Best things to do in Moscow
Find out more about those top places in Moscow
Moscow is Russia’s gritty and gargantuan capital where medieval and modern history collides. While the city today is capitalism on steroids, the legacy of the Soviet Union remains on full display. Undoubtedly Moscow’s main draws are focused on the iconic Red Square with the imposing red-walled medieval Kremlin, the dazzling onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s mausoleum all located nearby. What is more, the city’s metro system is the world’s most spectacular, with frescoes and mosaics detailing the triumph of the proletariat. Despite these world-class attractions, Moscow is in many ways a hidden gem, as Russia’s challenging visa process makes straying beyond St. Petersburg that bit more challenging. However, Russia’s captivating capital is undoubtedly worth the extra trouble.
For around 1000 years a procession of autocratic tsars, communist dictators, modern day presidents and Orthodox patriarchs have held sway over Russia from the Kremlin. As the political and spiritual heart of the country, it is no surprise that this fortified hilltop is packed with world-class attractions. For the best experience, guides take visitors on fascinating tours encompassing the iconic red walls, the Senate Palace, residence of the Russian president, and the complex’s plethora of cathedrals and historic monuments.
Bounded by the colorful domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, the monumental walls of the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the twin spires of the Historical Museum, Red Square is the focal point of any trip to Moscow. The square has been the epicenter of Russian history for centuries and any visit will conjure evocative images of Tsarists coronations and Soviet May Day parades.
Standing beneath Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral is a blindingly gaudy profusion of onion domes, spires and crucifixes. Built by Ivan the Terrible to celebrate the 16th century capture of the Tatar stronghold of Kazan, the cathedral actually contains nine individual chapels. Today, the cathedral also houses a museum and has become the de facto symbol of the Russian nation.
The Bolshoi Theater has been Russia’s premier venue for ballet and opera since it opened over 240 years ago. With a dazzling auditorium comprised of six tiers and capped by a monumental glistening chandelier, it is also one of the world’s most jaw dropping impressive theaters. Fortunately the performances match the exquisite interiors with a host of Russian and foreign works put on throughout the year.
Sitting beneath the Kremlin walls is the monumental mausoleum of the instigator of the Bolshevik Revolution and the first leader of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin. After trooping past his embalmed body alongside the daily stream of ordinary Russians paying their respects, make sure to explore the neighboring Kremlin Wall graveyard where other notable communists are buried, including Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev.
Few cities can boast a metro system as impressive as Moscow’s. With glistening chandeliers, mosaics and reliefs detailing the triumph of the proletariat and marble clad stations, the metro is an attraction on its own and is well worth a guided tour.
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts is the largest art museum in Moscow with a collection that ranges from Ancient Egypt to the Italian Renaissance and the masters of modern art, including Picasso. With over 700000 items the museum can seem overwhelming but private guided tours are on offer to help visitors navigate the sprawling collection.
Located deep beneath the streets of Moscow lies Bunker 42 – a former Cold War communications center that has been transformed into a fascinating museum where visitors can relive the nuclear paranoia of the age. To explore the vast bunker beyond the modest museum, visitors are recommended to book a guided tour of the subterranean facilities.