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What to see and do in Moscow – a guide to notable attractions and landmarks

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The Russian capital certainly ticks all the boxes when it comes to culture and entertainment – witnessing a ballet performance while here should definitely be on your radar. A wander around the city’s historic center will also reveal a treasure trove of cultural gems such as St Basil’s Cathedral, and if you venture underground the grandeur continues, with chandeliered Metro stations including the famed Kievskaya. 

Natalia Orel

My Destination local expert on

Moscow

Red Square

 

Snug in the very heart of Moscow and surrounded by some of the city’s most recognizable buildings, Red Square is an iconic Russian landmark and a must-visit for first time travelers to Moscow. Striking sites visible from the square include St. Basil’s Cathedral, a fairytale assemble of rose pink walls and circus-striped domes. Also fascinating to explore is the Lenin Mausoleum, a rust-colored structure resembling a squashed pyramid. Here you can queue to take a peek inside at the preserved corpse of Vladimir Lenin, the legendary communist revolutionary. That’s one sight that will truly hammer home Russia’s tumultuous past with one glimpse.

 

The Kremlin

 

Although sounding like a sneaky mythological creature, the Kremlin is actually the visually stunning historic center of Moscow. Spanning nine centuries of Russian history, this area is a mine of succulent architecture: grand palaces, bright white cathedrals and tranquil squares - all surrounded by dramatic red brick walls and watchtowers. Stroll around the Kremlin for some world-class photo opportunities; even though only a third is open to the public, this place still hides enough treasures to stock several days of sightseeing – including nine glorious museums.

 

Bolshoi Theatre

 

This creamy pillared building on Theatre Square is definitely as beautiful inside as out, adorned with layered gold balconies and lashings of red velvet. The Bolshoi Theatre is an iconic establishment, having staged thousands of unforgettable performances since its third incarnation was opened in 1856. Experiencing an evening here is a must while you are in Moscow; choose either opera or world famous Russian ballet – the theatre has been associated with ballet since its creation, with Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece Swan Lake premiering here in 1877.

 

River cruise

 

Many of Moscow’s most thrilling buildings sit along the banks of the Moskva River; a sedate cruise is the ideal way to take in their beauty without the hubbub and traffic around the tourist traps themselves. You can buy either a one way ticket or a day pass, then leap on one of the regular river trams that follow the Moskva as it twists past some of Russia’s most beautiful architecture. A cruise takes in the marvelous Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral, as well as Novodevichy Convent and the dramatic towers of Moscow State University.

 

Metro stations

 

While in Moscow, you’ll probably end up using its famous Metro system to get around the vast metropolis; attractions are often not within walking distance. However, the Moscow Metro is more than simply a form of public transport; some of its stations are arguably the most beautiful in the world, featuring chandeliers, statues, and dazzling mosaics. Claiming a unique commute for Muscovites, the Metro is also an attraction in its own right; travel on the Koltsevaya line for some of the best sights, and you can also take part in a station tour.