(UPDATE: October 2019)
As a Russian who has lived in Moscow for many years, I have finally decided to write a blog post about it – incredible! 🙂
The list below is for people who have the time and/or the desire to see some attractions in Moscow.
If you are traveling to Russia in the near future, just scroll down the list of 18 sights below and you will find recommendations for pubs, visa info, average prices for things and many practical tips.
For those who have some time to discover the capital of Moscow – great, you will certainly have some fun!
I know the list is long and you probably won’t have the time to see everything. But that’s ok, you should scroll down the list and just choose what you like the most. Make sure to book IN ADVANCE, as things can get crowded during the high season.
- 1. Red Square
- 2. Kremlin
- 3. Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
- 4. Zaryadye Park
- 5. Bolshoi theatre
- 6. Gorky Park
- 7. Sparrow Hills and MSU
- 8. Moscow metro
- 9. Tretyakovskaya gallery
- 10. VDNKh
- 11. Moscow River cruise
- 12. Old Arbat and New Arbat streets
- 13. Moskva City skyscrapers
- 14. Izmailovo Kremlin
- 15. Patriarshiye Ponds
- 16. Kolomenskoye Estate
- 17. Ostankinskaya TV tower
- 18. Tsaritsyno Museum reserve
- Unusual things to do in Moscow
- Where to eat in Moscow and what to try
- The best night clubs in Moscow
- Where to stay in Moscow
- Useful things to know before your trip to Moscow – visa, prices etc.
1. Red Square
Red Square is the heart and soul of Russia! The most famous landmark of Moscow and the whole country, it is an absolute must do!
The square is always full of people and has a special festive atmosphere! If you get lost, you can always ask locals for directions – “Krasnya ploshad”.
Here are the must see places inside the square:
Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Admire Saint Basil’s Cathedral (the famous church with the colorful onion domes), and take a full circle around it as it is beautiful from all sides of the square. The cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century and the legend says that the eyes of the architect were cut out after he built this cathedral.
Why? So that he could not build one more beautiful than this cathedral, duh!
Oh, the barbaric traditions back in time… He was called Ivan the Terrible for a reason, right?
You can enter the church, the price is 350 rub, but it is not that spectacular inside.
Check out the stunning building on the left of the church, it is GUM – the main department store of the country and the most beautiful one, too! Nowadays, they do an AMAZING job decorating the place and I am sure it will also look fantastic during your visit! Go inside to check it out!
This place serves as the resting place of the leader of the communist movement, Vladimir Lenin. Preserving the body with different reagents is a high secret.
It’s really bizarre, if you ask me, to display a mummy of a person in the heart of the city but it has been there for almost a century. But hey, you can visit it!
Visiting the Mausoleum is free of charge but it’s only open on Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday from 10:00 to 13:00; more details on it here. Keep in mind that no photos and even no loud talking is allowed inside the Mausoleum. The entrance is from the Aleksandrovskiy Garden side.
There is an Eternal Flame in honor of an unknown soldier on the left side of Red Square right after the exit. Changing of the guards is worth seeing, it happens every hour.
TIP: You can take a Free Walking tour to get to know about all of the above attractions with an English-speaking guide.
If you would like a private guide, here is an inexpensive option.
The Kremlin is the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation. You can see it from the outside – the red walls that surround the Red Square – or you can take an excursion to one of the museums located inside.
Read more about the Kremlin and the museums inside it in the next paragraph.
Metro: “Okhotny Ryad”, “Teatral’naya”, “Ploshad’ Revolutsii”.
Keep in mind that you cannot go inside the Kremlin walls unless you are visiting a museum or you are part of a tourist group.
There are a couple of museums you can visit inside:
Kremlin Armoury (Оружейная палата) houses the famous Faberge eggs collection. It also holds houses unique collections of weapons, jewelry and various household articles of the tsars.
ATTENTION: Entrance is only granted at designated times. You can buy tickets online in advance for a specific time or get one at the ticket office. The queues are very long so I suggest you buy tickets in advance online!
The museum is open daily except Thursdays. The available time slots are 10, 12, 14:30, or 16:30. The ticket is 1000 RUB, visitors under 16 years old go free of charge (but you will need to stand in the queue to get it. I know, it is silly). Get an audio guide too!
P.S. If you would like to take a private guided tour with all the tickets included in the price, here’s a great option.
You will see four cathedrals inside the Kremlin as well as ongoing exhibitions and the museums’ permanent expositions. The price is 700 RUB and the procedure is the same – you can buy it at the ticket office, but the line will be long, so I recommend taking care of it in advance online.
