To stand on the cobblestones of the city’s famous Red Square, between the brightly coloured domes of Saint Basil’s cathedral and the imposing grandeur of the Kremlin, is to feel the rich history of an entire nation ebb and flow beneath your feet.
Appreciating the magnitude of the transformation that Moscow has undertaken over the course of centuries, from a tiny settlement alongside the Moscow river to the largest city in Europe, is impossible from afar: to truly understand the captivating majesty of the city some call “the Third Rome,” one must experience it for themselves.
The ghosts of the past are never far from one’s mind while wandering the narrow streets of Moscow. The legacies of both the former Soviet Union and the aristocracy that preceded it are still very much present in the city. From the surprising elegance of Moscow’s metro, a testament to the once-powerful Soviet regime, to the opulent neoclassical mansions of the bygone aristocracy, Russia’s long history remains a central part of Moscow’s identity.
While it remains steeped in history, Moscow is fast becoming a cosmopolitan capital in line with many of its European peers. Far from the gloom of the post-communist era, Moscow now allows visitors to indulge in both the new and the old. Russia’s long-standing love of many classical forms of performance art has produced some of the world’s best ballet and opera. The best example of this is the Bolshoi, Moscow’s premier performance company now in its 243rd season and still going strong.
Discover the Russian capital and book a flight to Moscow now.
What is a good time to visit Moscow?
Many tourists choose to visit Moscow in late spring. Visiting in spring isn’t just a savvy decision because it allows visitors to avoid the bitter Russian winter, it also means getting to visit Moscow before Muscovites abandon the city en masse for their summer vacations. Early May, especially between May 1stand May 9th>, is a major time of celebration in Moscow: May 1st marks Spring and Labour Day, a cherished and relaxed day off for most Russians, and May 9th is Victory Day, which means plenty of fireworks and parades. Keep in mind, however, that temperatures often hover between 10 and 15 degrees until June, so travellers will want to pack warm clothes.
How do I get around?
Moscow prides itself on its world-class metro system, a sprawling network of lines that remains one of the most surprising and beautiful remnants of Soviet Russia. The fifth-longest system in the world, Moscow’s metro was once envisioned to be a testament to the strength of the Soviet government, and the stations themselves were elevated beyond mere functionality. Even for those travellers who normally avoid public transportation, the Moscow metro is a must-see: stops like Kiyevskaya or Komsomolskaya station are breath-taking. Travellers may also find that ridesharing apps like Uber or Gett offer affordable, safe and convenient options for moving around town.
How should I dress in Mowcow?
Muscovites, as a rule, dress quite formally, and typical tourist attire may make travellers stand out – which isn’t always a good thing. The best bet for visitors is to forego the trainers and caps, and to opt instead for a slightly more subdued outfit. It may be tempting to dress casually in Moscow’s summer heat – which can reach temperatures in the mid-thirties – but the right clothes will endear travellers to the locals and help them avoid unwanted opportunistic attention.
Attractions: A step into Moskow’s history
Getting a true sense of Moscow’s character means tracing its evolution through the many different eras of its history. Travel back through time to the 1980s by visiting the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines, ruminate on the reign of Ivan the Terrible with a visit to Red Square and the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral, or submit yourself to the timeless Russian tradition of a banya, or steam bath.
- Red Square
- Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines
- Sanduny Baths
- The Bolshoi Theatre
Perhaps nowhere in all of Russia is more iconic than Red Square, which is bordered by St. Basil’s Cathedral, The Kremlin and Lenin’s Mausoleum, the final resting place of Vladimir Lenin. Give yourself plenty of time to see this UNESCO World Heritage site, situated in the heart of Moscow (and perhaps of the whole country).
The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines
Featuring dozens of authentic Soviet arcade cabinets, admission to this museum provides visitors with both a tour and a paper bag of Soviet-era coins with which to play the games. A fascinating look back for both kids and nostalgic adults alike.
For an authentic (and revitalizing) Russian experience, travellers may opt for a traditional banya at Sanduny Baths. Sanduny is the oldest and most opulent steam bath in the city, and the building alone may be worth the price of admission.
The Bolshoi Theatre
For an incomparable night on the town, the Bolshoi is a must. Dress up, step out and take in a performance of Swan Lake or another of the Bolshoi’s world-class shows.
Art in Moscow
In the modern corners of Moscow’s art scene, new galleries featuring nonconformist, multimedia and contemporary art seem to pop up every few days. Whether visitors are interested in experiencing the sublime grace of the Bolshoi’s prima ballerinas or learning about the peculiar history of video games in the USSR at the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines, Moscow will surprise and delight.
Explore the unstoppable Moscow!
Moscow is sometimes described as “unstoppable” – one gets the sense that, no matter what happens, Moscow will continue to march on towards eternity unabated. It is precisely this feeling that continues to draw travellers to Moscow, and they can all tell you that there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. To feel it for yourself, book your flight to Moscow today!
And that’s just the start! See more of what you can explore in this city in our Moscow travel guide.
Eating in Moscow: More than Caviar and vodka
Russia’s national cuisine is born out of long winters and short growing seasons – root vegetables and pickled produce are common, and traditional dishes often tend toward the heavy and rich. Don’t be afraid to indulge in Russian delicacies while you visit: Russian caviar and fine vodka go so very well together.
Eating all of Russia in Moscow
From all over the Russian federation come the different tastes and traditions: you can have Siberian specialties based on reindeer, traditional Georgian cuisine, shashlik from the Caucasian areas or pilaw from Uzbekistan, it is all here to explore. The most famous Russian food is borschtsch, a soup made from red beets, potatoes, cabbage and beef, with a generous helping of sour cream. Soljanka is another stew, made from fish or meat with mushrooms, vegetables, pickled cucumber, caper and herbs. Golubtsi is a Russian stuffed cabbage with a mixture of minced meat and rice. While everyone seems to think that each meal is accompanied by vodka, the actual national drink in Russia is tea, brewed in the typical copper Samowar.
Find your perfect Moscow souvenir
Though it may not figure alongside other European capitals as a shopping destination, rest assured: Moscow has you covered, whether you’re looking for a souvenir or finery that will suit a night at the Bolshoi. GUM supermarket is one up-market example, located on the north-eastern side of Red Square. It boasts hundreds of stores, boutiques and restaurants, making it a perfect retail break after a day spent taking in Russia’s long history. You can prolong the luxury shopping in TSUM, a gigantic shopping mall built in 1908, the biggest fashion shop in Eastern Europe. The Petrowskij Passages near the Bolschoj Theater is rumoured to be the most expensive shopping area of Moscow, the Twerskaja Uliza is the most expensive and most exclusive shopping streets.
For more information about restaurants in Moskow see our guide.