23 Things to Do in Moscow, Russia


Please note: this article was originally written in 2015. I’m updating this in 2022 to state that — for obvious reasons — you should not be travelling to Russia at this time. If you are in Russia, you should leave immediately.

As the capital of the largest country on earth, Moscow is also larger than life. In a city adorned with palaces straight out of a fairytale, you won’t be shocked that even the metro system is full of opulent art.

At the center of Moscow is the iconic Red Square, home to the Kremlin and the spiritual heart of the city. But as you wander, the storied streets guide you to marvelous sites from ancient cathedrals to royal estates, the summer havens of the Tsars.

Wherever you look, you can see the footprints of old Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution and Stalin. Connecting all three is a rich culture, exceptional theater and a vibrant nightlife.  

Explore the Red Square

There’s so many layers to the story of Moscow that it can feel overwhelming. There’s really only one place to start this adventure, and that’s at the Red Square. Streaming out of the square is each of Moscow’s major streets, like ventricles feeding the rest of the body. It’s easy to see why this is both the historical and cultural centrepiece of the city.

The Red Square is home to several of the top landmarks in Moscow, from Lenin’s Mausoleum and the State Historical Museum to the iconic Kremlin. In times of victory and defeat, this has been the point of congregation for the community even when it lacked its modern day splendor back in the 15th century. 

On regular days, there remains a fantastic atmosphere in Red Square as locals come and go and tourists explore with wide eyes. Although you’ll find ample stunning sites, you may be surprised to know that there’s only a single statue in the historic square. This statue shows Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin, who defeated the Polish invasion in 1612.

See St. Basil’s Cathedral

One of the most eye-catching sights in Red Square is St. Basil’s Cathedral. Its colorful onion domes stand atop a church of incredible variations. The cathedral was built in the 1500s under the request of Ivan the Terrible. The architects were Barma and Postnik who essentially combined nine different styles of churches, chapels and domes into one spectacular work of art.

As the legend goes, the architects were later made blind by Ivan the Terrible. This was so they couldn’t recreate the sheer magnificence of St. Basil’s. Under the early morning sunlight (or at dusk) the orange colors shine brightly, as if the cathedral was a grand bonfire accented by streaks of green, yellow and blue. 

It’s hard to imagine from the outside that St. Basil’s interior is exceptionally small. There are nine individual chapels that are intimately decorated with frescoes and icons, both of which lead your eyes up to the soaring domes above.

Go on a River Cruise

After visiting the Red Square, turn your attention to the Moscow River. A great way to take in the city’s sites is from the water, which offers a unique and quiet perspective away from the crowds. Public transport on the river will return in 2022, with the schedule increasing year by year. 

The Moscow River and its surrounding canals feature almost 50 bridges and showcase the city in a way that few can duplicate. A popular station for river transport can be found alongside Gorky Park. From the dock, you’ll head north through the heart of the city with the Red Square and all its highlights floating by on the left bank. Before the river swings and heads south towards the Danilovsky District.

While exploring the city on the Moscow River is a great way to see the sights and get around, it’s easy to turn it into a romantic experience. Moscow is even more spectacular under the evening light, something you can discover on a luxury river cruise.

Visit the Bolshoi Theatre

Within the illustrious city center, you’ll find grand architecture and history, with one of the best examples being the Neoclassical Bolshoi Theatre. The breathtaking six-tier hall is one of the oldest ballet and opera houses in all of Europe. 

Each renovation has remained faithful to the original design, allowing the grandeur of the Bolshoi Theatre to remain as it has since 1824. Catching a show here is one of the best things to do in Moscow, even if ballet or opera has never been your speed. The rigorous passion on display transcends fandom and will have you on the edge of your seat.

Some of the classic shows at the Bolshoi Theatre include Francesca da Rimini by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa. Both iconic shows premiered right here. After entering the theater, take time to appreciate the opulence on display, from the multi-tiered chandelier to the gilded accents and red velvet walls. It’s grandiosity will have you ready for a night of high culture.

Spend Time at Tretyakov Gallery

The Tretyakov Gallery may have begun as a private collection among the Tretyakov brothers, but it has grown to be the most significant museum of Russian fine art on earth. The gallery is now home to well over 130,000 exhibits, including several iconic paintings known the world over.