The Great Bell Tower of Ivan the Terrible
You will hear about the history and architecture of the bell tower and the Kremlin, see the authentic fragments of the white stone decor of the ancient Kremlin buildings, and admire the beautiful views of the Kremlin and the surrounding area.
Sessions to visit start at 10:15, 11:15, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 17:00. The tour is 45 minutes long.
The price is 350 RUB and you can buy the tickets only in the ticket booth 45 minutes before the tour.
If you would like to visit the Kremlin and the surroundings with a guide and don’t want to figure out ticketing options, get this tour, where everything is already included in the price.
ATTENTION: Kids under 14 years old are not permitted to enter.
Metro: “Okhotny Ryad”, “Teatral’naya”, “Ploshad’ Revolutsii”.
3. Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
The cathedral is located just a few hundred meters away from the Kremlin. It is the largest Orthodox church in the world and the most important church in the country (hint – not the colorful one that is located in Red Square!).
Christ the Saviour is not as old as you might think. The original cathedral was demolished by Stalin’s order in 1931 and the new one was only rebuilt recently – in 2000. Even though it is not that old, it looks magnificent nevertheless.
Only Russians could destroy a magnificent church during communism and then build the tallest (Orthodox) church in the world in its place after the collapse of the regime.
The church is also known for the infamous Pussy Riot protest against Putin back in 2012.
The entrance is free.
4. Zaryadye Park
Zaryadye is a newly opened, landscaped urban park. It is so new you will not find it in the tour guides of 6 months ago. The park is also located in proximity to Red Square in a large area of 78,000 m2.
The entire territory of the park is divided into four climatic zones: forest, steppe, tundra, and floodplains, which is supposed to depict the variety of climate zones in Russia.
Enjoy breathtaking views to the Moscow Kremlin from the floating bridge, visit the Ice Cave, get in a 4D attraction called “Flight over Russia” and try some local food from the different regions of Russia!
5. Bolshoi theatre
Bolshoi Theatre (translated as The Big Theatre in Russian) is an iconic building that hosts both ballet and opera performances.
The standards of Russian ballet are known as one of the highest in the world!
It is worth paying a visit to the theatre even if you are not a big fan of the performances – you are guaranteed to be fascinated by the neo-classical building from the inside!
TIP: If you go to an opera performance, check if they have English subtitles in advance on the website.
It’s quite hard to get an inexpensive ticket. If you are reading this article 3-4 months before going to Moscow, try buying the tickets on the official web site.
If you buy tickets last minute, the minimum price most likely will be around 222 euros per person.
If this is out of your budget, but you still really want to go, you might risk it and try buying tickets at the entrance from a reseller.
MONEY SAVER TIP: Arrive about an hour before and you will see men walking around the entrance and asking people something. These are the resellers. Just approach them and ask them how much a ticket would cost for tonight’s performance. They should speak enough English to negotiate the price. I entered Bolshoi once like this and everything was fine.
Metro: “Teatral’naya”, “Okhotny Ryad”
6. Gorky Park
I follow the Moskva down the Gorky park…
Sound familiar? Gorky Park (Park Gor’kogo in Russian) is the biggest and the most famous park in Moscow.
The park has recently been renovated and it now has a fresh, vibrant appearance!
It is the locals’ favorite place to hang out on a warm summer evening and you should enjoy it too! You can find entertainment for any taste there: live dancing sessions and free yoga lessons to bicycles, an outdoor movie theater, skateboards, ping-pong, beach volleyball and much, much more!
It could also be a good idea to rent a bike and ride it all the way to another Park – Neskuchnyi park (literally translated as “Not a boring park”). At the end of that park you will reach Sparrow Hill (“Vorobyevy Gory” in Russian), which has a great view of the entire city.
You can take a boat cruise from Gorky park! (more on the cruise and the hill below).
There is also Muzeon Art Park, a dynamic contemporary space with a younger vibe. It is perfectly landscaped for a comfortable stay. Muzeon has a unique collection of 700 sculptures, so do not miss it when you’re in the park! It is located right in front of Gorky Park. Both are amazing!
Metro: “Park Kultury”, “Oktyabrskaya”
7. Sparrow Hills and MSU
Sparrow Hills are the hills on the right side of the Moskva River. It is elevated at 220 meters, giving a great panoramic view of the city, one of the highest points in Moscow.
Just a 15-minute walk from the lookout (you will see it right away nevertheless), is the tallest of seven Stalinist skyscrapers – the Moscow State University.
We are proud of the University, and the level of the education there. My brother has studied there.
