Here are 45 of my favourite things to do in Moscow, Russia. I fell in love with the place and spent a good amount of time there so I feel I can give some decent tips on how best to spend your time in this amazing city.
I’ve avoided including anything I didn’t fancy myself and I’ve only focused on the city of Moscow itself rather than looking at the entire Moscow region/day trips… Otherwise, this will turn into a million things to do and no one will have the patience to read it. I’ll be impressed if anyone actually reads all 45 things to be honest.
Also note that I went to St Petersburg after, if you want to find out about that.
Anyway, read on if you want some tips for things to do in Moscow…
Please note that this travel guide is from 2018. For obvious reasons, I do not want to promote visiting Russia at the current time.
Things to do in Moscow, Russia
1. Gawp at all the sights in Red Square
Red Square is the heart of Moscow. You’ll no doubt have seen it a lot in your guidebooks and online. Every angle has a ‘wow’ factor and you could spend a fair amount of time just people-watching here among all the massively impressive buildings.
Red Square separates the Kremlin (official presidential residence) from Kitay Gorod, the cultural/historical part of the city centre. All of the buildings lining the square are recognisable or significant in some way. You’ve got the mausoleum where Lenin’s embalmed body hangs out, the huge gates to the grounds of the Kremlin, the very fancy GUM department store and my personal favourite, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, with all its wildly decorated turrets and domes. It’s all going on.
2. Have a vodka (or three) with herring – one of the best things to do in Moscow for foodies
Probably one of the first things that come to mind when you think of Russia is vodka. I’m not a huge fan of it unless it’s part of a cocktail, but when in
Rome Russia, it’s got to be drunk.
Unlike back home in the UK, the point of drinking vodka isn’t to get completely trollied as quickly as possible (I know, I was confused too), it’s normally to celebrate something and involves lots of making toasts to everyone’s good health. It also involves a lot of snacks. You can’t order vodka without ordering something to eat with it, unless you’re some kind of heathen. Suitable nibbles include herring (I had the most delicious herring since being in Sweden), mushrooms, caviar or pickles. The point is to complement the flavour of the vodka, but all the eating has the added bonus of reducing your chances of falling over when you stand up.
Cheers! (I won’t even begin to attempt to translate one of the many Russian toasts!)
3. Visit the Kremlin
The Kremlin is pretty impressive. To be honest though, it wasn’t my favourite thing in Moscow, despite being potentially the most well known. I actually thought things like VDNKh were far more exciting (see no.15 on this list). But the Kremlin is a must-do. In case you don’t know, it’s a fortified complex of cathedrals, a palace and museums, most of them white and tipped (okay, more than tipped) with gold. So much gold. There’s also a series of gardens outside the main collection of buildings, including a really lovely rose garden.
Check the official Kremlin site for opening times because these do change. You can queue and buy tickets on the day, or buy advance online (for more money).
4. Buy a Russian scarf
These fringed scarves are EVERYWHERE and make really nice souvenir for yourself or to take home as a present. For yourself.
I’d recommend shopping around different market stalls rather than going to gift shops. And go for a long one. Loads of them are just square, so they wear more like a naff shawl than a fashiony scarf.
I got mine from the flea market (see no.18 of this list) and the sellers knew exactly what I was after when I did some gestures meaning ‘long!’. I was able to haggle a bit and secured a perfect neon coral and white one that goes really well with dresses plus denim jacket (my uniform of summer). Success.
5. Admire the stunning St Basil’s Cathedral – one of the must-do things to do in Moscow
Saint Basil’s stole the show for me in Red Square so warrants its own point on this list. There’s just so much going on in how it’s designed. It’s like they couldn’t decide what paint or pattern to go for so they just said sod it, slap them all on and see how it looks. And somehow it works.
You can go inside it if you want, but the exterior was my favourite.
6. Try delicious sea buckthorn tea (or just sea buckthorn anything)
This was a new one on me. Apparently, Russian cosmonauts used sea buckthorn to fight exposure to radiation found in space. In slightly less adventurous circles, it makes a great cup of tea.
If you see a sea buckthorn and orange tea on a menu, get it! It’s not a teabag or leaf tea, it’s actual crushed up sea buckthorn berries and oranges made into an amazing hot sweet-yet-tart drink. Apparently it’s dead good for you but unlike most healthy things, it actually tastes wonderful.
