In this post I have programmed an itinerary for days and hours of the best that you can see and do in Moscow in 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 days. As you can see, in Moscow there are many places to visit, not only in the center of the city and its famous Red Square, but also the museums, cathedrals, parks, Soviet buildings and tourist attractions that are spread all over the city.
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- DAY 1: THE RED SQUARE AND SURROUNDINGS
- DAY 2: TRETYAKOV GALLERIES, ARBAT STREET AND GORKI PARK
- DAY 3: NOVODEVICHY AND MOSCOW SKYSCRAPERS
- DAY 4: LENIN, THE COLD WAR AND THE MATRYOSHKAS
- DAY 5: KOLOMENSKOYE AND A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
To visit Moscow, it is very convenient to plan beforehand adequately, since it is a city of colossal dimensions, and in which there is much to see and do.
In this post I have tried to compile an itinerary to visit the city’s main attractions through a realistic but demanding tour, explaining which days it is convenient to visit each of the attractions, how to move from one to another and where to eat or shop during the travel.
It is necessary to consider that it’s not the same to do the route individually way or in pair, than to do it with small children or with a large group of people. Depending on your situation and your personal tastes, you can eliminate or add more attractions to the itinerary. In some cases, I give you alternatives to scheduled visits so you can choose the best that you prefer.
Here are four very important preliminary recommendations to make the most of your route:
- Buy tickets online. For some tourist attractions, such as the Kremlin, it is imperative to buy advance tickets online, at least during the summer, because otherwise you will waste a lot of time doing lines. In the itinerary I will explain what these attractions are and I’ll put a link to other articles that explain in detail how to buy tickets online. In Moscow, there is also the Moscow CityPass tourist card, which gives access to many museums and tourist attractions.
- Museums, cathedrals, parks and shows. Mornings are convenient to reserve them for museums and cathedral visits since they are subject to schedules and they usually close in the afternoons. In Moscow, most museums close on Mondays, except for the Kremlin which closes on Thursdays. Also keep in mind that museums close one day a month for “sanitary day”. Afternoons must be reserved for visits to public parks, shopping streets or attending events (such as the Bolshoi Theater).
- Restaurants. If you are looking for good restaurants to eat in some of them, it is advisable to book in advance. I will tell you which ones are convenient to book. Some have their website in English and you can make reservations online, others can also be booked online through the reservation website http://resto.ru/.
- Use public transportation. The best way to tour the city is in Metro, but also combining it with public surface transport (bus, trolleybus or tram). The Moscow Metro is fast, cheap, safe and comfortable (except during peak hours from 7 to 10 in the morning and from 4 to 7 in the afternoon). It works from 6 in the morning to 1 in the morning. It has the disadvantage that, except in the centre, the network of stations is not very dense and they are often far away from your destination, reason why it is necessary to walk for a while or do a transfer to the public transport. That is why I recommend buying and recharging the Troika card, since it is a card that integrates all the city’s transportation systems, including bicycle, at a very economic price. On other consideration, the taxi is not a recommended means of transport to move through the city’s center, due to traffic jams.
The itinerary I have prepared is for 5 days, if you have fewer days, simply eliminate the ones you are least interested in or the parts that seem less interesting. The schedules are approximate and will depend on the circumstances of each one.
DAY 1: THE RED SQUARE AND SURROUNDINGS
- Walking. The whole route to Red Square and the surrounding area can be done on foot, it is not necessary to take the Metro, as long as your accommodation is located downtown.
- Recommended days. Any day of the week is good to make the visit, except Thursdays, since this day the Kremlin closes. Keep in mind that the rest of museums in the city are closed on Mondays.
