For the first-time visitor, a visit to Russia’s capital city Moscow might seem daunting. The huge city feels imposing and intimidating on the surface. However, it has much to offer visitors with its incredible Moscow attractions, from fine restaurants, iconic buildings, and a wealth of art and culture, with its millennia-long history.
Here’s where you should visit if you want to make the most of your stay in Moscow.
The Best Moscow Attractions
View of the Kremlin at night
The Kremlin, the political and historical heart of Russia, is a fortress on the Moscow river. It takes you back to medieval Russia, with its three cathedrals, Patriarch’s Palace, the church where Russian tsars were crowned, an 81-metre tall bell tower of Ivan the Great (which you can climb), and an armoury chamber.
An all-inclusive ticket (which you can purchase online in advance) allows you access to the various sites in the Kremlin to experience some of the best Moscow attractions the city has to offer.
Stop at the Red Square to marvel at the St. Basil’s Cathedral, which looks like it came straight out of a toy box! While the square itself is huge, there are a number of beautiful Moscow buildings surrounding it, including the Spasskaya Tower, the Natural History Museum, and Lenin’s Mausoleum.
Red Square on a winter’s night
Visit the square again at night when the glowing streetlights shine on the red-bricked buildings. If you’re visiting in winter, be sure to rent a pair of skates when the square is converted into a huge skating rink and brace yourself for the chilly Moscow weather!
GUM shopping mall
Facing the Red Square is the 120-year-old GUM shopping mall, which will transport you back to the opulence of Imperial Russia. During Soviet times, it was the state department store. However, since the fall of communism, it has returned to its pre-revolutionary splendour.
Interior of GUM / CC BY 2.0 / Eduard V. Kurganov
While you’re there, the restroom is well worth a visit. It sounds funny, but the toilet really is an experience well worth the 200 ruble entrance fee. With flooring and sinks made of marble and granite, porcelain toilet bowls and attendants at your service, this beautiful toilet is sure to impress, proving that Moscow attractions can wow you in the unlikeliest of places.
Traditional Russian “plombir” ice cream / Marco Verch
The most legendary ice cream in Soviet times was the “plombir” ice cream. You can still pick one up in its three original flavours at GUM: crème brulee, vanilla and chocolate, served in a waffle cone cup!
CC0 / Tom Grimbert
Located a few steps away from the Kremlin is Zaryadye Park, Moscow’s latest must-visit destination. The park reflects Russia’s different regional landscapes – from birch forests to tundra vegetation. It features a concert hall, ice cave and a boomerang-shaped “floating” bridge that makes for the perfect picture-taking spot.
Be sure to check out the market hall and food court located in the park for a taste of Russian cuisine and delicacies from all parts of the country.
Arbat street / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Alex ‘Florstein’ Fedorov
In pre-revolutionary times, Arbat was home to the Pushkins, the Tolstoys, and the Kropotkins, all famous Russian figures living amongst the Moscow population. In the 80s and 90s, it was home to artists and vagabonds. Now, Arbat is full of tourists, lively street performers, and musicians. It’s one of the few pedestrian zones in Moscow, and a great place for people watching. The street is lined with souvenir shops stuffed with treasures like the ubiquitous Matryoshka dolls, fur hats and traditional scarves.
Take a walk down the parallel Novy Arbat to see tall soviet modernist buildings decorated with electric light displays. Join the locals who chill at the many cafes and bars that line the giant avenue.
Former Red October Chocolate Factory
View of the Christ the Savior Cathedral from the former Red October Chocolate Factory
The former Red October Chocolate Factory, located on an island on the Moskva River just across the Christ the Savior Cathedral, is a hipster’s paradise amongst Moscow attractions. The former factory has been converted to a mixed-use area, housing architecture and design studios, boutiques by local designers, craft beer bars, art galleries and trendy restaurants.
Grab a glass of wine at one of the rooftop bars with views of the Moskva River. Spend the evening wandering among its bars and clubs. Alternatively, visit during the day to see the Red October Gallery and the Lumiere Brothers Photography Gallery.
Interior of Café Pushkin / CC BY 2.0 / e_chaya
If you want to try Russian cuisine, there’s no better place than Café Pushkin. Its traditional food is prepared with seasonal and local ingredients. The atmosphere alone makes it worth visiting – it’s decorated to look like a Russian aristocrat’s home in the mid-19th century.
Russian pancakes with caviar and sour cream / CC BY 2.0 / Un Bolshakov
I recommend trying the syrniki (sweet cottage cheese dumplings), shchi (cabbage soup), ukha (fish soup), pierogi (traditional pies), and blini (pancakes) with sour cream and caviar. It’s open 24 hours a day, and equally enjoyable whether it’s a hearty breakfast or a stylish dinner you’re after.
Where to stay
The five-star Marriott Moscow Grand Hotel is an affordable Moscow hotel and conveniently located near the Belourussky train station and a 15-minute walk to the Red Square down the magnificent Tverskaya Boulevard. Alternatively, the Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel and the Golden Ring Hotel are both a stone’s throw away from Arbat and a short walk from the Kremlin and Red Square.