Your first few weekends in Moscow will inevitably be spent getting to know the city that is your new home. You can do it yourself, with a guidebook or splurge a few dollars and get the inside track with a professional and seasoned guide used to foreign visitors to the city.
Moscow City Bus Tour
The longest and most established tour company offering city tours, whatever the weather, is Capital Tours. Their Moscow City Sightseeing tour is an excellent way to get an overview of all the city’s main attractions, to which you may return at your leisure. You will get a panorama view of the Kremlin, Lenin Hills, Bolshoi Theater, Christ the Savior Cathedral, Moscow streets, and squares. These three-hour tours run twice daily, from 10:30 – 13:30; and from 14:30 pm – to 17:30. Fares are 950 RURs for adults and 450 RURs for children.
- Capital Tours
Ilyinka Street 4-6
+7 (495) 232-2442
Kremlin & Armoury Museum Tour
Capital Tours also offers guided tours of the Kremlin Grounds, Cathedrals and Patriarch’s Palace. This takes you inside the Kremlin walls to see the former residence of Czars and Patriarch’s, Russia’s main Cathedral, the Assumption Cathedral and the Armory Museum’s exalted collection of gold and silverwork and jewelry. You will see famous Faberge eggs, coronation carriages and Czarist thrones.
The Patriarch’s Palace is now a Museum of Seventeenth-century Life and Applied Art, displaying priests’ robes and other regalia, period furniture, gold, and silverware from Russia and Western Europe. The three-hour tours run twice a day, every day except Thursday, from 11:00 – 14:00 and 14:00 – 17:00. Fares, including admissions, are 1,550 RURs per adult and 775 RURs per child.
- Capital Tours
Ilyinka Street 4-6
+7 (495) 232-2442
The Moscow Metro
In addition to being part of an excellent mode of transportation, many metro stations are tourist attractions in their own right. Among the stations worth visiting are:
- Komsomolskaya (Brown line): With its marble pillars, vaulted ceilings and intricate chandeliers, the station is more like a temple than a subway-station. The mosaic depicts famous scenes from Russian history.
- Ploschad Revolyutsyi (Blue line): The great October Revolution of 1917 is depicted in this station, with its huge bronze figures symbolising the Bolshevik conquest of power and the building of the Soviet State.
- Mayakovskaya (Green line): This station is named after the poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky – the vaulted ceiling has 33 mosaic panels and was designed by famous Russian artist Alexander Deyneka.
- Kievskaya (Brown Line): This station commemorates the Ukrainian people’s great accomplishment in achieving membership of the Soviet Union. It is worth remembering, while admiring the paintings of joyous peasants’ faces, that 5 million Ukrainian people died in 1932-1934 of a famine induced by Stalin.
- Park Kultury (Red Line): The original terminus of the metro. The interior walls feature 1930s-style sculptures playing all kinds of sports.
With a history dating back to the late 16th century, this estate was known as Bogorodskoye when it was owned by a sister of Tsar Boris Godunov. In 1775 empress Catherine the Great bought it and ordered a new palace built. Disagreements over the design and construction ensued, and she never actually lived in the palace.
The palace was completely renovated in 2007, and the park is now a well-maintained and popular attraction. It is one of few parks in Moscow in which you can find open spaces and a quiet wooded corner to walk (although on holidays this park is as crowded as Disneyland). You can enter the park on one side coming from Tsaritsyno metro station, and then head home from Domodedovskaya, which is near the rear entrance to the park. Admission to the park is free, but there is a small fee to tour the palace exhibits.
- Closest metro: Tsaritsyno or Domodedovskaya
- Getting there: Exit Tsaritsyno station (to the front, in the direction of the train), and head out towards the left. Cross the rail tracks and continue straight. You will pass under 2 bridges. At the end of the road, you will see the park ahead of you to the left. It’s about a 7-10 min walk to the palace.
This UNESCO-listed former Royal Estate on the banks of the Moscow River was the childhood home of Peter the Great. The museum-estate includes the Church of the Ascension, built in the 16th Century to commemorate the birth of Ivan the Terrible, which superseded Byzantine-style with its wooden conical tower and proved to be a milestone in history of Russian ecclesiastical architecture.
It is at its best in the summer, when guides in national costume take visitors on guided tours, and you can enjoy horse-riding or sailing in wooden boats of ancient design along the river, accompanied by a folk-music ensemble. Throughout the year you can visit the store-rooms of the museum and taste “sbityen”, a hot potable made with water, honey, vodka or brandy, and flavored with lemon, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns. Entrance to the park and museum is free but there are individual fees for each exhibition ($2-$10 per exhibition).
- Opening hours: Tue-Sun 11:00 – 17:00
- Closest metro: Kolomenskoe
- Getting there: Exit Kolomenskoe station (to the front, in the direction of the train), and head out towards the left in the underpass. Turn right to leave the station. Go straight to reach an entrance, about 300 meters from the metro exit.
