Visitors and Russians themselves flock to Moscow to enjoy the history, culture, and lifestyle of this vibrant city. Moscow, with a population of almost 12 million, is busy and fast-paced and has an efficient subway system to help you explore the city. But it also has historic sites, ancient streets, and museums that will slow your pace a bit.
Visitors to Moscow can find the city tantalizingly overwhelming. The city's so large it can be difficult to determine what the best things to do in Moscow really are, but these key attractions will get you started.
The Moscow Kremlin is a must-see for visitors to Moscow and one of the best things to do in the Russian capital city. Once inside, visit Cathedral Square; the historic cathedrals are where the tsars and their families worshipped.
Also on display are the Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon, two monuments to the grandeur of Russia's past. The Amoury Chamber Museum, which holds impressive Imperial relics such as gilded gold carriages and silver-threaded royal garments, is worth a visit as well.
Just outside the Kremlin is the famous Red Square. There you can watch the changing of the guard at the Eternal Flame and visit Lenin's Tomb (be prepared to stand in line for more than an hour).
Explore the iconic St. Basil's Cathedral if it's open—it is as beautiful on the inside as it is the outside. Consider visiting Red Square in the evening and experience it without the tourists. It's magical.
The State Tretyakov Gallery has the best collection of Russian art in the country. The likenesses of Catherine the Great and Pushkin will confront you in its galleries. Larger-than-life social commentaries from the 19th century will move you with their visual messages.
Repin, Vrubel, Kandinsky, Chagall, and many more Russian artists are represented here—open any book on Russian art and most of the significant pieces described there will be hanging in the Tretyakov.
This is the main souvenir market of Moscow, and here is where you can find all things Russian at all prices. Folk crafts, jewelry, antiques, chess sets, and anything else "Russian" will tempt you.
The market is on three levels with folk art and typical souvenirs on the first floor, odds and ends on the second floor, and some true antique and art dealers on the third.
Getting there is easy—just look on any metro map, find the Partizanskaya stop, and follow the signs to Izmaylovo Market by Izmailovsky park behind the Izmailovo Hotel.
Old Arbat Street, a favorite with tourists, is Moscow's oldest and most famous thoroughfare. It's the kind of place where you'll be able to find some elegant historic homes co-existing with stalls selling some not-so-unusual souvenirs.
You can visit the Pushkin House-Museum, once the home of the Father of Russian Literature, houses a vast collection of his portraits and manuscrips, plus his first-floor apartment with the original furniture.
You'll have more than one artist, musician, or juggler vying for your attention, depending upon the season and the time of day. Old Arbat Street is completely pedestrian, which means it's also great for people watching.
Moscow's Victory Park (Park Pobedy) memorializes the Great Patriotic War, otherwise known as World War II. This war took a huge toll on Russia, and elderly Russians are revered for having survived this difficult time. You'll find WWII memorials all over Russia, but Victory Park is Moscow's main home for these monuments, sculptures, fountains, and obelisks.
Get a panoramic view of Moscow from Sparrow Hills, once named Lenin Hills. This vantage point allows you to get a good look at the expanse of the city and is perfect for photographs, a romantic moment, or jotting down thoughts in your travel journal.
The Moscow State University and the Trinity Church are on the hills.
GUM, just off of Red Square, is Moscow's most famous shopping center. As the facade that faces into Red Square has maintained its 19th-century appearance, it's easy to pass it by if you don't know it's there.
The variety of shops contained within are a testament to how far Russia has come since Soviet days. You'll find all types of name-brand items and designers represented in GUM. If you just want to window shop, buy an ice cream cone from one of the vendors and browse at your leisure.
While the Tretyakov Gallery houses Russia's greatest artworks, the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum holds a vast collection of foreign-born artists' masterpieces. If you like Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Renaissance art, you'll enjoy the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum.
Get an overview of Moscow with a boat tour through the city. During summer, boat tours are pleasant and relaxing, and this alternative view of the city is charming.
The towers of the Kremlin, as well as other significant architectural monuments, peek over the treetops. Stand on the open-air deck and snap pictures of the buildings on the river's banks as you float by.