Near to Red Square, the Tretyakov Gallery comprises an old and new building. The former is home to works dating back to the 11th century, with the new building featuring contemporary and modern art. Some of the most renowned pieces include The Trinity, by Andrei Rublev and the Vladimir Mother of God, which is almost 1000 years old. While you could spend a number of hours admiring the worlds of Ilya Repin, a celebrated Russian realist painter.

Surrounding the Tretyakov Gallery are several sculptures to complement the experience. None more striking than the 280-foot (86m) statue of Peter the Great.

Roam the Moscow Kremlin

The Kremlin is an enormous complex whose sheer scale can only be appreciated from within its ancient walls. It’s the most recognizable landmark in Moscow, as it has been since opening in the 15th century. Since that day, the Kremlin has gone onto be the home for a series of Tsars before becoming the official residence for the president of the Russian Federation.

Major government leaders may live elsewhere, but if anything, that lowers the red tape and opens up more of the grand palace. The Kremlin covers over 105,000 square miles (275,000 sq. km) and is surrounded by fortress walls. As you wander, it’s easy to place yourself in eras past as you gaze upon several opulent cathedrals, spellbinding palaces, and the ancient Armoury. 

The Armoury produced and stored weapons for centuries until in was converted into a museum in the early 19th century. You can now explore the history of Russian, Western European and Asian weaponry along with resplendent works by jewelers and goldsmiths, including the museum’s Faberge egg.

Pay a Visit to Lenin’s Mausoleum

Vladimir Lenin was the founder and leader of Soviet Russia and eventually the Soviet Union. He remained in power until the day he died. Shortly after his passing, the mausoleum was created in Red Square. It was only supposed to be for a short period, but such was the popularity of the leader that Lenin has remained on display ever since.

He was removed from his original tomb into a permanent sarcophagus that now holds a central spot in the Red Square. The marble stairs that flank the mausoleum have also taken on a life of their own, as the spot for leaders to watch the many events that take place in the famed square. 

Almost a century removed from his passing, Lenin’s Mausoleum is still a popular attraction with regular lines to enter. But it’s well worth the wait for an eerie experience as you cross paths with the revolutionary leader, who lays peacefully within a bullet proof chamber.   

Visit the Cathedral of Christ the Savior

A few blocks from the colorful St. Basil’s is a no less opulent, but even more significant cathedral. The first Cathedral of Christ the Savior was demolished under the order of Stalin in the 1930s. He had plans to build the tallest skyscraper on earth, a dream that was later scrapped as the grounds became home to the massive Moscow Pool. This makes the new iteration, built in 2000, the youngest of the city’s many incredible churches.

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior has the classic onion domes atop what is the largest Orthodox church on earth. From the front, paved paths lined with lamp posts guide you towards the cathedral. From there you can appreciate the magnificence of its huge facade, featuring golden accents, archways and spires. As you wander inside, you’ll be taken aback by the mosaic floors, grand altar and intricate paintings. 

From the back of the church, admire the impressive Bolshoy Kammeny Bridge along with views of Red Square and Gorky Park.

Spend a Day at Gorky Park

Speaking of, head across the beautiful bridge and make your way to the city’s top park. Gorky Park is an expansive green area that runs along the banks of the Moscow River. It’s the biggest in the city, with something to offer for solo travelers, couples and families alike.

In the summer months, locals flock to Gorky Park in the evenings and on the weekends, where you’ll find all sorts of entertainment. In the morning hours, stumble upon yoga classes and dance lessons before joggers and cyclists arrive in equal numbers. If you have time, get about on foot to appreciate the manicured gardens along the walking path that guides you to Sparrow Hill. From the top, you can bask in exquisite views of the Moscow skyline.

Gorky Park is also home to the Muzeon Art Park, where you’ll find an unusual collection of over 700 sculptures. At night, Gorky Park plays host to an outdoor movie theater while live music is also a common treat.

