Visitors to Moscow can easily find things to do, and you'll quickly realize that the list encompasses more than 50 items. However, if you plan to cover at least some of the suggestions on this list, you will be able to experience Russia's capital city more fully and gain a complete picture of Moscow life and culture. The list includes sightseeing attractions, cultural activities, shopping suggestions, ways to see the city, and seasonal options. If you've never traveled to Moscow, use this list as a starting point for must-do activities.
11 Sightseeing Attractions in Moscow
Moscow's top sights date back centuries to its beginnings, but some sights are much newer. Include the following landmarks on your sightseeing tour. Moscow must-see sights include the Kremlin, Red Square, and St. Basil's Cathedral, but those represent only the beginning.
1. Explore the Kremlin: First-time visitors must tour the Moscow Kremlin. The heart of the historic district of the city and the long-time seat of government, the Kremlin contains palaces, churches, museums, and even a larger-than-life cannon.
2. Visit Novodevichy Convent: The Novodevichy Convent is a World Heritage-protected site. Its famous cemetery has been the burial ground for influential Russians for generations.
3. Meet Stalin's Seven Sisters: Moscow's Seven Sisters of Stalinist Architecture remember the mid-century leader's need for Russia to illustrate its size and might. Stories tall and often described in unfavorable terms, these skyscrapers are nonetheless an integral part of Moscow's skyline.
4. Get a Sparrow's-Eye View: The Sparrow Hills overlook will give you a birds-eye-view of Moscow. Don't forget to take some photographs.
5. Pay Your Respects: Visiting Lenin's tomb is a free activity that you can do if you have the time. You'll enter the eerily lit interior, circle the embalmed form of Lenin, and then exit in the sunlight, perhaps a little bewildered. This experience will initiate you into the world of Russian political culture—a culture that is hardly dead and buried, despite the strides made in the past couple of decades.
6. Return to Red Square in the Evening: Visit Red Square, of course, but if you want to see it in its less-crowded splendor, visit in the late evening. Though it probably won't be completely free of tourists, the size and grandeur of this important landmark will become more apparent.
7. Pass the Time at Patriarch's Ponds: The infamous setting to the introductory scene in Master and Margarita, Patriarch's Ponds is nearby Bulgakov's house-museum. Visit to honor the Russian writer, or escape a scorching day by the cool water. During the winter, Patriarch's Ponds transforms into a romantic skating rink.
8. View the Cathedral of Christ the Savior: Visit the rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior for a glimpse into Russian history. The tallest Orthodox cathedral in the world, it was demolished in the last century and then victoriously rebuilt.
9. Step Back in Time: Old Arbat Street is a pedestrian district a part of Moscow's historic core and maintains the look and feel of Old Moscow. Visit the Pushkin house museum, but watch out for pickpockets!
10. Marvel at St. Basil's Cathedral: The colorful symbol of Russia, St. Basil's Cathedral occupies a proud position on Red Square. Take the obligatory photo of yourself in front of St. Basil's, or enter to see its painted chapels.
11. Visit Victory Park: Victory Park is, essentially, a massive war memorial, celebrating Russia's victory in the Great Patriotic War, or WWII. Fountains—over 1,400 of them—symbolize each day of Russia's participation in this international conflict.
11 Cultural Activities in Moscow
Cultural activities enable the visitor to enjoy the best of Russian culture. Try out some of these culture-related things to do when you're in Moscow.
1. Follow in the Footsteps of Literary Greats: Russia's literary heritage is preserved in its many author house museums, which preserve the personal effects of Russia's favorite writers and poets. Most famous literary figures spent some time in Moscow during their careers—trace their footsteps in the capital city.
2. View Moscow Masterpieces: The Tretyakov Gallery is the foremost museum of Russian art in the world. It houses priceless works that appear in every fundamental text about Russian art. View portraits of historical figures, famous landscape scenes, and illustrations of cultural life in Russia through the centuries.
3. Go Big at the Bolshoi Theater: The Bolshoi (Big) Theater is a classic venue for ballet and other performances, known the world over. Under renovation for the past few years, the Bolshoi is hosting performances once again.
4. Find Fine Art: The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is Moscow's best museum for non-Russian art. Works from ancient Egypt and Rome through the 21st century are represented here.
