Things to Do and See with Four Days in Moscow
Moscow is a wonderful city to visit, and travelers on river ship cruise tours to or from St. Petersburg spend a few days in Moscow. This capital city of Russia was our last port on a river cruise tour, and we had about four days to see most of the highlights. Our first day we did an overview driving tour and rode the subway under the Mockba (Moscow) River to Red Square. The next day we toured the State Armory and the Kremlin.
These photos show some of the other highlights you can see with three or four days in Moscow.
The Northern River Terminal is located on the Moscow Canal in the northwest section of Moscow at the Khimki Reservoir.
Most river cruise ships sailing between Moscow and St. Petersburg use the ship as a hotel while in Moscow. Because of traffic, it's often a long drive into the city, but the sights along the way are interesting, and you only have to unpack once for the river cruise.
View of Downtown Moscow from Sparrow Hills
Sparrow Hills is the best place to get a great panoramic view of Moscow. The Sparrow Hills overlook the Mockba River and are near Moscow State University.
Novodevichy Convent in Moscow
Novodevichy Convent in Moscow was founded in 1524, and was once used as a sort of prison for the unwanted wives and sisters of the Tsars. Peter the Great sent both his first wife and his sister to Novodevichy. Since the convent had such famous nuns, it was very wealthy due to the many donations of the Tsars and their families. At one time in the 1700s, the cloister had over 36,000 serfs working in 36 villages. Novodevichy was ravaged by the French armies in 1812, but the brave nuns saved the buildings by disarming the fuses set to blow them up. The Soviets wanted to make the convent into a museum in the early 1920s, but it was again saved.
Novodevichy also has a cemetery with the graves of many famous Russians, including Nikita Khrushchev, Anton Chekhov, Raisa Gorbachev, and Yuri Nikulin.
View of the Mockba River in Moscow, Russia
The Mockba (Moscow) River runs into the Volga via the 79.5 mile long Moscow Canal.
River ships sailing between Moscow and St. Petersburg on the Baltic Waterways embark and disembark at the Northern River Terminal about an hour's drive from the city. The drive time can vary significantly in length because of the heavy Moscow traffic. The river looks peaceful here, as it winds around the cosmopolitan area of Moscow.
Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer (Cathedral of Christ the Savior) in Moscow
The Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer, also known as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, is the largest church in Russia, holding 10,000 worshipers.
The original Cathedral of Christ the Savior was built over 44 years to celebrate the 1812 victory over Napoleon. It was completed in 1883. Stalin had the church destroyed in 1931, but it was rebuilt using mostly private funds in 1999. The new church is a replica of the original. Note that it took 44 years the first time and only 4 years the second to complete the church! Isn't modern technology impressive.
One interesting tidbit is that it took three attempts to blow up the church in 1931. Stalin planned to build a huge Palace of the Soviets on the cleared land, but engineers determined that the land was too boggy. In the 60 years intervening, the space was used for a variety of things, including a year-round swimming pool!
Vendors' Market and Ski Jump at Sparrow Hills in Moscow
The panoramic view of Moscow from Sparrow Hills is a stopover for most tour groups, so we were not surprised to see a large number of vendors. The ski jump was a surprise, but Moscow gets very cold in winter, so winter sports are very popular. This ski jump is near Moscow State University and has a great view of the city. Seeing this ski jump reminded me of the famous Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo, which also has a great view of that northern capital city.
Matryoshka Dolls for Sale in Moscow
I thought this display of dolls was beautiful! The Matryoshka nesting dolls range in price from just a few dollars to thousands of dollars.
Central Museum of Armed Forces in Moscow, Russia
This small band greeted us at the Central Museum of Armed Forces in Moscow. They played a variety of band music and made us all feel very welcome.
Grand Triumphal Arch Celebrates the Victory Over Napoleon in the War of 1812
This arch looks a little like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and it is located near the Victory Park Metro Station in Moscow.
This Grand Triumphal Arch is decorated with the coats of arms from the 48 Russian provinces. To celebrate the victory over France in the war of 1812, it also includes bas-reliefs of the "Expulsion of the French." The arch was originally built in 1834, but has only been on this site since 1968.
It is a little ironic that this arch resembles the Paris Arc de Triomphe, which Napoleon built between 1806 and 1836 to celebrate his French victories.
Moscow Metro Station at the Ploshchad Revolyutsii (Revolution Square)
This station near Red Square has many statues honoring the workers of Russia.
Moscow Metro Station near Victory Park
The Metro in Moscow is one of its shining industrial achievements. Construction on the Metro was begun in 1931 and continues today. The system has over 165 stations and 155 miles of track. Over 9300 trains, traveling sometimes as fast as 56 mph, navigate the huge system each day. Almost 10 million people ride the Moscow Metro every day, which is more than the New York and London systems combined. We found the Metro to be very efficient, with trains arriving every few minutes.
Navigating the Metro system can be somewhat of a problem for non-Russian speaking riders. Most of the signage is in Cyrillic only, and the stations are quite large. Trying to find the correct exit while walking long distances underground can be challenging.
On our cruise tour, we rode the Metro as a group with our program director from near Victory Park under the Mockba River to Red Square. Several of the group ventured out on their own during our time in Moscow, and many rode the Metro. They all returned with stories of getting lost underground, but none seemed the worse for the experience, and they all loved telling the tales.
Red Square in Moscow
Red Square in Moscow is a must-see for visitors to the capital city of Russia.
The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia
The Kremlin is a favorite of Moscow tourists. Inside these walls are buildings for the government of Russia, cathedrals, and the wonderful State Armory museum.
Taras Bulba Restaurant in Moscow
We enjoyed a traditional Ukrainian lunch at this cute restaurant in Moscow before checking in at our hotel.