The beautiful ponds ofPatriarshiye Prudy. Photo credit: E.O./Shutterstock

Patriarshiye Prudy

A traditional home for artists and poets, Patriarshiye Prudy is a bohemian neighborhood with an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and bars. Tucked away from the downtown, Patriarch Ponds is quieter than much of Moscow, yet remains an exciting pace to be. The charming ponds have been referenced in endless poems and depicted in notable pieces of art. You could spend a quaint morning watching the sun rise over the glistening water, which slowly begins the reflect the many beautiful buildings that surround the park. While in winter, the pond freezes, turning into a popular and scenic ice rink.

Along the surrounding streets you’ll discover one of Moscow’s foodie hotspots, with plenty of cozy cafes serving tasty treats and popular Uruguayan steak houses. As primarily a residential neighborhood, you’ll find the tables have turned. Away from the Red Square, visitors will enjoy a look into everyday life, while enjoying some of the best hospitality in town.

Take the Moscow Metro

It’s not in every city that you’ll want to explore the metro. But as we know by now, very few cities are like Moscow. The local subway system was developed under Stain in the 1930s, making them one of the oldest in the world. In typical Stalin fashion, each station is unique, with its own layer of grandeur.

Akin to underground palaces, each station is an attraction making getting around Moscow on the metro an aesthetically pleasing experience. Some of the top stations include Arbatskaya, which features striking bronze chandeliers and granite slabs. While Park Kutlury, next to Gorky park is laden with marble. The stops immediately surrounding Red Square are also easy on the eyes.

On a metro tour, you’ll visit the best 9 metro stations in the city and discover how and why they’re as beautiful as any famous landmark in Moscow.

Walk Down Old Arbat Street

After walking out of Arbatskaya metro station, you’ll find yourself in one of the most hip parts of Moscow. Arbat Street began as a prominent trading route on the outer edges of Moscow. But from those days in the 1400s to now, the city has expanded greatly to the point Arbat Street feels like the center of town.

The historic street is lined with lamp posts backed by upscale buildings harboring chic bars and hip cafes. One of the latter being a popular spot for Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov to hang back in the day. But Old Arbat Street isn’t just famous for those two luminaries, it has long been a haven for artists and poets, including Alexander Pushkin and Bulat Okudzhava, whose statue is found along the pedestrianized street.

Once you’ve completed the mile-long walk, cross over the New Arbat Street where tourism and modern culture collide. Wander through antique shops or watch the street artists play live music or draw humorous caricatures.

Enjoy the Views from the Ostankino TV Tower

For the best views in the city, it’s hard to pass up an experience at the Ostankino TV Tower. The building was completed in 1967 and including the antenna spire it stands at over 1,770 feet (540m) tall. This makes the TV Tower the tallest in Russia and one of the tallest structures in the world.

Visitors can make their way to the observation deck 1,115 feet (340m) above the ground for expansive views of the entirety of Moscow. But to really get your heart racing, sign up for the glass floor experience that will have you feel like you’re flying over a thousand feet above the ground. Turn your trip into date night by reserving a table at the tower’s revolving restaurant. As you eat, the tower rotates 360 degrees, completing a full circle three times every hour.

Make your experience at the Ostankino TV Tower a breeze by getting Moscow’s hop-on hop-off bus pass that not only stops here, but all the top attractions around the city.

Explore the Tsaritsyno Palace

30 minutes on the train from the center of Moscow, Tsaritsyno Palace was once the home of Catherine the Great. The building first opened in 1775 and its lavish palace is surrounded by expansive grounds covering more than 400 acres.

The palace itself is predictably eye-catching. Its warm velvet bricks make way for towering arches and spires. To the left and right are musical fountains and its interior decor has undergone a complete refurbishment to bring it back to its heyday. As you wander through the palace, you’ll discover embellished staircases that lead to grand halls where royal meetings and parties took place.

Tsaritsyno Palace is now a museum, and alongside the storied halls you’ll find several fascinating exhibits. These explore the life and times of Catherine the Great, along with the history of the building. Other highlights include the palace’s own opera house. Afterwards, take a tour of the lush grounds and historic ruins.

Wander Through the VDNKh

What began as an exhibition has grown exponentially to become one of the top parks in Moscow. VDNKh opened in the 1930s as the host of an agricultural event. But in the decades since it continues to be improved upon. It’s now home to over 400 structures, from fountains to museums.