7. Window shop in GUM department store (unless you’re proper loaded)
This is a bit fancier than your average Debenhams isn’t it?
Considering it’s just a shopping centre, I took a load of photos of GUM in Red Square. I found it even prettier than Paris’s famous Gallery Lafayette. But the shops, sadly, are equally as unaffordable to normal humans. This is the problem with any beautiful department store. Someone needs to open one somewhere and fill it with Zara and H&M type shops but in a stunning setting. And I mean genuinely stunning, not faux-grandeur that ends up horribly tacky… I’m looking at you, Trafford Centre (a reference that will be lost on any readers not from the UK, soz).
8. Enjoy the huge variety of different cuisines on offer
Like all major cities, Moscow has a lot of brilliant eating options. And as I discovered with everything in Moscow, they do food to an exceptional standard of quality and take it very seriously. Forget whatever nonsense you’ve been fed (pun intended) about boring stews and endless borscht. Russia is big on food and big on doing it well.
Obviously, you can get plenty of Russian food in Moscow. But like in the UK, Moscow locals don’t want to go out to eat Russian food all the time, the same as we don’t go out to eat British food very often. I think we take the range of cuisines on offer in the UK for granted – or I certainly do anyway. It’s only when I go to somewhere like Italy and struggle to escape endless Italian food that I realise how used I am to variety.
So like any of the big UK cities will have Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Lebanese etc restaurants lining the streets, Moscow has this variety too but also extra ones that are rarer back home. Think Cuban, Ukrainian, Israeli, Hawaiian, and the Russian’s all-time favourite, Georgian (more on that in no.19 of this list). I absolutely loved this because not only did I avoid getting bored with one type of food (as much as I loved the Russian food), I also got to try loads of stuff that we don’t normally stumble across and it was all incredible.
9. Get your Instagram on down the decorated streets
While you’re around the Red Square area, you’ll naturally end up wandering down one of the many beautiful streets full of amazing hanging things. I don’t know how to describe them but they’re magical. Some of them are the little lanterns as pictured below, others are butterflies and stars, depending on which road you’re on. It’s all street photography heaven.
My Instagram ended up full of shots of these gorgeous streets and I was not complaining (shameless plug: feel free to follow me on there).
10. Visit a huge urban park with its own floating bridge
Zaryadye Park is a landscaped urban park very close to Red Square. It only opened in 2017 so is proper brand-spanking-new still. It’s divided into four climatic zones to represent the different areas of Russia: forest, steppe, tundra and floodplains. There’s also a massive floating bridge-thing where the park meets the Moscow River – a sort of mid-air metal promontory that serves as a selfie spot, with the water and city in the background. There are all sorts of museums and media centres in the park too, as well as a massive concert hall, ice cave, greenhouse, and underground museum.
I was a bit overwhelmed by how much there was, but I was there early on in the trip and I’d not quite got used to the magnitude of all things Russian yet. By the end, I was surprised if I went into a toilet and didn’t find a palace and an interactive exhibition by the sinks…
11. Try drinking kvass (without spitting it straight back out)
Kvass is a fermented Slavic drink usually made from rye bread.
It’s er, an acquired taste, but is more popular than Coca-Cola in Russia (another drink I hate, to be fair). I was expecting kvass to be like kombucha (or ‘hipster juice’ as I like to call it) but it’s not. It’s really not.
But it has to be tried because it’s such a big deal. Let me know in the comments if you’re a fan, so I can award you with some kind of medal for having more refined taste buds than me.
12. Eat cheaply in a Soviet-style café – one of the best things to do in Moscow on a budget
I really recommend having a Russian lunch in one of the branches of the little chain Varenichnaya No1. It’s really affordable and does lots of homely classic dishes. The interior is really cute too – lots of red gingham and cosy armchairs.
More importantly, their cherry brioche pie is a solid 10/10.
13. Discover a fairytale mini kremlin
Kremlin Izmailovo is something else. I have to admit, I enjoyed it more than the actual Kremlin.
