Moscow is Russia’s vibrant capital city, and it also happens to be the largest city in all of Europe. The city’s long and infamous history makes it one of the most unique places we have ever visited.
The architecture ranges from centuries-old palaces to uniform, gray concrete buildings. The people range from cold and private to warm and welcoming. Moscow is a city is strong juxtapositions, and we learned a lot during our time there.
The Best Things to Do in Moscow
1. Explore the Red Square
The Red Square is the heart of Moscow. Most of the city’s top attractions can be found here, including just about everything on this list. The Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and Lenin’s Mausoleum are all located here, and the State Historical Museum and GUM are not far from here, either.
The Red Square is a common home for parades, protests, and seasonal celebrations. There are massive Christmas celebrations here, with food vendors and carnival rides set up in numbers.
2. Check Out the Ziferblat
The Ziferblat is a café in Moscow that is unlike any café we have ever been to. While most cafes charge you for your drinks and food, the Ziferblat charges you for your time.
Upon arrival, you are given a clock. When you leave, the barista calculates how much time you spent in the café and charges you accordingly. This concept was created to help visitors to be more intentional with their time, and the cafe itself is incredibly charming.
For a detailed look at everything you need to know before you visit, make sure you read my post about visiting the Ziferblat Cafe in Moscow.
3. Marvel at St. Basil’s Cathedral
St. Basil’s Cathedral is one of the most iconic churches in the world, and it was the single thing we were most excited to see while in Moscow. Built almost 500 years ago, St. Basil’s Cathedral is recognized by its colorful domes and whimsical style. The church is of the Russian Orthodox faith, and the inside is just as wondrous as the outside.
St. Basil’s Cathedral is located on the edge of the Red Square, making it incredibly convenient to visit. Entrance for non-worshippers costs 800 rubles, and tickets can be bought at the church
4. Explore the Kremlin
The Kremlin is the largest active fortress in Europe, and it is the site of most of Russia’s government affairs. In addition to government buildings, the Kremlin Complex is filled with courtyards, towers, and museums that are open to the public. If you have the time, you could spend a couple of days fully exploring all that there is to see in the Kremlin.
5. Walk Through Lenin’s Mausoleum
Vladimir Lenin is one of the most important figures in Russian history, and his body is located perfectly embalmed in a mausoleum in the Red Square. The Mausoleum is open to the public to visit, and as long as you are willing to go through a few security checks, it is easily one of the best things to do in Moscow. Its convenient location in the Red Square makes it a can’t miss attraction.
There is absolutely no photography allowed inside the Mausoleum. Do not test this rule.
6. Wander Along Arbat Street
The Arbat is a very popular street in Moscow that is lined with stores, cafes, and other touristy attractions. It is one of the oldest streets in the city, dating back to the 1400s. This street is both quaint and trendy, and there are many walking tours that introduce tourists to the neighborhood’s wonders and highlights.
7. Catch a Show at the Bolshoi Theatre
As a lover of the arts, it is hard to think of Moscow and not think of ballet. Russia has always been a top dog in the world of fine arts, and Bolshoi Theater is one of the best places to catch a performance. We were lucky enough to attend an Opera here, and it is a venue that you don’t want to miss out on if you enjoy opera, ballet, or orchestral performances.
8. Visit the State Historical Museum
The State Historical Museum is one of the most respected museums in Moscow. Despite its name, it is not really focused on the history of Russia as a nation. Rather, it contains a collection of artifacts from all throughout Russia’s history.
The museum’s collection is very broad in nature. It houses some items from indigenous tribes that used to occupy the region, pieces collected by the Romanov family, and more.
9. Wander Around GUM
GUM is an absolutely massive mall within walking distance of the Red Square. It isn’t just the size that draws visitors here; it’s the sense of luxury. The mall is so beautiful inside, much like the metro stations.
While visiting a mall might not sound like it belongs on a bucket list, this mall does. You will not want to miss out on visiting GUM while in Moscow.
10. Admire the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
While St. Basil’s Cathedral is the most iconic church in Moscow, it isn’t the only one. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is absolutely stunning, with massive golden domes. It is the tallest Orthodox church in the world, and it is the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow.
It is located just about a mile from the Red Square, just south of the Kremlin Complex. You can walk to it from the Red Square in about 20 minutes.
