Discover Moscow: The Capital of the Red Empire

Discover Moscow city

Updated On: May 28, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Discover Moscow, the city of many contrasts. This city mixes Soviet with fancy shops. It also combines Asia and Europe, which gives the city numerous sights and attractions that are worth visiting.

Discover Moscow

Despite its intimidating reputation, Moscow has a lot to offer visitors. You will discover Moscow’s history, art, and culture during your visit. The city is much more than its role in the Cold War.

The Russian capital’s fascinating history dates back to the 12th century. It is also home to various luxury brands, glamorous restaurants, and lit bars.

Here, we have gathered for you the tip attractions you should include in your itinerary to discover Moscow:

Kremlin

Discover Moscow: The Kremlin

The Kremlin is the most recognizable edifice in Russia. It is a fortified complex built in the 15th century, covering 275,000 m2. The main attraction is the 700-room Grand Kremlin Palace.

The Grand Kremlin Palace, once belonging to the Tsar family, is now the official residence of Russian presidents. However, most presidents choose to reside elsewhere.

You can also see the other buildings there during your visit to the complex. These include three impressive cathedrals, the armoury building, and a museum. 

The museum at the complex shows everything from Russia’s history and holds several artefacts. Some of the most antique items on display are the royal crown, imperial carriages, the ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible, and Fabergé eggs.

The whole complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and must be included in any trip to discover Moscow.

GUM

Shop luxury and discover Moscow’s architectural marvel at GUM!

GUM is the oldest and most upscale shopping centre in Moscow. GUM is short for Glávnyj Universálnyj Magazín (in English: Main Universal Store). The centre has a neo-Russian style.

The shopping centre’s architecture has a beautiful mix of a steel skeleton and 20,000 glass panels forming an arched roof. Even though GUM is 128 years old, the shopping centre still preserves the original style it has always had since its establishment.

Upon its establishment, GUM was the biggest shopping centre in Russia. This is not the case anymore. However, it is still the country’s most architecturally stunning shopping centre. With its glass dome and marble and granite-covered floors, we are sure you will be impressed by the centre.

Apart from the shopping centre’s ambience, GUM is home to high-end luxury brands, including Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, Louis Vuitton, and others. One of the department stores at GUM that we recommend is Gastronome.

Gastronome is a store that sells gourmet food. It has delicious, freshly baked pastries, great Russian chocolate, a large selection of wine, cheese, and, of course, Russia’s most famous drink, vodka.

So, even if you are on a budget, visit GUM to admire the beauty of the building and maybe enjoy some ice cream.

Red Square

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The Red Square is not just the heart of Moscow but the heart of the whole of Russia. The square’s name is quite interesting. It is believed that the name comes from the fact that the square has red brick buildings. Another belief is that the name of the square is a reference to the Communist government the country had for almost a whole century.

The square is located in the middle of four breathtaking buildings. The most famous building on the square is Saint Basil’s Cathedral. The other three buildings that surround the square are the Kremlin and Lenin’s Mausoleum, and facing them is the GUM.

The square is 400m-by-150m with cobblestone-covered floors. Red Square has stood witness to many of the key historical events in Russia. The view from the square is stunning, especially at night. The contrast between the darkness of the night and the square lights is a sight to behold.

Make sure to visit the square while you are on your quest to discover Moscow. It is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, make sure to check if the square is open, as it is often closed due to celebrations or rehearsals.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral

Discover Moscow: Saint Basil’s Cathedral

The most famous building in Moscow is Saint Basil’s Cathedral. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the cultural symbol of Russia. It is a magnificent landmark that has witnessed the city’s history for 500 years.

The cathedral’s building is unique in style. Its bright colours are the first things to catch your attention when you see the edifice. With its distinctive nine domes, the cathedral looks like a castle taken out of a fairytale.

Lenin’s Mausoleum

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Lenin’s Mausoleum is the perfect attraction for any history buff!

The resting place of the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin is located in the centre of Red Square. His body was supposed to be there only for a short time after his death. However, the original plan changed after it was visited by more than 100,000 citizens.

