Visiting Russia? These are the top 17 things to do in Moscow to help you plan your trip.
If the western world has New York City, the first great metropolis on the eastern side of our planet is Moscow. A huge city with a complicated and impressive history, Moscow gets a bad rep over Russian politics – but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Capital to the largest country in the world, Moscow takes the grandeur of its standing very seriously.
This is a place where luxury is king and where opulence takes a front seat in every aspect of life. The buildings are grand and imposing, the parks are luscious and enormous, and even the subway stations look different in Moscow than anywhere else in the world.
Table of Contents
Best Things to do in Moscow, Russia
Walking around Moscow is also going through the tumultuous history of the 20th century, which had Russia as one of its main protagonists. There are fascinating remains of these times everywhere in the former Soviet capital, from the gorgeous Seven Sisters skyscrapers to the Orthodox cathedrals that were closed for the better part of a century. Still, Moscow is also a completely modern city, with a vibrant social and party scene, incredible restaurants, and some of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
After living in Russia’s capital as an ex-pat for four years, I got the privilege to experience not only the main attractions in Moscow but also the everyday life in this huge city and quickly found my sweat spots off the beaten tracks! So here is my list of my top 17 things to do in this exciting metropolis!
Attractions in Moscow
When visiting a famous city like this one, it’s a must to go through the most iconic landmarks first. Moscow has plenty of those, most of them in the center of the city, which is very well-planned for tourists.
1. The Red Square, Kremlin & Surrounding Area
No place tells the story of Moscow’s power in the past century the way the Red Square does. This is where the biggest political meetings in the USSR occurred for many decades, and you can feel the power on each step.
Here, you’ll also find the historic museum at the entrance, showcasing the decades of history behind this iconic landmark. The Lenin Mausoleum, perhaps the most famous resting place in the world and home to the remains of the former communist leader, is also here.
On one side of the Red Square you’ll find the Kremlin, the fortified complex that now hosts the presidential residence. This is also home to the most iconic of all Moscovite landmarks: St. Basil’s Cathedral, a 16th-century marvel of colors. This is the best spot to take a selfie and show the world you’ve reached the Russian capital!
- Get your Kremlin Skip the Line Tickets and Kremlin tour here.
- Free cancellation up to 24-hours in advance of the tour.
2. Bolshoi Theatre
You can easily spend a couple of days just exploring the Moscovite city centre, and the Bolshoi Theatre should be your second stop. Walk past the Red Square and then head to the nearby Bolshoi Theatre, one of the oldest and most renowned houses of opera and ballet on Earth.
Visit for the impressive early 19th-century architecture, but if you’re seeing a ballet performance, make sure you book between 3 and 6 months in advance! I can strongly recommend this as it is a truly unique experience!
- Book a private 2-hour tour of the legendary Bolshoi Theatre.
- See the presidential box reserved for tzars, watch a rehearsal and skip the lines through a separate entrance.
- Free Cancellation up to 24-hours in advance.
3. Luxury Shopping at GUM and TSUM
While many might think of Moscow as the sad place with the long bread queues from the USSR days, it’s been quite the capitalist haven for a while.
If you’re up for some shopping, you’ll find one of the biggest luxury malls in town, TSUM, right behind the Bolshoi and GUM, at the red square. GUM is the most famous department store in town, where you’ll find luxury everywhere and all high-end brand.
All in an imposing late 19th-century building with lots of history, worth a visit just for the design, its bridges and the glass roof even though you are not up for shopping!
4. Christ the Savior Cathedral
A newer addition to the gorgeous Moscovite cathedrals and my grandeur neighbor during my years in the city Don’t let the young age of this building fool you. After the perestroika in the early 90s, the newly revived Russian Orthodox Church received permission to build a cathedral on this site. They did the location honors and built the largest temple of the Christian Orthodox Church.
The façade is as grand as you’d expect, but it’s the inside that will mesmerize you, with its domes as tall as the skies in bright gold and gorgeous paintings and decor! Bring a shawl to cover your hair to adjust to the local tradition.
Head to the back of the cathedral and you will find one of the most photographed bridges in Moscow, the Patriarshiy Most. This is the perfect spot to get a good view and photo of the cathedral but also to see the Kreml and Gorky Park from a distance. Or why not just enjoy a moment watching the river and its boats!