The expansive complex blurs the line between a park and open-air exhibit, with beautiful gardens punctuated by intricate architecture. As you wander around, you’ll find pavilions that represent former Soviet nations along with ample space to sit and admire the amazing Friendship of Nations Fountain. 

Two major attractions in VDNKh are the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics, which celebrates the Russian space experience along with the city’s aquarium. But perhaps the park’s best feature is its lively atmosphere. As a common meeting point for Moscovians, you’ll find restaurants in abundance, the largest skate park in Europe, horseback riding and even the chance to zipline across the complex.

Experience the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics

As you explore the VDNKh, save plenty of time to visit the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. While we all remember the moon landing in 1969, it’s easy to forget that Russia actually sent the first man into space. While the “Space Race” was an enormous factor in the Cold War between Russia and the U.S.

The museum is unmissable, thanks to its towering titanium pillar, affixed with its own rocket. It celebrates the story of Russian space exploration, from sending Yuri Gagarin into space to developing the sputnik. Visitors will be able to gaze upon the first suits worn in outer space and full sized rockets. 

On this private tour, you can learn more about the Cold War and the Space Race that fueled human ambition and lead to incredible feats. Your personal guide will meet at your hotel, where you’ll learn even more about the historic metro on your way to VDNKh. From there, receive valuable insight into the complex before taking a deep dive into Russia’s space exploration.

Shop ‘Til You Drop at GUM

After several days of jumping between cathedrals, parks and palaces, you may be seeking a little retail therapy. If you’re ready to take a break from architectural marvels and embark on some browsing, then make a beeline for GUM. The mall stands for main universal store and is your one stop shop for fashion in Moscow.

You’ll have your choice of over 200 shops, from local boutiques to high-end international brands, meaning you can literally shop ‘til you drop. When you do, you’ll find a great selection of upscale restaurants within the mall, so you don’t have to settle for a regular food court. To save time, head to the Soviet-style canteen for authentic local food.

Bored partners can say goodbye to their loved one and explore the historic mall, which opened in 1893. In keep with the times, it’s starkly different to your typical stale mall with its grand facades and overhanging glass roof that features 20,000 panels.

See the Novodevichy Convent

On the banks of the Moscow River, the Novodevichy Convent is a captivating monastery from the 16th century. Once a prominent fortress, the convent features five domed cathedrals and a marvelous bell tower. Surrounded by historic walls and a series of guard towers, are lush grounds where former leaders once roamed. 

Thanks to its preservation (its last major renovation was in the 1600s), it’s easy to step back to those hallowed eras when the Novodevichy Convent was a hub of activity. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors can explore the impressive Smolensky Cathedral, whose interior decor rivals any in Moscow.

In the 1600s, more chapels were added and feature distinct Muscovite Baroque architecture. But joining them all together is the 236-foot (72m) bell tower that was the tallest structure is Moscow upon completion. 

Enjoy a Culinary Walking Tour

Russia may be known more for its vodka than food, but no time in Moscow would be complete without exploring the local cuisine. Russian cuisine differs from much of Europe, owing to the diversity of a country that balances the pull of the West and East at the same time.

Modern Russian cuisine is very much an example of what was available to everyday people throughout the eras. As you explore the city, you’ll discover a range of dough-based dishes such as pies, rolls and blini, not to mention plenty of dumplings. Owing to its Orthodox heritage, there is also a great range of vegetarian dishes.

Meat dishes in Russia are a particular treat and this is because it was often prepared during the holidays. These celebratory recipes have been passed down through the generations and now form a part of everyday cuisine.

You can learn all about Russian cuisine as you sample local flavors on a food tasting tour.

Explore an Old Royal Estate at Kolomenskoye

From the 1300s to the Bolshevik Revolution, the Tsars and prominent members of Russian society spent their summers at the Kolomenskoye Estate. Covering 300 hectares, several adorned palaces and a 16th century cathedral, the estate is now an expansive open-air museum.

Just out of downtown Moscow, uncover an abundance of history as you roam the famed grounds with views of the Moscow River. Within Kolomenskoye Estate, there are four significant sites that make up the museum. These include the captivating Palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. Such was the esteem held by the palace that it was seen as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

From the fairytale-like palace, explore the beautiful Church of the Ascension before making your way to Golosov Ovrag, known to be a portal into another dimension. Around the grounds, there are several spacious lawns to later sit back and take in the incredible sights.