5. Attend a Concert or Performance: As in any big city, the calendars for Moscow's theaters and concert halls are always full. The Moscow International Performing Arts Center is one venue that hosts a variety of performing arts and musical concerts through the year.
6. Mull Over Modern Art: Artists have been attracted to Moscow's art scene for centuries, from the icon painters who decorated the cathedrals of ancient Muscovy to painters like Kandinsky, who changed the art world with his abstract “musical” works. Artists in Moscow continue to push the envelope with innovative artistic endeavors that shock and wow. You can view the work of established contemporary artists at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, or you can pop into any one of the art galleries with the work of up-and-coming artists for sale.
7. Space Out: Russia is been proud of its space travel achievements, and the technologically savvy and interactive Cosmonaut Museum introduces visitors to its cosmic victories.
8. Improve Your Spirits: Moscow's Vodka Museum educates about Russia's favorite spirit. Learn about the history and making of this clear beverage that staves off the cold in the dead of winter.
9. Brush Up on Your Russian: Though many Russians know at least a little English, practicing your Russian language skills can be satisfying. Russians may be amused, grateful, or delighted with your attempts, even if they respond to you in English. Use simple phrases with wait staff at restaurants or shopkeepers to warm up your skills before attempting to dive into conversation.
10. Treat Yourself to Russian Tea: Russian tea culture differs from Western tea-drinking practices. The samovar takes center stage, and the potent zavarka is added a little at a time to each cup. If you see a samovar at your hotel or a traditional Russian restaurant, take this opportunity to use it.
11. Participate in Russian Traditions: Russians have been honoring their heritage in the same way for generations. Take part in Russian traditions to understand Russian culture a little better.
6 Things to Do for Foodies in Moscow
You can't avoid eating in Moscow, not that you'd want to! Once you try Russian food, you'll want nothing else!
1. Dig into Traditional Cuisine: Russian food is comforting and delightful, with hearty meats, light dill-seasoned salads, stick-to-your-ribs dumplings, and more. Authentic Russian cuisine is usually served with dense black bread and generous amounts of butter.
2. Drink Like the Russians: Russian vodka is famous the world over for its flavor and potency. Sample this readily available, highly affordable national beverage when you're in Moscow for the authentic experience.
3. Develop a Taste for Russian Beer: Did you know that Russia produces many domestic beers? Sample some Russian beer while you're in Moscow and discover a new favorite.
4. Picnic in the Park: Moscow's a city with easily accessed green spaces. Summers can be hot, and locals take advantage of parks to beat the heat. Follow their lead and take a snack to munch on under a shade tree.
5. Get Brain Freeze: Russians love ice cream, especially in the dead of summer. Russian ice cream is less creamy and more icy than western-style ice cream, and you can buy it from street vendors and convenience stores everywhere you go.
6. Gorge On the Go: Stuffed blini (Russian pancakes), kvas (a faintly alcoholic fermented beverage), hot potatoes with a variety of toppings, and other tempting quick bites can be had at street-food kiosks around Moscow. Most recommended? Blini filled with chocolate sauce, of course.
11 Seasonal Activities in Moscow
Enjoy unique seasonal activities year-round. Most people only consider travel to Moscow during the summer, but the other seasons offer plenty of things to do, too.
1. Celebrate Spring With the Moscow Easter Festival: The Moscow Easter Festival is a musical celebration of the Orthodox Church's most important holiday. A highlight of the festival is the bell concert, during which cathedral bells are struck to produce melodies that carry through the early spring air and resonate with intensity.
2. Kiss Winter Goodbye During Maslenitsa: The Maslenitsa farewell-to-winter festival takes the pent-up energy from the long, cold winter and expends it in a thrilling festival of games, food, drink, and Russian traditions. Stack your plate high with Russian pancakes and enjoy this pre-Lenten feast.
3. Check Out Moscow Events: Look forward to annual events in Moscow that introduce you to aspects of Russian culture.
4. Have Fun Whatever the Weather: What month are you traveling to Moscow? Weather often dictates what activities you will be able to enjoy in Moscow. Check out festivals and holidays for seasonal things to do using the Moscow month by month guide.