Basically, it’s a little fortress of painted wooden buildings straight out of a Russian fairytale. The words ‘chintzy’ and ‘gaudy’ would be an understatement, but in a really good way. Explore inside and you’ll find Old Russia come to life in a sort of Disney way. There’s an apparently controversial pink statue of Lenin, giant Russian dolls, an inexplicable wedding chapel with a particularly crazed door, a small pool, a massive throne, and a wooden replica of a Russian summer palace. Everything is, of course, brightly coloured and bonkers.
There are also some rather niche Russian museums, covering Russian folk art, bread, fairytales, puppets and vodka (of course).
14. Discover Moscow’s massively underrated craft beer scene
Russia is such a craft beer destination and I don’t know why this isn’t more well known. I don’t think it’ll stay a secret for much longer. Every city in the world is getting in on the craft beer scene so I was expecting a bit in Moscow, but I wasn’t expecting there to be a massively established scene with lots of cool bars and microbreweries you can’t get elsewhere. Really interesting and great for my personal favourite, sours.
Here are some of my favourite Moscow craft beer spots:
- Rule Taproom – This is in a tucked-away square full of cool people drinking outside, graffitied walls and hipster eateries. It’s the taproom of the Zagabar Brewery, which is one of Russia’s top-level craft breweries and does excellent sours. I really enjoyed sitting outside people-watching Moscow’s hipsters (mainly admiring the girls’ on-point outfits).
- Dogma Bottle Shop – This was the coolest and best bar we went to in Moscow. Again, it’s in a hidden square, full of drinkers spilling out into the street and the best people-watching opportunities you can imagine. I had an amazing sour in a medicine bottle, of all things. It was delicious and every sour I’ve had since has been disappointing in both flavour and vessel.
- Balalayechnaya – A great bar for a people-watching session in a very touristy area. But don’t let that put you off. I had another top-notch sour (seriously, Russia was nailing it on the sours!) and although there were other tourists in there, there were also locals and the prices weren’t inflated.
15. Have your mind blown at VDNKh – my absolute top tip of all the things to do in Moscow
This is the best of the best things to do in Moscow. If you only do one thing off this list, make it this.
VDNKh (pronounced, sort of, vuh-dun-kuh) stands for Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva (obviously!). This translates as Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. It’s a sort of giant park of absolute awe and madness, built in 1939 as a showcase of socialism’s success. How can I describe it? Well, if you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ll be familiar with the feeling of ‘pleasant bafflement’. You can’t take everything in because there’s so much going on and so much to gawp at and it’s kind of insane, but all very enjoyable. That’s the same feeling I had in VDNKh.
You enter through a huge arch that makes the Arc-de-Triomphe look like someone’s back gate. TBH, that’d be impressive enough on its own. But it’s only the beginning. The park is full of palatial buildings, each one designed in the style of a Soviet republic’s architecture and showcasing its industry. For example, there’s a Belarus-style building with lots of bread-themed stuff, because the country is famous for wheat. There are also fountains, including an incredible one that deserved its own place on this list (see no.16).
Gah, I really can’t do VDNKh justice in my explanation here. You can read more about it in my Moscow city guide post.
16. Avoid a soaking around VDNKh’s amazing fountains
VDNKh (see above, no.15, if you’re skim-reading) is incredible in itself but I had to give its fountains their own slot on the list.
The first fountain you get to is a massive gold spectacle, the People’s Friendship Fountain (see pic above). This is one of the most gold-tastic things I’ve ever seen. It’s so incredibly shiny. When you see it, you think it must be the main deal – the pinnacle of the park.
But then further on, there’s a completely jaw-dropping rainbow fountain called the Stone Flower Fountain (see pic below). This is plastered with real semi-precious stones and sort of blows the other fountain out of the water. Water-based pun fully intended.
I got really lucky and saw it on a sunny day when there were rainbows popping up in the water around the jewels. Cue me taking 47,927 photos. My only warning is to not get your camera or phone soaked because as soon as there’s a breeze, the fountain likes to get far too involved.
17. Explore cool reclaimed spaces and local art
Winzavod is an area of former warehouses that’s been reclaimed and renovated into an achingly cool contemporary art space. The galleries are small, but ever-evolving, and it’s full of locals and very few tourists. If you fancy a chilled morning slightly off the beaten track, this is ideal.
