13 Moscow Attractions
One of the most fascinating metropolis, breathtaking city, and a vibrant European capital, Moscow is a powerful mix of history and edginess, full of world famous sites and attractions that are worth exploring. However, it would take weeks to really explore all facets of the Russian capital – unfortunately hardly any traveler has that much time, which is why you should concentrate on the absolute Moscow top attractions and highlights. Here is the list of top 13 Moscow attractions you can choose on your next Russian travel journey.
What Times Square means to New York, Pariser Platz with the Brandenburg Gate to Berlin, or Trafalgar Square to London – Red Square means to Moscow. The heart of Russia’s capital it is the central meeting point and the most famous photo opportunity. No place stands for Russia and Moscow more than “krasnaja ploshchad”, as Red Square is called in Russian.
It is arguably one of the Moscow main attractions and most visited. With the gigantic military parade on Victory Day in World War II, which takes place every year on May 9, the pictures of the square go around the world year after year. But for the rest of the year you will mainly meet local and foreign tourists here, who take peaceful pictures and soak up the unique spirit. The square looks spectacular illuminated at night, but you should visit the square at least once in daylight as well.
If you stand in the middle of the huge cobblestone square, in the clockwise direction you can see the Kremlin and the Kremlin Wall with a total of 20 individually designed towers, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Historical Museum built with red bricks, the little Kazan Cathedral, the impressive luxury department store GUM, the imposing St. Basil’s Cathedral and, the bridge over the Moskva River. This unique ensemble offers more sightseeing highlights at one stroke than any other tourist attractions in Moscow or the world.
So it’s no wonder that Red Square is UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers the most popular photo opportunities worldwide. When visiting Moscow, there is no reason not to visit to Red Square and a selfie is practically also a must – getting there is easy even for Russia newcomers. Although Red Square does not have its own metro station, it is still child’s play to find the way there – especially since the Square is the absolute geographical center of the city.
There are four metro stations in the vicinity, from which it is only a short walk to Red Square, Okhotny Ryad and Teatralnaya directly at the northwest entrance of the Square at the Historical Museum; further to the west is the Lenin Library station, from which one arrives at the same entrance through the Alexander Garden. As well as the station Revolution-square behind the GUM department store, which leads past to the northeast side of the Square.
This is the biggest active fortress in Europe offering a week’s worth of attractions. For more than 70 years, the Kremlin was the power center of the Soviet Union, which the US President Ronald Reagan called the Empire of Evil exactly 35 years ago, one of the symbols of the East-West conflict in the Cold War. People in the West feared the «dark» plans that were built behind the thick walls of the Kremlin.
The Kremlin is built in a triangular shape on the natural elevation above the Moscow River, known today as the Kremlin Hill. Today’s metropolis Moscow has expanded in a circle around it and the road around the Kremlin is considered the first of several ring roads in Moscow counting.
Now Kremlin has lost its terrifying image, although it is still the seat of the Russian President and thus one of the most important places in World political events. It is an inviting, historical sight for tourists, and one of the famous Moscow tourist attractions which can be visited for just a few dollars.
The large parts of the 28 hectare site can be visited by tourists – with the exception of the Kremlin towers, the presidential Grand Kremlin Palace and the Senate Palace. The first port of call on the site is the so-called Cathedral Square, which is the geographical center of the Kremlin and at the same time the highest point on the Kremlin Hill and contains the three oldest structures in the complex. The three 15th-century cathedrals of the Kremlin (the Dormition, Archangel Michael and the Annunciation Cathedrals), which together with the Ivan the Great Bell Tower and the Cathedral of the Deposition of Mary, make the most famous ensemble of the Kremlin. Also to be visited here are primarily the Armoury and the Patriarch’s palace.
To get to the Kremlin, you have to pass a security gate at one of the two publicly accessible entrances – these are located at the Kutafja and Borovitsky towers. Tickets cost from 700 rubles upwards, the admission to the Armoury, the Ivan the Great bell tower and the Patriarch’s Palace being paid for separately.
This is the ultimate love it or hate it tourist attractions in Moscow It may be mistaken for a gloomy performance, but Lenin remains an absolute attraction almost a hundred years after Vladimir Lenin death. The founding father of the Soviet Union is not only a fascinating historical figure of world renown for supporters of communism. Despite ongoing discussions about a final burial of the leader of the communist October Revolution in 1918, hundreds of thousands come year after year to the dark marble building on Red Square, right next to the Kremlin wall, to see the embalmed body of the legendary Russian revolutionary.
