Over 2.5 billion passengers a year, 13 lines, 225 stations – the Moscow Metro is Europe’s most used subway network and is one of the top ten in the world. It is not only a local transport system, but is one of the main attractions of the Russian mega-city due to its many architecturally unique and partly beautiful stations. After the end of the monarchy in Russia, Stalin wanted to build “workers’ palace” for the people and chose the metro that was built in the 1930s. The result was dozens of stations that initially looked more like a museum than an underground station.
While the New Yorkers, for example, have a kind of love-hate relationship with their sometimes very run-down subway – just think of the million-fold shared video of a rat with a slice of pizza walking unchecked across a New York subway station – the Muscovites absolutely love their metro. In fact, it is usually the fastest means of transportation to travel between any two points within Moscow – thanks to the high frequency, fast trains and, last but not least, the catastrophic Moscow traffic.
The Moscow Metro opens at 5:30 a.m. and closes at 1 a.m. However, if you have planned a trip at the end of the day, you should check the exact departure of the last train from the respective station. Because in some stations the last train leaves a few minutes before one o’clock, even if the gates of all stations are then locked at the same time.
The train clock is generally very dense. Trains come on average every 90 seconds during the day. For this reason, at most stations there is no display showing the next departure. However, a display above the tunnel entrance through which the train leaves the station shows when the last train has left. As a passenger, you have a rough idea of when the next train will arrive.
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The stations are generally relatively far apart. The average distance between two stations is more than 1.7 km – more than three times as much, for example with the Paris Metro. That’s why the trains reach an average of well over 40 km/h, while in London it is only 30 km/h.
The lines are all extremely long – line 9, with its over 45 km, is the eight longest metro line in the world. Except for ring line 5, which circles Moscow’s center once, all lines from one of the outskirts lead through the center to another suburb. So you are always either towards the center or out of the center.
Peculiarities of the Moscow Metro
When using the Moscow metro, you should be aware of some peculiarities that are not known from western metro systems. A look at the Moscow metro map reveals the first peculiarity of the Moscow system. Transfer stations, i.e. train stations served by several lines, are not operated under one name.
For example, four metro lines meet near the Kremlin – you can change from one to the other without leaving the system – but all the platforms of the respective lines have their own station names. Alexandrovsky Sad, Borovitskaya, Arbatskaya and Biblioteka Imeni Lenina are de facto one station and would be run as such in London or Paris – in Moscow, however, each platform has its own station name.
MOSCOW SUBWAY MAP
This is confusing for many visitors – especially since there is an exception to this rule: the crossing stations of the brown ring line 5 are all managed under one station name.
In general, the signboards in Moscow metro stations are available. Bilingual signboards has been the norm since the 2018 World Cup.
The knowledge of another specialty helps with orientation. In those trains that are currently traveling from the center to the outskirts, the announcements are made by a female voice. Trains to the city center are sounded with a male voice.
As a security measure, the trash cans in the metro were abolished in the 1990s after several attacks on the metro.
Each Moscow Metro station has ticket machines and counters. A single trip currently costs 62 rubles. However, if you buy several trips at once, the price per trip drops. For example, for 70 trips to 42 rubles. If you use the contactless Troika card, which can be used contactless at the turnstile, the price of a single trip drops to 40 rubles. Every time you enter the system you have to pay a trip.
There is also the option of purchasing season tickets. There are numerous options, from a 24-hour ticket costing 230 rubles to an annual subscription for 19,500 rubles.
Even if there are no classic turnstiles at many older stations, but only narrow passages – you should definitely travel with a ticket and validate them. Because the open passageways are equipped with two concealed blockade elements that snap out as soon as a passenger tries to go through without a ticket. When in doubt, these elements can also cause painful bruises on the thighs.
The most beautiful stations
44 of the oldest stations on the Moscow Metro are now listed buildings. The magnificent buildings that were built before and after World War II are architectural highlights. The Novoslobodskaya station, for example, is decorated with dozens of stained glass windows reminiscent of church windows. At the end of the platform there is a large mosaic and the Russian word for peace in golden letters.
The Prospekt Mira station, with its large chandeliers and stucco-like ceilings, looks more like a noble building. The Kievskaya station, on the other hand, is a bit stockier, but has numerous paintings and equally impressive chandeliers. The Arbatskaya station on the blue line with its curved white arches is also one of the absolute highlights of the Moscow Metro.
But the absolute crown jewel among the Moscow metro stations is Komsomolskaya. The station on the ring line has the elegance of a ballroom. The high golden yellow ceilings with the huge chandeliers look pompous and if you didn’t know better, you might think you were in a castle. But when lingering and admiring, you shouldn’t be too much in the way. For normal Muscovites, the metro is still primarily a means of transportation, mostly to and from work. There is little understanding for tourists in the way.