Nowadays, Lenin’s body is displayed in bulletproof glass at the mausoleum. The mausoleum has a laboratory with its own team of experts (biologists, biochemists, and anatomists) who take care of Lenin’s “maintenance service.” The team works repeatedly to keep Lenin’s body looking “alive.”

We know that this attraction is not for everyone. But if you are interested in visiting Lenin’s Mausoleum, try pairing this activity with visiting other nearby attractions: the Kremlin, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, and the GUM Galleries.

The mausoleum’s opening hours vary, so make sure to check before you go. There is no entry fee.

Tretyakov Gallery

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Discover Moscow and Russian art at Tretyakov Gallery!

Not very far away from the Kremlin is the Tretyakov Gallery, one of the greatest museums in the world. The gallery is located in one of Moscow’s oldest districts, Zamoskvorechye.

The gallery has a great collection of art from Russian artists who have contributed to Russian art. It houses more than 180,000 pieces, ranging from paintings to sculptures and graphics.

The Tretyakov Gallery has two buildings: historical and new. The historical Lavrushinsky Pereulok building displays Russian art from the 11th to the 20th centuries. 

The new gallery building at Krymskiy Val comprises a great collection of 20th-century national art. This section was built on the 150th anniversary of the Tretyakov Gallery.

Some of the notable art pieces at the gallery include the Vladimir Mother of God, a Byzantine icon of the Virgin and child dating back to the 1100s, and Andrei Rublev’s The Trinity icon from the 15th century.

It also has several works by Ilya Repin, Russia’s most famous realist painter. On the museum’s grounds, there is an 86-metre-tall statue of Peter the Great and a number of Socialist Realism sculptures.

The Tretyakov Gallery is open six days a week. Its opening hours are 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays and 10:00 am to 9:00 pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

You can get tickets from the ticket office at the gallery. The ticket for an adult is RUB 500 ($6.55). A thing to keep in mind is that the ticket office closes an hour before the gallery closing time.

Gorky Park

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Discover Moscow’s natural beauty on the bank of the Moskva River!

Gorky Park is named after the famous Russian writer Maxim Gorky. The park stretches over 120 hectares. It is a beautiful park that comprises many green spaces and dazzling ponds.

The park is a favourite spot for many locals. It is the perfect place to be in summer. Entertainments that cater for every taste are present at the park. During your time at the park, you can enjoy live dancing sessions, free yoga lessons, an outdoor movie theatre, skateboards, ping-pong, beach volleyball and other entertaining activities.

At the park, you can rent a bicycle to go around the park in an exploration quest. You can also rent some paddle boats and enjoy some physical activities.

Gorky Park is the complete package for an excellent day out. Stalls that sell different foods are scattered all over the park. So you can enjoy your food while being surrounded by fantastic nature.

The park attracts all kinds of people. Expect to find parkgoers of all ages coming to have a nice day. People come to play chess, exercise, sunbathe, or relax.

The park has a free entry for everyone. It is open six days a week, from Tuesday to Sunday. You can visit the park any day between 10:00 am and 11:00 pm. Allow yourself around 3 to 4 hours to explore the park’s beauty.

Bolshoi Theatre

Discover Moscow: Bolshoi Theatre

Destruction and renovation are the two words that best describe the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

The theatre was originally built in 1780 as a private theatre. It was named Petrovsky Theatre after the prince who founded it. In 1805, a fire destroyed the theatre.

After being rebuilt, the theatre was again destroyed in the war against Napoleon in 1812. It was renovated and reopened in 1825 as a much bigger and better theatre.

As mentioned, the Bolshoi Theatre was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times. After its renovation, it was burnt down in 1853, only to be renovated and reopened for the third time in 1856.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, the Bolshoi Theatre was changed from the “Imperial Bolshoi” to the “State Bolshoi”. Since 2002, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a new stage has been built, acoustics have been improved, and the original Imperial décor has been restored.

Nowadays, the Bolshoi Theatre is a fascinating edifice with a brightly lit interior and sumptuous furniture. The whole theatre is decorated in red velvet and golden stucco.

