Heading to Moscow soon and want to know what kind of stuff you can do on a budget? See my list of 10 Moscow “must dos” below. Most of these are free and all of them are great fun!
1. Red Square
Red Square may be an obvious choice, but that’s exactly why it’s at the top of this list. To visit Moscow and not see Red Square would be like visiting Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower! Red Square is an exciting as it is grand – full of amazing (and some weird) sights, like The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed (St Basil’s Cathedral), the Kremlin, Gum Department Store and Lenin’s Mausoleum, where Lenin’s embalmed body is on display to the public. Basically Red Square is the most iconic photo spot in all of Russia and, for this reason, you will probably come here multiple times. Bonus points for if you also spot all of the ‘celebrity’ impersonators… Putin, Lenin, Stalin, Catherine the Great. Oh and of course look out for some pretty awesome Putin souvenirs, like the t-shirts pictured below.
Fun fact (sourced from Wikipedia of course): Most of Moscow’s major streets, which in turn connect to Russia’s major highways, originate from Red Square.
2. Explore the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed (St Basil’s Cathedral)
Perhaps the most famous image associated with Russia is that of the crazy, colourful, onion-shaped Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, which looks like it comes straight from a fairy tale. Of all the countries I’ve been to this is easily the coolest cathedral I have seen, though this could be because it’s Russian Orthodox architecture makes it look like it’s made of candy. On the inside, instead of having a single grand chamber this cathedral is comprised of many diverse rooms that come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Exploring each and every one of them is half the fun!
Price: 250 rubles (Approx. USD$3.20)
3. Say “hi” to President Putin (or not) at the Kremlin
Sadly, I did not get to visit the Kremlin during my time in Moscow because, stupidly, we left this until our last day there, when it turned out to be closed (Thursdays btw). Had we made it, we would have gotten to explore the grounds of the citadel where President Putin has his not so secret lair. The Kremlin, which means “Fortress inside a city”, is home to five palaces, four cathedrals, the Kremlin Wall, and a bunch of towers. Although visitors cannot explore the whole complex, it is possible to see the Ivan the Great Bell Tower (250 rubles), the architectural complex of Cathedral Square and the exhibition on at the time (500 rubles), and the Armoury Chamber (700 rubles), which is where all the cool Russian treasures are kept.
Price: 250 – 700 rubles (Approx. USD$3.20 – $8.90)
4. Spend an afternoon riding through Moscow’s amazing metro stations
Although catching public transport in Moscow may not seem like your idea of fun, I 100 per cent guarantee you will change your mind after seeing some of the stations. Not only is the metro a cheap, efficient way of exploring the city, but the stations are also truly a sight to behold. Most of the stations were built during the Soviet-era and also doubled as nuclear fallout shelters, which explains why they are so far below ground that it takes about 5 minutes to get the escalator in and out of each station. Each station also has its own character and some of them, like Komsomolskaya, are downright stunning. For more information keep an eye out for my next blog post, which will have more details on which stations to visit.
Price: 50 rubles (Approx. USD$0.63) for a single metro ticket, which can be used to explore every station if you don’t leave the subway system
5. Release your inner child at the Central Children’s Store
The Central Children’s Store in Moscow is basically what dreams are made of. It is a department store devoted entirely to childhood, with epic toy stores, LEGO sculptures, delicious food, and even a Soviet Toy Museum. It is an incredibly fun place where kids (and big kids) can spend the day goofing around without a care in the world.
It was originally built in 1957 and was known as Detsky Mir (Children’s World), the largest toy store in the Soviet Union. At the time, kids from all over Russia (and presumably their parents) would come to Moscow to shop here, because this is where the most advanced toys created in the USSR could be found. In 2008, Detsky Mir closed for renovations, but in March 2015 it reopened under the name ‘Central Children’s Store on Lubyanka’. Even if you’re not into toys then the building itself is still worth a visit for both its interesting history and the great view of Moscow city you can get from the rooftop.
6. Space out at the Museum of Cosmonautics
Of all the museums I have been to in all of the countries I have visited so far, the Museum of Cosmonautics is definitely one of my favourites. This place is seriously cool! Here you can learn all about the Soviet and Russian space programs, see retro space paraphernalia like the first Sputnik satellite, the first spacesuit ever used in space, and get your picture taken with the taxidermied Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka. The building itself is also an impressive 100 metre monument designed to look like a spaceship taking off.
Price: 250 rubles (Approx. USD$3.20)
7. Take thee to church at Our Church of Christ the Saviour
Our Church of Christ the Saviour is another cathedral that has earned its place on this list. This cathedral is quite different in style to Saint Vasily’s – it’s very large and grand and its interiors are spectacular. Unfortunately you cannot take photos inside, but stand on the bridge behind it for an iconic photo of the exterior.
8. Go to the park
Moscow has some really impressive parks. The most famous of these is Gorky Park, which especially comes to life with events etc. in summer. My personal favourite, however, is the Art Park, which is right next door to Gorky. Interesting sculptures are scattered throughout this park, making it easy to spend hours here just having a look around. On the river next to the park is also a very cool ship that has been transformed into a small market selling all sorts of hipster wares. It also has a cute wee coffee shop.
9. Wander the grounds of Moscow State University
The sight of Moscow State University is really something to behold. This massive building sits on a hill above the city and really demands presence. Walk around the building and its grounds, which are not only beautifully landscaped, but also feature some cool sculptures of famous scientists. At a viewing point located nearby the first entrance of the University you can also get a great view over the city.
10. Walk the streets
Although Moscow is a great place to go for a stroll anyway, there are a couple of pedestrianised streets that are particularly fun to walk down. Old Arbat Street is one of these and, chances are, your hotel or hostel will be located near here anyway. This street is thriving with cool shops and points of interest – Pushkin lived at number 53 and Tolstoy lived on the adjoining Kaloshin Lane. It also has plenty of souvenir stores for those in need of another matryoshka doll or postcard to send home. This street also has a fascinating story… When Stalin was in power he decided that the street was too narrow, so he ordered all the buildings to be moved back 1 metre! Holy cow!
Another interesting street is Nikolskaya, which leads straight to Red Square and also has some great buildings. The Kitay-Gorod area is also fun to explore.
Have you been to Moscow before or are you thinking about heading there soon? Tell me about it in the comments below. 🙂