18. Haggle for a Russian doll at a flea market
Vernissage Market (part of the Kremlin Izmailovo complex – see no.13 of this list) is the best place for shopping for trinkets. I ended up spending almost four hours there, there was so much to rummage through. It’s a really dense flea market packed with stalls selling all the usual souvenirs, which I found were cheaper than in the central shops in town.
If you want a traditional wooden painted Russian doll (matryoshka), this is where to find one. You can even get modern takes on the dolls, featuring various characters. Who doesn’t want a Minion with increasingly small other Minions in it?!
19. Understand the Russian love for Georgian cuisine – another of the best things to do in Moscow for foodies
Before I went to Moscow, I’d heard loads about the Russian’s deep-rooted love affair with Georgian cuisine. Georgian food involves loads of veggie/vegan options, including delicious dips/hummus/yoghurty things and all sorts of creations involving aubergines, so I was very excited about this.
I’d earmarked Megobari, a Georgian restaurant that came recommended by fellow travel bloggers and TripAdvisor. The food was everything I expected and more. They also served Georgian orange wine, which I’d had before in Ljubljana, Slovenia and knew was fantastic. What a treat (considering I don’t even like wine usually).
My one Georgian mistake was my rather overambitious ordering of a khachapuri, which is a large twist of bread filled with melted cheese. I rarely venture into the world of dairy these days (mostly eating vegan food) and it absolutely DEFEATED me. Cheese addicts will literally dive into it though.
20. Fall in love with the Moscow metro system: ‘the palace for the people’
As you’ll probably know, Moscow’s metro is world famous. Designed as a ‘palace for the people’ in Soviet times, it fully lives up to this ambition. Each station is different and all of them have something stunning in terms of art and architecture. Half of them look like palaces or churches (big on stained glass) and even the plainer ones all have intricate ceiling art. I won’t list all the prettiest stations here, but I have picked a few out in my Moscow city guide post.
The metro system overall is the absolute highlight of the city. It’s not just about the jaw-dropping stations but the efficiency of it. Honestly, it’s so good it rivalled transport in Japan, and that’s really saying something. Trains are clean and don’t have any ugly advertising inside them so look much nicer. Oh and they’re every three minutes! But you’ll want to linger on the platforms longer than that to take in all the gorgeous architecture.
My personal favourite station was Komsomolskaya – pictured below in all its yellow glory.
21. Take the cable car up Sparrow Hills and wave at people en route
Any of my readers who know my obsession with Madeira know how I feel about a good cable car. I was far too excited to read that Moscow had cable cars and obviously then had to go and investigate. Moscow’s cable cars take you from the riverside up to Sparrow Hills, one of the highest points in the relatively flat city and an excellent panoramic viewing spot.
Although the view was excellent, it’s really the cable car journey I was into. I enjoy waving to passing passengers mid-air. Bonus points if it’s someone who looks like they’re hating life and really doesn’t want to wave back but they do anyway because that’s the law of the cable car. You must wave back to strangers who you’d normally ignore if they started manically waving at you in the street.
There’s also a nice bar/restaurant at the top of the hill, which serves the aforementioned sea buckthorn and orange tea. Just what you need after all that waving.
22. See the scale of the city at Park Pobedy
Park Pobedy can only be described as massive. It took us forever to walk through it (although it was nothing on the blister-inducing march of getting round VDNKh).
Like everything in Moscow, the behemoth size of things was beyond me. For example, below is a photo of an obelisk in Park Pobedy. Look at the size of it compared with those tower blocks next door. What a whopper.
23. Go shopping for clothes you can’t get at home but can actually afford (YAAAAS)
I strongly dislike going clothes shopping on holiday (I love it at home). This is because most cities just have the normal shops that you can get in the UK/anywhere and are thus pointless. There are usually unique designer boutiques too, but most of them are completely unaffordable to normal humans.
Moscow, however, is different. Not only does it have its own high-street shops that you can’t get in most places, they’re even just about affordable. It also has European chains that we don’t have in the UK (or only have in stupid London, which is far too far away to get to for most of us). I spent a fruitful few hours at Evropeisky Shopping Centre), which is all indoors if you have a rainy afternoon. It plays the Russian national anthem outside, as a surreal added bonus.