Metro: “Vorobyevy gory” (it is still quite a walk from there, around 20 minutes. Type “smotrovaya ploshadka” in Google for directions). MSU metro is “Universitet.” You can visit the university first and then the lookout.
8. Moscow metro
I have been all around the world, but Moscow metro is still the most beautiful and the most efficient I have ever seen!
Even if you are only planning to travel by taxi, you should go underground to see some of the stations. I am sure you will be fascinated! Plus, it is almost always much faster to get somewhere by metro than by car.
Most of the stations truly look like museums! Every station has its own unique decoration, a theme and a fascinating story behind it.
I recommend touring the stations somewhere between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. This way you will be able to properly see it without the crowds.
I recommend taking this tour with a knowledgeable guide who will tell you stories of forgotten stations and how the history of the country interconnected with the metro development.
If you go by yourself, these are the stations I definitely recommend checking out: Mayakovskaya, Ploshad Revolutsii, Kievskaya, Kropotkinskaya, Kurskaya, Komsomolskaya the ring side and Novoslobodskaya etc.
Afraid you will get lost in the enormous Moscow metro?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! There is a whole section dedicated to transportation in Moscow below in this article.
UPDATE: And here’s my new post where you can read Everything You Should Know About Moscow Metro!
9. Tretyakovskaya gallery
Tretyakovskaya Art Gallery has the world-famous collection of Russian painters’ works of art.
Originally, it belonged to the Tretyakov brothers, very rich 19th-century philanthropists. They gave away all of their private collection to the government after their deaths.
If there is just one museum you visit in Moscow, I recommend this one!
The ticket is 500 RUB and here is the official website where you can buy tickets online. Closed on Mondays.
Here is my recommendation for a half-day private tour with an English guide.
VDNKh is short for All Russian Exhibition center (in Russian). It was created during the USSR time when there were many other countries (Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan etc) as part of Russia. The idea of the park was to showcase different cultures and their agrarian methods in one place.
VDNKh now serves as an open-air (free) museum. The park complex is home to a number of shopping pavilions, museums and places to ride a bicycle as well as the largest skate park in Europe and many nice restaurants etc.
Here are other cool places to see in the area:
Museum of Cosmonautics
Did you know that a Russian man named Yuri Gagarin was the first man to go into space? We Russians are very proud of it and we even celebrate a Cosmonautics Day on the 12th of April.
It is no surprise we also have a big museum fully dedicated to cosmonautics and the Russian history of space exploration. You will see the history of the evolution of cosmonautics in the museum – the original space suit, first sputniks, full size rockets and so on.
If you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend taking a guide. My guide was Russian and I remember he was extremely interesting. I would not appreciate the museum the as much without his explanation!
You cannot miss the museum – there is a huge titanium pillar with a rocket on top of it located right in front of the museum’s entrance.
The price is 250 RUB, more details here.
Check out Moskvarium (an Oceanarium) if you are traveling with kids; it is located right inside the VDNkh complex. The variety of underwater life is impressive! You can see fur seals, guitarfish, crocodiles, crabs, hermit crabs, sea urchins, starfish, shrimp, sharks and hundreds of types of fish. I have heard many great things about it!
The adult price is 1000 RUB and 800 RUB for kids.
11. Moscow River cruise
Take a river cruise and enjoy all the famous landmarks from another angle. There are no tourist crowds and with a nice summer breeze in your face, what could be better?
There are little nameless old boats that do the cruise, but I recommend taking a new awesome Radisson boat. These are a little more expensive, but you will feel comfortable. The Raddison Royal cruise is a very easy way to see the best of Moscow by sitting at a restaurant table with some good food and a glass of wine.
I took my cruise during sunset, and it was wonderful!
TIP: Don’t be late, the boat won’t wait!
The price is 1.300 RUB for adults and 950 RUB for kids for a 2.5-hours cruise. You can see the times and book your ticket here.
Metro: “Oktyabrskaya”, “Park Kultury” for Gorky Park Pier
12. Old Arbat and New Arbat streets
One of the oldest streets in the city is Arbat Street, a pedestrian street about one kilometer long in the historical center of Moscow.
New Arbat Street is great for souvenirs and people watching. You can meet all kinds of people there – brightly dressed teenagers, street musicians, caricaturists, souvenirs sellers, tourists etc. It is very touristy, and makes me think of La Rambla in Barcelona (except that it is just for pedestrians), but I think it is still worth it to stroll around once.