First opened to the public in 1924, the Mausoleum attracts 2.5 million visitors every year, so, visitors have to wait a long time to get into the illustrious building. Also, photos from inside the Mausoleum are prohibited. But a visit is still a must for Moscow visitors, especially since the visit is free. Please note that the Mausoleum is only open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The queue starts behind the Historical Museum and before you get into the actual mausoleum, you have to pass an airport-like security gate – cameras and cell phones are not allowed into the Mausoleum, but can be safely placed in a cloakroom for a small fee. On the way out of the Mausoleum, after the visit, you pass the graves of the other Soviet heads of state.
Including the grave of Josef Stalin, who was briefly kept next to Lenin in the Mausoleum after his death. But in the course of de-Stalinization, the cruel dictator was moved to the less prominent place behind the Mausoleum.
The Alexander Garden (Alexandrovsky Sad)
If you visit Moscow in summer, the hustle and bustle in the metropolis of millions can get over your head. The city, best known for its icy winters, can turn into an absolute burning furnace in summer. It sometimes takes over an hour to get to the edge of the metropolis. The perfect retreat, located in the center of Moscow, is therefore the Alexander Garden and one of the Moscow top attractions.
Located directly on the western wall of the Kremlin, the Alexander Garden is just a small, but all the more well-kept park that extends to the nearby Manege Square (Manezhnaya Ploschad). The garden undergoes a lot of changes, with old trees cut down in 2012 and over 200 planted, the authorities also claim that there will be a rosary of 3000 roses. As soon as the first rays of sun warm up the Muscovites, tormented by the long winter, they set off into the countryside. If you are right in the center, you can choose the small park right by the Kremlin.
With a café in hand, which you can get yourself on Manege Square, you can linger here between the carefully tended flower beds. With the Grave of the Unknown Soldier and the regular changing of the guard, there is even a real tourist attraction on top. Entry is free.
The Moscow Metro
In no other metropolis in the world would the subway be declared a sight. Yes, that is truly right as riding this one of the top Moscow tourist attractions is an experience in itself or just a walk through the station is amazing in itself. Whether in New York, Berlin, London or Paris – the big city inhabitants of the world metropolises have a love-hate relationship with their metro. It’s different in Moscow – the residents of the Russian metropolis love their metro and there is a reason for that: in the early days of metro construction, dictator Stalin had built the stations into “palaces for the workers”.
All the splendor of the tsars, which the ordinary Russian never saw, is now open to everyone, regardless of their origin. Indeed, a number of stations on the Moscow Metro, each built shortly before or after the war, are unmatched architectural masterpieces.
Mayakovskaya station is often compared to a ballroom for its chandeliers and ornaments. The Teatralnaya stop, located directly below the world-famous Bolshoi Theater, shines with decorations reminiscent of the country’s theater and ballet tradition. Colorful glass windows, almost like in a sacred building, adorn the Novoslobodskaya station.
But the uncalled queen among Moscow’s metro beauties is Komsomolskaya station, named after the youth organization of the Soviet Union. With its huge chandeliers and detailed ceiling decorations, it is the crown jewel among the 331 metro stations. It is not uncommon for tourists to stand in the middle of the platform and take photos under the glances of passengers who just want to walk past the annoying tourists to and from work as quickly as possible.
A ride on the metro currently costs 57 rubles, which is less than one dollar. You should plan a few hours for a tour of the most beautiful stations, but the good news is, once behind the turnstile, a single ticket is enough to stay in the metro system as long as you want.
The Bolshoi Theater
To see Tchaikovsky Swan Lake or the Nutcracker by the same legendary Russian composer on the famous Bolshoi stage – that is the dream of every ballet fan. Home to the largest and one of the oldest ballet and opera companies in the world, nowhere else is the fine art of musical dance lived as much as in Russia – and has been since the times of the tsars.
The Bolshoi itself has been shining back to its former glory since it was built in 1776 since its extensive renovation that cost almost a billion dollars a few years ago. The large historical hall of the building impresses with its opulent golden decorations and creates a very special atmosphere – this was also used by the communist leaders of the Soviet Union, who held their congresses in the building directly at the Kremlin. The Theater is so famous that it currently adorns the 100 ruble banknote and is among the Moscow main attractions.
If you’d like to go to what is probably the most famous ballet theater in the world today, it’s easier than ever. The program can be found months in advance on the official website bolshoi.ru and can be ordered at very reasonable prices. The cheapest seats in the hall can be booked for as little as 100 rubles, i.e. less than $ 2. However, you should reserve tickets early, as the performances are usually booked weeks in advance. Even for good seats, you pay very moderate prices compared to Western Europe.
There are a few things to watch out for, however, proper, appropriate clothing is welcome, but apart from the obligation to wear trousers, it is not an exclusion criterion for men. If you arrive late, you have to wait outside until the next break so as not to disturb the other guests during the performance. The best way to get to the Bolshoi is by taking the Moscow Metro via the Teatralnaya station, which was built especially for the theater and which stairs are right in front of the main entrance.