5. See How Russians Celebrate Christmas: Christmas in Russia is less of an affair than is New Year's Eve, but Moscow follows the West's suit by decorating fir trees with rows of lights and getting into the spirit early even though Orthodox Christmas doesn't occur until January 7.
6. Go Green: St. Patrick's Day is a big deal in Moscow. Though the fate of the annual parade hangs in the balance, some type of celebration is guaranteed to be on the week of March 17th.
7. Make New Resolutions: New Year's Eve in Moscow is an even bigger holiday than Christmas. Red Square becomes packed with celebrants who drink vodka to stay warm in the freezing temperatures. But you don't have to ring in the new year in the cold—plenty of private parties are hosted around the city during this night.
8. Have a Holiday on Holiday: Russian holidays offer a particular set of things to do, from Victory Day parades to Maslenitsa celebrations.
9. Skate on Ice: Russians love ice sports, ice skating included. Ice rinks spring up around Moscow for the winter season, and they are regularly enjoyed by everyone. The most famous is the one erected in front of GUM every year, but Patriarch's Ponds also serves as a rink when the ice becomes thick enough.
10. See Ice Sculptures: Ice sculptures can be seen year-round at the Gallery of Russian Ice Sculpture. In the coldest months, ice sculptors will take their art outdoors and create impressive glittering statues out of ice.
11. Weather the Cold: The Moscow Winter Festival is a celebration of the coldest season of the year. Ice sculptures, games, and other associated events make this festival an anticipated occasion.
6 Things to Do for Shoppers in Moscow
Moscow's shopping opportunities are many more than those listed here. But if you want to get a feel for Moscow—and shop at the same time—these suggestions will get you started.
1. Go To GUM: The GUM State Department Store off of Red Square has a long history, but it is now a gallery of luxury goods shops. Browse this shopping center to visit a Moscow institution, or duck into it to avoid unpleasant weather.
2. Shop at Izmailovo Market: Izmailovo Market is where dozens of vendors sell matryoshka dolls, khokhloma art, fur hats, shot glasses, paintings, embroidery, and more. You can shop till your heart's content and snag souvenirs, gifts, and conversation pieces.
3. Know New Arbat: Moscow's New Arbat Street is the 20th-century counterpoint to Old Arbat Street. Lined with high-end shopping and dining establishments, Novy Arbat represents “new” Russia just as Old Arbat symbolizes past times.
4. Be a Bookworm: Moscow's giant bookstore, Dom Knigi, is a great location for picking up Russian-language souvenirs. Best-selling English-language books translated into Russian, Russian-language classics, and dictionaries can be purchased here.
5. Seek Out Souvenirs: Shopping for souvenirs of your stay is always fun, whether you're looking for folk crafts, military memorabilia, books, clothing, jewelry, prints, or other memories of your trip to Moscow. Keep an eye out for small gifts you can share with family and friends, decorative items for your home, or quirky reminders of Soviet Russia.
Not in the mood to spend money?
6. Save Save Some Cash: Free things to do in Moscow are available—you just have to know where to look.
5 Ways to See Moscow
See Moscow from the river, underground, or while on tour if you're looking for something to do in the Russian capital city.
1. Enjoy a Boat Cruise: Taking a boat cruise down the Moscow River will show you another side of the city, and you'll enjoy a perspective of important landmarks not available any other way.
2. Break the Ice: The exciting Moscow icebreaker cruise allows visitors to enjoy a boat cruise even when the Moskva River is frozen over in the dead of winter. The boat plows through the inches-thick ice that forms in sub-zero temperatures while guests dine and enjoy the views of Moscow.
3. Learn About Moscow From the Locals: An interesting and unusual opportunity awaits you with the Moscow Greeter organization. This group of volunteer guides offer their services for a couple of hours completely free of charge in order to show visitors how Muscovites live and work.
4. Ride the Metro: The Moscow metro is an incredible network of underground rails connected by architecturally splendid stations all designed around a theme or style. Called “people's palaces,” the Moscow metro stations are memorable sights.
5. Take a Guided Tour: If you're a first-time visitor to Moscow, a guided tour will introduce you to the city's main sights and significant historic events and personages.