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TOP12 MUST VISIT IN MOSCOW

Moscow is one of Europe’s most enigmatic cities, with a fascinating history and colorful, awe-inspiring architecture that can’t be found anywhere else. With over 11 million inhabitants, Moscow is one of the world’s most populous cities, but this hasn’t changed the city’s strong cultural and social traditions. It’s difficult to tell what century you’re in if you walk the cobblestone streets of Red Square or the banks of the Moskva River early in the morning.

Tsarist architecture, must-see churches, and opulent shopping opportunities combine for an unforgettable visual experience. Here’s our list of the top tourist attractions in Moscow if you’re looking for ideas on what to see and do while in Russia.

Table of Contents

KREMLIN

The Kremlin, a 15th-century fortified complex covering an area of 275,000 square meters and surrounded by 1400s-era walls, is without a doubt Moscow’s most recognizable structure. The Grand Kremlin Palace, which has over 700 rooms, was once home to the Tsar family and is now the official residence of the Russian Federation’s president, though most heads of state prefer to live somewhere else.

The massive complex also contains a number of other buildings, some of which are open to the public and can be visited on a regular basis. Aside from three cathedrals (including one where Tsars were once crowned) and a number of towers, the Kremlin also houses the Armory building, a museum that houses everything from the royal crown and imperial carriages to Ivan the Terrible’s ivory throne and Fabergé eggs.

BOLSHOI THEATRE

The Bolshoi Theater is home to the world’s largest and oldest ballet and opera companies. While the theater has undergone several major renovations over the last century, including one in 2011 to restore some of the imperial architectural details, it still retains its Neoclassical grandeur.

The current Bolshoi Theater opened in 1824, following the destruction of several previous versions. Inside, red velvet, a three-tiered crystal chandelier, and gilt moldings give the space a Byzantine-Renaissance grandeur like no other.

Seeing a performance by the resident ballet and opera troupes is a treat, as the theater frequently hosts a number of classic performances, such as Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa and Rachmaninoff’s Francesca da Rimini, which both had their world premieres here.

LENIN’S MAUSOLEUM

The Mausoleum of Lenin, the final resting place of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, is located in the heart of Red Square. His body has been in the mausoleum since his death in 1924, and although the original plan was for him to be buried after a brief period of public mourning, that plan was quickly changed.

Over 100,000 people visited the tomb over a six-week period, and it was decided that a new sarcophagus and a more permanent display space could actually preserve Lenin’s body for much longer than expected—and Lenin’s Mausoleum was built. Over time, the mausoleum and its marble stairs became the primary location from which Soviet leaders could observe parades and events in Red Square.

Today, Lenin’s embalmed body can be seen lying down in a bulletproof glass sarcophagus, as if sleeping. While visiting Lenin’s mausoleum is certainly unusual, it has become a must-do for history buffs seeking to understand how Lenin’s legacy truly changed the country. But be prepared to wait—there are usually lines to get in.

GUM

The oldest and most upscale shopping center in Moscow is an architectural marvel. GUM (Glávnyj Universálnyj Magazine, or “Main Universal Store”) was built in the late 1800s in neo-Russian style to showcase a beautiful mix of a steel skeleton and 20,000 glass panels forming an arched roof.

This was a one-of-a-kind construction at the time, as the glass had to be strong enough to withstand the snowy Russian winters. The building’s exterior is equally impressive, with all three levels covered in marble and granite.

While GUM is no longer Moscow’s largest shopping center, it is by far the most beautiful. The home of brands such as Gucci and Manolo Blahnik, may not be the most affordable destination for most budget-conscious visitors, but the beauty of the building itself is worth a visit.

There are also excellent dining options on the third floor, including a Soviet-style canteen serving traditional Russian cuisine and a stand selling ice cream made by hand using an original 1954 recipe approved by the Soviet government.

RED SQUARE

All of Moscow’s main streets begin at Red Square, so it’s easy to see why it’s regarded as the city’s beating heart. The square, which measures 330 meters by 70 meters, is surrounded by the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, two cathedrals, and the State Historical Museum. In 1945, a massive Victory Parade was held here to commemorate the Soviet Armed Forces’ defeat of Nazi Germany.

St. Basil’s Cathedral, one of the square’s most recognizable structures, was built in 1555. Architectural details inspired by Byzantine and Asian design, as well as details resembling those found in famous mosques, can be found in this one-of-a-kind cathedral. Inside the church, there are nine separate chapels, each of which is decorated with colorful mural art.

Both the square and the Kremlin have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On weekends, stalls selling souvenirs and traditional items, such as matryoshka (Russian nesting dolls), can be found at the square’s entrance.

MUSEUM OF COSMONAUTICS

When it came to space exploration, Russia and the United States used to go toe-to-toe. While that is no longer the case, the museum’s incredible collection—which now numbers over 85,000 items—remains awe-inspiring.

