The capital of Russia and the largest city in the country, Moscow is a huge megalopolis, the historical, political and spiritual heart of the Russian Federation. Moscow is the largest capital of Europe, filled with sights, historical and cultural monuments, as well as world-class museums. This is a city of incredible dynamics and size, impossible to embrace in one trip.
In 2021, Moscow has been considered the World’’s Leading City Break Destination and World’s Leading Heritage City Destination according to the World Travel Award – the leading authority that recognizes and rewards excellence in travel and tourism. Moreover, the city has been ranked 4th in Resonance Consultancy’s 100 Best cities ranking 2021.
Moscow is a charming modern city with a huge number of attractions and interesting places: from an ancient fortress and grandiose cathedrals to beautiful parks and futuristic skyscrapers. On the streets of the city, you can find ancient sacred monuments and palaces, which are adjacent to monumental buildings of Soviet architecture and ultramodern structures.
However, Moscow is not only famous for this. Manicured gardens and parks, brutalist monuments, quirky museums, open-air cinemas and glitzy boutiques co-exist in this storied city, which burst into the 21st century with a slew of restaurant openings and grand urban schemes.
The capital of Russia: the basic things you have to know
Moscow is located in the far western part of Russia about 400 miles (640 km) southeast of St. Petersburg and 300 miles (480 km) east of the border with Belarus. It stands on the Moscow River, a tributary of the Oka and thus of the Volga, in the center of the vast plain of European Russia. The city and its surrounding area, the Moscow oblast (province), lie in the northwest corner of the most highly developed and densely populated part of Russia. Moscow is situated in the broad, extremely shallow valley of the Moscow River and its tributaries.
Since it was first mentioned in the chronicles of 1147, Moscow has played a vital role in Russian history. It became the capital of Muscovy (the Grand Principality of Moscow) in the late 13th century; hence, the people of Moscow are known as Muscovites. Today Moscow is not only the political center of Russia but also the country’s most populous city and its industrial, cultural, scientific, and educational capital.
The ethnic composition of Moscow is quite wide. Thus, there are more than 15 nations that create an ethnic map of Moscow today: Russian (91%), Ukrainian (1,42%), Tatar (1,38%), Armenian (0,98%), Azeri (0,5%), Jews (0,49%), Belarusian (0.4%) and many others.
Therefore, the predominant religion is Christianity, with the Russian Orthodox Church being the most popular, as Moscow is the capital of Orthodox Christianity in the country, and a part of Russia’s historical heritage in a law passed 25 years ago.
Russian is the official language of Moscow, and the majority of citizens of this city speak this language. However, English is more widely spoken here than in any other city in Russia, and is the second language of 80 percent of the bilingual citizens of the city. In Moscow, you can also meet people speak Ukrainian, Tatar, Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian languages.
Because Russia’s official alphabet is the Cyrillic alphabet, signs will also be written in Cyrillic script. This can make getting around tricky at first, but a Russian phrasebook can help you decipher street signs and place names.
The Cultural Code of the Capital
Moscow is the largest cultural center in Russia. The city’s theatres, exhibitions and architecture are well-known worldwide. The extensive interaction of people from different cultures has shaped the city’s unique image and traditions. In the capital, you can sense the powerful fusion of different epochs. Here, ancient houses sit side by side with ultra-modern buildings; traditional ballet is presented on the same stage as experimental performances; and classical museums share their audience with contemporary art galleries. Moscow has something for everyone.
For architecture enthusiasts, the capital is an unending source of inspiration. If you look hard enough, you will find elements of different architectural eras hidden within its buildings. In Moscow, imperial mansions harmoniously co-exist with the high-tech design of the capital’s glass and concrete skyscrapers, as do the quiet green courtyards of the city centre with the busy suburban motorways.
Theatre-goers will be pleasantly surprised to discover that the city has over 150 theatres. The Bolshoi, Lenkom, Sovremennik and Moscow Art Theatres are all known for their classical repertoire. However, traditional theatre is not the only thing Moscow has to offer in the thespian realm. The capital has many recently created experimental studios that proudly represent Moscow at international theatre festivals.
