…so far 😉 Moscow is a city like no other that I’ve experienced so far. The people and culture are certainly unique and there are sights to see and places to explore around every corner. I still have a bit of time left here so there may be some add-ons later, but I’ve already been to so many great places and enjoyed most of the main sights to give you my Meg’s Top 10 in the Russian capital.
Slot number 10 goes to the Kremlin. Now, this may seem quite low for the fact that it’s arguably the most famous sight in Moscow. However, I would personally say that a visit to the Kremlin is slightly overrated. It’s one of those things that you definitely should do, especially if you live in Moscow for a while but it’s not something that’s going to really impress you. The buildings are quite pretty and the white and gold is beautiful. Go in as many of the buildings as you can or as are included in your museum ticket and read the information leaflets near the entrances. There’s not really too much to see however, the garden area is pretty but quite small and the buildings are very impressive. Try and get to the ticket office which is located by the Alexandrovsky garden outside the Red Square before 3pm so that you can have the option of taking a (potentially free) audio guide with you. After three the ticket office no longer hands these out and a lot of the information isn’t on signposts in English. So, in short, maybe visit the Kremlin to cross it off your bucket list but don’t plan your entire day and/or trip around the visit.
9. Bibliotheka imeni Lenina (Russian State Library)
The Russian State Library, known as the Bibliotheka imeni Lenina is the biggest library in Europe and is designed beautifully inside and out. As a student in Moscow, I was able to get a card for free that is valid for about 10 years. If you’re not a student, the information counters at the ticket center can explain various ways for you to enter. In most cases you can simply purchase a ticket but sometimes you can get one for free, so it’s worth checking. The outside of the building is very impressive, and the inside is beautifully decorated with chandeliers and various busts of Lenin. It’s a great place to do some research or study. One quite strange rule for a library bur one certainly worth knowing is that you can’t take any books into the library. Be sure to check the content of your bag before you go in.
8. Izmailovsky Market
Next up is the Izmailovsky Market. This market has the perfect combination of being a sight-seeing opportunity and touristy shopping. After having been to the real Kremlin, you’ll see the Izmailovsky Market’s façade for what it is and that is a cheesy impersonation of a Kremlin marketplace. The market has a really interesting combination of a weird and kitschy feeling yet very authentic and traditional. The vendors are mainly older Russians not directly from the Moscow city area and a lot of the items on sale can seem quite strange at first sight. There’s usually a large variety of Matryoshkas, old busts of Lenin and other Soviet artifacts alongside various other items like jewelry, souvenir t-shirts etc… The best time to visit the market is Saturday morning so that you can experience all the hustle and bustle and be sure that most of the stalls will be open. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is eating food there, so maybe eat before or after your visit. In short, this is a great place to buy gifts whilst also having an experience yourself.
7. Moscow City
As mentioned in my previous post, Moscow city is the high-rise/skyline area of Moscow. There aren’t any particularly cultural sights to see here but there are more than enough things to do. It’s definitely worth trying out a rooftop bar and/or restaurant. This sounds like it would be a lot more expensive than it is. In comparison to what you’d usually pay in most European cities for this kind of service and quality of food and drinks the restaurants here are very reasonably priced. It’s also a great place to visit if you want to go to the cinema or bowling or do some shopping.
6. Bolshoi Theatre
I haven’t actually been to a show in the Bolshoi Theatre yet but it’s certainly on my Moscow bucket list (which I would certainly recommend making but that’s a topic for another article). Even the outside of the building is already stunning. The plan for the moment is to see the Nutcracker ballet around Christmas time. This won’t be the cheapest experience but certainly one that’s worth the money and I’ll send updates on Instagram and in a future article. There are almost always shows on in the various halls. Depending on what you’d like to experience you should make sure you see a show in the correct hall and in the appropriate price category.
5. Victory Park (Park Pobedy)
One of the many beautiful parks in Moscow is the Victory Park, also known as Park Pobey. There are a lot of beautiful monuments to see and some very interesting statues to look at as well. The park is dedicated to the victories that Russia has had in various wars. Across the road from the main park area is Moscow’s victory arch and a pathway aligned with plaques dedicated to some of the important successful battles in Russian history. It’s really interesting to get an impression of how the Russians perceive and memorialize certain events in battles and wars in comparison to what and how we’re taught about things in European countries. Whilst reading through the things on the plaques or in the museums that are on sight, try to keep that in mind.
4. MSU Main Building
There are seven buildings in Moscow that were built in the Stalinist style that are known as the Seven Sisters. At the time of their construction, they were the tallest buildings in Moscow. To be specific, the Moscow State University’s main building was the tallest building in Europe until 1990. The MSU’s main building is a very impressive sight. You can only enter if you have a valid MSU student ID but to be honest, the outside is quite a bit more impressive. The inside is nice and also has some beautiful aspects but the architecture on the outside is much more wonderful. You get the best views and photos from the park in front of the building.
3. Red Square
The first of my top 3 is the very famous Red Square located in the middle of Moscow. The Red Square is adjacent to the Kremlin and a must see when visiting Moscow. A fun fact about the Red Square is that the name originally didn’t come from any Soviet traditions but stems from a development of word. The square was originally called “the beautiful square” but the old Russian word for beautiful now means red and that’s how the term “Red Square” came to be. It’s a stunning city centre surrounded by some of the most popular locations in Moscow including the GUM shopping centre, the St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin and the Arbat streets that are full of sparkling lights, shops and cafés.
The VDNKh is the most beautiful park in Moscow. It’s full of interesting buildings and statues and the decorations are stunning. It’s really cool to look a little closer at the decorative elements and see so many of the remaining Soviet points and statues. At the moment, they’re even building a huge ice-skating rink in the middle of the park and this will be the biggest ice rink in Europe when it’s finished this winter. It is technically an exhibition park that is mainly dedicated to economic achievements. There are pavilions dedicated to most of the former USSR nations, beautiful fountains and even the cosmonaut museum. All of the architecture is amazing and it’s a great place to visit for a bit of a walk during the day and to learn a bit about Russian history.
1. St. Basil’s Cathedral
St. Basil’s Cathedral is the monument of Moscow – and for good reasons. It’s an absolutely breathtaking sight and a magnificent building. You can stare at it for ages and keep seeing new elements and colours. The St. Basil’s Cathedral is an orthodox church located on the Red Square and is actually officially called the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat. The cathedral has nine domes and contains a total of ten chapels. The decorations, ornaments and wall paintings on the inside are stunning and very typical for Russian orthodox churches. There are various pricing options so be sure to check which one suits you best at the ticket office.
These are my top 10 sights in Moscow so far but there is even more to discover in Russia’s beautiful capital including Gorky Park, various museum and the planetarium. I still have a month or so more to go in Moscow, so perhaps some items on the list may change but for now, this is definitely a top 10 list you can base a bit of your Moscow trip planning on.
If you’re interested in more destinations, packing tips or more advice about Russia, check out some of the other articles and stay tuned for more! In case your questions aren’t answered here, or you have any comments or personal experiences you’d like to share, don’t be afraid to get in touch, comment and let me know.
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