The space capsule used by Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel into space; a USSR flag with moon fragments; a Soviet spacesuit; and a rocket propulsion unit from the 1960s are among the main exhibits. A special two-story hall displays sections of the interior of the Mir space station, as well as models of the first sputniks and a miniature spaceship replica.

There are English-language tours available, as well as a Cinema Hall that shows short films with subtitles about the history of space exploration programs and the first manned space flight.

The museum is housed within the base of the Conquerors of Space monument, which was built nearly 20 years before the museum opened.

MOSCOW METRO

Riding the Moscow metro is an experience in and of itself, but simply walking through the stations is something no visitor should miss. However, with 223 stations and 12 metro lines crossing through Moscow, this can be difficult, so visiting at least a few of the most impressive ones is a good place to start.

Arbatskaya station was designed by a skyscraper architect, so it’s no surprise that it has multicolored granite slabs and stunning bronze chandeliers. Park Kultury station, next to Gorky Park, is covered in marble and features reliefs of people participating in sports, whereas Teatralnaya station is decorated with porcelain figures dancing and dressed in traditional Russian costumes.

The metro is open from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., but it is extremely crowded in the early morning and after 4 p.m., so it is best to visit in the late morning or early afternoon to truly appreciate the architecture without the crowds.

VDNKH ALL-RUSSIAN EXHIBITION CENTRE

Originally intended as a general-purpose trade show venue, this park complex now includes amusement rides, ice rinks, and a variety of galleries and other attractions for people of all ages.

The Moskvarium, a marine biology center with over 8000 species of marine animals, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, and a shopping center selling traditional products from former Soviet countries are the park’s most famous landmarks. There’s even a film museum where you can watch Soviet cartoons or even a full-length film (for a fee), as well as an education center where you can learn everything from how to be a barista to video montage (call or write in advance to find out which ones are English-friendly).

There are also Soviet-era pavilions, sculptures, and fountains, such as the famous Friendship of the Peoples Fountain, which features statues of women dressed in costumes from various former Soviet countries.

GORKY PARK

Gorky Park, located directly across the Moskva River and named after the famous Russian writer Maxim Gorky (who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature five times but never won it), spans 120 hectares of beautiful ponds and green spaces.

The park, which is popular with both locals and tourists, provides a variety of amenities, including sunbeds, hammocks, and drinking fountains, as well as free yoga classes and children’s playgrounds. There are free Wi-Fi and phone charging stations, as well as a variety of food stands and wild animals such as deer, rabbits, and pheasants.

Visitors can explore the park by renting paddleboats and bicycles, and from May to October, there is also an open-air movie theater, as well as scheduled performances by street performers, musicians, and artists. Gorky Park draws both young and old people, so expect to see a mix of people exercising, playing chess, and sunbathing.

ARBAT STREET

The one-kilometer-long pedestrian street in Moscow dates back to the 15th century. Arbat Street, once a trade route on the outskirts of the city, is now very centrally located, with posh buildings and a plethora of places to eat and shop.

Beautiful street lamps and two significant statues—one of Princess Turandot (from Puccini’s final opera) and one of Soviet-era poet Bulat Okudzhava—adorn the street, which is popular with both locals and tourists in the evenings and on weekends.

Arbat Street is a great place to pick up souvenirs or sit down at an outdoor café. It also offers the opportunity to visit the former home of poet Alexander Pushkin and the café where Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy used to meet.

TRETYAKOV GALLERY

The world’s largest collection of Russian art, with over 180,000 paintings, sculptures, and religious art dating back millennia, is housed here. The gallery, which was built in the early twentieth century and features beautiful red and white colors from classical Russian architecture, is located near the Kremlin.

The Vladimir Mother of God, a Byzantine icon of the Virgin and Child from the 1100s, Andrei Rublev’s The Trinity icon from the 15th century, and several works by Ilya Repin, Russia’s most famous realist painter, are all significant works of art. There is also an 86-meter-tall statue of Peter the Great on the museum grounds, as well as a number of Socialist Realism sculptures.

MOSCOW STATE INTEGRATED MUSEUM-RESERVE

The Moscow State Integrated Art and Historical Architectural and Natural Landscape Museum-Reserve is a cultural open-air museum complex made up of four historical sites.

The Kolomenskoye Estate, the most important site, was once the summer residence of Tsars dating back to the 14th century. The nearly 300-hectare complex includes fairy-tale wooden palaces, a tent-roof stone church built in the 1500s, a water tower, fort towers and structures, and the 24-room Museum of Wooden Architecture, which includes Tsar Alexei I’s restored dining room.

Beautiful manicured gardens, riverside picnic areas, and a massive collection of both artifacts and structures make this an excellent destination for experiencing medieval Russia. There are English-language tours available, but you are also welcome to explore the grounds on your own.

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