13. Moskva City skyscrapers
Go to the Moscow International Business Center (also knowns as Moskva City) to see the city’s beautiful landscape. Moscow city’s complex of skyscrapers is beautiful by itself, but you can also go up one of the towers for a great overview of the city. For example, the 58th floor of the Imperia Tower has a really nice view.
Metro: “Vystavochnaya”, “Mejdunarodnaya”
14. Izmailovo Kremlin
Kremlin actually means fortress and there are many kremlins in the city, but please do not confuse it with the main Kremlin at the Red Square.
Izmailovo is a cultural complex modeled after Old Russia where Russian history and a fairytale intertwined with today’s world.
In my humble opinion, Kremlin in Izmailovo is the second most beautiful building (after the Cathedral on Red Square) made in the Old Russian fairy-tale-like style. Just look at the picture, isn’t it pretty?
You can take a couple of creative workshops there, visit the Vodka Museum, take a horse carriage ride and many more fun things!
Izmailovo is also well known for its flea market called “Vernisaj.” The market is a great place to buy all your souvenirs, and it is much cheaper than the one on Arbat Street that I mentioned earlier!
You will find everything from matreshkas and magnets to ancient Russian artifacts or other more creative gift ideas for your loved ones. Remember – if there is no price tag, you can always try to bargain a bit!
The entrance to the park is free, but as usual, all activities like taking a workshop are subject to a fee. Here is the official website with all the information in English.
You can get a private tour (with hotel pick-up) of Izmailovo together with the Vodka museum for a very good price here.
Metro: 5 mins walk from “Partizanskaya” station
15. Patriarshiye Ponds
Patriarshie Ponds, or “Patriki”, as the locals like to call it, is a quiet district that traditionally was home for poets and artists.
Have you read “Master and Margarita” by Russian poet Bulgakov? The writer chose the ponds for the opening scene in the book.
Nowadays, Patriarshiy Ponds (Patriarshie Prydy in Russian) is a nice place to stroll around and have a delicious lunch or a coffee break.
It is heaven for foodies – you can find all kinds of places here – starting with hipsters’ cafes and finishing with Uruguayan steak houses.
16. Kolomenskoye Estate
Kolomenskoe is a cultural complex of cultural monuments with Russian medieval architecture. If you want to see what Russia looked like about 200 years ago, you should absolutely stop by! The 390-hectare scenic area overlooks the banks of the Moskva River.
Things not to miss – Church of the Ascension and the wonderful fairy-tale-like wooden palace of Tsar Alexis I or just have a calm picnic on the grass. Also ask locals about Golosov Ovrag, which is a very mystical place; they say it can be a portal to another world!
Entrance to the park is free, but if you want to enter the palace it is 400 RUB per person.
Again, if you would like to take a private tour, here is the link.
17. Ostankinskaya TV tower
Ostankinskaya TV tower is the 8th tallest building in the world and the highest building in Europe!
See the view from an open observation deck and take amazing pictures from 340 metres high while standing on a glass floor!
ATTENTION: You need to book your ticket in advance; entrance is based on specific ticket times.
E-tickets can easily be purchased on the website in advance. I recommend doing so because the capacity is limited and only a certain number of tourists are allowed per day.
You can also visit a revolving restaurant inside the tower which turns on its axis twice every 40 minutes so diners get the full panoramic view of Moscow. You can dine there only with a prior purchased entrance ticket.
The TV tower is open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The price varies depending on which deck you want to visit (open or closed), the time of the visit and your age. It will generally be between 600 RUB to 1500 RUB.
Keep in mind that due to safety regulations, people in wheelchairs and kids younger than 7 years old are not allowed to enter the building.
IMPORTANT: Do not forget your passport, you will need it to pass through the security control. No sharp objects are allowed, just like in airports.
Metro: it is not near a metro but you can walk for 25 minutes from VDNKh station, or catch a trolleybus 36 or 73 from VDNKh.
18. Tsaritsyno Museum reserve
This is probably my favorite park in the entire city!
Tsaritsyno was a residence for Catherine the Great more than two centuries ago. This probably explains why the park is so huge; its territory covers more than 400 hectares!
Enjoy some peace at the royal palace with its dramatic archways, musical fountains, greenhouses and, of course, the palace itself.
There is also a little open air bus that does a circuit of the park for a small fee.
The entrance to the park is free, but if you want to visit the palace, it is 350 RUB. An updated schedule of the museum working hours is here.
If you would like to get a glimpse of the main landmarks, together with a private tour of Tsaritsyno, I recommend this tour.
Metro: “Tsaritsyno” (you will need to walk a bit through a tunnel)
Unusual things to do in Moscow
There is much more to see in Moscow than just the Kremlin!