The Moscow Zoo welcomes over 1,25 million visitors a year to its 21,000 sq meters of animal exhibits, on a 21.5 hectare site in central Moscow. One of the biggest zoos in the world, and one of the oldest in Europe, Moscow Zoo now hosts over 5,000 animals from nearly 1,000 breeds. It is an increasingly respected conservation institution, but the main emphasis is on children’s education and entertainment – it’s more about giving the city’s children a chance to see and touch farm animals than about big cats in small cages. It can get very crowded on weekends.
- Bolshaya Gruzinskaya 1
- Closest metro: Barrikadnaya
- +7 (495) 255-6034, 252-3620
This large amusement park on the banks of the Moscow River features a Ferris Wheel, Buran Space Shuttle simulator, a children’s carousel, and many other attractions. It is surrounded by cafes and restaurants. Pleasant riverside walks and outdoor concerts in the summer, and ice skating on the pond in the winter, provide entertainment all year long. The Moscow Times newspaper has a program of events scheduled for the park.
- Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11:00 – 21:00
- 9 Krymsky Val
- Closest metro: Oktyaberskaya or Park Kultury (cross the brigde)
- +7 (495)237 0707
The Dolphinarium, located in the suburbs north of Moscow, generally holds four shows a day (12:00, 14:00, 16:00 and 18:00). Tickets cost 200 – 350 RUR weekdays and 250 -400 RUR on weekends and holidays.
- Mironovskaya Ul 27
- +7 (499) 369-79-66
- Getting there: Take the metro to Semonovskaya or Partizanskaya; and then take trolley or marshrutka number 22. OR, take the metro to Cherkizovskaya; and then marshrutka number 452.
Construction of this unique “Writers Village” began in 1934, on Stalin’s decree. It is famous as the retirement home of Boris Pasternak, the author of Dr. Zhivago. The family dacha, built by Pasternak’s father in 1937, is now a museum in the author’s honor and his grave is in the village cemetery.
The village also has museums dedicated to Russia’s most popular children’s poet Korney Chukovsky; and Russia’s first blues-poet-singer group, Bulat Okudzhava. It also features the Transfiguration Church and the summer residence of the late Russian Patriarch Alexei II.
The Patriarchy Dom Tour (http://russiatravel-pdtours.netfirms.com/) is a great way to visit the settlement, where many artists continue to live and paint.
Peredelkino was built 25 kms southwest of Moscow, in the forested areas on the river Setun and its tributary, the river Peredelka.
- Getting there: Peredelkino is 40 min from the Kremlin by car. You can take either the Minskoe or the Borovskoe highway.
This military research and training facility is located 32 km northeast of Moscow. Cosmonauts (Astronauts) have lived and trained at the Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Centre since the 1960s.
The only way to visit Star City is on an organized tour, for example through Patriarshy Dom Tours: http://russiatravel-pdtours.netfirms.com/
This small city is one of a dozen known as “The Golden Ring”. These ancient towns, which played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church, preserve the memory of the most important and significant events in Russian history. They are now open-air museums, featuring unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th-18th centuries, including kremlins, monasteries, cathedrals, and churches. These towns are among the most picturesque in Russia and prominently feature Russia’s famous onion domes.
Sergeyev Posad is the most readily accessible. It is the site of the The Holy Trinity Monastery, founded in 1345 by St. Sergius of Radonezh, a highly revered monk and patron saint of Russia. The cathedral was built by Serbian monks who had sought refuge in the monastery after the Battle of Kosovo. It is decorated with frescoes by the greatest icon painters of medieval Russia.
- Getting there: Take a train from Yaroslavl Station. (See Transport > Trains). Trains run to Sergeyev Posad about every half-hour. The journey takes an hour.
There are enough three-day weekends throughout the year to take a trip to St. Petersburg. The grandeur of the Imperial capital is not to be missed! Take a Thursday or Friday night express sleeper train, and the Sunday night sleeper train to be back in time for work on Monday.
Admire the architecture while walking along or taking a boat trip on the canals; visit the Hermitage Museum (closed Mondays) on the banks of the Neva; or take a tour to follow in the steps of Alexander Pushkin, the 19th-century literary figure hailed as the country’s greatest poet. In the summer, take a half-day trip out to Peterhof (Petrodvorets) and enjoy the sparkling fountains by the Gulf of Finland.
- Getting there: Take a train from Leningradsky Station. (See Transport > Trains)
The country estate of Zavidovo, north of Moscow, offers rental of classic Russian dachas or modern hotel rooms. It offers sports facilities for year-round entertainment, from snowmobiling to water-skiing. The complex is set in a forest at the juncture of the Shola and Volga rivers, where the water is so wide that it feels like you’re at the beach. This is a great place to forget about the stress of city life, with lots of activities for adults and children of all ages.
- +7 (495) 203 10 33 (Moscow office)
- Getting there: Drive north on the M10 highway for 117 km, turn right at the Zavidovo sign, and then drive another 7 km to the gated entrance.