9:00 a.m. Stroll around the Red Square
Any tour in Moscow should start at the Red Square to get familiarized with the city’s centre. Located in the center of the city, it is 330 meters long and 70 meters wide (23,100 square meters). In 1990, the whole of the Red Square and the Kremlin were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The buildings that can be visited in this square are of the most varied and each one has a special meaning: the Kremlin (official place of work of the President and that houses the main museum of Russia), the Mausoleum of Lenin (where there are found the mummified remains of the Bolshevik leader), the cathedrals of St. Basil and Kazan, the State Museum of the History of Russia or GUM Galleries (luxury commercial galleries).
A walk of around 15-30 minutes around Red Square and its surroundings (Revolution Square, Alexander’s Gardens and Tomb to the Unknown Soldier), will allow you to situate yourself and admire the beauty of the city centre.
As I assume that you have purchased the ticket online to visit the Kremlin, at about 9:30 or earlier it is advisable to go and redeem the voucher for the final tickets.
10:00 a.m. The Moscow Kremlin (I): the Armory and the Diamond Fund
The first visit I recommend to do is to the Kremlin Armory, a building that houses the main Russian museum. To visit the Armory it is highly recommended to buy the ticket online. You can buy tickets for one of the 4 passes: for 10:00, 12:00, 14:30 or 16:30 (visits are free, not guided). In this itinerary I assume that you have bought for the 10:00 am session. Inside the Armory you can buy the ticket to visit the famous Diamond Fund.
- Duration of the visit: The duration of the visit is about 2 hours.
- Price: 1.000 rubles. It is advisable to buy tickets online.
- Opening hours: Open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
- More information: What is the Kremlin and how to buy tickets online
- Guide tours: 3.5-hour Excursion to Armoury and Diamond Fund
There are no restaurants inside the Kremlin, which is why I recommend visiting the Armory in the morning and returning to the Kremlin after eating outside, to visit Cathedral Square, since it is another precinct in the Kremlin’s interior with another different entrance that can also be bought on Internet.
Alternative. Another alternative is to visit the Armory and Cathedral Square in a row, but keep in mind that it takes around 4 hours and it can get a little heavy, especially since there are no restaurants inside. In this case, you can take with you some hidden snack to eat on the way and finish both visits at 14:00 hours to go outside the Kremlin to eat.
12:00 a.m. St. Basil’s Cathedral
At the exit of the Armory you will be able to appreciate the gardens of Alexander, in whose main entrance there’s the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument dedicated to the Soviet soldiers fallen in World War II, at the center of which burns the eternal flame, guarded by The Honor Guard of the Presidential Regiment. The guard shift is done every hour and tourists love to go see it.
Leaving Alexander’s Gardens and crossing the Red Square, you can go to St. Basil’s Cathedral, the symbol of the city, despite not being the main cathedral of Moscow, since this place corresponds to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
- Duration of the visit: The visit can be done in 1 hour approximately.
- Price: 350 rubles. Tickets can only be purchased in the cathedral itself. There are usually not long lines and if there is one, it moves fast.
- Schedule: In the summer, from June 1 to August 31, it opens from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the rest of the year).
- More information: Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Visits, entrances and schedules
After visiting St. Basil’s Cathedral, you can also visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, which is situated in the northeastern corner of Red Square in Moscow and whose entrance is free. It is visited quickly.
2:00 p.m. GUM Galleries
After visiting the cathedrals, it is a good time to visit the GUM Shopping Galleries, the most well-known shopping center in Russia and the most visited by tourists in Moscow. On the third floor, there are a couple of self-service restaurants where you can eat in a very economic and fast way on their terraces, while admiring this spectacular shopping center.
- Duration of the visit: 1-2 hours to eat and see the GUM Galleries.
- Price: the entrance to the mall is free.
- Hours: GUM Galleries open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
More information: Shopping in Moscow: from GUM to Izmailovo market
Alternative. Another place to eat near Red Square and in which there is a lot of variety of restaurants is the Okhotny Ryad Shopping Center, a multi-level underground shopping mall located under Alexander’s Gardens and next to the Kremlin
4:00 p.m. The Moscow Kremlin (II): Cathedrals Square
After lunch, the visit can continue in the Kremlin, specifically in Cathedrals Square.