In case you are staying in Moscow longer, or you are not that much into the classical stuff, I have some suggestions for you.
Moscow is huge and it has plenty of interesting places to visit. Here are just some of the off-the-beaten path attractions in Moscow:
What kind of visit to Russia would it be if you missed the Vodka Museum?
Explore the history of the most famous drink in the country with an English-speaking guide. The best part? You get to sample various brands of vodka in the museum’s restaurant!
The museum is located in Izmailovo Park (above in the list). You can visit the two places in one go. The ticket is 200 RUB and you can buy it online here.
Museum of Soviet Arcade Games
Release your inner child by playing 60 arcade machines from the Soviet era!
I bet you have never even seen some of them! It is a great way to spend a couple of hours if you are tired of visiting museums and Russian palaces. The staff speaks excellent English, so they will be happy to explain how some of the games work.
At the entrance, you will be given a box of coins (Soviet kopeicas) to use to play the ganes. The entrance fee is 450 RUB. Official website.
Metro: “Kuznetskiy most”, “Lubyanka”
Stalinist Skyscraper tour
Stalinist Skyscrapers, also known as the Seven Sisters, are a bunch of skyscrapers in the center of Moscow built in the very unique Stalinist style. I recommend taking a guided tour to hear all the mystical stories about how and why each was built. Extremely interesting!
Not only can you get to know all the information from an English-speaking guide, but you can actually climb one of the buildings now! This tour is completely safe and the views are fantastic! (Please use Google translator to read the description, the actual tour is going to be in English).
Moscow Rooftop tour
Craving something unusual?
Take a 1-hour private roof top tour with an experienced roofer!
I bet none of your friends can brag they have a picture like that, can they?
I took one in Saint Petersburg and it was unforgettable!
All the locations are completely safe to climb, however, for your comfort, I recommend wearing comfortable shoes. You can discuss your preferences for the time and views with the guide as he has a couple of locations to offer!
Take your camera, there are some amazing photo opportunities out there!
(Do not worry that the description is in Russian, the guide is fluent in English; they just did not translate part of the text on the website).
The price is very reasonable so for an amazing tour like that, book the tour here.
Detskiy Mir rooftop viewpoint
There have been many lookout suggestions in this post already, so I decided to include this one as another option.
It doesn’t have the view of the whole city, only the city center, but it is cool nevertheless. Plus, it is free and you get to access it through the first (and the biggest) kids store in the country!
Central Department Store for Children (Detrskiy Mir) is a very cool store; your kids (and you!) will love the experience! Once you are done with the toys, search for Observatory signs. You will go out on a big balcony and enjoy the view!
Where to eat in Moscow and what to try
Here is a list of the local dishes you need to try (I included the Russian name too in case you end up in a restaurant with no English menu):
- Blini (блины) – Russian pancakes, can be eaten both as a dessert with jam or with meat filling.
- Borsch (борщ) – red beetroot soup with sour cream.
- Pelmeni (пельмени) – Russian dumplings.
- Solyanka (Солянка) – a little bit of everything in the soup – pickles, lemons, olives, sausages. It is a bit sour, but very good!
- Russian salad (Салат Оливье) – very popular salad in Russia, typically consists of boiled potatoes, carrots, eggs, peas, ham and mayonnaise.
- Pirogi (пироги) – a pie with different fillings.
- Golubtsy (голубцы) – stuffed cabbage leaves, usually with meat.
- Plov (плов) – the dish is actually not originally Russian, it is Uzbekh, but we’ve cooked it for so long it became ours too.
- Ikra (икра) – caviar.
NOTE: Tipping is expected in Russian restaurants (in places where you have servers, not the fast food ones). We usually tip about 10% of the bill.
Cheap (but good) chain restaurands include:
- Му-Му (Moo-Moo)
- Грабли (Grabli)
- Вареничная (Varenichnaya)
- Столовая 57 (Stolovaya 57) – on the last floor of GUM, you can try all the real Russian food there
- Братья Караваевы (Bratya karavaevy)
- ОбедБуфет (ObedBufet)
- Ёлки-Палки (Yolki-Palki)
Some of the places I’ve included here are so called “stolovayas.” They generally have ready to eat food on display which you can put on your tray and then pay for it at the cash register.
Obviously, there are tons of places, and I could start a separate site just about restaurants in Moscow. Here, I’m giving suggestions for not pricey (about 500 RUB per meal) traditional food places. You are welcome to use TripAdvisor to choose something according to your preferences and budget.