Here are some shops I recommend looking up in Moscow:
- Berskha – a big European chain that we only online in the UK (possibly in London too, but not in normal cities). Think H&M level prices.
- Stradivarius – exactly as above, but with better midi skirts.
- Reserved – this is my favourite! It’s a Polish one and the style is very on-brand for me. The pricing is, again, H&M level. I went wild in one in St Petersburg but they had them in Moscow too (total haul: 7 dresses, 3 tops and 2 skirts).
- Unique Fabric – this is more expensive (think & Other Stories price level) but it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s Russian and has much more of a boutique feel. It smells really nice inside too. A lot of the fashion was quite wintery with lovely heavy cords and woollen pieces, so not quite what I was after in 35-degree heat. But it was beautiful quality.
- Gate 31 – I was very close to buying a gorgeous £180ish coat here because it was so good, but it wouldn’t have fitted into my suitcase. Life. It’s very Scandi-style this boutique, but again it’s Russian. Like the others, it’s & Other Stories/Cos/Arket price levels so not wildly expensive but more splashing out than your average high street.
24. Eat with Moscow’s cutest cat in a Russian granny’s living room
One of my favourite restaurants in Moscow is Mari Vanna. The food is exquisite, the setting is ADORABLE (quirky, chintzy, Russian shabby-chic) and they have a resident cat. The whole experience is like you’ve been invited into a Russian granny’s house for tea and she just happens to be a professional chef.
Benjamin the cat is the star of the show though, padding about through the tables and snoozing on bookshelves and just generally distracting everyone from their conversations by being cute. I absolutely loved it here and have been recommending it to everyone I know. It was so different from everywhere else. Go!
25. People watch to your heart’s content on Arbat Street
If you’re in the market for slightly tacky souvenirs, bizarre performing artists and outdoor bars, you’re going to enjoy Arbat Street. It’s touristy as anything but perfect to sit with a drink and have a good nose at everyone walking past.
One word of warning though – well, not really warning but just an annoyance-avoidance – there are people dressed in various awful animal costumes running about. They either want to charge you for a terrible photo opportunity or lure you into an awful touristy bar. Avoid with your longest Russian bargepole.
26. Glam up for a meal and drinks in front of one of the Seven Sisters – one of the best things to do in Moscow for your last night there
Matryoshka is located beneath one of Moscow’s ‘Seven Sisters’ (skyscrapers), which is now a Radisson hotel. It’s a very impressive and giant building, which means you get a steady stream of people posing in front of it who you can observe while eating. Said people are usually pretty glamorous and dressed for a night out, which I LOVE because so many cities I go to are really casual and I’m forever overdressed (not that I mind that, but it’s nice to be among my brethren). I didn’t feel out of place in a jumpsuit and heels. Living my best life.
During my time in Moscow, I developed a deep-rooted addition to Russian brioche pies and I definitely indulged in them at Matroyshka. We ordered a selection of Russian tapas, really, seeing as we got lots of little plates. Salads in Russia tend to be top notch and I also loved pelmeni (dumplings) and vareniki (also dumplings, but more like gyoza-style). Not to mention the marinated herring and ALL the ryebread.
27. Uncover the well-kept secret of Russian modern art
No city break would be complete without visiting a gallery now, would it? If you like modern/contemporary art, I recommend heading to the New Tretyakov Gallery. Two things struck me about the Russian art – and I was thoroughly impressed:
- I thought I was familiar with most types of modern/contemporary art but I didn’t realise (perhaps stupidly) that of course Russia has loads of famous artists and styles we’ve never heard of outside Russia. And they’re all slightly different to what we’re used to.
- There were women! Being visible! IN ART! So you know like when you go to an art gallery and see bucolic farming scenes or people sat round tables with fruit on? And there are never or rarely any women in them – or if there is, it’s a fit milkmaid or something useless like that? Well in Russian art, there are women just existing and doing stuff, like carrying sheaves of wheat alongside men in farming scenes, or heading into battle, or just standing there representin’ in a mixed group of people. Women featured in so many of the paintings and it wasn’t until I was about 10 minutes into wandering around that I clicked and realised why it felt so different.