- Duration of the visit: it may take about 2 hours.
- Price: 700 rubles. It is advisable to buy tickets online.
- Opening hours: in summer, the precinct of the Cathedrals Square of the Kremlin is open from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.
- More information: What is the Kremlin and how to buy tickets online
At this point, you can return to your hotel, rest a bit and continue the visits in the afternoon. Or, if you prefer, continue with your visit in the direction of the Bolshoi Theater.
6:00 p.m. The Bolshoi Theater and Tverskaya Street
From St. Basil’s Cathedral it is worth walking from Red Square, to the Revolution Square, passing Teatralnaya Square, to the Bolshoi Theater to admire the beauty of this famous building. Next to the Bolshoi Theater, if you want to do some shopping, there are the large TsUM department stores in a historical six floors neogothic style building.
- Guided tours: 2–Hour Legendary Bolshoi Theatre Historical Tour
From here, if you still have stamina, you can head to Tverskaya street, Moscow’s best known street, full of ads, luxurious shops and restaurants. On building number 14 of this street there is Eliseevsky gastronomic shop, opened in 1901, which has some luxurious interiors. It is a good place to buy gifts like vodka, caviar or other typical Russian products. The good thing is that the store is open all day.
You can end the tour by dining in a Russian restaurant: you can choose between eating something economic like on the Mu-Mu restaurant chain, or going to Café Pushkin, probably the most famous restaurant in Moscow (book well in advance, it can be done on their website). In the area, you can also find many other restaurants of the most varied food.
DAY 2: TRETYAKOV GALLERIES, ARBAT STREET AND GORKI PARK
- Public Transport. On this second day, you will start using the Moscow Metro and visit the main stations of the network. You can also hop on a cruise on the Moskva River to see the city from a totally different perspective.
- Recommended days. Any day of the week, except Mondays since that day of the week Tretyakov Galleries are closed.
10:00 a.m. Tretyakov State Gallery
Tretyakov State Gallery is the world’s most important exhibition museum for Russian works. For art lovers this is a must visit.
- Duration: 2-3 hours.
- Price: entrance to the main building costs 400 rubles. The ticket can be purchased online at: http://www.tretyakovgallery.ru/en/
- Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Closed Monday.
Alternative. Another museum worth visiting is the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Russia’s second most important museum dedicated to European art, only surpassed by the St. Petersburg Hermitage.
1:00 p.m. Cathedral of Christ the Savior
From Tretyakov Galleries you can walk to the Cathedral Temple of the Christ Savior (the Redeemer) of the Patriarch of Moscow. Located in the center of the city, it is the highest Orthodox Church in the world.
- Duration: it can be visited in about 30 minutes.
- Price: free.
- Hours: from 9:00 am to 7:00pm.
Important: To enter this temple, men can’t do it in shorts, they must be wearing long pants. For women it is advisable to always carry a scarf in the bag, in case they have to cover their hair.
2:00 p.m. Arbat Street
From the Cathedral of the Christ the Savior to the beginning of Arbat Street there is a 15 minute walk. Arbat Street is a very commercial and tourist pedestrian street about 1 kilometer long and situated in the historical center of Moscow and surrounded by historical buildings. In the 18th century it was considered by the Russian nobility as the most prestigious place to live.
In Arbat Street there are plenty of restaurants to eat, many of them offering gourmet cooking from the former Soviet republics (Georgian, Azerbaijani, Uzbek food, etc.), and I recommend that you try it. Arbat Street is also a good place to buy souvenirs, like the famous matryoshkas.
Important: don’t confuse this street with the New Arbat street with several circulation lanes and near the pedestrian street of Arbat (also called Old Arbat to differentiate it from the New Arbat).