The Bolshoi Theatre hosts both ballet and opera performances. Don’t miss the ballet show to watch one of the best ballets in the world. You can check if the show provides English subtitles on the theatre’s official website for opera shows.

That’s being said, any trip to discover Moscow would never be complete without attending a show of Russia’s most famous art, ballet. So, make sure to book the ticket before you head to Moscow!

VDNKh

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VDNKh is a public park that was established during the Soviet Union. The idea behind the park was to showcase the different cultures in the union’s countries. The name of the park is an acronym meaning “the Exhibition of the  Achievements of the National Economy”.

The park is currently a free open-air museum. It features more than 250 palaces from the Soviet era, arches and fountains, a Vostok rocket, and Soviet aircraft. Pavilions represent the various Soviet Republics, each boasting a unique architectural design.

Walking around the park is like walking around a miniature Soviet Union. It takes you back to decades ago when fifteen countries with different cultures were part of one union. One of the most impressive pavilions showcases Uzbekistan. It has a distinctive, airy elegance of Eastern architecture.

The park is also a great place to go if you have kids. The VDNKh park complex has many rides that will excite any child. There are also many places to ride bicycles at the park. Moreover, the complex contains the largest skatepark in Europe.

The park is a great destination for discovering Moscow’s past while having a good time and a relaxing day.

Museum of Cosmonautics

Discover Moscow’s progress in space exploration at the Cosmonautics Museum!

The Museum of Cosmonautics takes you on a fascinating journey. You will discover many pieces and tools used for space travel at different times in history. The museum holds over 85,000 items that will leave you in awe.

The museum pays a much-deserved tribute to Yuri Gagarin, the first person to orbit the Earth. At the exhibition, the space capsule used by this well-known astronaut for his journey is on display.

The museum also has other artefacts on display that are worth looking at. These include the first Sputnik (artificial satellite), the first Soviet rocket engine, and the moon rover Lunokhod.

The Cosmonautics Museum offers tours in English. Its cinema hall shows short movies that tell the history of space exploration and the first manned space flight.

Kolomenskoye Estate

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Kolomenskoye, the zen of Moscow, was originally a summer residence of the old Russian rulers. While having been one of the most strategic areas of Moscow in the past, the Kolomenskoye Estate is nowadays the perfect spot to get a break from the busy city.

The estate covers 300 hectares. It has many beautiful gardens that are so peaceful. The estate provides a breathtaking view of the Moscow River. The estate also features a unique collection of Russian architecture.

Many old churches are scattered around the complex. The most famous church in the area is the Church of the Ascension. It was built in the 1530s by the order of Tsar Vasily III to commemorate the birth of his son.

The Kolomenskoye Estate houses wooden palaces that look like they were taken from a fairy tale. Other things to see at the complex include a water tower, fort towers and structures, and the 24-room Museum of Wooden Architecture, which includes the restored dining room of Tsar Alexei I.

Arbat Street

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After a great tour of Moscow, Arbat Street is the best place to visit at the end of your tour. This one-kilometre-long street is the longest street in Moscow. It is a pedestrian street that has been around since the 15th century.

Arbat Street was originally a trade route. Nowadays, it is a pedestrian street with no traffic. It is popular for being full of shops and restaurants, and tourists and locals alike come to hang out on it.

Have you visited Russia if you did not bring a matryoshka back with you? So, before you head back home, pick up some matryoshkas for a memoir of this visit. Arbat Street is the perfect place to buy souvenirs for your loved ones back home.

Arbat Street is surrounded by historical buildings with different architectural styles. Two beautiful statues, one of Princess Turandot and the other of Soviet-era poet Bulat Okudzhava, are located in the street.

A stroll along Arbat Street is an excellent relaxing afternoon activity. It is a fantastic opportunity to discover Moscow’s artistic side. Grab a nice bite or relax and have your picture painted by one of the Russian artists on the street.

Even though Moscow is not the first destination that comes to your mind when you think about a vacation, the city has much to offer. Keep an open mind and discover Moscow’s history and beauty.

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