Buses Wait for Passengers Outside Museum
River cruise tour groups are usually divided into groups for the duration of the tour. Each group had their own bus when touring.
Military Airplanes at the Central Museum of Armed Forces in Moscow, Russia
Although much of the military museum was indoors, there was quite a collection of planes, helicopters, missile launchers, and tanks outside.
Foreign Ministry Building, One of Moscow's Seven Stalinist-Gothic Skyscrapers
Seven skyscrapers with layers giving them a "wedding cake" appearance dot the Moscow skyline. The style is considered Stalinist-Gothic.
Russian and American War Veterans at the Central Museum of Armed Forces
Meeting with some World War II Russian War veterans was a highlight of our day at the Central Museum of Armed Forces in Moscow.
Rocket Launchers and Missiles at the Central Museum of Armed Forces in Moscow
The inside of this museum is particularly impressive, but you will need a guide since all of the signage is only in Russian.
Old Arbat Pedestrian Shopping Area in Moscow
We all enjoyed exploring the shops on this mile-long pedestrian shopping area.
Food prices were high in the tourist attraction, with two small pizzas, two small beers, and a bottle of water at an outdoor cafe costing $40. Many of our group ate at the large McDonalds, where prices were more reasonable.
Female Cosmonaut Model at Star City Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow
Female cosmonauts play an important role in the Russian space program. In 1963, Valentina Tereshkova from Yaroslavl was the first woman in space.
Souvenir Shop in Old Arbat Shopping Area in Moscow
The area of Old Arbat had many English signs to attract the tourist trade.
Centrifuge at Star City Outside Moscow, Russia
This 18 meter centrifuge is the world's largest. The centrifuge weighs over 30000 tons, and the maximum load is 30 G, but most tests are run at 3 or 4 G.
A centrifuge ride is the first test for a cosmonaut, whose entire training school takes from five to eight years. The centrifuge can simulate the extreme force of gravity that cosmonauts (and astronauts) face when going into space. A centrifuge training session lasts about 30 minutes, and the trainee experiences both the centrifugal force as well as the spin of the pod he/she is riding in. Just typing this makes me a little queasy!
Cosmonaut's Bathroom Facilities on First Space Flights at Star City
Just like in the USA, everyone who visits the Star City cosmonaut training center near Moscow wants to know how cosmonauts "go to the bathroom". They have more sophisticated equipment today, but this contraption from the early space flights is fairly self explanatory.
Star City Tank Used for Cosmonaut Weightlessness Training near Moscow
This 12-meter deep pool is used to simulate weightlessness training. The pool is flooded and the cosmonauts perform repair tasks on the model of the International Space Station. SCUBA diving underwater is very similar to the weightless experience the cosmonauts experience when working in outer space.
Mir Space Station Replica at Star City near Moscow
The original Mir disintegrated when it fell to earth in 2001. Mir, which means peace in Russian, was launched in 1986.
Marvel Paull with Statue of Yuri Gagarin at Star City near Moscow
Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, and the Star City Cosmonaut training center was named after him in 1968.
River Cruise Passengers with Yuri Onufrienko, Russian Cosmonaut at Star City
In case you can't tell, Yuri is the one in the middle. My famous traveling mother, Marvel Paull, is on the left and Dick, a cruise friend is on the right.
A highlight of our day in Star City was a visit with Yuri Onufrienko, a Russian cosmonaut who spent extended time in space at the Mir space station in 1996 and the International Space Station in 2001-2002. Yuri patiently took many questions from our small inquisitive group.
Cosmonaut Space Suit at Star City near Moscow
Cosmonauts sit in this position on take off. Thanks to Jerry G. for the tip about the sign. It says, "Don't touch!"
Program Directors at Farewell Dinner in Moscow
After 16 days of discovery, learning, and fun, we had a farewell dinner with the six Program Directors - Evgeny, Olga, Vladimir, Svetlana, Violetta, and Marina - in Moscow.
The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia
The Kremlin is a triangular, walled citadel in the center of Moscow. The Kremlin is considered by most to be the heart of the city. First conceived in the 12th century, the Kremlin (which means fortress) was expanded by Tsar Ivan III (Ivan the Great) during the 15th century. His architects designed the magnificent Cathedral of the Assumption and the Faceted Palace, and the Kremlin was an interesting mix of both Russian and Renaissance styles. During the Soviet time of the 1930s, many of the Kremlin buildings were destroyed or vandalized, and the complex remained closed to the public until 1955.
Today the Kremlin is home to the Russian President and his administration. Many buildings are open to the public, but you may need to be with a guide (check in advance).
I visited the Kremlin when in Moscow on a Russian Waterways cruise tour from St. Petersburg.
The Kremlin was also one of the 21 finalists for the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Red Square in Moscow, Russia
Red Square's name has nothing to do with Communism or Soviet Russia. The old Russian word for "beautiful" and "red" was the same; the square was supposed to be called "Beautiful Square". Red Square has been the center of Moscow activity since the 16th century when the Tsar cleared the area and allowed vendors, shoppers, and businesses to fill the square. Today this square is surrounded by the Moscow Kremlin, the State Historical Museum, GUM Shopping Mall, and St. Basil's Cathedral.
Many of the important events of the last three hundred years in Russia have been marked by parades or demonstrations in Red Square. Anyone who enters Red Square will have memories from TV or movie reels of this magnificent public square. Those of us who grew up during the Cold War era can remember the parades of soldiers, tanks, and other armaments past Lenin's Tomb just outside the Kremlin Wall. The World War II generation remembers Red Square as the site of a huge victory celebration at the end of the war.