St. Basil’s Cathedral
On the front of Red Square stands probably one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Moscow – St. Basil’s Cathedral. The famous church that adorns almost every postcard motif in the Russian capital has actually not been a church since the Soviet era.
The Orthodox confectioner-style church, built by Ivan the Terrible in the mid-16th century, was rededicated by the communists in the 1920s and thus became part of the Historical Museum on the other side of Red Square. Fortunately, the interior of the sacred building was retained in its original historical form and so you can still see the beautiful decorations today.
Even after the end of the Soviet era, the Cathedral remained state property and a museum – but now and then, religious services are held here. Its nine individual chapels form a graceful and colorful overall ensemble – some of the individual chapels also differ greatly in their architectural style.
The cathedral has a massive space of 300 meters by 70 meters and the square is flanked by the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, two cathedrals, and the State Historical Museum.
Admission currently costs 500 rubles and a guided tour in English costs another 500 rubles. In the winter months the Сathedral is only open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the summer months from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Сathedral is closed on the first Wednesday of the month and at temperatures below -15 degrees.
The GUM department store
The Russian abbreviation GUM means main all-purpose shopping center and sounds quite formal for such a shopping temple. Located in front of the Kremlin on Red Square, GUM has existed as a department store since 1920 and was previously a market. It is the most iconic and largest department store in Russia and among the Moscow tourist attractions. The facade of the building, built in 1890, fits perfectly into the overall picture of Red Square and is illuminated photogenically at night.
In contrast to the scarcity economy of the Soviet era, the GUM today really has everything to offer that one can imagine. It has become the flagship of the shopping and fashion metropolis Moscow. But today you will mainly find smaller luxury shops here. From western high-couture boutiques such as Prada or Gucci to fur for the icy Russian winter, a well-to-do Muscovite or a tourist will find everything their heart desires here.
People can walk through the wide and beautifully decorated arcades of the GUM, free of charge. Cafes invite you to linger. A delicatessen shop on the ground floor sells Russian specialties at affordable prices. Chocolate, honey and caviar, as well as the all-round vodka in Russia, can be bought here as souvenirs for friends and family at home. In addition, the Soviet-style cafeteria on the upper floor is very cheap for lunch.
The GUM offers a special highlight every winter when the department store administration built an ice rink in front of the building directly on Red Square. For only 200 to 300 rubles per hour, depending on the time of day, you can lace up your skates and glide over the ice with the unique panorama of Red Square.
The Historical Museum
The Historical Museum is a museum of Russian history wedged between Red Square, Lenin Mausoleum, small Kazan Cathedral, and Manege Square. The red brick building of the Museum is a real eye-catcher and Moscow top attractions located on the opposite side of St. Basil’s Cathedral. It is dedicated to Russian history and is built in the Old Russian style, the building did not open until 1883.
The Museum houses everything from an exhibition on the archeology of Russia, through the technological achievements, to the art of the gigantic empire in 16 sections and has a total of 5 million exhibits. So if you are interested in the history of Russia, you cannot avoid visiting this Museum and should plan enough time for it.
A visit costs 150 to 500 rubles, depending on which exhibition you want to visit. The Museum is open in winter, autumn and spring from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed on Tuesdays. In the summer months, the extended Saturday times apply daily.
It is probably the most famous park in the Russian capital and the top Moscow tourist attractions – a novel and its film adaptation and a Russian rock band have its name and numerous songs by Russian and international bands and TV series, such as House of Cards, mention it or act here. Gorky Park is a premier green space offering entertainment for every taste. Located southwest of the center of Moscow on the Moskva River, it is designed more for family attractions and rest and the classic park on the other side – has become one of the meeting places for Muscovites of all kinds in recent years.
Whether for a yoga class, a family picnic or beach volleyball match, skateboarding, and cycling – people meet here often. Because even in the Gorky there is an ice surface in winter, the largest in Moscow, which attracts many Moscow residents as well as tourists.
A large-scale renovation in 2011 breathed new life into the park – the roller kiosks were removed and more emphasis was placed on the maintenance of the green spaces. The park remained free of charge and developed into one of the most popular places in the capital. Whether with the rental bike through the green lungs, the pedal boat across the numerous ponds or simply watching the goings-on on the park bench – a visit to Gorki is also absolutely worthwhile for tourists.
Day trip to the Golden Ring
As much as the metropolis Moscow is fascinating, the side effects of a cosmopolitan city like Moscow – the noise, the traffic and the crowds – can overwhelm any tourist. What could be better than a day trip to escape the organized chaos of the cosmopolitan city?
