Call me biased, but Moscow is one of my favorite cities in the world. Yes, I was born in Moscow, but I assure you that’s not the reason why I love it so much. Well, it’s not the only reason. One of the world’s largest cities, Moscow is an amazing place that’s rich in history, culture, and mystery. In short, if Moscow isn’t on your “travel radar” yet, it should be!
Planning your trip to Moscow? You may find yourself overwhelmed by all the places to see and things to do here, but don’t worry! To make sure you get the most out of your trip, I’ve compiled a list of the top five sights you must see when visiting Moscow, Russia. Let’s explore!
Moscow Must-See Sight #1: The Red Square
I hate reading books about history; I find it boring and I don’t have the attention span for it. Instead, I consider myself a traveling history nerd: I prefer to physically see, feel, and experience history. I want to imagine myself being transported back in time. That’s why I love The Red Square.
The most famous part of Moscow, this World Heritage Site should be the first stop on your itinerary. When walking through the Red Square, it’s hard not to imagine yourself living in the Soviet era. You can feel the history. So if you’re a history buff like me, you’re in for a real treat! There’s so much to see and do that you may need a second day to get through it all. Some of my favorite places to visit in the Red Square are:
St. Basil’s Cathedral The Kremlin The State History Museum Lenin’s Mausoleum
Even if you’re not one for history, there’s still plenty to see here.The Red Square is in the heart of Moscow and is surrounded by such picturesque buildings such as the Ritz Carlton Hotel, the Hotel National, and the GUM department store (more on this later), as well as the beautiful Moscow River. It’s a wonderful experience to simply walk around and admire the unique architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens. Don’t miss out on the changing of the guards that takes place every hour in front of the Tomb of the Fallen Soldier.
Looking to relax? Grab a seat at the Bosco Café and spend the afternoon eating Russian Blinis, drinking wine [or Vodka], and watching locals and tourists admiring the impressively beautiful Russian monuments.
Moscow Must-See Sight #2: GUM Department Store
After getting a taste of Russian history, it’s time to head over to GUM for some serious retail therapy (yippy!). If you’re looking to shop—and by shop, I mean drop a pretty penny on Hermes belts, Valentino shoes, or a floor-length fur—you’ve come to the right place. This prestigious shopping center houses some of the most well-known designers from all over the world. Hermes? Check. Chanel? Check. Posh grocery store selling black caviar? Double check.
With row after row of designer boutiques all housed under an impressive glass roof, GUM is a shopper’s paradise. Seriously, I could spend days in here! The pre-revolutionary architecture is also absolutely stunning, so don’t forget your camera! Not only is GUM gorgeous both inside and out, it has an intriguing history that few can rival. (Did you know it was an office space for Stalin in 1928?)
On a side note, make sure to grab yourself an ice cream cone while walking through the GUM department store. The ice cream here may be simple with traditional flavors, but it’s really good. In my honest opinion, the vanilla ice cream alone is worth the trip to GUM!
Moscow Must-See Sight #3: Bolshoi Theatre
The great thing about the historical part of Moscow is that most of the sights worth seeing are within walking distance of each other. From the Red Square, you can walk to the famous Bolshoi Theatre. If you’re into the performing arts (or even if you’re not), I recommend getting tickets to one of their shows while you’re in town. The Bolshoi Ballet and Opera Theatre is among the oldest and most prominent ballet and opera companies in the world. I myself am not one for ballet (I fell asleep during The Nutcracker), but there is something magical about watching a Russian ballet in one of the most famous buildings in Moscow City. Ballet shows tend to sell out in advance, though, so make sure to purchase your tickets early!
Moscow Must-See Sight #4: Subway Stations
Subway stations? Really? Yes, you read that right. Believe it or not, Moscow is known for its elaborate museum-like subway stations. The subway in Moscow is nothing—and I mean literally nothing—like what you’d find in New York City or even Paris. After locating the station entrance (indicated by a red M), you descend into what looks like an underground palace, with bronze statues, white marble walls, stained glass, and gorgeous murals depicting Moscow’s history. There’s a reason Moscow offers daily subway station tours!
It’s odd to think of a subway station as a museum, but once you visit, you’ll understand what all the hype is about. Even if you decide not to ride the trains—though I highly recommend you do—you should definitely check out at least one of the stations.
My favorite stations are:
Ploshchad Revolyutsii – Make sure to touch the bronze dog’s nose for good luck!
Not only are the Moscow subway stations gorgeous, they’re immaculate and extremely safe. No graffiti, no homeless, not a spec of garbage on the floors. It’s pretty impressive, if you ask me, especially if you’re used to riding the subway in the US.
I recommend using the subway as your primary form of transportation for its convenience. Moscow traffic is horrendous, so the subway will get you from Point A to Point B much quicker than a taxi. One of the biggest complaints from tourists used to be the difficulty in navigating the stations because everything was written in Russian. However, the city has recently updated all its signs to include English, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost in the Moscow underground.
As a bonus, taking the subway will also give you a chance to experience a bit of everyday Moscow life. I love taking the subway and watching all the hustle and bustle: businessmen hurrying to work, children riding with their moms, teenagers hanging out, couples embracing each other while waiting for the next train. It’s an exciting world underneath the streets of Moscow!
Moscow Must-See Sight #5: Gorky Park
Did you know that Moscow is considered a green city, with 40 percent of its territory covered by greenery? There are close to 100 different city parks and countless gardens and wooded areas. Sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re in a metropolis!
After walking around the hectic city center, you’ll no doubt want some peace and quiet, and Gorky Park is just the place to find it. Gorky Park is one of the biggest and most well-known parks in Moscow. It’s located along the Moscow River and can easily be reached by subway (Kultury Station).
This beautiful park is enormous! The main area of Gorky Park is geared towards families, with a large ice-skating rink in the winter, rides for children in the summer, cafés, bike rentals, and tickets for a Moscow River cruise. It gets a little crowded here, but it’s still a lot of fun and definitely worth visiting.
If you follow a path down the river, you’ll head away from the crowds and towards the lower part of Gorky Park. This is my favorite part of the park because it’s quiet and more secluded. You can walk down the riverbank and enjoy lovely views of nature in gardens and ponds. During the summer, you can also relax in lounge chairs and even take a dip in the river. And don’t worry about pollution; despite running right through the city, Moscow River is perfectly clean.
Gorky Park is also an excellent place to visit for a little exercise: you can rent bikes, scooters, and roller blades, or even just take a quiet stroll along the riverbank, taking in the scenery and seeing how Muscovites spend their days off.
[Added Bonus: If you get a chance, I recommend walking by the Christ the Savior’s Cathedral, a beautiful and well known church in Moscow. It was originally knocked down by Stalin and replaced with a swimming pool. It was later rebuilt in 1995.]
I hope you enjoyed reading about the must-see sights in Moscow! It truly is a fascinating place, and if you were on the fence before, I hope I’ve convinced you to visit this amazing city yourself!