You can definitely spend a good couple of hours in this gallery. Make sure you check opening times though, as ever.
28. Play in the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines
Regular readers will know I enjoy a quirky museum (my favourite being the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia). Well, Russia certainly delivers with its own weird and wonderful museum, where you can while away a few hours having a go on various retro arcade machines – including one that dispenses Soviet-era lemonade.
29. Visit Moscow’s best food hall and market
Danilovsky Market is a brilliant indoor food hall/market, full of the BEST places for lunch and loads of local products, all inside a big domed building. You have to go here! It was probably my favourite food-based activity I’ve ever done and as my skinny jeans will attest to, I really do enjoy food-based activities.
It’s a little bit out of the way of Moscow centre, but very close to Tul’skaya metro station so easy to get to. Once you’re there, it can easily take up most of an afternoon. There are around 30 restaurants and stalls inside, covering everything from Armenian dolma to Peking duck, as well as a few shops. One of my favourites was a gorgeous flower stall that also sold cute ceramic pots and vases. It had a bicycle with a basket and a sign with a fox on, so you get the idea. The food produce is really interesting too (including about a zillion varieties of tomato) and all very high quality.
If we’d had more time, I’d have bought some bits for a picnic the next day. As it was, we just had lunch, consisting of little bits from a couple of stalls. Like I said in no.8 of this list, Russian food variety is immense and all of it is brilliant. Crack on your elasticated waistbands and get stuck in.
30. See the Moscow State University (another one of the Seven Sisters)
Moscow’s main uni is ridiculously huge and worth seeing close up. It’s another of the Seven Sisters collection of skyscrapers, so I really do mean huge. It has gardens and a big pond in front of it, so the setting is really nice to walk through. Apparently the building is 36 floors high but I didn’t attempt to count.
Can you imagine being a student here? Somehow it doesn’t seem the right setting for running out of a lecture theatre to vomit up Blue WKD, but I assume students are still students.
Going to see the uni is kind of linked to number 21 of this list because you can get to it on foot from the Sparrow Hills viewpoint (via the cable car). When I say you can get to it, I mean the grounds are right by it but takes a few minutes to get to because of course everything is so massive.
31. Ride the longest escalator at Park Pobedy station
Attention fact lovers (aka all my German readers – I know you make up 17% of my overall monthly blog readers). Here’s a fact-filled thing to do in Moscow for you.
At 84 metres deep underground, Park Pobedy is the deepest metro station in Moscow and the fourth deepest in the world. It also contains the longest escalators in Europe! Each one is 126 metres long and has 740 steps. The escalator ride to the surface takes about three minutes, which is three whole minutes you can spend people-watching your fellow passengers going up/down on the other escalator.
32. Go inside the Master & Margarita apartment
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is one of the most famous pieces of Russian literature. When I read the other big hitter, Anna Karenina, I couldn’t wait for it to be over, but with Master, I never wanted it to end. So if you’ve not read it, I highly recommend giving it a go. The general plot involves the devil and his mates visiting Soviet-era Moscow and much madness ensuing.
The author, Bulgakov, lived in a flat on the fifth floor of an art deco building, and this is now open to the public as a little museum. Sadly it’s all in Russian so was a bit lost on me! However, it’s worth going even just to get a picture with the statue outside. It’s also really close to Patriarch’s Ponds, the scene where the novel opens and the chaos begins. Patriarch’s Ponds is now a pretty tree-lined large pond surrounded by benches and paths, where you can find an amusing sign saying it’s ‘forbidden to speak with strangers’, which if you’ve read the novel you’ll like. If you know, you know!
There are lots of other places you can visit if you’re a Master & Margarita fan too.
33. Stay in a hotel with a view… without breaking the bank
I can’t recommend the hotel I found enough: Azimut Smolenskaya. It was 100% perfect and insanely cheap. Think of a nice Holiday Inn with about 22 floors, but for only £40ish a night. Unreal.
The location couldn’t have been better too, because it’s right by one of the Seven Sisters, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and there’s Smolenskaya metro right round the corner so you can easily get everywhere you need to. And even though hotel bars are normally naff, head up to the one here because the views and cocktails are spot on. This was genuinely one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in considering the value and everything. Oh and the view from our room was spot on. I loved sitting on the big window seat and having a good nose outside.