UPDATE: I have recently been to a really fun restaurant run by a guy I know, it is called Kusochki and it is a lot of fun for people searching for an unusual restaurant! There are 3 different zones in the restaurant – Hospital, Prison and Flat where you are going to be served by a Doctor, Convict or a Housewife, respectively. The waiters are great actors and they are playing their roles wonderfully (a housewife for example can wear a face mask with cucumbers and share some with you). The decor of each area is well though out and you are going to be given overalls to feel like you actually are in prison or the hospital! The way they serve food is also pretty unique; I think it is best described in a Youtube video my friend Janet made about it. Cick here to see it!
The best night clubs in Moscow
Known as a city that never sleeps, Moscow offers a great variety of high class night clubs.
- Denis Simachev
- Soho Rooms
- Strelka Bar
- Crazy Daisy
- Tema Bar
- 16 tons
Warning – beware that the face control system is much stricter than in most of the European cities. Be sure to dress with no sneakers if you go to one of the fancy night clubs.
TIP: If you are a young party animal, a good choice for you might be the Moscow pub crawls. Take an organized pub crawl by locals with travelers like you here.
Where to stay in Moscow
As Moscow is a very popular destination among travelers, the accommodations sell out fast, that’s why I recommend booking yours as soon as possible!
Before you read this part, you should know that there is a whole post dedicated specifically to accommodations in Moscow, all sorted by area (in the city center, near railway stations and airports), all hand-picked with great reviews and sorted by price for your convenience. Here it is – Where to stay in Moscow.
You can stay in the city center if you want to visit the city, as it will be much more convenient for you.
Whatever you choose, my recommendation is to always be located near the metro – you will not regret it. The Metro works fantastic in Moscow!
Here are some hand-picked accommodations all located in the center, close to the metro and with fabulous reviews. Booking.com works best in Russia, so I recommend using it when you visit.
Luxury (US$170 and up) – Hotel De Paris – perfect choice for those who want to stay in the city center, be surrounded by elegant décor and be treated nicely by the staff. Tchaikovsky Hotel – named after the famous Russian composer, this hotel is located in the historical building in the city center. It is spotlessly clean and has really friendly staff.
Middle price (US$110 to US$170) – Hotel Maroseyka 2/15 – Very centrally located, the Red Square is just 700 m. away, it has simple, but very clean and light rooms and fabulous reviews! Ahouse Hotel provides an airport shuttle, and, of course, has really good reviews!
Budget (US$110 and less) – Hostel Kremlin Lights – a pretty cool hostel in the city center, ~US$40 for a bunk bed, very clean and cozy. Check if it is still available! Dream Place Hostel – more or less the same price for a bed in a dorm room, it is a 10-minute walk to a metro station on the ring, rooms are bright and the staff are hospitable.
NOTE: By the regulations of Russia (very useless and outdated in my opinion), you will need to register yourself the first day you arrive in Russia. If you are staying in a hotel, they will take care of your registration. No worries about that, you will just pass your immigration form to your hotel and they will take care of the rest. If you are staying in an AirBnb, in most cases, it will be your responsibility to go and register. I can only imagine what a nightmare it will be when thousands of people flood to city hall to stand there in endless lines. If your AirBnb host will not deal with your registration, I highly recommend saving your time and nerves by staying in a hotel.
Having said that, if you decide to stay with AirBnb, you can use this promo code that will give you US$25 off your first booking.
What happens if you fail to register? I do not know – you might be in trouble or you might be just fine, you never know. You need to know that this is a rule and you might be required to show your registration paper when you leave the country.
Useful things to know before your trip to Moscow – visa, prices etc.
Here is the practical information you all have been waiting for – how to get around, visa, sim card etc. Read below for more info:
Visa for Russia
Usually, the procedure to get a Russian visa is quite long and costly – you need an official invitation from your hotel, insurance etc. Before applying for your visa, you should check your country requirements.
If you need to apply for a visa and you haven’t yet there are two choices:
- You can do it by yourself, but there is going to be a lot of paperwork involved, including providing an official invitation from your hotel. The invitation is just a formality, but it can be quite time consuming to find a hotel who would make you that invitation or find a company who will provide a fake one for you (as I said it is just a useless formality).
- You can ask a specialized company to process your visa application for an extra fee (they usually charge about $100 on top of the visa consulate fee). The cool thing about them is that you do not need to go anywhere, just give them your passport and they will do the rest for you. Search for a reputable agency in your country. Here are the companies I can recommend – https://www.visahq.com/ (for those in the US). If you are from Canada, Europe, Brazil, Singapore and a couple more countries, check this link – visacentral.co.uk or Realrussia.co.uk
Trains in Russia
Oh, I know a lot about transportation in Russia, trains and Trans Siberian in particular. Writing a detailed post that would help you guys plan your journey has been on my to-do list for forever.