Visit the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

A Romantic era playwright, poet and author, Alexander Pushkin, is one of the foremost historical figures in Russia. A man who is also known as the father of the modern Russian language. Despite these storied achievements, he has zero connection to the Museum of Fine Arts that carries his name.

However, all art lovers should make their way to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, which hosts an expansive collection of European art. The museum is broken up into eras, including French Impressionism, the Dutch Golden Age and the Renaissance. Highlights include works by iconic luminaries such as Rembrandt, Botticelli and van Gogh. Along with Cezanne’s “Mardi Gras” and the “Young Acrobat on a Ball”, by the one and only Picasso.

After paying a visit to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, wander across the street and find the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Join Locals at the Izmailovsky Market

When you think of the Moscow Kremlin, your mind immediately shifts to the landmark within Red Square. However, kremlin simply means fortress. In fact, you’ll visit many kremlins as you explore the city. One that stands out more than most is Izmailovo. 

Its fairytale setting looks like something straight out of a Disney film. Here, old Russian architecture collides with modern culture. The colorful buildings may very well be as captivating as any in Moscow. Beneath the resplendent spires and kaleidoscopic roofs is the best market in town.

Many travelers flock to New Arbat Street to pick up souvenirs, including the famed Russian dolls. But the Izmailovsky Market is less of a tourist trap while remaining kinder to your wallet. Within the kremlin is an enormous bazaar teeming with merchants selling high quality Russian dolls. If you’ve wandered down Arbat, you’ll quickly notice the difference. Among the dolls, you’ll discover a wide range of goods, such as traditional costumes, handcrafted chess sets, and plenty of memorabilia. Finish by wandering down the aisle of delectable street food.

Experience the Nightlife

Moscow’s nightlife goes into the early hours of the morning. For those seeking a night out on the town, you’ll have an endless list of bars and clubs to choose from. Patriashiye Prudy is one of the top nightlife hubs in Moscow. Here, you’ll find a row of casual bars and cocktail joints along with some smaller nightclubs, including the popular Clava.

Red October is a huge string of red-brick factories that are now home to some of the best and exclusive nightclubs in the city. One not to be missed is Gypsy, a rooftop club with beautiful nighttime views of Moscow skyline.

Keep in mind that most clubs have strict dress codes. Be sure to tick all the boxes before lining up in the cue. 

30 Comments

  1. Rachel
    October 1, 2011
    Reply

    I loved Moscow – but then I’ve been obsessed with Russia for years and had a much calmer start to my time there than you! I have to admit that it’s not nearly as nice as the rest of Russia (is it just me or does everything seem a lot greyer in Moscow?), but it was definitely interesting. Apparently they’re considering taking Lenin out soon as his family want him buried, so hopefully you’ll get to go back and see him some day – and have a much better trip!

    • October 2, 2011
      Reply

      I’d been to St Petersburg before and I enjoyed it SO much more than Moscow. Awww no, I have to see dead Lenin!

  2. Sarah
    October 2, 2011
    Reply

    Maybe some Russian vodka would’ve helped?

    I find that getting lost is always a bit more entertaining when there is vodka involved…

    • October 2, 2011
      Reply

      Hahahaha, I’ll bear that in mind for the next time I get lost :-)

  3. Stasia
    October 2, 2011
    Reply

    YES ITS JUST YOU!!!Of course moscow isnt for everybody (naive
    american backpackers)

    • October 2, 2011
      Reply

      *naive English backpacker.

      • Raymond @ Man On The Lam
        October 8, 2011
        Reply

        hee hee…nice! :)

  4. Jade Johnston
    October 3, 2011
    Reply

    oh no! Sounds aweful! I am really looking foeward to seeing Russia

    • October 12, 2011
      Reply

      I’m sure you’ll have a great time! I LOVED St Petersberg, but just found that Moscow was not for me.

  5. Ian [EagerExistence]
    October 3, 2011
    Reply

    Come on now Lauren! You shouldn’t be judging a destination so quickly! You need to give it a few days to explore, soak up the culture, meet the people. Although, I feel this way about Barcelona. 4 days, and I just don’t see how its everyone’s favourite city in Spain. I think I have to go back and try again to see what’s so magical.