There are more than 450 museums in the capital. Their collections bring together unique artefacts from different periods of history. Today, the famous Tretyakov Gallery, the grand Pushkin Museum and the restored Moscow Manege are more than mere halls showcasing countless exhibits. In fact, Moscow’s contemporary museums serve as platforms where history and modernity engage in a conversation with the capital’s residents and visitors.
Moscow’s Culture in Figures: 450 museums and exhibition halls, 250 theatres and concert halls, 144 cinemas, 1,500 libraries, and 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
10 things you can’t miss out in Moscow
The Moscow Kremlin, one of the largest architectural ensembles in the world, leaves no one cold. It is located in the center of the Russian capital, on a high hill above the Moskva River. The Kremlin’s tall walls, combat platforms, and the cadence of towers – everything points to the fact that it is above all a fortress. But as soon as you enter the Kremlin, you get a different impression. The territory of 28 hectares is occupied by enormous squares and beautiful parks, magnificent palaces and a multitude of churches. It is an actual city within a city that was being created over the course of centuries, and to this day preserves Russian architectural land marks from the 14th–20th centuries. Those landmarks make up the ensembles of Sobornaya, Ivanovskaya, Senate, Palace and Troitskaya squares, as well as Spasskaya, Borovitskaya and Dvortsovaya streets. The old and new squares of the Kremlin are united into one architectural unit, but each of them has its own history and its own unique architectural look.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral is the finest features of the stone architecture of medieval Moscow, including tented roofs, intricate domes, gables, narrow windows, barrels and other architectural elements. In the late 16th century, a heated church was built on the north-eastern side of the modern cathedral, the spot where Saint Basil was buried, hence the cathedral’s name. The domes were originally painted green, and were repainted in their current colours in the late 18th century. The cathedral’s domes signify the cardinal directions, with the blue-white dome standing to the north (the colours representing snow and cold) and the red dome (symbolizing heat and a red sun) in the south.
Moscow metro is well-known all over the world for its beauty and reliability. The Moscow Metro is not only a convenient way to move around the city, but one of its main sights, a cultural gem, where even guided tours are held. Its stations are decorated with marble, mosaics, and sculptures. Mayakovskaya, Kiyevskaya, Komsomolskaya, and Novoslobodskaya are among the most beautiful of the many stations.
City Sightseeing Bus: The Soul of Moscow. This special route of this red double-decker bus passes the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Gorky Park, Sparrow Hills, Zaryadye Park and Red Square. On clear and warm days, the second floor of the double-decker remains open. Passengers can choose to listen to the tour through headphones or enjoy a meditative sightseeing tour of the city. Tickets for the City Sightseeing Bus are available in 24, 48 or 74-hour hour options. You can hop on and off at any stop an unlimited number of times for the duration of the ticket’s validity.
Zaryadye Park — the first and only landmark in Russia that has made the Times list of the best places in the world. This title is well deserved. The park was designed by the famous New York design studio DillerScofidio+Renfro. Allow yourself at least half a day to visit Zaryadye in order to properly enjoy a peaceful walk alongside rare moss, take a virtual flight over Russia, dine in true 1960s fashion, and snap a perfect sunset selfie over the Moskva River.
Moscow cultural visit cards: Tretyakov Gallery on Lavrushinsky lane and Alexander Pushkin State Museum. The Tretyakov collection, handed over to Moscow in 1892, was later replenished through private collections and public procurement. The gallery presents all the main schools of Russian art: Old Russian icon painting, painting and sculpture of the 18th to first half of the 19th centuries, the work of the Wanderers and Miriskussniks, avant-garde artists and other masters of the 20th century. The oldest icon of the Virgin of Vladimir is stored in the church of St. Nicholas in Tolmachi.
