- The capital and largest city of Russia, with a population of nearly 12 million.
- Russia’s financial and political center, Moscow is the seat of the nation’s power.
- A strong contender for most expensive city in the world, it is known for a high cost of living.
- 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 are brutal.
- 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.
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 but the best bed prices 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 all now 50 RUB (for metro, trolleybus, tram, bus) and are valid for 90 minutes. There is also a 24-hour ticket available. Detailed fare calculator available here.
- 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.
- Uber is available in Moscow, and is widely used.
- 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.
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.
- Where to find good cheap eats: Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa and Klimentovsky Pereulok are part of the old merchant neighborhood, where food was paramount to business.
- 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.
The Best Moscow Guide Books:
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days