Moscow: Top 10 Attractions



Discover the top ten must-see attractions in Moscow, Russia, with our comprehensive travel guide. From the historic grandeur of the Kremlin and the iconic Red Square to the artistic splendor of the Moscow Metro and the cultural treasures of the Tretyakov Gallery, this guide highlights the best of Moscow’s rich history and vibrant present. Whether you’re marveling at St. Basil’s Cathedral or strolling down Arbat Street, our guide ensures an unforgettable journey through Russia’s captivating capital.

Top Ten Things to See in Moscow, Russia

Moscow, the vibrant capital of Russia, seamlessly blends its rich history with modern dynamism. From awe-inspiring architecture to culturally significant landmarks, Moscow offers a plethora of attractions for visitors. Here are the top ten things to see in this fascinating city, including its famous metro stations.

1. The Kremlin: Heart of Russian Power and History

History and Highlights: The Kremlin is the historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow and has been the seat of Russian power since the late 15th century. Commissioned by Ivan III (Ivan the Great) and designed by Italian architects, it has served as the residence of Tsars, Soviet leaders, and now the Russian President. The word “Kremlin” means “fortress inside a city,” and this fortress has witnessed Russia’s most pivotal events.

Highlights include:

  • The Grand Kremlin Palace: Built in the 19th century, this opulent palace served as the residence of the Tsar’s family and hosts state ceremonies.
  • The Armoury Chamber: One of the oldest museums in Russia, it houses a vast collection of imperial regalia, state carriages, and the famous Fabergé eggs.
  • Cathedral Square: This central square is surrounded by several important cathedrals, including the Assumption Cathedral, where Russian Tsars were crowned, and the Archangel Cathedral, which served as a burial place for Russian royalty.

2. Red Square: Moscow’s Iconic Central Square

History and Highlights: Red Square, adjacent to the Kremlin, is one of the most famous public squares in the world. Its name, derived from the Russian word ‘krasnaya’, meaning ‘red’ or ‘beautiful’, reflects its importance and beauty. It has been the central square of Moscow since the 15th century, originally serving as the city’s main marketplace and later as the stage for Soviet military parades.

Highlights include:

  • St. Basil’s Cathedral: Known for its vibrant, multi-colored domes, this architectural masterpiece was built in the 16th century to commemorate Ivan the Terrible’s victory over Kazan.
  • Lenin’s Mausoleum: The resting place of the Soviet Union’s founder, Vladimir Lenin, where his body has been on public display since his death in 1924.
  • The State Historical Museum: Showcasing Russia’s history from prehistoric times to the present, this museum is a treasure trove of artifacts and exhibitions.

3. St. Basil’s Cathedral: The Jewel of Moscow

History and Highlights: Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to celebrate his victory over the Khanate of Kazan in 1552, St. Basil’s Cathedral was completed in 1561. Its unique design features nine individual chapels, each topped with a distinctive dome, making it a masterpiece of Russian architecture. The cathedral’s colorful, onion-shaped domes have become symbolic of Moscow.

Highlights include:

  • The Interior: The cathedral’s interior is a labyrinth of narrow corridors and small chapels, each decorated with intricate frescoes and icons.
  • The Architecture: The asymmetrical layout and vibrant colors of the domes, each with a unique pattern, create a stunning visual effect. The central nave reaches a height of 47.5 meters (156 feet).

4. The Moscow Metro: An Underground Art Gallery

History and Highlights: Opened in 1935, the Moscow Metro is not just a means of transportation but a subterranean art gallery. It was one of the most ambitious projects of the Soviet era, designed to be both a practical transit system and a showcase of Soviet art and engineering. Today, it is one of the busiest metro systems in the world, known for its efficiency and beauty.

Notable stations include:

  • Komsomolskaya: Adorned with grand chandeliers and baroque-style mosaics depicting heroic scenes from Russian history, this station resembles a palace hall.
  • Mayakovskaya: Celebrated for its futuristic design and ceiling mosaics depicting scenes of Soviet life, it won a Grand Prize at the 1938 World’s Fair in New York.
  • Novoslobodskaya: Known for its stunning stained-glass panels and mosaic works, this station feels like a cathedral.
  • Kievskaya: Decorated with murals celebrating Russo-Ukrainian unity and Soviet achievements, it reflects the friendship between the two nations.

5. The Bolshoi Theatre: A Cultural Icon

History and Highlights: Founded in 1776, the Bolshoi Theatre has played a central role in Russian cultural life for over two centuries. The current building, completed in 1856, is a neoclassical masterpiece, hosting world-renowned ballet and opera performances. The Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera companies are among the oldest and most prestigious in the world.