Talking about Pushkin State Museum, two centuries ago, Moscow’s high society gathered here in the Empire-style mansion. Now, you can feel like a warmly welcomed celebrity at the Khrushchev estate. Pushkin and his contemporaries, their light talks and heated disputes about the destiny of Motherland will come to life. In the halls depicting the writer’s biography, you will see the milestones of this genius. Younger visitors can go to Buyan Island and visit the fair and other fairytale places from Pushkin’s world.
Moscow River ride. Take a boat ride on the Moscow River. The views from it are excellent, and there are an enormous number of varieties of boats. For example, for those who are not interested in excursions, there are simple walking routes or even whole restaurants that run from one shore to the other.
Moscow theatres. Theatre-goers will be pleasantly surprised to discover that the city has over 150 theatres. Lenkom, Sovremennik and Moscow Art Theatres are all known for their classical repertoire. And certainly, the Bolshoi. One of the most reputable opera and ballet theatres in the world. You’ve got to book your tickets to Bolshoi well in advance, to put it lightly. For instance, The Nutcracker ballet staged on 31 December tends to be fully booked by summer. The repertoire of Bolshoi Theatre includes both classical and experimental works by young directors.
Moreover, traditional theatre is not the only thing Moscow has to offer in the thespian realm. The capital has many recently created experimental studios that proudly represent Moscow at international theatre festivals.
Cozy Moscow streets. In recent years, there have been more and more convenient pedestrian streets in the centre of Moscow. Now, in addition to the Old Arbat, residents and guests of the capital can enjoy walking along the broad Nikolskaya, which has become one of the most famous places in Moscow after the World Cup, which was held in Russia. From here you can walk directly to the Kuznetsky Bridge.
Moscow parks. Moscow is an oasis of green spaces. The city has more than 140 natural areas. According to World Atlas, 54 percent of Moscow’s area are covered by public parks and gardens, so Moscow was ranked number one among the greenest cities in the world.
Every district boasts expansive natural monuments, reserves and eco-parks (including national ones) fitted with recreational areas, sports facilities, eco-trails and playgrounds. Losiny Ostrov National park can be called the green lungs of the city. It is the biggest urban park in Europe (with the total area of 116 km² of which 30.77 km² (27%) fall within the boundaries of Moscow). Other vast green territories are: Bitsevski Park (the second largest natural park in Moscow covering the area of 18 square kilometres), Izmailovsky Park (16 km²), Kuzminki park (11.89 km²) and Sokolniki park (5.16 km²).
Moscow offers a great variety of restaurants and cafes. Moscow has absorbed the culture and traditions of different nationalities of Russia and Europe. This applies to the Moscow cuisine. Moscow dishes are original, hearty, and different from other regional cuisines of Russia, even if prepared according to the same recipes. The most common dishes are Open Pies, Sour Soup, and Borsch.
Moscow’s burgeoning gastronomic scene has been causing a stir locally and internationally. Published for the first time in 2021, the Michelin Moscow Guide awarded its prestigious stars to no fewer than nine of the city’s restaurants. A total of 69 restaurants were recommended, with three of them awarded ‘green stars’ for sustainability. Fifteen restaurants received the ‘Bib Gourmand’, which acknowledges excellent cooking at affordable prices.
Time-honoured haunts for blinis and caviar include the baroque Café Pushkin and the formidable soviet-themed Dr Zhivago, while the glass-domed White Rabbit, whose chef starred in Netflix’s ‘Chef’s Table’, continues to dazzle with creative twists on classic dishes. Also creating a stir is Twins Garden, which focuses on wildly inventive vegetable dishes and home-grown produce.
