Since it’s so huge and vibrant, it takes more than one Moscow travel guide to do it justice! With hundreds of years of history and still an important capital today, Moscow activities are practically infinite. This is the largest city in the European continent, and one of the most vital on Earth. While it’s currently a growing tourist destination, some of the best things to do in Moscow are away from crowds. Still, you can check out my other guide on Moscow with Top Ten Things to Do in Moscow as well as my Hotel Review of the Radisson Royal in Moscow .
This year, Russia will be receiving millions of tourists due to the summer’s FIFA World Cup. Moscow’s stadium, Luzhniki, will host plenty of matches, including the opening and final. There’s clearly be plenty more Moscow activities this summer but if you want to get away from the crowd and find some true gems in this huge city find some inspiration below.
Beyond the most obvious (and must-visit) Moscow tourist attractions are some of my favorite places in the city. For me, the best Moscow activities will take you well inside the city’s confines, where locals enjoy their everyday lives. Promenades, parties, shopping – the best things to do in Moscow are just a few lines away. Enjoy my Beyond the Crowds Moscow travel guide!
Best Things To Do In Moscow Beyond the Crowds
1. Patriarshiye Prudy – Moscow’s Hipster Area
This is the rare Moscow travel guide that will show you around the up-and-coming neighborhood of Patriarshiye Prudy. Known in English as Patriarch Ponds and commonly called Patriks, this is my favorite area in Moscow. It’s really different from the rest of the city, an oasis of quiet among the noisy streets of the megalopolis. While you won’t find many Moscow tourist attractions here, it’s a great place to see the Boho side of town.
Built in the first few decades of the 19th century, Patriarshiye Prudy was created to be residential. At the turn of the 20th century, the buildings around the ponds were occupied by students. Later, in the Soviet years, apartments became communal. 30 years after the perestroika, it’s the HQ of hipster Moscow activities!
The Best Food in Town
The heart of Moscow’s foodie scene resides in this old neighborhood. These days, you can find a multitude of small eateries here, with fascinating concepts and fusions. There are amazing options for every meal, and you’ll always be surrounded by the hippest crowds. This is where young Moscovites and expats hang out, so the vibe is always lively and fresh.
Some of my favorite restaurants in the city are located within this area. You can spend a whole day here restaurant hopping and you’ll never get bored!
Start the day choosing between the two breakfast places close to my heart, depending on how you want your morning. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy I Love Cake, where the marshmallow pancakes are to die for. Healthy breakfast eaters should head to Fresh, where plenty of delicious and freshly-squeezed juices await.
Once night falls, there are multiple options to try. Pinch, a small hipster restaurant, offers delicious Asian fusion at the hand of an Italian chef. Saxon & Parole is a fantastic New Yorker dining experience; the chef has a few Michelin stars under his belt. Lastly, there’s Cutfish Bistro, an amazing sushi place with all-fresh fish and truly authentic Japanese food.
While many of the best things to do in Moscow include eating, there’s plenty more to do at Patriarshi. You can pamper yourself in one of the many neighborhood mani-pedi places. There are also a lot of design boutiques and charming little shops of all sorts. It feels almost like a great western Europe city like Paris or Vienna . A unique area in this Moscow travel guide!
2. ArtPlay – Get Inspired by Moscow’s Art Scene
Just 20 minutes away from Moscow city center stands ArtPlay, the artsy district par excellence. Architecture and design lovers will feel right at home here, surrounded by exhibition spaces, showrooms and art schools.
A prime example of the constant change big cities go through, ArtPlay was an old factory not too long ago. From tea factory to creative cluster, it now occupies an entire block in the city.
Located in the Kurskaya/Chkalov area, it’s a trendy rendez-vous for creative types living in or passing through Moscow. Here, away from the more traditional Moscow tourist attractions, lies the city’s artistic heart. Aside from the artsy shops and offices, here you can find many cute little cafés. Come to this very special spot and mingle with Moscovite artists and expats from all over the world!