- Get around Moscow with ease using the Hop On Hop Off boat and Bus ticket. 24, 48 or 72-hour tickets available.
5. Gorky Park
Cross the river and head to Gorky Park along the Moscow river. The most famous green area in town, similar to New York’s Central Park and the weekend hangout for locals. There are many beautiful parks in the city, but if you’re only visiting for a few days, this is the unmissable one!
With fair attractions to entertain children, beautiful artificial lakes and gardens, and lots of outdoor activities, it’s a lovely place to relax. A place of rest in the middle of the metropolis. The area in front of the New Tretyakov Gallery & the Muzeon Park of Arts is actually one of my favorite oasis as a bit more quiet and peaceful than Gorky itself.
Why not spend some time in the museum to get a great tour of Russia’s history through art or just enjoy the art exhibition outside where local artists spend their weekends.
6. River Cruising
One of the best ways to experience Moscow is from the Moscow River. There are many stops for the boats and one is just next to Gorky Park. See the city from another perspective – and turn the ride into a romantic one by taking the evening cruise. Moscow is magic during the night.
If you’re looking for a truly luxurious experience, take the Radisson Blu cruise – or the Erwin for a delicious seafood dinner. Both stop at Gorky or at the luxury Radisson Royal Hotel, set in one of the Seven Sister’s skyscrapers.
- We use Get Your Guide when booking city tours and they offer a River Sightseeing Cruise seeing all the main tourist attractions in Moscow
7. Metro Hopping
First inaugurated in the 1930s, the Moscow subway system is one of the oldest in the world, and certainly the most beautiful. Started under Stalinist times, each metro station is dedicated to grandeur and oozing personality.
Visiting the subway stops is an attraction in and of itself, and Komsomolskaya, Mayakovskaya, Kropotkinskaya are my favorites. Those surrounding the Red Square are also mesmerizing – in general, these are kind of like underground palaces.
Most of the signs at the Moscow Metro now have Latin letters, so it’s very easy to get around!Unfortunately, the trains are not as beautiful and pleasant as the stations but still, this is a true Moscow experience. Take a guided tour of the 9 most beautiful Metro Stations including the award-winning art deco station. See more details here.
8. Arbatskaya & Artsy Moscow
Novy Arbat Street is one of the most touristy areas in the city, with lots of shops and cafés directed at visitors. When you walk a little beyond, you’ll find a different part of town, where the hip scene thrives because so many artists live in the area. Just follow the small streets with fewer tourists!
9. Moscow State University View
In his effort to create a grander Moscow, Stalin had seven skyscrapers built in different parts of town; they’re called the Seven Sisters. The largest of these buildings hosts the main building of the Moscow State University, one of the most prestigious colleges in Russia – and the one with the best view.
Although this is a little outside the city centre, the sight from above is more than worth it, with the nearby fountains and park and then the whole of the city behind them.
10. Russian Market
If you love to visit markets wherever you go, Moscow has one of the most impressive ones in the world – the Izmailovsky. You can easily take the metro here and feel like you’ve been transported to another time.
This place was first built in the 16th century and retains the look of an old fairytale, with a lineup of colorful old castle. A lovely local experience beyond the confines of the bustling metropolis, where you can also try some delicious Russian barbecue.
Here, you’ll find beautiful souvenirs at great prices.
Off The Beaten Track Moscow
Once you’ve covered the most touristic spots, Moscow still has plenty to offer – and the places below will also be full of locals! Moscow is a city for hipsters, full of trendy and arty spots where you can literally feel the creativity oozing! So for some local vibes, I would strongly recommend my sweat spots below!
11. Patriarshiye Prudy
This is my favorite area in the entire city! While Moscow is generally a very noisy metropolis, Patriarch Ponds is far quieter, yet such a vibrant place. This is a very hip and trendy area making you think you are rather in Paris than in Moscow. Here the streets are narrow and full of chic eateries and clubs to see the local crowd.
A little bohemian and with an air of peace you won’t find anywhere in the city this is a great spot to spend an afternoon with your thoughts.