    • October 12, 2011
      Reply

      I know… I can’t help it! I decide if I like a place pretty much within a few hours. Maybe one day I’ll go back and give it another chance.

      And I LOVE Barcelona!

      • Alex B
        January 19, 2015
        Reply

        It’s totally fair to judge a city by your first impression of it! I do it allll the time (both abroad and in my own country).

        • March 21, 2015
          Reply

          I do it all the time, too, but know I probably shouldn’t!

  6. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler
    October 4, 2011
    Reply

    I love those Russian hats. What an interesting place to visit.

    • October 12, 2011
      Reply

      I love the hats too — I bought one the last time I was in Russia!

  7. NLM
    November 1, 2011
    Reply

    Sorry you had a bad time–some days are just like that wherever you are. And the hat’s a keeper anyway.

  8. Nikolay
    November 11, 2011
    Reply

    Lauren,

    Feel free to contact me next time you’re going to visit Moscow if you’re looking for an unforgettable journey. )

  9. Leanne
    December 29, 2011
    Reply

    I loooove Moscow!

    I think there are a few reasons why you didn’t enjoy your time there. Well, first, 24 hours is not a whole lot of time to explore Moscow. There’s SO MUCH to see and impossible to see the majority of it in a day. Also, I’m sure you just wanted to relax for a bit and if you’re new to Russia and do not speak Russian… then that’s probably not going to happen.

    In my experience, I found very little English speaking Russians and over all, they wern’t very helpful and often glared at me, lol. And yeah, taxis (both official and unofficial taxis) over charge foreigners. You have to basically fight with them to get a good price… but It’s hard to do that if you don’t speak Russian.

    So I can see how the trip was super frustrating and not really enjoyed.

    If you knew a little Russian or had a friend to help you around, I am POSITIVE you would have enjoyed yourself so much more!

    Moscow is certainly my #1 city thus far. I even love it more than Vienna! Then again, I knew a little Russian, spent the weekend there with my Russian friends, and got to see much of the city.

  10. January 31, 2012
    Reply

    Hmmm, maybe go back again on a relaxed journey?

  11. February 26, 2014
    Reply

    We spent a week in Moscow back in March of 2013. We found a great apartment on Tverskaya Street just 150 meters from Red Square. People asked us why in the world would we go to Moscow in March (we found an airfare error and jumped on it), but in hindsight I wouldn’t want it any other way. Red Square, the National Historical Museum, St. Basil’s, Novodevichy Convent, etc, were incredibly beautiful in the snow (plus, I imagine all the dirt and grime is covered in the winter also). I probably won’t go back to Moscow, but definitely recommend it to all my friends, but only in the winter. If/when I return to Russia, I think it will be to Saint Petersburg, but that is a city I want to visit in the summer.

  12. August 13, 2015
    Reply

    Your post made me laugh! I have been to both Moscow and St Petersburg and enjoyed both. Much preferred Moscow as we were lucky to stay with friends who’d been living there for a couple of years and they knew good local restaurants to visit and gave us lots of advice. Dead Lenin was also a highlight!
    St Petersburg, while beautiful, seemed more like a museum than a living city to me. We had a guide and were very carefully steered to all the main attractions and away from “real” Russian life. I find it a fascinating country but it’s not exactly relaxing to travel in.
    I’ve just discovered your blog, so look forward to reading more.

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Sandy! Happy you enjoyed my post! I can’t believe it’s been four years since I visited Moscow.

  13. Boten
    December 2, 2015
    Reply

    Had the same experience today. 16h connection used for doing a selfie in the red square . the impression from the city is exactly the same as yours. I won’t come back .
    The red square area is impressing , the snow is nice and there’s kind of Christmas atmosphere , but I felt this city is just a mix of bad things I’ve seen in other cities – big brand empty shops with poor people outside as in Beijing , traffic as Bangkok , prices as London , neglected as East Berlin , Heavy guarded as Jerusalem , cold as Kiev .

    • June 3, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Boten! I’d like to revisit Moscow one day to see if my opinions have changed, but it’s been six years since I was last there, so I guess I’m not making a huge effort right now!

