Moscow is the second largest city in Europe, steeped in history with an abundance of amazing architecture. The city itself is based on the Moskva River and is home to 12.4m people. The public transport in Moscow serves the city superbly with the largest metro system outside Asia. You’ll have no problems getting around to see the best of what Moscow has to offer. Here’s how you can spend three days in the Russian capital.
What better place to start your first day in Moscow than Red Square? Red Square is seen to be situated in the centre of Moscow, a short walk from the Okhotny Ryad metro station on the red line, line 1. The square has historical importance with many armed military parades taking place here during the Soviet Era along with Lenin’s Mausoleum. The area surrounding the square is extremely photogenic so get your camera ready!
Fun Fact: In May 1987, a German pilot left from Hamburg and landed his light aircraft next to the Red Square prompting multiple sackings of high ranking defence officials and the closure of Moscow airspace to small aircraft this date. No helicopter tours in Moscow!
Within the Red Square you can see the Kremlin, the State Historical Museum, the GUM store and the colourful St. Basil’s Cathedral. You can enter famous and instantly recognisable St. Basil’s Cathedral for free but the outside is where you’ll get all of your pictures. The inside is made up of multiple rooms but if there’s a queue then it’s perhaps not worth going in.
The Kremlin is home to the President of Russia and is made up of five palaces, four cathedrals, along with the walls and towers. At the Kremlin you can also visit Lenin’s Mausoleum free of charge. The Mausoleum is home to the body of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and has been since 1924. The Armoury is also worth visiting. The museum features a collection of around 4,000 Russian historical artefacts from across six centuries of Russian civilisation. The artefacts are lavish with a looooot of gold on show!
A short walk from the Red Square is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a war memorial dedicated to the Russian soldiers killed in World War 2. The memorial consists of a tomb with a laurel branch and a soldier’s helmet laid upon a banner. Two guards are situated at either side of the memorial and you can watch as they perform a changing of the guard every hour.
The Museum of Cosmonautics is next up. It’s a short walking distance from the VDNKh metro stop on the orange line, line 6. The museum is easily spotted due to the massive monument on top showing a rocket flying into space. It costs a total of 250 rubles (£3 / $4) to enter with the museum open every day from 10am, closing at 7pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday whilst closing at 9pm on the other days.
There are around 85,000 artefacts from the soviet era right through to the current date is on show through the large museum. It is very impressive with a number of original space suits, stories on the first dogs in space and the story of Yuri Gagarin. Yuri was the first human to journey into space and became a natioanal hero upon his return. It’s also interesting to see the propaganda posters during the space race with the US.
Something to know: Most, but not all, of the items are in Russian so you can either use a translation app or pay for a guided tour in English.
The Central Armed Forces Museum should be your second stop on your second day. The museum is around a 5-10 minute walk from the Dostoevskaya metro station on the lime green line, line 10. The history of the Russian army is featured here right through the ages up to modern day. These items are displayed through the 25 main halls within the building.
Something to know: Everything is in Russian! Again, prepare yourself with a translation app or pay for a guided tour in English. You’ll struggle to understand the story behind the items without one of those.
The most interesting part, for me anyway, was the exhibition on World War 2 and the war on the eastern front. The original Victory Banner is on display here. The Victory Banner was the banner raised over the Reichstag in Berlin on the day following Hitler’s suicide. There’s also multiple items from Nazi Germany on display after being captured by the Russians in 1945.
Top Tip: Don’t miss the outside area! It’s easy to miss so go downstairs and look at the military items outside too. There are lots of planes, helicopters, tanks and much more!
Finish your second day with a show at the Bolshoi Theatre. This is the most famous theatre in Russia and is easily accessed from the Teatralnaya metro station on the green line, line 2. The theatre opened in 1856 and has regular ballet and opera performances with tickets not as difficult to get as you’d have thought. Ticket prices can vary greatly depending on the performance but the cost can be between 100 (£1 / $2) and 15,000 (£181 / $240) rubles.
Fun Fact: The Bolshoi is known as the big theatre with the Maly Theatre (small theatre) next to it. During the Soviet era, the Bolshoi were given the privilege of being able to perform abroad and each time a number of performers defected and stayed in the west. A Moscow joke at the time was that the Maly Theatre was bigger than the Bolshoi when they came back from a tour.
On your final day in the Russian capital, it’s worth spending those last remaining Rubles at the GUM department store. The shopping centre which reopened in 1953 is a stones throw from Red Square. The very impressive building with a stunning glass roof is home to over 100 top brands such as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss, to name just a few.
If shopping isn’t your thing and you haven’t got your fill of the fantastic architecture Moscow has to offer then take a journey on the Metro system. To where I hear you ask. Well, just to look at the Metro stations! The underground system was originally built as a Soviet propaganda project with vast amounts of money spent on making the stations look as good as they could.
Arbatskaya is probably up there as the nicest Metro station with some amazing detailing. Kiyevskaya is another station worth seeing, it was opened to celebrate 300 years of Russia and Ukrainian unity with many mosaics showcasing the friendship. Alongside the older designed stations there are also modern designed Metro stations such as the Dostoyevskaya station which you would’ve already seen if you went to the Central Armed Forces museum.
Wonderful architecture can be found all around Moscow with the Moscow State University Building, Donskoi Monastery and the Cathedral of the Assumption all within walking distance of the sprawling underground system.
Have you visited Moscow? What would you recommend in a short break in the city?