The capital of Russia is one of those cities that you can explore for days, if not weeks, without actually seeing the whole city and all it has to offer. A simple stroll through the streets of central Moscow can be extremely time-consuming as there is so much to see: Stunning Russian architecture and the famous Kremlin are just a tiny part of this gigantic metropolis. And although it ranks as the 9th most expensive city in the world, there are plenty of sites you can visit for free, so let’s see which ones!
What should you visit in Moscow?
Places to visit in Moscow’s Red Square
In Moscow, the Kremlin and Red Square are a must! Did you know that the Kremlin was built by a team of Italian architects? The fortress and the towers that you can see today were built between 1450 and 1490. In the middle of the square, along with the fortress, there are tombs of famous Russian personalities. You don’t miss the Lenin Mausoleum. It is a large marble building. During all the great events of the time of the Soviet Union, the leaders of different countries presented themselves on the platform of the mausoleum. Today the authorities welcome people to a specific place next to the mausoleum.
You see the GUM, which is an old building. In the past, it was a big market. Today it is an expensive and luxurious mall. Explore the place where the crème de la crème of Russian society goes!
In Red Square, there is also the Museum of History. Having a red color also fits very well on the red square. It is an almost “modern” monument that was built between 1875 and 1883. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. You can see relics, works, and documents from Russian history. The interesting fact is that before the museum there was a university building in this place. I recommend you go through Alexander’s Garden and watch the Changing of the Guardians ceremony next to the Tomb of an Unknown Soldier. It is the memorial that commemorates the victims of the Second World War. The Alexander Garden leads to the Museum of History. I hope you will enjoy the “red” atmosphere in Moscow.
When you are in Red Square visit the Basil-le-Bien-Happy Cathedral. It is a beautiful cathedral that you can see on the majority of Moscow postcards. It was built between 1555-1561. In fact, the cathedral has many small and large chapels. The interior of each chapel is decorated in the typical Orthodox style with lots of gold. Basil-the-blessed is a saint who is known for his talent for clairvoyance. He was respected by King Ivan the Terrible.
After your visit to the cathedral, continue further towards Zariadie Park. It is a new park where you will enjoy the beautiful view of the river and the Orthodox cathedrals. There is also a restaurant where you can taste typical Russian cuisine.
Bolshoi theater and cultural places to visit in Moscow
I admire the ballets! And you? And I don’t really like opera. The famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow is renowned for its exceptional ballets. It has been under renovation for 200 years, the beginning of its existence. The building you see today is the fourth construction. During World War II, the building was camouflaged and therefore protected to become an ordinary building. The Russian ballet school is the best in the world, which is why many tourists dream of going there and seeing the show. It is in the theater square (named after the theater). It is a large square that leads to the street that connects with Manezhnaya Square, next to the Kremlin and Alexander Garden. Hope you have a chance to see the show, enjoy it!
Modernity elegantly blends with history in Moscow. See this small Orthodox cathedral between the two glass and metal skyscrapers! During the period of the Soviet, Union religion was banned and all cathedrals were either closed or even demolished. For example, during this period, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow was destroyed and a swimming pool was built there. But, fortunately, many cathedrals have been preserved and today religion is “popular” in Russia. You may see more people of all ages praying at church in Moscow than at church in Paris or Brussels. The interior of the cathedrals is very rich, with a lot of gold and icons and decorated with mosaics.
Moscow’s main avenues and nightlife
Russia is a big country with big streets. Almost all avenues in Moscow have 5-7 lanes for traffic. The main avenues and streets in downtown Moscow look best when illuminated at night and with pretty decorations. I recommend you to stroll through Varvarka, Kuznetsky most, Petrovka, and Tverskaya streets and experience the grandiose of Moscow at night. Be sure to have a drink with a choice of Russian pies. Also, there are various luxurious apartments, chalets & villas for a rental stay in Russia, you could book one of them according to your budget & taste.
South-West Moscow: a Must-See
In Moscow, the southwest corner is a must. There is the beautiful Novodevichy Monastery, a female monastery that was established in 1524 by King Vasily on the Third. The history of its establishment is questionable. The first version would be that Vasily all promised to build the monastery for the commemoration of the victory in Smolensk. The second version is that he would have built it for his wife with whom he divorced because she was sterile (a very sad reality of that time). The monastery is near the small gulf of the Moscow river.
There is also the cemetery in the monastery where many famous Russians, such as artists, writers, musicians, etc, were buried. You can start your visit here and after that, you can walk to the “Luzhniki” cable car to cross the Moscow river to the university.
The Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory)is a place next to the University. Next to the cable car station, there is a beautiful restaurant where you can taste Russian food and drinks and see the panorama over Moscow. Moscow University was initiated by Queen Elizabeth. But the university is developing very slowly, and Lomonosov, a Russian scholar, and writer known in his country before being internationally famous influenced the development of the university. Later the queen, Catherine the Great, advanced science in Russia and enabled the development of the university. The university building you see today was built during the Stalinist period. It is one of the seven skyscrapers in Moscow with the original architecture. Two of them are hotels, the other two are apartments and the last two are government departments.
Art in Moscow
I really like modern and classical art. If you are interested in Russian art you must visit the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Tretyakov was a merchant and a philanthropist who loved art. He began to collect Russian works and established the gallery. The works of his collection are those of famous artists like Surikov, Rublev, Repin, Shishkin, etc. The most famous work is “The Bogatyrs” by Vasnetsov. It is a large painting with three tall and strong knights.
This painting is as popular in Russia as “Mona Lisa” in France. Other artists are known for their specific styles and theme. For example, Ayvazovsky painted seascapes in gray and dark hues that can cause sadness and wonder. Shishkin is known for the representation of the Russian forest and its bears. I was surprised by the hostesses of the gallery who were well informed and who told me a lot about the history of the works.