  14. Emma
    May 16, 2016
    Reply

    Is it just you? If it’s anything like my experiences there, then yes and no, lol.

    I’m a graduate of my uni’s Russian Studies program, and the first two trips I took to Russia, I have to admit I was miserable for the first 3 days or so after I got there. And that’s with knowing the language (and the cyrillic on the metro signs), so without would be understandably harder.

    In my experience, Russia (and in particular, Moscow) can feel like a very unwelcoming place to arrive in, especially if you’re alone. People don’t smile at you in shops or on the street, speech and mannerisms can feel startlingly brusque if you’re not used to it, the weather can be harsh, even the smells all around you can be new and disorienting (a mix of indoor-smoking and iron and stone from the ubiquitous stairways). I think all those factors can subconsciously cause your mood to do some swan dives in the first few days, even if in your conscious mind you’re excited to be there.

    As you noted with the hostel, there’s also sometimes a weird mix of impossibly complex bureaucracy and surprisingly huge margin of error, which can seriously make anyone visiting (and all the more so people who have to live there with it year-round) feel extremely frustrated and helpless.

    On top of all that, there’s a strange mix of affluence and desolation pretty much all around you, both of which can feel hostile and off-putting when you’re looking for somewhere to settle in and combat jet-lag, homesickness, anxieties, or anything else you’re dealing with.

    To be fair, a lot of people also simply hate Moscow. People who are from Russia, but from somewhere far away from the capital, often also find it cold and uninteresting. So it could be that you’re just not a fan, which is obviously fine too.

    If you do go back though, having a longer time to hang out and explore could help. I sometimes have a hard time recommending what to do and see in Moscow, because honestly my favourite thing to do there is just to exist and spend time. In the summer it’s nice to get a snack from a cafe or grocery store and sit in one of the parks or by the river, or walk down the winding streets and happen upon a walled monastery with a little door in it that takes into into another world of incense and candles. Or use Moscow as a base, and take local electric trains to nearby sites with views of the countryside along the way. In the winter, take shelter in a cafe like Cafe Margarita (my favourite spot in Moscow, if not the world) where you can cuddle a cup of tea and listen to a trio of violins and a piano; or take the glorious metro system to the Izmaylovsky Market, and trudge through the snow among rows upon rows of vendors and old folks gathered around a fire playing chess.

    It’s a daunting place, and to some people it’s not necessarily worth it. To me, even though when I first arrived I would have gladly accepted the first ticket someone had offered me out of there, I ended up finding a lot that I liked – but more importantly, I felt like for me it just took time to start feeling okay there.

    • May 20, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you so much for leaving such a helpful comment, Emma!

  15. Anna
    January 3, 2017
    Reply

    After spending two months studying in Moscow I am so sad you had such a horrible experience in my favorite city. Obviously, like Emma said already, Moscow is not for everyone. I urge you to revisit Moscow, and Russia in general, because they have modernized (and Anglicized) a lot in the past few years.

    My favorite spots include Tsaritsyno Park (just a 5 minute walk from the Tsaritsyno station on the green metro line), Zurab Tseretali Musuem (the famous Georgian-Russian artist), and Strelka Bar (which overlooks the Moscow River and has great nighttime views of the city).

    As for the metro, I have found the Moscow metro to be the easiest, most efficient metro I have ever used (NYC, Boston, Chicago, DC, and St. Petersburg included). The Moscow trains are typically now labeled both in Russian and in English. Also, most young Russians nowadays speak somewhat rudimentary English if you should ever need any assistance.

    Like I said, Moscow may not have left you wanting more, but I encourage you to spend a little more time there if you are looking for a place steeped in history, full of culture, and teeming with amazingly hospitable people.

  16. Aleksey
    February 2, 2018
    Reply

    So sad to hear negative about my country. Your bad experience could happen in any place (I travel a lot, I know), don’t apply it to whole country. I live in beautiful Saint-Petersburg and invite you to show this place if you want. Travel with local friends and you avoid negative situations. Write me on email or instagram @filatov.aleksey (here you can see photos of my city) . Hope to be friends), hope to improve your meaning about Russia.

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