How to Get to Moscow
How to Get Around Moscow
METRO | TROLLEYS | TRAMS | BUSES
Moscow has one of the most memorable metro systems in the world. Its metro lines are very deep underground, and the stations are absolutely stunning. Each station has its own unique style, but all of them contain escalators that seem to go on forever.
The system was built in an effort to showcase the power of the Soviet Union and its bright future. The plans were a form of propaganda, but they resulted in what is still one of the most visually appealing subway systems on earth.
Moscow’s metro system isn’t just pretty. It is also very useful and accessible. The system has 17 lines that connect the city and its surrounding area.
But wait; there’s more!
The Moscow metro system is also incredibly affordable, with each ride costing less than a dollar. The metro is by far the best way to get around Moscow, as it is almost impossible to beat the connection times and the low cost to ride.
Tickets can be bought at electronic, English-speaking kiosks in stations, or directly from ticket counters at certain larger stations. There are also day passes available, which are a very solid option if you plan on riding the metro several times per day.
In addition to the metro system, Moscow also has a network of buses, trams, and trolleys. This system is nowhere near as convenient or well-connected as the metro, though, and is likely of little use to you during your trip. There is no Uber in Moscow, but a similar app named Yandex is available if you need a ride in a pinch.
How Many Days Do You Need in Moscow?
Moscow is the biggest city in all of Europe, and it is absolutely loaded with things to do. You could spend weeks in Moscow and still find new things to do. Of course, most travelers don’t have that kind of time to spend in one place!
Moscow is very spread out, and it can take some time to get from one major point to another. There are also so many places that are nice to just sit back and relax, which is hard to do when you’re in a hurry trying to cram activities into just a few days.
If you only have a week to visit Russia, I’d advise spending all of the time in one city. If you decide to split your time between Moscow and St. Petersburg, I recommend not trying to squeeze in any day trips beyond those two cities.
When Is the Best Time of the Year to Visit Moscow?
There are two different ways to approach this question. Personally, I think the best time to visit Moscow is around Christmas and New Year’s Day. While the weather will be absolutely freezing, Moscow is a surreal winter wonderland in December and January.
We were in Moscow right before Christmas. While it was very cold, you can always bundle up. Exploring the Christmas markets and pop-up ice skating rinks throughout Moscow is one of my favorite memories from anywhere I’ve traveled, and I dream of going back to do it again.
If you aren’t fond of the cold, Moscow is beautiful in the summer. It tends to get pretty cold in the shoulder seasons, so if you want warm weather, you should plan to visit in the summer. Moscow actually gets pretty warm in July and August, and there are a bunch of fantastic places to soak up the sun within the city.
Is Moscow Safe to Visit?
While Moscow is a truly wonderful city, there’s no denying that visiting Russia comes with risks. As the country is run by an infamous communist dictator, concerns about visiting are valid. While we didn’t experience any sort of threat or negative treatment during our time in Moscow, we visited in a peaceful time.
In our experience, Russia doesn’t seem to detain normal Americans or Westerners to use as pawns. As a regular person, as long as you don’t commit any crimes, there is a slim chance you will run into any issues. However, Russia will not hesitate to enforce its laws against foreigners, and illegal behaviors will likely land you in a very compromising position.
To make matters worse, Russia has a bad reputation for gang violence. While the Russian mafia has very little interest in normal Western tourists, they won’t hesitate to pick a fight with anyone who ventures into their sphere of influence. If you seek out illegal substances or activities, you could be a target of the mafia.
Finally, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, things are all very different. Russia is currently at war, and there are battles raging within 8 hours of Moscow. While it is still relatively safe to visit, that could change at any time as the war with Ukraine continues.
Is Moscow Worth Visiting?
Without a doubt, Moscow is worth visiting. It is one of the most unique major cities we have ever visited, and we hope to make it back one day. The Russian Orthodox churches are stunning, the city’s history is unlike any other, and the food is to die for.
While many visitors prefer St. Petersburg to Moscow, I think Moscow deserves a lot of hype of its own. Moscow is the beating heart of Russian culture and history, and it’s a place I highly recommend checking out if you have the chance.
That’s all we have for you about Moscow! I hope this post was helpful as you plan your trip to Russia’s capital.
Have you been to Moscow? Or is this your first time visiting? Comment below if you have anything to add to our travel guide!