The climate of Moscow is dominated by westerly winds from the Atlantic. Precipitation is moderate, about 23 inches (580 mm) a year. Snow is common, beginning usually about mid-November and lasting generally until mid-March; the city is well-equipped to keep the streets clear. Winters are long, yet they are significantly milder than in similar climatic regions of North America. Southerly airstreams occasionally bring days with temperatures above freezing. Conversely, northerly winds from the Arctic bring very sharp drops in temperature, often accompanied by clear, brisk weather with low relative humidity. Thus, although the January average temperature is 14 °F (-10 °C), there can be considerable variation; temperatures have dropped to near -45 °F (-43 °C). Spring is relatively brief, and the temperature rises rapidly during late April. Summers are warm, and July, the warmest month, has an average temperature in the mid-60s F (about 18 °C); temperatures nearing 100 °F (38 °C) have been reached in August. Rainy days are not uncommon, but the summer rainfall often comes in brief, heavy downpours and thunderstorms. Autumn, like spring, is short, with rapidly falling temperatures.
Moscow follows the Moscow Time zone, followed by St. Petersburg and most of western Russia as well. Moscow Time is UTC+3 and it’s one of nine time zones in Russia. Moscow does not observe daylight savings.
Moscow aims to be the perfect city for its citizens and guests to live in and travel around. The continuous implementation of major urban transport projects has already made even the most remote corners of the capital accessible. Thanks to the various beautification programs launched by the Government, Moscow is getting both prettier and ‘smarter’.
Digitalization is making its way into the city. Public transport stops are now fitted with electronic displays that are synchronized with the GLONASS navigation system. The city’s traffic lights feature sensors that send road traffic information to the control centre. Moscow’s Wi-Fi coverage ensures that the internet is available from anywhere within the city – and not just above the ground. Every train on the Moscow Metro offers internet connection. These examples all demonstrate just how deeply innovation is rooted in the life of the city.
Every day, the capital is visited by over a million people. That is the entire population of Prague in a single day! These visitors include residents of the city suburbs who work in Moscow, as well as tourists from other parts of Russia and the world.
The metro is the easiest way to get from one part of Moscow to another. This mode of public transport connects the city centre with the suburbs and residential areas. The Moscow Metro has a radial-ring structure and follows the city’s historic layout. The fourteen lines of the city’s metro network (excluding the monorail and central ring) carry 9.4 million passengers every day. What a truly staggering figure! The growing passenger traffic offers a great incentive for further development. The city’s metro network has expanded over the past few years. There are plans to open 11 new stations along the Bolshaya Koltsevaya line in 2021.
However, visitors and residents don’t just choose the Moscow Metro for its convenience and speed; its stations are also truly priceless cultural sites. Moreover, the Koltsevaya line has themed train cars where you can learn a lot of useful information about Russia as a whole and Moscow in particular.
Trams are one of the oldest modes of transportation in Moscow. The city’s first tram line was launched all the way back in 1899. However, today there is nothing obsolete about Moscow trams. In recent years, Moscow’s tram network has undergone extensive modernisation. Thanks to track repairs and upgrades to the tram fleet, this mode of transportation is becoming faster and more convenient. Moscow’s public transport authorities expect the new tramway network to include 600 stops and span a total of 170 km once completed.
City tourists can take advantage of two sightseeing routes that travel around the capital: Tram Route A, affectionately nicknamed Annushka, and Tram Route 39, which both offer a fun and convenient way to see a number of interesting locations on one trip.
Moscow Central Circle
The Moscow Central Circle was completed in 2016. The MCC is an intracity railway with high-comfort electric trains and cars are designed for a variety of population groups. These cars are fitted with bike racks and special spaces for strollers and wheelchairs. The electric trains are equipped with lavatories, climate control systems, and Wi-Fi. An unmanned driving system is expected to be launched here in 2021.
There are 31 transfer hubs on the MCC. Its railway platforms are located within walking distance of metro stations and public transport stops.
Moscow Central Diameters
The Moscow Central Diameters (MCD) is a rail transport system operating in Moscow. The electric trains connect districts on opposite ends of Moscow and make it easier for residents and travellers to travel from the suburbs to the city centre. So far, only two MCD lines have been launched, with three more still being constructed.
The cable car is a new form of public transport for Muscovites and visitors to the capital. The city’s first and, so far, the only cable car runs between the Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory) observation platform and Luzhniki sports complex. The line is 720 metres long and passes over the Moskva River. Due to the high popularity of the pilot project, the Moscow Government has decided to initiate the construction of 12 additional cable car lines that will connect metro stations and tourist sites.