Barely 15 minutes away from the city center you’ll find the artsiest Moscow district: ArtPlay. For decades, this block was a factory, but it was renovated to become a hub for the arts not too long ago.
Now, you’ll find it’s full of exhibitions, showrooms and art schools – and some of the most creative people in town. Writers, painters, and young hip people use ArtPlay as a rendezvous, and you can feel the creative energy here. The industrial design with modern interior decoration is also a feast for the eyes!
13. Shopping Local Designs
If you’re into design, both international and local, you’ll find lots of cute things at Patriarshiye Prudy. Department store Podium Market is also a great spot for shopping, as a department store everywhere in town, with lots of local and international brands. There’s one in the Four Seasons Hotel next to Red Square. My favorite Moscow mall is Tsvetnoy Central Market, a cool spot with great brands, lots of inspo, and even a cute café!
14. Moscow City
Like many other great capitals of the world, for the past few decades, Moscow has hosted a super modern area full of modern skyscrapers – Moscow City. With a completely different vibe than the rest of town, it’s like a mini Dubai, with lots of impressively tall glass buildings. Here, you’ll find the best rooftops in towns, such as Ruski and Sixty they are perfect spots for dining or enjoying a glass of wine with a view. There are also a relatively new shopping mall with lots of international brands called Affimall!
Wine, Dine, and Party in Moscow
Gone are the gloomy Moscow days – cold as it might be in the winter, Russia’s capital is a place for the senses. Great food and drinks abound – and the clubs are hot, too!
15. Where to Eat in Moscow
Moscow is a great metropolis where people love to dine out, and there are endless options for delicious food. The flavors are as diverse as you’d expect from a big city, with options of fine dining and little hipster eateries.
- For traditional Russian flavors, I can’t recommend Café Pushkin, Dr. Zhivago, and Turnadot enough.
- When looking for international cuisines, Italian is always the way to go, and my local favorite is Probka.
- Fine dining is best done among the clouds at White Rabbit, with European flavors.
- As for the hip spots, you can spend a full day just eating around trendy places, from burgers to Asian fusion.
More Dining Options
- Patriarshiye Prudy offers a lot of small and classy spots with cool concepts, like breakfast restaurants I Love Cake and Fresh.
- For dinner, I love the NYC experience of Saxon & Parole, and the wonderful trendy Pins, with its delicious food and drinks.
- For delicious Asian food head to CutFish.
- Lastly, there’s a recent revival of food markets in Moscow, offering lots of great choices of international flavors at affordable places.
- Don’t miss out the Vietnamese food stand at the Danilovsky market, and everything at Usachevsky!
Big cities deserve to be seen from above, having a cocktail among the clouds. These are my recommendations for rooftop bars in Moscow.
- As I mentioned in the Moscow City section, Sixty & Ruski are two of my favorites, overlooking the newest part of town.
- White Rabbit and its fine dining is also a lovely place for a fun dinner looking down on Moscow.
- O2, in the city center, has an advantage above all others: amazing views of the Red Square.
- Buono, above the Radisson Royal Hotel, might be the most romantic rooftop hotel in town, with its candlelit setting.
- Also on the Radisson stands the Mercedes. It’s a luxurious and posh experience with delicious cocktails.
- The Sky Lounge offers a peculiar experience, mixing an old Soviet building with futuristic additions.
17. Moscow by Night
Party the night away! The city is full of bars everywhere, but there are some areas where you’ll find more than others.
- Patriarshiye Prudy has lots of hip and small clubs and great bars, including the super fun private club Clava, which has a great vibe and people from all walks of life.
- For more hipster style bars, Red October is the place to go.
- Streak is a summer favorite, with a lovely terrace to catch a beautiful sunset – plus, their mozzarella bar is delicious.
- At night, Red October lights up with clubs everywhere, including the cool rooftop one Gipsy.
- Jagger is also a great spot during summer with a more relaxed vibe in garden setting.
- For the traditional Russian luxury experience, go to SohoRooms, a whole other world including all-night go-go dancers.
There are so many things to do in Moscow at night and during the day, you definitely need several days to explore this exciting destination.
Moscow is a must-see city, a city like no other! I hope you will enjoy this Russian metropolis as much as I did!
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