4:30 p.m. The Moscow Metro
In the afternoon, after strolling down Arbat Street, it is a good time to climb the Moscow Metro and see some of the most beautiful stations. The Moscow Metro is the best system to get around the city and it’s also a tourist attraction for the beauty of many of its stations. The Metro is safe but you have to keep your wallet well secured, especially when you get on very crowded trains.
I recommend taking the Metro at Arbatskaya station (at the beginning of Arbat Street, east) to visit this spectacular Metro station first. From Arbatskaya station, take line 3 (the darker blue one) to the center of the city and stop at the station of the Revolution Square (Ploshchad Revolyutsii), one of the most famous of the Moscow Metro (in one of the bronze sculptures there’s a dog that accompanies a border guard, it is said that if you rub the dog’s nose it brings you good luck).
Take line 3 again and stop at the next station, then you can go see Kurskaya station (and its World War II Hall of Fame). From Kurskaya station (which is already on line 5 of the metro), you can make a circular tour around Moscow in the reverse direction of the clock, stopping at the stations of:
- Komsomolskaya, with its impressive mosaic murals of glorious Russian victories.
- Prospekt Mira
- And finish the trip in Park Cultury, to go outside and go to Gorky Park in Moscow (next stop of the tour).
Here I mark in red these stations:
Obviously there are many other beautiful stations, but on this tour you already have a good idea of what the Moscow Metro is. If you continue your visit in Moscow more days, during the trips to other tourist attractions you will have the opportunity to see many other stations.
- Duration: 1,30 – 2 hours (including stops and visits to the stations)
- Price: the price of a Metro ticket
- Schedule: The Moscow Metro opens from 6 in the morning to 1 in the morning.
- More information: How to use the Moscow Metro and what stations to see
- Guided tours: Moscow Metro 2-Hour Tour
7:00 p.m. Gorki Park and Moskva River Cruise
After leaving the Park Cultury Metro station, you can head to Gorki Park, located along the Moskva River, near the city center, where you will find extensive gardens, forests, lakes, playgrounds, an artificial sand beach, restaurants, as well as regular events, such as exhibitions and concerts. It is a good place to relax, stroll or have a drink. The park entrance is free.
Gorki Park is also a good place from which to take a boat cruise on the Moskva River and see the city from another totally different perspective. Thus, the ships of the Flotilla Radisson have an exit from Gorki Park to take a tour of the Moskva River through which to see other areas of the city, such as the spectacular Moscow City financial district.
The schedules are variable, it is best to check their website, but during the week there is usually a departure at 7:30pm and another at 9:00pm from the Gorki Park pier. The boats don’t have stops and they finish their journey in Gorki Park.
Depending on whether you are in first class or in tourist class, prices can range from 700 to 2,000 rubles per person. If you want to eat or dine on the boat, this is an additional cost. Audioguides are offered on the boat at no additional cost, both in English and Russian.
DAY 3: NOVODEVICHY AND MOSCOW SKYSCRAPERS
- Transportation. To make the excursions you need to take the Metro, walk a lot and also take a trolleybus.
- Recommended days. Any day of the week is good for this excursion, though it is always preferable that it be a clear and not rainy day to contemplate the extraordinary views from the hill of the sparrows.
10:00 a.m. The Novodevichy convent and cemetery
The Novodevichy Convent is one of the most beautiful religious complexes in Russia and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004. Beside the convent there is also the most famous cemetery in Moscow, where many famous people of the Russian history are buried there, such as film director Sergei Eisenstein, the cellist Rostropovich, the composer Shostakovich, or former Russian president Boris Yeltsin (see photo below), to name a few. The access to the cemetery is free.
On the outside of this convent there is a small lake, not very clean, which is the famous Swan Lake, immortalized by Tchaikovsky. From here you can see the financial district of Moscow City with its tall skyscrapers.
- Duration: 2 hours
- Price: entrance to the monastery costs 300 rubles. The entrance to the cemetery is free.
