Braving the land of the unknown is well worth it when your travel itinerary includes Moscow.
Antoine Martin, a first-time visitor to Moscow, asked:
First trip to Moscow and know very little about what to do. What are things a first-time visitor should see and do? I love architecture, museums, and eating! Open to all suggestions.
We’ve compiled this list of 9 things you absolutely must do in Moscow. Get ready to explore Russia’s capital city, Moscow.
1. Tour the metro stations
Hidden underground are the most beautiful metro stations in the world. Moscow’s metro stations are historical and architectural treasures of Russia. Built between 1937 and 1955, these ornate metro stations look like museums, concert halls, churches, palaces and art centers, each with its unique theme and structures.
I visited 10 metro stations:
1. Komsomolskaya Metro Station – museum-like, yellow and decorated with chandeliers, gold leaves, and semi-precious stones.
2. Revolution Square Metro Station (Ploshchad Revolyutsii) – with 72 bronze sculptures designed by Alexey Dushkin, this station has marble arches. Look out for the dog sculpture. Touch the dog’s nose for good luck.
3. Arbatskaya Metro Station – served as a shelter during the Soviet-era. It is one of the largest and the deepest metro stations in Moscow.
4. Biblioteka Imeni Lenina Metro Station – built in 1935 and named after the Russian State Library. Located near the state library and it has a big mosaic portrait of Lenin.
5. Kievskaya Metro Station – first metro station to be completed in Moscow. Named after the capital city of Ukraine by Kiev-born, Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor.
6. Novoslobodskaya Metro Station – built in 1952 and has as 32 stained glass murals with brass borders.
7. Kurskaya Metro Station – one of the first built in Moscow. The ceiling panels feature the artwork of Soviet leadership, lifestyle and political power. It has a dome with patriotic slogans decorated with red stars representing the Soviet’s World War II Hall of Fame.
8. Mayakovskaya Metro Station – named after Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. It has 34 mosaics painted by Alexander Deyneka.
9. Belorusskaya Metro Station – named after the people of Belarus, there are statues of 3 members of the Partisan Resistance in Belarus during World War II.
10. Teatralnaya Metro Station – located near the iconic Bolshoi Theatre.
2. Visit Kremlin and Red Square
Trippy user Elijah Hugh from Moscow wrote:
Not many people know that you can come not just to the Krasnaya (Red Square), but inside The Moscow Kremlin. The Kremlin is just heart of the city, and the oldest Moscow churches are situated precisely inside the Kremlin. You should also visit the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour; it’s very beautiful inside.
A first-time visitor must visit Kremlin and Red Square. Besides the attractions mentioned by Elijah, I recommend visiting Kremlin Armory Chamber Museum, Lenin Mausoleum and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
St. Basil’s Cathedral, considered a masterpiece of Orthodox art, overlooks Moscow’s famous Red Square.
3. Join a Communist tour
The 2-hour Moscow Communist tour begins in Lubyanka Square and ends at Pushkinskaya Square (Pushkin Square). This evening walking tour features places impacted by communism in Russia from 1917 to Perestroika. During my visit, we passed by:
- Solovetsky Stone Monument – a monument to commemorate victims of the Soviet-era
- KGB Headquarters
- Historic Metropol Hotel
- Revolution Square
- Bolshoi Theater
- Gulag Museum and Petrovka Street
- Tverskaya Street
- Eliseevsky – Moscow’s most famous neo-Baroque grocery store
- Pushkinskaya Square
4. Try Russian food
For best authentic Russian food, Stas Tsaryov, a Muscovite recommended:
Try Pushkin Cafe. Almost all famous Russian and foreign people visit this restaurant for many years. And restaurant still holds very high standards of quality for all these years. Traditional Russian cuisine, most made from old receipts. Have a good time in Moscow).
Make sure you try blini (pancakes), Borscht (beet soup) and Pirozhki (buns filled with cabbage, meat, potatoes, and onions).
5. Shop at Ismailovsky Flea Market
Ismailovsky Flea Market is the place to go for Russian souvenirs. This massive market is a 15-minute train ride from Kremlin and a three-minute walk from the Izamailovo Hotel Complex. You’ll find Matryoshkas dolls, ushanka, Soviet memorabilia, antiques, t-shirts, lacquer boxes and everything that is available at Arbat Street at a fraction of the cost.
It’s open every day but the best time to visit is during the weekend. Remember to bring cash. Most vendors prefer cash, and some do not accept credit cards.
6. Hang out at a café on Arbat Street
After checking out the art galleries and Pushkin House & Museum, relax at a café on Arbat Street, Moscow’s pedestrian-only street lined with restaurants, cafés, and shops. Arbat Street used to be the place prominent residents lived and where artisans set up shops.
Trippy user Irina Keidia from Tbilisi, Georgia said Arbat District is a must along with Krasnaya Ploshad (Red Square).
7. Take a free walking tour
Trippy user Shawn Osborne from Portland liked the free walking tour. He said:
I recommend the free walking tour of Moscow ~ it was a really great way to get to know the place and learn some of the history. It was also one of the highlights of our trip (moscowfreetour.com).
8. Watch a performance at the Bolshoi Theatre
The Bolshoi Theatre is one of Russia’s top performing theaters and an essential landmark in Moscow. If you can’t get a ticket to a performance, you can still see the interior of the theater by joining a tour at 11:15 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This hour-long guided tour is limited to 20 people per time. It costs 1,500 rubles per person.
9. Join a Cemetery tour
A cemetery tour will take you to the resting places of notable Russian citizens at Novodevichy Cemetery. See the tombs of journalist Artem Borovik, comedian and circus artist Yuri Nikulin, ballerina Galina Sergeyvna Ulanova, Raisa Maksimovna Gorbachyova (wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev), President Boris Yeltsin and over 25,000 others essential citizens.
The cemetery is at the Novodevichy Convent, also known as New Maiden Convent.
Photos and article by Claudia Looi