The authentic industrial design of what is now ArtPlay shows through among all its modern artfulness. This is particularly dreamy in the summer, as they have a lot of fairs in the hotter months. A top creative cluster, ArtPlay has some of the best things to do in Moscow for those with artistic souls.
3. The Hip New Food Markets
There’s an ongoing worldwide trend favoring everything organic, going back to a simple time when it comes to food. Russia’s megalopolis is no stranger to this practice, and it’s translated to lots of new food markets. These places don’t just offer a glimpse into the city’s traditional trade, they’re also hot spots for foodies. These various markets offer a really fascinating variety of food stands from around the globe. You can try different flavors while you’re doing grocery shopping!
You should definitely add a tour of food markets to your list of Moscow activities. My two favorite are the Danilovsky and the Usachovskiy, both worth a visit. The latter is however currently closed but will re-open 1 July (2018).
Make sure you do not miss the Vietnamese one food stand in the Danilovsky. It serves authentic and absolutely delicious food from the Southeast Asia country – including pho soup! There’s usually a queue to try out the pho, but the taste is definitely worth it.
The Usachovsky market offers a more eclectic mix of flavors, from oysters to more casual options like burgers and pizza. Newly renovated for hipster sensibilities, you can find the freshest produce here. If you want to take home Russian products like local cheese, no Moscow travel guide will recommend a better spot.
4. Shopping From Dusk to Dawn
In the decades since the dissolution of the USSR, there’s been an insane growth of malls in Moscow. It’s like they’re making up for lost time in capitalism! Because of this, one of the ultimate Moscow activities is, of course, shopping. It’s something you can do all over the city, thanks to the almost excessive amount of malls. It feels as though every rich guy in Russia needs to open his own mall in the capital!
Patriarshiye Prudy Shopping
If you love design clothes, including locally-made and unique items, Patriarshiye Prudy should be your spot. As I mentioned before, it’s a common area for Bohemians and hipsters from all walks of life. The area has a lot to offer to shoppers, and it’s the best place to catch the local trends and designers but the prices here are high.
In terms of favorite malls I have two. One is Podium Market. A Russian department store, you can find it in several locations across the city. The one nearest the major Moscow tourist attractions is at the Four Seasons building, next to the Red Square. In this chain, you’ll find some a cool mix of national and international designer brands. It’s an easy and efficient way to get your shopping in the city done in just one place!
A Day at Tsvetnoy
The second is Tsvetnoy Central Market. A total hipster paradise and a must in every Moscow travel guide, this place has a lot going on. A coll designer shopping experience first and foremost, you can find most of the upscale European brands here mixed with local designers. There are also a lot of cute little boutiques and pop-ups around here, so it’s a feast for the eyes. Plus, you can find a good rooftop bar and restaurant the on the 6th floor. The most exotic side to this place is, however, its actual old-fashioned market. On the fifth floor, there’s a pretty fancy and all-organic food market, with fresh produce and meats and here you will also find one of the most instagramable cafes in Moscow.
However, for a truly delicious Italian lunch cross the street and head over to Probka, the best Italian in town. Their truffle pasta and pizza are absolutely amazing!
5. Party ‘Til Daybreak at Red October
Like it’s happened with many up-and-coming areas in the city, Red October island was once industrial. Back in the USSR, this was a large chocolate factory, having turned recently into a party spot. As I’ve mentioned before, visiting is one of the main Moscow tourist attractions for those looking for the city’s nightlife. While it’s not one of the best-known Moscow tourist attractions, you can’t miss the scene!
Even during the day, there are many cultural Moscow activities here. Art happenings, galleries and hipster spots of all types are abundant here. It’s also a great area for cafés and restaurants, with some sweet rooftops with a view. One of the best things to do in Moscow is have a drink facing the skyline.
One place I can recommend with my eyes closed is Strelka. A total must in the Moscovite summer. The food and wine are good and their terrace is the best sunset spot in Moscow, not to forget the lovely and vibrant vibe!
Moscow is a city full of hidden gems and if you want to read more about them and how I spend my weekend in this cool city have a look at my Moscow Living Posts. I hope you enjoy my Moscow Gems as much as I do and that you get a great time in this cool city!