Opening hours of local businesses and shopping centres
Moscow is famous for its fabulous night life. The number of night clubs, discos, and entertainment centres here is almost infinite. You can also take a night city tour (on foot or by bus) and participate in a stage show in one of its museums. The city hosts the Night of Museums event on an annual basis, when the leading art facilities, concerts, performances, stage shows, and master classes are available to visitors for free.
Stores and shopping centres in Moscow city centre are usually open from 10 am to 10 pm throughout the week.
The majority of Moscow’s places of interest open at 10 am and close around 5 pm, although during the summer these opening times may be extended later. Our guides to each attraction include their opening times so you can plan ahead.
Moscow’s museums also usually open at 10 am, closing at 6 pm. They are often closed on one day of the week, and some have longer opened times on certain days. Check out each individual museum guide to find the exact times for the places you want to visit.
In Russia, there is no strict fixed time for meals. You’ll find many restaurants in Moscow are open between midday and 4 pm for lunch, and between 6 pm and 11 pm for dinner, although there are 24-hour places to be found too!
Memorable gifts from Moscow
A win-win option for memories of the capital is memorable little things with Moscow sights. Unusual variants of small souvenirs can be found at the Heart of Moscow store – badges with the Spasskaya Tower, the Stalinist high-rise of Moscow State University or the Tretyakov Gallery, photo magnets with urban shots from Soviet times or a mug with constructivist buildings of the capital. Many iconic places in the city have their own souvenir lines: pay attention to the Gorky Park store, the VDNKh souvenir shop with badges in the form of exhibition pavilions or the Moscow metro store with key chains in the form of trailers. The Metro also produces collectible editions of the Troika map — for example, with paintings by Russian artists or archival photographs of the capital.
You can buy authentic crafts in the capital in branded craft stores: pay attention to souvenirs of Likino-Dulevskaya painting, Gzhel sets, Zhostovsky trays and Pavloposadsky shawls. Porcelain products can be found in the store of the Imperial Porcelain Factory — including those with city symbols.
“Alyonka” chocolate and “Moscow” sweets have long become symbols of the capital. From local confectionery products, you can look at the “Belevskaya pastille” — apple sweets made from organic products or Tula gingerbread, the production of which has long gone beyond Tula.
A valuable gift can be a book about the history of the city or a painted poster with the capital’s sights. Take a closer look at the map with the age of Moscow houses, a guide to Moscow architectural styles or a book about the capital’s monuments of Soviet modernism. Another option is the scheme of the Moscow metro with its recognizable design.
The official currency of Moscow, like the rest of Russia, is the ruble. You’ll find notes worth 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 2000 and 5000 rubles and coins worth 1, 2, 5 and 10 rubles, and 1, 5, 10 and 50 kopeks (100 kopeks = 1 ruble). Bear in mind that smaller shops and kiosks may not be able to break larger notes, so it’s always worth keeping the smaller ones.
Credit cards are widely accepted at most larger chain hotels, restaurants and shops, however it’s best to keep cash for everything else. Note also that while chip and pin cards are accepted, cards that require a signature may be rejected.
Talking about tips, in Moscow it usually takes 5-15% on top of the bill. The exact amount is determined by a bunch of factors, and among them: the quality of service, the type of institution (a simple cafe, an expensive hotel, an elite restaurant), the opinion of the guest.
All of Russia’s air routes meet in Moscow. Flights to all of the most popular destinations depart from the capital’s airports every hour. These modern and highly advanced transport hubs allow passengers to check in and wait for their flights in comfort. The city’s airports also host the offices of many foreign air companies that organise codeshare flights with Russia. Moscow has four airports located on opposite sides of the city: Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Vnukovo, and Zhukovsky. You can quickly reach them by special Aeroexpress trains.
Sheremetyevo is Russia’s largest international airport and is located in the Khimki Urban Okrug.