Before I publish it, how about you ask me questions in the comments section below this post? I promise to reply!
For now, I can say that this is the official site for Russian trains, but the interface is quite poor and sometimes it doesn’t accept foreign cards.
If you have troubles, there is a great friendly website that accepts foreign cards, PayPal, sends you SMS with train updates and is user-friendly but the price is 5% higher on average. I think it is worth it because you won’t need to spend hours trying to understand how the official one works. And one more cool thing – if you need to cancel or change the ticket, you can do it online!
If you want to go for a short trip, you can also try buses. Here is a good site for buying bus tickets online.
Update: Here is the article about The Ultimate Guide To Russian Trains, you will find everything you need to know there!
How to get from the airport to Moscow
Moscow has three International airports and you get from/to each of them by taxi, fast train or public transport.
If you do not want to figure out how the transportation works upon your arrival, or drag your luggage in the metro, you can always take a taxi.
You can take an UBER, Gett or Yandex Taxi by ordering it in the app. The approximate price is 800 -2000 Rub (it really depends where you are going and which airport you’re at). Using the apps is awesome, but consider that you may have trouble meeting the driver as he probably won’t speak English.
Do not use the service of the guys who are standing in front of the arrival hall (just say “Net, spasibo” and walk away). They do not have the best reputation, chances are they will try to trick you because you are a foreigner.
If you prefer a pre-booked taxi with a person greeting you in the airport with a sign, it is just 50 Eur per car from any of the three airports. Book your private transfer here.
Fast trains (Aeroexpress)
Aeroexpress is the most convenient option. I always use this one when I go to Moscow. I recommend taking a fast speed train that will get you to the city center in 35 to 45 minutes depending on the airport. The price is 420 RUB.
The valid period of the ticket is three days from the date it was issued. So, don’t worry if your flight was late, you have plenty of time!
This is the official website to check the prices and to buy your tickets. You can also install the Aeroexpress app on your phone and buy tickets directly from there. You then will be able to just scan your QR code from the phone, yay to paperless tickets! You can also buy it at the ticket counter or ticket machines if you wish to.
The only downside? You will still need to either take a metro or taxi when you exit the Aeroexpress. For taxi, use an app I mentioned earlier, or make sure to agree about the price before you get in.
Each of the Airports has a bus that goes from the airport to the nearest metro station. It is a very cheap way to travel (the price of a public bus fare – max 100 rub), but I do NOT recommend taking it unless you are on a tight budget. Why? It can take you a couple of hours to get to the closest metro and chances are you will need to stand on the bus with all your luggage.
This is especially important ON the way to the airport because you simply might miss your flight by waiting in traffic!
Transportation in Moscow
As I said above, the metro in Moscow is fascinating – it works perfectly and it looks fantastic! Look for a big red “M” sign for a metro entrance.
All the signs are translated into English (though in smaller fonts). All lines are color-coded. Here are some tips so you won’t get lost in the Moscow metro system:
Get Yandex.Metro app! This is by far the best app for a metro I have seen (also in English). It calculates the fastest route in the metro and even tells you where exactly to board the train to get to your connection train faster.
There is no difference in price – if you ride 1 stop or 30 stops, it will be the same price.
A single ticket is 55 RUB, but no one ever pays that! Let me teach you how to lower the cost almost twice:
Get a Troika card and top it up at any ticket stand inside the metro. The card is free, you just need to pay a 50 RUB deposit for issuing the card. You can get your money back when you leave or take the card home with you as a memory.
With a Troika card, the price of your metro ride is just 32 RUB, and you can use it for buses as well.
The best part? You won’t need to stay in long lines to get single tickets each time! 😉
Taxis are also relatively inexpensive. 1 km is approximately 8 RUB (13 cents) in Uber.
We always use apps, we no longer call for a taxi anymore in Russia.
Use Uber, Yandex Taxi or Gett Taxi for your rides.
I recommend installing all of them and checking the price in each one, sometimes the difference is quite significant.
UPDATE: Uber was recently bought by Yandex Taxi recently and now your Uber app will automatically redirect you to Yandex app which you will need to download. No worries, it is a good app, in some ways even more user intuitive than Uber and the prices are the same.
The only things I’d recommend – do not get the economy option – the standards of hiring taxi drivers decreased with merging the 2 companies, and sometimes you can get a pretty rough or unpolite driver in economy now. From this year on, I go for Standard.
