk of getting distracted and missing your train. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about missing this entry on our list, as you’re bound to use the metro at some point anyway!
The Pushkin Museum
While the Tretyakov Gallery is famous for its large collection of Russian paintings, the Pushkin Museum is the place to go if you prefer international art. The museum’s success is also due to its fantastic location – it’s just a short walk from the Kremlin. The works of art that are on display here are truly impressive, and you won’t forget your visit here any time soon!
In our opinion, Moscow is one of those cities you can return to again and again. The city’s special atmosphere is just impossible to find anywhere else. The Russian capital is also the perfect destination for backpackers, thanks to its many cultural and historical sights. Are you ready for an unforgettable trip?