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
In the surroundings of the Monastery there are several restaurants with elaborate cuisine such as the Myata restaurant, the Hinkalnaya (Georgian food) or the Golubka restaurant (Italian and Russian food). If you prefer, you can also eat at a Russian fast food establishment such as Kroshka Kartoshka.
5:00 p.m. Sparrow Hills and Moscow University
Sparrow Hills (Vorobiovy Gory) is one of the highest points in Moscow. From this hill there is a spectacular panoramic view of the city (as long as there is a clear day). It is a place that the Muscovites really like. You will also find many tourists and couples taking photos.
From this hill, which rises through a beautiful park, you can also admire some of Stalin’s skyscrapers, popularly known as the Seven Sisters, among which the building of the University of Moscow rises impressively, very close to Sparrow Hills.
To get to this hill from the Novodevichy Monastery, you have several possibilities:
- Do it on foot. If you like to walk, the journey on foot is 1 hour, in which you will have the opportunity to see outside the Luzhnikí Olympic Complex, a sports complex served as Olympic Village for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.
- Use the Metro. The Metro ride takes about 45 minutes: 10 minutes to get to the Sportifnaya station, take line 1 to Vorobyovy Gory (5 minutes) and again walk about 30 minutes crossing the Moskva river bridge and walking through Sparrow Hills park to the highest area (around 85 meters high).
- Go in bus. You can also take the bus or trolleybus to get there, though it also involves walking for at least 30 minutes.
7:00 p.m. Moscow City
From the summit of Sparrow Hills, take trolleybus number 7, a 40-minute drive along the left bank of the Moscow River, which will take you to Moscow City’s financial district (also the Metro). Have your Troika card ready to get on this trolleybus and see the city from another perspective.
The Moscow International Business Center, better known as Moscow City, represents the future of the city. It is a project devised by the Government of Moscow in 1992 to create an area of business activity, living spaces and entertainment.
There is a giant mall (http://afimall.ru/en) and a multitude of restaurants, making it a good place to dine.
DAY 4: LENIN, THE COLD WAR AND THE MATRYOSHKAS
- Transportation. You will need to take the Metro and also a bus or tram.
- Recommended days. Saturday is a good day to do this visit, since all museums are open and that’s when Izmailovo market is busier and interesting. It can also be done on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
10:00 a.m. The Mausoleum of Lenin
You can start the day by visiting Lenin’s Mausoleum, where the mummified remains of Lenin are preserved since his death in 1924. In order to enter, it is necessary to make the regulatory line, which can be more or less long.
- Duration of the visit: the visit lasts about 15 minutes, but to this time you have to add the line to be done.
- Price: free.
- Opening hours: The Mausoleum is open only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
More information: The free visit to the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow
11:30 a.m. Bunker-42 or Cold War Museum
Bunker 42 was built during the Cold War as a place capable to withstand a nuclear attack and control the missiles. Located in the Moscow neighborhood of Taganskaya, it is located about 65 meters underground (18 floors) and built under a building so it had to go unnoticed and with access to two metro stations, in case you had to flee. The place was auctioned and currently in private hands, it has become the Cold War Museum. Different theme tours are organized. In the museum you can find interactive games, a restaurant, conference rooms, etc.
- Duration of the visit: about 2 hours.
- Price: from 1,800 rubles, with guided tours (in English) that last around an hour and a half. You can buy tickets in the bunker itself or also make a phone reservation in advance, or through the website.
- Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- To note: you must go down and then up 18 floors by foot, it is the museum with the most expensive entrance and guided tours are in English or Russian.
- Guided tours: Bunker-42 Tour with Skip-the-Line
Taganskaya Metro Station is the closest to this museum. Inside the bunker there is a restaurant, the Banket Bunker 42, and it’s worth checking out to see it.