The places on the Golden Ring near Moscow are an ideal destination for this and among the Moscow main attractions – located north-east of the metropolis, these old Russian cities, some of which have existed for much longer than Moscow itself, offer a welcome change from the hectic hustle and bustle of the capital.
Developed in the late 1960s uniting several mediaeval Russian cities located to the north-east of Moscow it is the most popular route around provincial cities of central Russia.
More than a thousand year old city of Yaroslavl on the Volga is the largest, but at 260 km from Moscow also the most distant city of the Golden Ring. For only 650 rubles, however, you can take the three-hour train ride there.
Yaroslavl has been part of the world cultural heritage since 2005 and is best known for its two monasteries – the Monastery of our Savior and Transfiguration and the Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Tolga are located directly on the Europe’s longest river Volga and its inflow Kotorosl. Both testify to the long history of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The cityscape of Yaroslavl is also really worth seeing with its classicist buildings – walking through the streets of the city with 500,000 inhabitants is a welcome contrast to Moscow. Things are even more slow in the small towns of Suzdal and Vladimir, both of which can still be reached with the Moscow suburban train network (known as Elektrichka) for a good 500 rubles. In both cities time seems to have stood a little – large sacred buildings dominate the cityscape.
Especially the Assumption Cathedral, located in the center of Vladimir, and the Golden Medieval Gate are the main attractions for tourists. The church, built in the early 12th century, is best known for its almost 700 year old wall paintings and frescoes and is a World Heritage Site. The Suzdal Kremlin is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and was first mentioned in writing in 1024.
Suzdal with its only 10,000 inhabitants has still retained the character of a small Russian town and in the town, which will celebrate its millennium in 2024, you can still find numerous wooden buildings typical of rural Russia – whether churches or houses, the colorful buildings are ideal as Photo motif and give an impression of the simple Russian provinces life away from the metropolises.
The exhibition of the achievements of the national economies is not in every travel guide as a classic Moscow main attractions and a must see of the Russian capital. But no other place in the modern mega-metropolis exudes the spirit of the Soviet Union as much as the enormous VDNKh (All Russian Exhibition Centre) in the north of Moscow. It was built as an agricultural exhibition before World War II, but was then renamed world exhibition for the 15 individual Soviet states and their achievements.
From the Armenian, Estonian and Kyrgyz culture, to the Soviet achievements in space travel and nuclear power, to statues about the heroes of the Soviet history, the VNDKh (Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyastva) was an absolute attraction until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. After that, the old charm fell into disrepair and the large central pavilion, which was built in the splendidly pompous Stalinist style, was filled with small traders selling souvenirs and matryoshkas.
Since its renovation in 2014, the exhibition in the park-like area is absolutely worth a trip again and with the metro station of the same name you can get from the center to the VDNKh quickly and without problems. There are still strange souvenirs, plus huge Soviet monuments worth seeing, as well as numerous rides for children. The Kosmos exhibition still exists and is now part of the Cosmonaut Museum, which is located at the front end of the park when coming from the metro station.
Here you can experience the various achievements of Soviet and Russian space travel vividly. From the very first Sputnik satellite, the spacesuit of Yuri Gargarin, the very first human in space, to the Buran space shuttle, you can learn an incredible amount about the conquest of the cosmos here. However, you should plan several hours just for a visit to the Cosmonaut Museum.
The Pushkin Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery
To complete the cultural program in Moscow, you should definitely make a tour to the Pushkin Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery when visiting the Russian capital. It is the largest museum of European art and among the Moscow top attractions. The former Museum of Fine Arts was named after Alexander Pushkin’s death in 1837 – it is still one of the most important art collections in the world today.
It boasts one of the richest collections of foreign art in Russia, showcasing global artistic developments from early times to the present day in expositions numbering 700,000 works of art. Not far south of the Kremlin, exactly opposite the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the Museum is housed in a classic building specially built for this purpose in 1898. From early Byzantine art to the famous Madonna by Lukas Cranach, the Italian masters, Peter Paul Rubens and masterpieces of Expressionism, for example by Paul Cézanne, you can admire a huge selection of important art here.
The regular entry ticket costs 800 rubles and the Ьuseum is open on weekends from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., during the week until 8 p.m. – only Monday is closed.
The second important art collection in the capital is the State Tretyakov Gallery. It is the national treasury of Russian fine art and one of the greatest museums in the world. Started by the textile entrepreneur and philanthropist Pavel Tretyakov as a collection of local contemporary art in 1851, the gallery has now developed into one of the cultural highlights of Russia. In contrast to the Pushkin Museum, you will primarily find Russian art from the 19th century and older icons.
Entry cost is 400 rubles and the Gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. – Monday is also the day off.
Take a stroll across Red Square, meet Lenin and see the world-famous Kremlin?