A must visit for all those who love big cities, Moscow is much more than the capital of Russia. One of the largest cities altogether, Moscow’s as influential in Eastern Europe as New York is throughout the West. Moscow sightseeing includes some of the most iconic buildings on the planet. Here, you can satisfy any whim under the sun, as shopping here is a unique experience and if you like food, you will be swept away by the wide range of top notch restaurants and roof tops in Moscow!
It’s a gargantuan city that was built to impress. Everything here is huge, often bordering on kitsch. It bears architectonic testimony to centuries past, including majestic buildings from the 20th century. Moscow sightseeing is a journey into the incredibly active recent history of Russia and even world politics.
The city’s Russian Orthodox cathedrals are the most beautiful I’ve seen, a testament to the power of religion. Also, among the most astonishing bits of Moscow sightseeing are the Seven Sisters. Built under Josef Stalin’s vision, they’re seven massive skyscrapers overlooking the city.
This is a megalopolis, an amazing city unlike any other, and Moscow sightseeing will forever stay in your heart. Since it’s such a huge place, I’d recommend staying for at least 3 full days. Explore and fall in love with Moscow with my Moscow travel guide!
You want to know where to stay? Have a look at my Moscow Hotel Review of the Radisson Royal – A Russian Luxury Experience!
5 Things to Know Before Reaching Moscow
Before you begin to play your Moscow sightseeing, keep in mind that:
- Make sure to check Visa well in advance: Check online or at your nearest Russian consulate, but you’ll most likely need a visa. Avoid misunderstandings by having all the necessary information and paperwork long before hopping on the plane.
- Keep Cash at Hand: Russia’s still a very cash-oriented country, so be sure to have your share of rubles with you. This is currently changing, but you still need cash to get to know the Moscow nights and do enough shopping!
- Google Translate will be Your Best Friend: This is also improving, but it’s a matter of giving it a try around the city. Just start talking and hope for the best! If you ask beforehand, Moscovites will always say they don’t speak the language.
- Download Uber but also Explore the World Down Under: Taxis are very cheap & of course Uber works here. Do not expect any luxury from UberX class though. If you want to avoid tracffic jams, then the metro is the best choice. Nowadays it is easier to navigate as most signs are bi-lingual and some staff even speak English!
- Pick the Right Airport: As a huge city and portal between East and West, Moscow has 4 airports. Whenever possible, arrive via Sheremetyevo, which has the best terminal and is easiest to access. Domodedovo is much more crowded and farther from the city, so not recommended. Book a taxi ahead, so you won’t get overcharged by drivers outside the terminal.
Top 10 Things to Do in Moscow
1. Red Square, Kremlin & Surroundings
The Majestic & Historic Downtown
The most iconic landmarks of any Moscow sightseeing tour are located in the city center. You should spend one or two days here, depending on how many museums you want to visit.
Moscow sightseeing musts here include the Kremlin, the red “fortress inside a city,” which has been the seat of Russian politics for centuries. It has housed tsars, Soviet comrades and, currently, President Vladimir Putin.
Steps away lies the Red Square, another Moscow sightseeing icon. Once home to the main city market, the Red Square is now best known as a Soviet landmark. Throughout the 80 years of communism, it was the site of government and parades. The square is oozing with history and remains, to this day, Vladimir Lenin’s resting place.
The Red Square is lined by the most iconic landmarks in Moscow like the historic museum – also a red beauty and the most recognized building in town – St. Basil’s Cathedral. A unique Byzantine-style church, it’s been around since the 16th century. Confiscated from the Russian Orthodox Church in the early Soviet years, it remains a State property.
Another not miss is the Bolshoi Theater which is located just a couple of minutes walk from the red square. A unique Moscow sightseeing experience, art lovers shouldn’t miss a ballet performance here but be sure to book 3 to 6 months in advance!
Once seen all these majestic buildings, take a break from history and enter GUM, the most iconic Russian department store. All the fanciest brands are here, so it’s perfect for a pause from Moscow sightseeing! In any case, it’s a great place to stop for a cup of coffee in a cute café and a must see to indulge a bit in Russian luxury! Next to Bolshoi you will find the second big mall in Moscow – TSUM. Another upscale mall, where you can find anything from premium brands to affordable options like Zara and Nike.
If all this sightseeing and shopping makes you hungry, there are many great eateries here. If you want an in-depth Russian cuisine experience, go to Dr. Zhivago. They serve classic Russian flavors with a modern twist, in an almost kitsch décor with lots of red and gold. For a relaxed lunch, Jamie’s offers great Italian.
Once you’re done eating, go up the Ritz Carlton Hotel’s O2 rooftop. After some Moscow sightseeing, look at the city from above!
This whole area is filled with so many wonders and it is easy to understand why it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site!
2. Christ the Savior, Gorky Park & River Cruising
Your first next landmark should be the Christ the Savior Cathedral. Built after the fall of the Soviet Union, it’s the most impressive church in Moscow. It was built after Russia opened up to religion after a near-century against it, and you can tell by the grandeur. It is for sure worth a visit inside.
The bridge behind the cathedral is the perfect walking route to Gorky Park – a nice walk along the river for 20 to 30 minutes. Gorky Park is a must see and Moscow’s equivalent to Manhattan’s Central Park.