3:00 p.m. Museum of Cosmonautics
After lunch, it is time to take the Metro and go to the Museum of Cosmonautics, dedicated to Soviet space exploration. It is located at the base of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space, a 107 meters high obelisk, inaugurated on October 4, 1964, coinciding with the seventh anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, and which represents a long column of smoke that a space rocket leaves.
From Taganskaya Station, take line 5 of the Metro and get off at Prospekt Mira to take line 6 of the Metro to the VDNHa station.
- Duration of the visit: about 2 hours.
- Price: 250 rubles. Tickets are purchased in the museum itself.
- Opening hours: it opens every day from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.). Closed on Mondays.
6:00 p.m. Izmailovo Market
If you still have energies left, you can go to Izmailovo Market, located to the northeast of the city, and built as a medieval Russian citadel, it’s the ideal place to buy the most varied souvenirs: famous matryoshkas, crafts, leather, paintings, souvenirs of the former USSR (Soviet medals, Cossack sabers, Soviet caps, etc.). Prices are lower than what you can find in other more touristy areas of downtown Moscow.
In this market there are also some curious museums such as vodka, the bread or the chocolate museum, among others. The best days to visit this market, in which there is more competition and sellers, is on weekends (from Friday to Sunday).
To get to this market from the Museum of Cosmonautics, you can take the bus number 311 or tram number 11 (it takes about 50 minutes) to the museum exit. In summer, it is open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
DAY 5: KOLOMENSKOYE AND A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
- Transportation. You will need to take the Metro.
- Recommended days. Any day of the week except Mondays when museums close.
10:00 a.m. Kolomenskoye
Kolomenskoye is a park located on a high bank of the Moscow River, south of Moscow, and was the former suburban residence of the great Dukes and Tsars of Russia. It is a beautiful park, with splendid views over the Moskva river and where you can visit various churches (such as that of the Ascension), as well as various museums and the summer palace of Tsar Alekséi Mijáilovich
You can spend about 3 hours to visit this space and eat in the area. You can get to the park by stopping at the Kolomenskaya Metro station, go all the way from north to south visiting its main attractions and returning from the subway stop to the south, Kashirskaya.
You can find more information about the schedules of the different buildings and expositions at this park is in its official website: http://mgomz.com/.
7:00 p.m. A night at the opera: the Bolshoi Theater and the Novaya Opera
I think the best way to say goodbye to Moscow is by attending a ballet or opera performance at the Bolshoi Theater.
- Duration: an opera performance can take about 3 hours.
- Price: the cheapest entrance can cost about 3,000 rubles. Tickets must be purchased in advance via Internet.
- Opening hours: the ballet and opera performances are usually at 7:00pm.
More information: Bolshoi Theater in Moscow: tickets and guided tours
After the opera, a good option is to dine at the Bolshoi restaurant, of typical Russian food, in which if you present the opera entrance of the day, you can get a 10% discount (reservation can be made from its website). I also recommend later seeing the Red Square illuminated at night.
Important. The Bolshoi season begins throughout the month of September and ends at the end of July. Therefore, in August, when most people travel to Moscow, there are no representations. In these cases you also have other very good alternatives:
- To attend an opera at the Novaya Opera.
- To attend a ballet at the Kremlin Palace (tickets can be bought on their website).
- Another very good alternative, from June 15 to September 15, is the Russian folklore show of the National Ballet “Kostroma” at the folklore theater (Olimpiyskiy prospect 14).
The Golden Ring of Russia
To finish, if you have more time in Moscow or you simply want to know the more rural Russia, it is highly recommended to visit one of the cities of the Russian Ring of Russia. You can take a day trip to Sergiyev Posad, located about 70 kilometers northeast of Moscow and known for hosting the Monastery of the Trinity and St. Sergius (World Heritage Site by UNESCO). Also worth mentioning is Suzdal, perhaps the most fascinating and charming city of the ring, but further away from Moscow
I hope this article has helped you plan your visit to Moscow. If it has been useful to you, you can help me by sharing it in your social networks.