Sim card with Internet connection in Moscow
Many public places will have free Wi-Fi in Moscow. However, a recent law requires you to first receive a code by SMS to your phone number. (Big brother is watching you!) In some cases, it only works with Russian Sim cards.
I always get a Sim card in a foreign country, it is much easier to have mobile internet, be able to check information on the go, use Yandex Taxi etc.
This is how to get a Russian Sim card:
If you arrive during working hours in the airport, you can get a Sim card with internet right there.
UPDATE: I have recently been to Moscow and I have recorded a short video for you from the airport that shows which stores you can buy a sim card at as well as the prices, too. You can find the tips for Moscow on my Instagram in the Highlights section. Do not forget to follow me too! 😉
Any mobile operator tariffs are pretty cheap. The average price that I looked up right now is 5GB for 400 RUB a month.
The companies are – Beeline (the one that I use), Megafon, Tele2, MTS (written МТС). To buy a Simcard, just search for these names plus Связной and Евросеть, the last two are resellers and they usually have a couple of options between different operators.
You could research all these sites in advance (Google translate them) to understand which one currently has the best promotions, but you can also just stop by any of those offices with your passport and get a Sim card – the price difference is really not that significant!
NOTE: if you are going to travel to other Russian cities, make sure your internet works in all regions, not only in the Moscow region.
Recently, the rules for buying alcohol in supermarkets became very strict and there is no way you can buy alcohol anywhere after 11 p.m.
Having said that, there is of course no problem drinking anything in bars, clubs or restaurants all night long.
Prices in Moscow
You are in luck, traveler! It has never been so cheap to visit Russia!
Our currency, the Ruble, dropped twice in the last year due to the economic situation with oil and some political issues.
What does it mean for you? It is twice as cheap now to travel in Russia!
Here are the list of approximate prices in Moscow (other cities will be significantly cheaper):
|Item||Price in Rub||Price in USD (Dec 2017)|
|Domestic beer 0,5||150||2.5|
|Imported Beer 0,5||300||5|
|Meal in a budget restaurant||600||10|
|A dinner in a nice restaurant||1500 up||25 up|
|Water in a supermarket||50||0.70|
|Full meal in fast food cafes||300||5|
|A bunk bed in a hostel||900||15|
|A room in a 3* hotel||4000||68|
|A room in a 5* hotel||15000||250|
|A cocktail in a night club||400||7|
|A vodka shot in a club||100||1.70|
|A ticket to a museum||700||12|
|A metro ticket||55||0.80|
|A fast train ticket from the airport||420||7|
|A Sim Card with 2-4 GB Internet||400||7|
Though all the metro and street signs are now in English, it is advisable to invest 30 minutes of your time to learn the Russian alphabet. It is not as hard as it seems, I promise! Plus, how cool would it be to impress your friends with some Russian reading skills?
Here is a video that can help you get started:
Also, the Duoligo App is a great help!
How safe is Moscow?
While racism might be an issue in some of the cities in Russia, it is definitely not in Moscow. Long gone are the days when seeing a black person on the street was unusual.
If you are a member of the LGBT community, it is advisable to be careful with public displays of affection.
Use common sense, do not leave your valuables unattended, watch your bag in crowded public transport and you will be fine. This might sound surprising to you, but Moscow is a pretty safe place to be.
Other cities to visit:
If you visit only one more city… make it Saint Petersburg!
It is incredibly beautiful and it is one of my favorite cities in the whole world! You may be lucky enough to be just in time for the “white nights”! I have a detailed post on Top things to do in St. Pete, Russia here.
This has been the longest post on my blog so far, but I guess it is just natural that I want to share so much information with you about the city where I have lived for so long, where my family lives and that I love so much.
Usually the image of Russia is one of a 3rd world country, but I hope you will see that Moscow is one of the most developed and urbanized cities in the world. It is vibrant, cool and changing all the time! I am truly proud of our capital and I am always happy to come back!
If you want to see some of the things mentioned above, I recommend staying for more than 3 days in the city.
Hope it was helpful!
Have fun in Moscow and do not hesitate to comment below if you have any more questions!
UPDATE: I know this is a huuuge post (the longest on my site in fact) and by popular demand, I have created a printable PDF version of this post (I added the Russian alphabet and the metro map to it). You can print it or download it on your phone so it’s available offline when you are in Russia. You can support my work by purchasing the guide here if you wish to, the price is only $2.99 USD. All the information will remain free forever on the site 🙂
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