Thanks to a strong sense of heritage, the capital of Russia has managed to maintain its unique Slavic charms undiluted. From Red Square's over-the-top splendour to quiet side streets filled with ancient churches, Moscow is waiting to be discovered.
The geographical, political and cultural heart of the city is Red Square
, a sprawling cobblestoned area that is always busy with sightseers and locals alike.
To the south of Red Square, towards the Moscow River, you can explore what's left of the Kitai-Gorod district
's ancient city walls. Also in this area are splendid aristocratic mansions, such as the Palace of the Romanov Boyars
, dating from the 16th century.
Afterwards, it's worth strolling down Moscow's main commercial arteries – Tverskaya
and Arbat Street
–to get a feel for the city's true hustle and bustle. South of the river is the up-and-coming Zamoskvorechye district
, a magnet for local hipsters.
Top attractions in Moscow
Any trip to Moscow begins with a visit to Red Square
. Standing in the middle of this vast space affords you an iconic view of the colourful onion domes of Saint Basil's Cathedral
, Lenin's Mausoleum and the imposing red walls of the Kremlin
(Main Universal Store), an elegant shopping mall with a curved glass roof, is also a feature of Red Square.
You can then head further west and lose yourself in the grandeur of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior
and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts
. Arbat Street
, Moscow's oldest thoroughfare, is
full of buskers, painters and souvenir shops.
If it's not freezing cold in the winter months, you can check out the grounds of Moscow's well-preserved tsarist estates, such as Kolomenskoyeor Tsaritsyno.
The concierge recommends…
- Wandering up Neglinnaya Street where you will see some of the city's most beautiful 19th-century architecture. Here you can also visit the Sanduny Baths, for Moscow's most venerable banya experience.
- A trip to the top of the Ostankino Tower, a television tower with daily tours to the upper platform, 540 metres above the ground.
- Visiting the observation deck at Sparrow Hills to get a sky-high view of Moscow.
- Enjoying one of the world's greatest ballet companies at the Bolshoi Theatre.
Hotels in MoscowIt's possible to find hotels for every budget and travel style in Moscow – whether you wish to be right in the thick of the action, tucked into a hipster enclave south of the river or close to the major convention centres.
Families and casual visitors will enjoy staying near the city centre. Moscow's walkability and excellent metro system make all the major points of interest easily accessible. The area around Tverskaya and Neglinnaya Street is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring Red Square and the Kremlin.
Business travellers might prefer to be near Moscow's major convention centres. Most of these are 15 to 20 minutes from the centre, but close to metro stations and within easy walking distance of dining and shopping opportunities.
Eating Out in MoscowMoscow's food scene has evolved considerably in the last few years thanks to a greater foreign influence and the huge influx of high-quality cuisine from the former Soviet republics.
To find out what Russian food is all about, the decadent blini at Café Pushkin and the borscht soup at Central House of Writers are the perfect introductory courses. For a taste of Georgian food, the best place to go is Arbat Street's Genatsvale, which looks like a miniature Georgian village both inside and out.
Some of Moscow's trendiest restaurants and cafés are located in Patriarch's Pond, a residential area northwest of Red Square. Brownie Café offers brunch and dessert options, while Mari Vanna concocts an elevated take on traditional Russian food in cosy surroundings. The apex of cool is the Red October complex, a former chocolate factory that houses the painfully hip Strelka Bar.
The chef recommends...
- Borscht: Although it's actually a Ukrainian dish, this beet-based soup has been firmly co-opted by the Russians.
- Blini: Russia's answer to crêpes, blini are even more buttery than their delicate French counterparts. Enjoy them with sour cream, jam or caviar.
- Pelmeni: The classic Russian dumpling is filled with ground meat and served with butter or sour cream.
Shopping in MoscowDue to incredibly high import taxes, shopping in Moscow is not for the faint of heart – or the light of wallet. However, street vendors will happily haggle over the price of popular souvenirs such as nesting dolls or handwoven scarves.
For a taste of how Moscow's elite lives, head to GUM and TsUM. Beware: at either of these department stores, you may suddenly find yourself surrounded by private security guards and women dripping with jewels.
Okhotny Ryad is a sprawling, four-storey underground shopping centre next to Red Square. It offers a more accessible shopping experience, as do the international and Russian stores along Tverskaya Street.
Top Souvenir Markets in Moscow
- Izmailovo Market is a sprawling mass of booths filled with everything a visitor could want. Here you'll find from matryoshki (nesting dolls) to fur hats, from scarves to chess sets and more.
- The souvenir shops that line pedestrianised Arbat Street all offer almost identical wares. However, most have sales at some point, so it's worth walking around and comparing prices if you're looking for something in particular.
- Sparrow Hills combines a simple souvenir market with some of the best panoramic views of the city from the observation deck.
Culture & Nightlife in MoscowFrom relaxed bars to massive clubs where techno beats never die, Moscow's night scene has something for everyone. For the more culturally minded, Russia draws upon thousands of years of unique heritage to present some of the world's best ballet troupes and museums, plus year-round music.
The Bolshoi Theatre offers an unforgettable ballet experience. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the Tretyakov Gallery showcase priceless art from around the globe; Van Gogh and Rembrandt mingle with Shishkin and Repin in their halls.
Tip: Every May, the city arranges a Museum Night, when all museums offer free admission.
Ready to dance the night away? Kitai-Gorod boasts a hopping club scene. Visit perennial expat favourites Propaganda and Che, or the delightfully raucous Dorogaya Ya Perezvonyu (“Darling, I'll Call You Back”). For a more relaxed evening, you can enjoy a drink in the rooftop bars Skylounge or Sixty, which offer unparalleled views of Moscow from above.
Best Russian Art Museums in Moscow
- The Armoury Chamber, one of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, fills nine large halls with the opulent finery of tsarist Russia.
- The Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art, in a former wine factory, is worth a visit for the constantly changing installations by Russian artists working in all media.
- The Museum of Russian Icons, east of the centre, houses a collection of masterfully painted religious icons.
Visiting Moscow with a FamilyRussian culture is extremely family-friendly, and Moscow is the perfect place for adults and children to explore together. From well-tended parks to hands-on museums, the city is sure to delight visitors of all ages.
Tip: Children under seven are not required to pay for tickets on public transport.
The area around Metro Barrikadnaya is the starting point for a family adventure. Moscow Zoo, which puts on an hourly dolphin show, is just a few steps from the metro station. Around the corner is Moscow Planetarium, with plenty of interactive exhibits.
If the weather is nice, you can join the locals at Gorky Park. Formerly filled with rusting amusement park rides, thisis now a modern, comfortable green space with tennis courts, bike rentals and playgrounds that will keep the entire family occupied.
In the summer, the placid waters of the Moscow River at Serebryany Bor are ideal for swimming. You can bring a picnic or have lunch at one of the open-air restaurants along the banks.
Family-friendly activities in Moscow
Known in English as the All-Russian Exhibition Centre, VDNHoffers go-karting, bike rentals, outside dining, paddle boats and even a Ferris wheel – if you dare.
- Leafy cycle paths criss-cross expansive Sokolniki Park. Plenty of family-friendly restaurants are dotted around the grounds.
- Located 20 minutes north of the centre by metro, the Moscow Botanical Garden gives visitors a chance to feel like they've escaped the city without ever leaving.