Highlights include:

  • The Architecture: The theatre’s grand façade and opulent interiors, including the magnificent chandelier and gilded decorations, reflect the height of Russian imperial elegance.
  • Performances: Attending a performance at the Bolshoi is a quintessential Moscow experience. The theatre is famous for its exceptional productions of classics like Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Eugene Onegin.

6. Tretyakov Gallery: A Treasure Trove of Russian Art

History and Highlights: Established in 1856 by merchant Pavel Tretyakov, the Tretyakov Gallery houses the world’s largest collection of Russian fine art. It showcases Russian art from the 11th century to the early 20th century, highlighting the evolution of Russian artistic traditions. The gallery is a must-visit for art enthusiasts.

Highlights include:

  • Medieval Icons: The gallery’s collection of medieval icons, including works by Andrei Rublev, offers a glimpse into the spiritual life of ancient Russia.
  • 19th-Century Realism: Masterpieces by artists such as Ilya Repin, Vasily Perov, and Ivan Shishkin capture the social and cultural changes of 19th-century Russia.
  • Modern Art: The gallery also features works by avant-garde artists like Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky, showcasing the revolutionary changes in Russian art during the early 20th century.

7. Gorky Park: Moscow’s Premier Green Space

History and Highlights: Opened in 1928 and named after the writer Maxim Gorky, Gorky Park has long been a favorite recreational area for Muscovites. It underwent a major renovation in 2011, transforming it into a modern urban park with a wide range of activities. Gorky Park offers a perfect blend of relaxation, recreation, and culture.

Highlights include:

  • Landscape Design: The park features beautifully landscaped gardens, tree-lined promenades, and a picturesque pond.
  • Activities: Visitors can enjoy boating on the Moskva River, cycling paths, outdoor fitness equipment, and open-air concerts. In winter, the park transforms into a large ice skating rink.
  • Cultural Spaces: The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, located within the park, is a must-visit for contemporary art lovers.

8. Arbat Street: A Stroll Through Moscow’s Historic Heart

History and Highlights: Arbat Street, one of Moscow’s oldest streets, dates back to the 15th century. It has been a hub for artists, intellectuals, and writers, maintaining its bohemian charm and cultural significance. The pedestrian street is lined with shops, cafes, and street performers, making it a lively and vibrant destination.

Highlights include:

  • Street Performers and Artists: The street is alive with musicians, painters, and performers, adding to its bohemian atmosphere.
  • Historic Buildings: Beautifully preserved buildings and monuments, including the Pushkin House Museum, where the famous poet Alexander Pushkin lived.
  • Shopping and Dining: A variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants offering Russian and international cuisine. It’s an ideal spot for souvenir shopping and enjoying local delicacies.

9. Novodevichy Convent: A Serene Retreat with a Rich History

History and Highlights: Founded in 1524 by Grand Prince Vasili III, the Novodevichy Convent is a stunning example of Russian Baroque architecture. It played a significant role in Russian religious and political history, serving as a refuge for noblewomen and a site for significant historical events. The convent is a peaceful oasis amidst the bustling city.

Highlights include:

  • Smolensk Cathedral: The convent’s main church, adorned with magnificent frescoes and icons, is a prime example of Moscow Baroque style.
  • Novodevichy Cemetery: The resting place of many notable Russians, including Anton Chekhov, Nikita Khrushchev, and Boris Yeltsin. The cemetery is a serene and reflective space, with beautifully sculpted tombstones and monuments.
  • The Architecture: The convent’s churches and bell towers, surrounded by fortified walls and tranquil gardens, provide a glimpse into Moscow’s past.

10. GUM Department Store: Luxury Shopping in a Historic Setting

History and Highlights: Located on Red Square, GUM (Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin) is Moscow’s most famous shopping mall. Built in the late 19th century, it was designed by architect Alexander Pomerantsev and engineer Vladimir Shukhov, combining elements of Russian medieval architecture with modern steel and glass construction. GUM offers a luxurious shopping experience in a historic setting.

Highlights include:

  • The Architecture: The stunning glass-roofed arcade creates a bright and airy shopping environment. The intricate ironwork and elegant design reflect the grandeur of the late 19th century.
  • Shopping and Dining: Home to a wide range of luxury boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. The historic grocery store, Gastronom No. 1, is a must-visit for its exquisite selection of gourmet foods and delicacies.
  • Cultural Events: GUM often hosts exhibitions, concerts, and seasonal events, adding to its vibrant atmosphere. The festive decorations during holidays, especially New Year and Christmas, make it a magical place to visit.

Moscow is a city that offers a wealth of experiences for travelers. From exploring historical landmarks and world-class museums to enjoying the beauty of its parks and the splendor of its metro stations, there’s something for everyone in this dynamic metropolis.