Planning a solo trip to Moscow, Russia? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The capital and largest city of Russia, with a population of over 12.6 million.
- Russia’s financial and political center, Moscow is the seat of the nation’s power. Some animosity exists between residents of Moscow (and the rest of the country), as the city receives the lion’s share of attention and infrastructure investment.
- Nicknames: Third Rome, Whitestone, The First Throne, The Forty Forties.
- Currency: Russian Ruble (RUB).
- Spoken languages: primarily Russian (English is popular among the younger generations).
- Best time to visit: from May to October for clear blue skies, long days and crisp weather. A warm jacket is advised for wear in the evening to ward off the chill. Winters can be brutal for the unprepared.
- Arriving via airport: Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) handles most of the international flights and is connected to the city centre with Aeroexpress rail from Belorussky Railway Terminal for standard tickets of 320 RUB, or taxi rides costing 1100 RUB.
- Update: now that foreign-issued Visa/Mastercard no longer work in Russia, make sure you bring enough cash with you for the trip.
WHERE TO STAY
- The most important thoroughfare is Tverskaya, an artery that throbs with cafés, bars and restaurants as well as cultural sights.
- Accommodation along the Boulevard Ring guarantees easy access to major landmarks and transportation links.
- Some of the best budget accommodation can be found in the quaint neighborhood of Kitai-Gorod (“China Town”) near the Red Square.
- The city is best understood as radiating outwards from the Kremlin, the heart of the city, in a sequence of concentric “rings.”
- Moscow’s extensive public transportation system covers major areas of the city and is an inexpensive way to cross big distances through underground metro, trolleybus, tram and bus.
- The metro (subway) network is extensive, and can get you to just about any point of interest in the city. Public transport tickets are 55 RUB (for metro, trolleybus, tram, bus). Metro tickets with unlimited transfers for 90 minutes are 65 RUB. 24-hour tickets cost 230 RUB.
- There are two types of taxis in Moscow: official and Chastniki (unlicensed). Furthermore, Muscovites are known to offer rides to strangers for a fee so visitors needn’t worry about finding rides. Always negotiate the fare before setting off. Call 499 922-06-74 or 739-52-25 for English speaking operators.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is never.
- The trendy and affluent flock to the bars and nightclubs on Tverskaya Ulitsa, the 3rd most expensive street in the world.
- The quaint neighborhood of Arbat is the top destination for dining and casual drinks.
- Nikolskaya Ulitsa is an excellent haunt for cafés, bars and restaurants, especially over the weekend.
- Great bars to start your night in Moscow: Underdog, The Tipsy pub (Irish pub), Belfast (best Guinness in town), Rhythm & Blues (live music), Бар Mendeleev (cool place), Noor Bar (cocktails),
- Want to go clubbing? Head to Propaganda (classic choice), Gazgolder Club & Tea Room (better?), or Mutabor (contender for best techno in Russia). As always in Europe, check ResidentAdvisor first to see what’s on!
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat, better known as St. Basil’s Cathedral, is Moscow’s most famous landmark. Built by Ivan the Terrible, its construction finished in 1560 and serves to commemorate the capture of Kazan.
- The Kremlin is the heart of Russia, a link to the country’s most important historical events beginning the 13th century. Overlooking the Moskva River and imposing on the city’s other cultural landmarks such as the Red Square, the fortified complex is now the residence of the President of the Russian Federation.
- The Institute of Russian Realist Art (IRRA) hosts acclaimed collections of Soviet art, including works by its most outstanding masters such as Plastov, Gerasimov and Nissky.
- Ostankino Tower offers unobstructed views of the city from 340 meters above ground.
- Take in the energy of the city from the Red Square, Moscow’s city centre. With the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Resurrection Gate and many more attractions, the square is the city’s most important address.
- Discover the dozens of churches along Varvarka Ulitsa, the city’s oldest street.
- Explore Gorky Park and its amusement rides and formal gardens. In the winter, the park becomes a skating rink popular for its music and lights, while in the summer open-air events take place near the banks of the river.
- Stroll through Izmaylovo Market and admire the iconic matryoshka dolls and ushanka fur hats.
- The city’s Metro stations are works of art unto themselves, starting with Mayakovskaya – considered to be the most beautiful of the system. Glass etchings, mosaics, paintings and Soviet Realism art can be admired throughout the arcades of the stations.
- Must-do while in Moscow: visit a banya or traditional Russian bath house. The practice has been in place for centuries and is associated to therapeutic benefits for the body respiration and circulation.
- Great restaurants to try (reservations always recommended in Moscow): Mari Vanna (Russian), Cafe Pushkin (pricey, but an experience), U Pirosmani ($$$ – Georgian), Moloko, Tehnikum ($$$), Северяне (modern Russian).
- Where to find good cheap eats: Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa and Klimentovsky Pereulok are part of the old merchant neighborhood, where food was paramount to business. Or head to the nearest Cheburechnaya or Burger Heroes location.
- Dangerous areas: it is not recommended to walk alone at night around Tverskoi and Presenensky due to criminal activity. Exercise caution when walking alone in dimly-lit areas.
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days