Domodedovo is situated in the south-east of Moscow. Flights from 53 air companies depart from here to 194 domestic and international destinations.
Vnukovo is the oldest operating air hub in the city. While it does not have the capacity of Domodedovo or Sheremetyevo, it certainly does not lag behind them in state-of-the-art facilities.
Zhukovsky opened quite recently, in 2016. The airport is not yet operating at its full capacity. International flights depart from here to a number of different destinations.
Every day, Moscow welcomes millions of visitors from all over the world. Some of them travel to the capital by rail transport. The city has 10 railway stations, with trains leaving to a variety of destinations. These are more than just transport gateways to the capital; 9 out of the 10 stations are historic buildings boasting remarkable architecture. Every station is well-equipped according to current technological standards and support electronic contactless methods of payment. Station information is displayed in several languages to help visitors get their bearings and prevent them from getting lost upon their first arrival in Moscow.
Buses are a very popular mode of transport in Russia. Moscow is a major transport hub. Routes leaving the capital are by no means limited to the city suburbs and neighbouring oblasts. Every day, thousands of buses depart on intercity and international routes from Moscow’s bus terminals. Leaving Moscow by bus, you can get to Saint Petersburg or Kazan in just eight hours. Novorossiysk and Yekaterinburg can be reached in a single day. Russia is an enormous country with great distances between cities. Long journeys are easier to endure when travelling in comfortable motor coaches along modern motorways. During these trips, drivers make scheduled stops at designated parking areas to give passengers a chance to stretch, have a quick lunch at a nearby café, and get some fresh air.
There are six bus terminals in Moscow. They operate on a variety of intercity routes, receiving and transferring more than 50,000 passengers every day.
A Russian visa is an official document that entitles visitors to stay in Russia for a specified period of time. A visa is required when entering and leaving the country. Your visa will contain your entry and exit dates, visa type and a number of entries, passport details, and information about your inviting organisation. If you encounter any difficulties when applying for this document, you can always contact a specialised agency that will help you through the process.
Types of Russian Visas
● Tourist visa for short-term (up to 30 days) visits to Russia
● Business visa for businesspeople and long-term visits
How to Obtain a Russian Visa
The processing time for obtaining a Russian visa may vary. You will need to go through several steps to obtain the document.
Step 1. Obtain a visa invitation letter.
What do I need to do?
- determine the type of visa you need
- get a visa invitation letter from a Russian legal entity or individual
Step 2. Apply for a visa at a Russian consulate.
What do I need to do?
- clarify the terms for obtaining a visa
- prepare the necessary documents
- receive your visa and verify that everything is correct
Standard List of Required Documents
1) Visa invitation letter (original or copy)
- invitation letter from a company or an individual
- travel voucher from a travel agency
- request by a federal entity to organise a diplomatic mission
2) Visa application form
3) Receipt for the visa application fee
4) 3x4 cm photo in colour or black and white
- for persons entering Russia, passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the visa is issued
- for students and workers, passports must be valid for at least 18 months after the visa is issued
Step 3. Register the visa in Russia
This is a very important step, as your visa will not be valid without registration in Russia. Visa registration is not a complicated process. This can be done by the hotel administration.
Russia’s Visa Policy with Different Countries
For Ordinary Passports
90 days for non-commercial purposes (no longer than 90 days within any 180-day period)
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Latvia (non-citizens only)
- El Salvador
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Estonia (non-citizens only)
- South Africa
60 days for non-commercial purposes (no longer than 60 days within any 120-day period)
- South Korea
30 days for non-commercial purposes (no longer than 30 days within any 60-day period)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
14 days for non-commercial purposes
- Hong Kong
For Diplomatic and Service Passports
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Vatican City
- The Gambia
- Dominican Republic
- European Union (except Ireland)
- Cabo Verde
- North Korea
- Costa Rica
- Republic of the Congo
- South Korea
- North Macedonia
- State of Palestine
- El Salvador
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Sri Lanka
- Equatorial Guinea
- South Africa
- South Ossetia
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