Moscow Facts

Information for Travelers

Kievskaya-Koltsevaya metro station in Moscow
Dag Sundberg / Getty Images

These facts about Moscow will give you an introduction to this fascinating city before you travel there. Where Is Moscow? If you want facts about the entire country of Russia, check out Russia Facts.

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    Moscow History

    Moscow and the Moskva River
    Moscow and the Moskva River. CC BY kishjar?
    Moscow has a long history and is named for the river that runs through it, the Moskva. It began as a medieval city and developed into what was known as the Grand Duchy of Moscow, an administrative region ruled by a prince. The grand duchy preceded the formation of Russia as a nation. It replaced Kiev as the most powerful territory in the area during a time when cities were under constant threat of attack and invasion.
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    Status as the Capital

    Dome of St. Basil's Cathedral
    Dome of St. Basil's Cathedral. CC BY Andrey

    Though Moscow is the capital city of Russia today, it wasn't always so. From 1712 to 1918, St. Petersburg acted as the capital of Russia. Peter the Great had moved the capital in his efforts to westernize the Russian Empire. The Bolshevik Revolution prompted the capital's move back to Moscow.

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    Modern Moscow

    Moscow Skyline at Night
    Yongyuan Dai / Getty Images
    Moscow is regularly named one of the most expensive cities in the world. Although you'll find a historic center here, complete with palaces, churches, and monuments, Moscow is a fully modern city with skyscrapers, a network of public transportation, and traffic, traffic, traffic.
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    Moscow Airports

    Sunrise at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, Russia
    anouchka / Getty Images

    Moscow is served by three major airports: Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo. Most international travelers to Moscow fly into Sheremetyevo International Airport.

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    The Metro System

    Kievskaya-Koltsevaya metro station in Moscow
    Dag Sundberg / Getty Images

    The Moscow Metro dates from the early 1930s and is one of the most-used subway systems in the world. Over 180 Moscow Metro stations, some decorated with artwork and expensive materials, connect the 12 lines that shuttle passengers throughout this huge city.

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    Seat of Government

    The Moscow Kremlin
    2013 ? Sergey Alimov / Getty Images

    Moscow is home to the Moscow Kremlin, the seat of government of Russia, and a popular tourist attraction. This walled fortification preserves cultural and historical monuments important to Russia. The crown jewels of the Russian tsars are kept here, and the Russian president has his official residence here. (Take a photo tour of the Moscow Kremlin.)

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    Art and Literature

    Moscow is a major hub of culture. Important museums, such as the Tretyakov Gallery, are located in Moscow. The city also preserves houses that were once used by Russia's famous authors, such as Pushkin and Bulgakov.

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    Population

    Moscow's population is over 11.5 million. Most of the people are ethnically Russian, Belorusian, or Ukrainian, though other ethnicities are represented. The main religion of Moscow is Orthodox Christianity. Moscow citizens are called Muscovites.
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    Visa Requirements

    Visitors from the US, UK, and other countries must first obtain a travel visa before they will be permitted to enter Moscow. A valid passport and other documents are required for obtaining a visa.
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    Weather

    Moscow weather ranges from frigid in the winter to scorching in the summer. Winters are long, with heavy snowfall. The short summer months are the most popular time to travel to Moscow.
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    Events Calendar

    Moscow's events calendar is always full, and seasonal activities abound. Traditional festivals, such as Maslenitsa are favorite draws for visitors.
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    Time Zone

    Moscow follows the Moscow Time zone, followed by St. Petersburg and most of western Russia as well. Moscow Time is UTC+4 and is one of nine time zones in Russia. Moscow does not observe daylight savings.
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    Moscow Tours

    Moscow is often included on tours of Russia and river cruises. If you're interested in seeing other Russian cities as well as Moscow, consider booking one of these group travel options.

    Moscow Greeter is a volunteer organization that offers free tours of Moscow. Just follow the guidelines for booking to see Moscow through a local's eyes.

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    Alphabet and Language

    Because Russia's official alphabet is the Cyrillic alphabet, signs will also be in the Russian language and 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.

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    Famous Muscovites

    Famous people from Moscow include Alexander Pushkin (author of Eugene Onegin), Fyodor Dostoevsky (author of Crime and Punishment), and Wassily Kandinsky (known as the Father of Abstract Art).