This is the ultimate Muscovite weekend hangout. There’s always something to do here, between its kid-friendly fair attractions and its beautiful gardens and lakes. The park is a point of pride for locals and do not miss its majestic entrance! In the winter Gorky turns into a big scating rink!
Once you’ve enjoyed the vibes and nature, it’s a great time to walk by the Moskva River. You can even take a boat ride along its waters: I’d recommend the Radisson’s. If possible, do this after sunset for a gorgeous view of the Moscow night!
If the promenade has awakened your hipster senses, be sure to drop by Red October afterwards. The city’s party island is the place to see the young vibe. You can also check out one of the most impressive museums here! The Tretyakov has the largest collection of Russian fine arts on Earth. There’s also an exhibition outside, in case you’re not up for the inside tour.
If you’re visiting in summer, go to the area’s iconinc bar & terrace – Strelka! Have lunch or an early drink here, and prepare for the ultimate Moscow sunset!
3. Arbatskaya – Where Moscow’s Art Scene Lives
This is a small and artsy area around Novy Arbat street, with a lot of tourist-focused shops. Here you can find souvenir shops, cafés and art happenings. To get away from crowds, navigate the smaller inner streets to find where artists live!
4. Moscow City – Another Side of Town
As it happens with all metropoles, Moscow is more than one city: it has many faces. One of the newest is Moscow City, a sort of mini Dubai due to its skyscrapers and modern look. First and foremost, this is where you should see Moscow at night: the best rooftops, Ruski and Sixty, are here!
It’s also a great area to do some shopping. The most modern malls in town are around here, including Afimall City, home of many international brands.
5. Metro Hopping on the World’s Most Breathtaking Subway
An 80-year-old system, don’t let the Moscow metro’s old age fool you: it’s still magnificent. Inaugurated during Stalin’s leadership, it shares the grandeur of all architecture from the period. The stations resemble underground palaces and they’re Moscow sightseeing spots themselves!
Each station has a distinct look and feel, but seeing as there are over 200, you should prioritize. The most impressive are Komsomolskaya, Mayakovskaya, Kropotkinskaya and those around/below the Red Square.
It’s easy to navigate the metro thanks to its color coding; plus, the signs are also in English but unf,ortunately the trains are not as impressive as its stations!
6. Travel Back in Time at the Russian Market
Izmailovsky Market is a Moscow sightseeing must-visit for lovers of unique objects. The definite Muscovite shopping experience, going there is like taking a time machine to another era. The place is beautiful: a colorful extravaganza with castles straight out of a fairytale!
The most unique shopping in town can be done here. Find great bargains on iconic Russian items like Matryoshka dolls and fur hats. When visiting, try the delicious Russian barbecue, shashlik, at a food stand!
7. Unmissable Museums in Moscow
The hometown of great writers and all types of artists, the Russian capital is a very cultural city. There are endless museums to choose from, both traditional and contemporary.
Among must-visit museums is the Tretyakov Gallery, hosting the largest collection of Russian fine art of all Moscow sightseeing. There’s also, of course, the Kremlin, with centuries of history. Other personal favorites include Pushkin, Tolstoy (both traditional) and hip ArtPlay block, right outside the city center.
5. Moscow State University’s One-of-a-Kind View
Located in the tallest of the Stalin-built Seven Sisters skyscrapers, Moscow State University offers privileged Moscow sightseeing. Once the tallest building outside NYC, it still offers a magnificent panorama of old Moscow. Grab some lunch here at Grill Bar & Terrace Sparrows, with the park and fountains beneath you. Plus, this is Russia’s most prestigious university, with 13 affiliated Nobels!
On Sundays, it becomes a meeting point for motorcycles and race cars – perfect for auto enthusiasts.
9. The Best Places to Eat in Moscow
Wonderful Russian restaurants like Café Pushkin, Dr. Zhivago and Turandot, or dinner among the clouds at Sixty, Russki or White Rabbit. There are also delicious options of international cuisine, like exceptional Italian Probka. From Moscow sightseeing to incredible gastronomy, this city has everything!
If you’re into unique little eateries, the Patriarshiye Prudy neighborhood is the place for your perfect Moscow sightseeing pause. Hipster restaurants, burger joints and Asian fusion await! It’s a unique Moscow area with narrow little streets and lots of great places. Hip and cool, perfect to get the Moscow vibe!
10. Moscow Sightseeing by Night
Patriarshiye Prudy has many great bars to spend the night drinking with friends after a day of Moscow sightseeing. If dancing is your thing, small private club Klava has a great vibe and eclectic crowd!
Red October Island is the party classic of Moscow sightseeing, with stylish bars and clubs. So the hottest is Gipsy, a great experience in the hotter months because it’s on a rooftop. Jagger, a bit outside city center, is fantastic to party, with strong garden vibes. SohoRooms provides a traditional Muscovite extravaganza, including all-night go-go dancers – like entering another world!
Always dress to the nines for Moscow sightseeing in the evening, as a casual look will keep you out of clubs. Also, groups with more men than women will get into places easier!
Moscow is a city like no other, a city built to impress and I hope this guide has helped you to get the most out of your trip!
Want to read more about how it is to live in this cosmopolitan city in the East? Then have a look at all my posts about Moscow Living – to see Moscow from a local’s eye!
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