34. Find a giant Russian doll
These things are everywhere, usually selling dolls inside them, which of course have dolls INSIDE THEM!
I don’t have much else to say other than they make for a classic ‘Russian photo’…
35. Visit the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
It’s the largest Orthodox church in the world and the most important church in the country. But weirdly, it’s NOT old. The original cathedral was demolished by Stalin’s order in 1931 and they only finished building the new one in 2000.
I’m not a massive fan of religious buildings but it’s a good one to see. We didn’t end up going inside because my other half had shorts on and that was apparently offensive, so if you’re keen to go in then make sure you don’t have your knees out for the lads.
36. Visit the real-life hotel from the novel A Gentleman in Moscow – one of the best things to do in Moscow for bookworms
Another literary adventure you can go on in Moscow is to explore the real-life world from Amor Towles’ famous novel A Gentleman in Moscow. If you’ve not read it, I highly recommend getting it before your Moscow trip because it proper gets you excited for being in the city. Also, it’s honestly one of the best books I’ve read in recent years… and I read a LOT.
The novel is entirely set in the famous Hotel Metropol, where the hero of the story (Count Rostov) is under house arrest. Or should that be hotel arrest? Anyway, he’s stuck in this hotel for donkey’s years and gets up to all sorts of japes. It’s really good (much better than it sounds from my terrible description).
But the Hotel Metropol is real and you can go to it! And it’s exactly as described in the novel. Naturally, the hotel has got on board with the book’s fame and the fact readers were visiting Moscow just to see what it was line in real life, so you can now do a Gentleman in Moscow package. I was tempted, to be honest… But I settled for a cocktail at the bar and admiring the amazing art deco lifts. If you’re a fan of the novel, definitely go and have a drink there. It’s magical.
37. Wander with the locals at Gorky Park
Gorky Park is where all the locals go for picnics, ice creams, and drinking. Like VDNKh, it has a massive gate to get inside, which is seriously impressive (if you’ve not been to VDNKh yet, that is) and then it goes into landscaped parks with lots of flowers.
It also involves that classic Russian thing of playing random music outdoors. Song of choice during my visit: Emma Bunton’s ‘What took you so long?’. A true early noughties masterpiece…
I really recommend wandering through the park along the river and calling in at one of the cute little outdoor cafés for a homemade lemonade, which Russia takes very seriously and does amazingly well.
38. Stroke the dog statue at Ploshchad Revolyutsii station
This metro station is lined with different bronze statues and each one has its own story. All of them are based on real people, with real stories behind them (according to our metro tour guide). The dog is not only popular because everyone loves doggies, but because he’s meant to bring luck. This started with students who’d not revised for their exams rubbing his nose for last-minute luck.
There’s also a woman with a rooster who’ll bring you into money, a sailor who’ll bring you exciting journeys, and a worker who’ll help you quit smoking. Good luck with that.
39. Point at and pick something delicious in a stolovaya
A trip to Moscow (or Russia in general) can’t possibly be complete without a trip to a Soviet-style self-service stolovaya. This roughly translates to ‘canteen’, but it’s so much more than that. They’re ridiculously cheap, the food is simple but delicious and I couldn’t believe what a good quality sizeable meal you can get for around £4.
Also, they’re an important part of Soviet history so it’s interesting to still be able to visit them. They started in the 1920s as a new programme of public catering facilities. Today, despite McDonalds and the like being everywhere, locals still flock to stolovayas. Stolovaya No. 57 is probably the most famous in Moscow, located in GUM department store.
Whichever stolovaya you go to though, they’re all roughly the same concept: point at what you want or load it into your own tray as you go around the canteen. No botched attempts at Russian required.
40. Visit the famous Bolshoi Theatre
This is the oldest and most well known theatre in Russia, with a resident ballet and opera both renowned worldwide. Personally, I’m not into either of these things, but I am into impressive buildings and it fully delivers on that front. You can do a tour in English (no online booking though!)
41. Meet the seasonal horses of the Geyser Fountain
As an equestrian, my eyes are always peeled for anything horsey. I spotted this beautiful and absolutely ginormous statue of four bronze horses in the Alexander Gardens, near the Kremlin. They represent the four seasons. If you’re lucky enough to catch their fountain being on on a windy day, you may see a few passers-by getting soaked. So even if you’re not into horses, there’s that.
