Inhabited by around 13 million people, Moscow is a treasure trove of architecture, history and art. The Russian capital is famous for its iconic buildings, world-class ballet, excellent shopping, financial institutions, soviet past and the Kremlin. It can be tough deciding where to begin when visiting the sprawling city; this Finnair travel guide to Moscow will help!
Sights in Moscow
At the heart of Moscow lies what is perhaps the most famous square in the world: Red Square. Here you can find Saint Basil's Cathedral, known for its colourful onion-shaped domes, and Lenin’s Mausoleum. Surrounded by a high wall, the Kremlin is like a small city within the city; Russia’s administrative centre is full of beautiful cathedrals, museums and palaces, making it a very interesting place to visit. Visit the Bolshoi Theatre to see world-famous ballet performances, or the Tretyakov State Gallery or the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts to marvel at fabulous collections of Russian art. The Obraztsov Puppet Theatre and circuses offer more great ways to enjoy the performed arts. If you feel like spending a warm summer day outside, take a riverboat to Gorky Park. Park Sokolniki and the Japanese Garden are other peaceful places to enjoy being outdoors. Alternatively, you could take a stroll around Novodevichy Convent and the adjacent cemetery, which is the final resting place of many famous Russians. The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines is one of the city’s quirkiest museums, where you can play on old gaming consoles from the USSR period. Experience the Moscow of old with a stroll along Old Arbat Street or a visit to the old imperial estate of Kolomenskoye, and enjoy sweeping city views from the top of Ostankino Tower. Refresh and rejuvenate with a visit to a traditional Russian bathhouse, known locally as a banya, before heading out to dine in one of the city’s diverse restaurants and enjoying a few drinks in a bar or club.
Things to See and Do Near Moscow
- Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery – Situated about an hour outside of the city, this is an attractive monastery with a long history connected to the imperial family.
- Dmitrov – This town has a number of interesting old buildings, but a highlight is taking a hot air balloon ride and admiring the scenes from above.
- Krasnogorsk – This small city is home to Arkhangelskoye, one of the Moscow area’s prettiest estates. The 17th-century home now contains a museum and the extensive grounds are impressive.
Shopping in Moscow
A world-class destination for shopping, you can buy almost anything that you desire in the Russian capital. From huge department stores and expensive designer fashions to markets that sell good (or, sometimes, not so good) fakes, and everything in between, Moscow’s shopping scene is sure to delight.
- Tverskaya Street – One of the trendiest streets in Moscow, home to several exclusive boutiques that sell the most luxurious fashions.
- GUM - This legendary luxury shopping mall on Red Square is worth visiting, even if only for some window shopping and browsing.
- Izmaylovsky Market – A huge market, this is one of the best places in the city to find an extensive assortment of gifts and souvenirs. You’ll find the traditional Russian dolls, jewellery boxes, fur hats, badges, pottery, art, ornaments and much more.
- Aviapark – One of the biggest shopping centres in Europe, featuring more than 500 stores selling well-known international brands. There’s also a supermarket in the complex.
- Okhotny Ryad – Head underground and you’ll find many stores here selling international goods at reasonable prices.
- Tsvetnoy Central Market – In addition to high-street brands and luxury names, you’ll find the biggest farmers market in Moscow and a selection of unique pop-up stores here.
- Petrovsky Passage – This is one of the most elite department stores in Moscow.
- Gorbushka Electronics Market – A crowded and busy market that specialises in electronics, music, DVDs, cameras, computer software and similar. Vendors sell a mixture of genuine and pirated goods; always check the authenticity before making a purchase to avoid unpleasant surprises later on. Prices are generally very reasonable though, even for genuine goods.
Food and Drink
- Blini – A type of thin pancake that can be enjoyed sweet or savoury; sweet versions are typically made from white flour, while savoury versions are usually made from buckwheat flour. Fillings include caviar, jam, smoked salmon, cheese and condensed milk ... though, obviously, not all together!
- Beef Stroganov – Although fairly simple, made from thin slices of beef sautéed in a sour cream, butter and white wine sauce, this is a popular dish across Russia. It can be eaten alone, or with noodles or rice for a more filling meal.
- Shashlik – A common street food around Moscow, these grilled skewers of meat or fish, served with flatbread, make for a quick lunch on the go.
- Zharkoye – This hearty stew generally contains beef, potatoes, carrots, celery, parsley and garlic, though several recipe variations exist. A thick dollop of sour cream is usually spooned on top before eating.
- Pelmeni – Small dumplings which can be boiled or served in a watery broth. Fillings are diverse, including things like salmon, lamb, beef, pork and mushrooms with a variety of herbs for extra flavour.
- Olivier salad – Now known around the world, Russia’s traditional salad contains boiled potatoes, bologna, boiled eggs, pickles and carrots with plenty of creamy mayonnaise.
- Vodka – The drink most associated with Russia, there are many varieties to choose between, including those that have added flavours. Do note that Russians typically drink their vodka neat and do not add a mixer.
Transport in Moscow
Moscow is a huge and spread-out city. Most visitors will need to use public transport to move between places of interest outside of the central area, as the distances are often simply too far to walk. Luckily, public transportation in Moscow is good and connects almost all parts of the city and its surroundings. Integrated ticketing systems are in place for the metro, buses and trolley buses.
- By foot – Walking is the best way to explore the central part of the city. Moscow has a number of pedestrian-only areas, including Nikolskaya Street, Old Arbat Street, Pyatnitskaya Street, Stoleshnikov Lane and Krymskaya Embankment. In other areas, like Leninsky Prospekt, there are wide footpaths, keeping pedestrians at a safe distance from vehicles. Moscow also has the longest pedestrian area in Europe, running between Kiyevskaya Railway Station and Gagarin Square.
- By bicycle – There are many bicycle stations around the city, operating a huge bike-sharing scheme. Registration is by mobile application or via the website, and you can return bikes to different stations than where you borrowed them from. As an incentive to make people cycle more, especially for shorter distances, the first 30 minutes of use is free.
- Metro – Moscow’s metro system is extensive, clean and reliable. It offers an affordable and easy way to cover longer distances within the city. Additionally, many metro stations are architectural and artistic beauties in their own right. Buy a ticket from a booth at any station and load it with credit before taking a journey. The metro runs from 5.30am until 1.00am. If you have a Russian mobile telephone number, you can access free Wi-Fi while on the metro.
- Buses and trolleybuses – Buses and trolleybuses serve almost every major road in the city. Although they are often delayed, services are frequent throughout the day. There are limited night services. Hop-on hop-off tourist buses offer a convenient way to move between major places of interest and learn more about the city in the process. Day passes are available and there are several routes to choose between.
- Minibuses – Known locally as marshrutka, these shared vehicles operate on fixed routes around the city, often following similar routes to the larger buses. It is necessary to pay using a pre-bought ticket for some routes, whereas on other routes you can pay the driver.
- Trains – Commuter trains, known as elektrichkas, connect the suburbs and wider city areas.
- Trams – Although not a common way to travel around Moscow, the city does have a few tram lines; many people opt to use the metro instead, though.
- Monorail – Although small and fairly slow, with just six stations, the monorail in Moscow is a pleasant way to admire the views as you travel to Ostankino Tower.
- Boats – Although not the most practical means of transportation for tourists, the several boat routes do provide great views of Moscow.
- Taxis – Several taxi companies operate in Moscow, though visitors should be wary of unofficial taxis. Meters can be rigged to display a grossly inflated price; it is advisable to negotiate a fixed price before starting a journey when taking a taxi on the streets. Alternatively, order a taxi by telephone or mobile app to be sure of an official service.
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