42. Go and see Lenin’s embalmed body – one of the oddest things to do in Moscow
I’ve put this quite low down on the list for a few reasons, even though this list is in no particular order. I just feel like it’s in all the guidebooks so you don’t really need me to tell you about it.
It also involves queuing for hours in the morning for just a couple of minutes inside the actual mausoleum. You have to keep moving and can’t linger at all to look at Lenin’s body… or is it really his body? Some people argue that it’s a wax model and his real body was taken elsewhere. Either way, it’s quite a niche thing to do and pretty surreal. But when in Moscow…
43. Try modern Russian food straight from local farms at LavkaLavka
Head to LavkaLavka for one of the best meals I had in Russia (not just Moscow).
LavkaLavka is a farm-to-table restaurant, using local ingredients. It came recommended by pretty much everyone I spoke to who’d been to Moscow, including loads of fellow travel bloggers. It’s primarily modern Russian cuisine, but with other influences too. Highlights included a spelt porridge starter (I hate porridge but this was BEAUT), rye pasta and a traditional mushroom pie (yes, more pie). Buckwheat and caramelised apple tart and a chocolate gooey delightful thing finished it off nicely.
44. Do a river cruise
There are lots of options for this but the best-rated one I could find was this 2.5 hour luxury one for around £30. Now, it’s not often I recommend things I’ve not done, but this is one of the rare exceptions. I had every intention of doing a river cruise when I was in Moscow and had done all the research and so on, but I wasn’t quite banking on the insane June weather, which (if I’ve not already moaned about in this post) was around 30 to 35 degrees every day.
Being on the river in hot weather sounds appealing, but the sun was so strong that it would probably have melted me, so we didn’t end up doing the river cruise after all. However, I did see plenty of boats doing it (including party ones that looked wild) and other bloggers have told me it’s really good, so I’d still advise looking into it. It’s always good seeing a city from the water and getting a different perspective.
45. Stroll along the Moscow River at night – one of the best things to do in Moscow in summer
If you don’t fancy a boat cruise, just strolling along the river at night and looking at all the lit-up bridges is lovely.
It’s LIT, as they say. A really good way to end your trip to Moscow, too.
Other things to do in Moscow…
So that’s the end of an absolutely ginormous post. Props to you if you made it this far.
I’ve left quite a few things to do in Moscow off this list but I could go on and on, plus there will be millions I don’t know about. Cities change so much and so quickly that it’s impossible to keep blog posts up to date unless you re-visit everywhere constantly (something I would be WELL happy to do when it comes to Moscow).
So let me know in the comments if you do any of my suggestions and what your favourite things to do in Moscow are. I like hearing about other people’s experiences in my favourite places. Just keep it to yourself if you’re having too good a time exploring Moscow while I’m stuck back in the office. Thanks.
Things to do in Moscow – useful information for your trip
Where to stay in Moscow
As discussed in no.33 of this list, I can’t recommend the hotel I found enough: Azimut Smolenskaya. With those views out of the window and about £40ish a night, you can’t go wrong.
How to get around Moscow
Moscow is obviously famous for its incredible metro system. Each journey is around 40 rubles (about 49p at the time of writing)! I recommend getting a Troika card with 20 journeys on it to start you off. But do bear in mind that Moscow is massive and things can take a long time to get between. You’ll end up doing a lot of walking no matter what, which is great for working off pies but less great for blisters.
When to go to Moscow
We went in June and it was HOT. I mean, seriously hot. Think 30 degrees in the evening. I actually loved the heat, despite being sick from it one of the days. It wasn’t humid and gross and I got to wear dresses with no tights every day. Woop! But if you’re not into shaving your legs every day (it did get a bit much TBH) and would prefer to be slightly less sweaty, I imagine the shoulder months would be ideal – May or September maybe.
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You might also like my other Russia posts:
- 4 days in Moscow: a city guide and itinerary
- 3 days in St Petersburg: an itinerary and city guide
- Things to do in Saint Petersburg [coming soon]
- Everything you need to know to plan a trip to Russia.
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