What is Moscow
Despite being the business center and capital of Russia, Moscow tends to be looked down on by locals of not only St. Petersburg but other Russian regions, too. Apparently, it is too crowded and suits only social climbers; it is the city with its nose high up in the air. However, it also is undoubtedly the country’s beating heart and the home to a multitude of historical and cultural landmarks. Step into it and you just might be swept off your feet.
Even though it was founded in 1147, centuries before our beloved St. Petersburg, its first original whitestone Kremlin built a couple centuries later, you most likely won’t feel Moscow’s respectable age while walking down its streets. The capital does seem to be in perpetual motion, a gulp of which you might welcome after the more joie de vivre vibe of its northern counterpart. However, there is also a dreamy side to Moscow, the somewhat retrofuturistic one, holding the promise of a bright technological future that is yet to happen. Another piece of the puzzle is the concentration of knowledge the city holds, with some of the country’s best universities located nearly on every corner – you can’t help but admire the Moscow State University building when you stand at its footsteps and imagine the generations of bright minds who have stood there, too. Finally, Moscow isn’t just a city of highways: beautiful cityscapes and natural vistas await you at its luscious parks.
How to get there
Conveniently, you can get to Moscow from St. Petersburg on a train that starts from the Moscow Railway Station. You can choose an overnight train (a cheaper and less fashionable option) or the 4-hour high-speed Sapsan that’ll get you to the capital in the blink of an eye. And if you don’t like to waste any time, take the 1-hour plane. Here is a link to our more detailed overview of ways you can travel to Moscow.
How to get around
The first thing you should know about Moscow is that it is gigantic. And it has a lot of busy people in constant movement to and from their jobs. That is why the transport system there is something else, starting from the elaborate metro network and an abundance of buses and all the way to the new Moscow Central Circle railway. Hence, apart from your preferred maps app, we recommend downloading Yandex.Metro (iOS, Android) for navigating in the metro and Yandex.Maps (iOS, Android) or 2GIS (iOS, Android) for always knowing which bus to catch on the ground.
What to see
The feel of Moscow in a day:
- The Red Square, including the bonfire-like St. Basil’s Cathedral and the late-15th-century Kremlin. You can also stop by GUM Department Store to experience the true capital flair;
- Zaryadye Park (don’t forget to take the obligatory selfie at this hip spot);
- Arbat St. – importantly, there is New Arbat and “just” Arbat, a pedestrian street, and you need the latter;
- The Tretyakov Gallery – either the more classics-oriented building or the New Tretyakovka, which houses pieces by Russian avant-garde artists.
If you have more than a day, here are some more destinations to consider:
Museums, theaters, and spaces:
- The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts – to admire a diverse collection ranging from ancient sculpture to art photography;
- The Bolshoi Theater – to be able to confidently say that St. Pete’s Mariinsky is the one and only;
- The Mossovet State Academic Theater – if you are ready to practice your Russian as you watch plays starring acclaimed performers;
- Flacon – to see the Moscow version of a gentrified public space (especially if you love St. Pete’s New Holland Island and Sevkabel Port).
Parks and outdoor landmarks:
- Gorky Park – for strolls down the Moskva River bank in the city center;
- Sparrow Hills (Vorob'yevy Gory) – for an abundance of nature, a great hilltop view, and the Moskva River Cable Car;
- The main building of Lomonosov Moscow State University (close to Sparrow Hills) and, if you wish, the other Six Sisters located all around the city;
- VDNH or the All-Russian Exhibition Center – for a trip to the glorious Soviet past of the capital and a visit to its abundant museums, such as The Cosmonautics and Aviation Centre;
- Moscow City International Business Center – for an equally impressive journey to the future, envisioned by contemporary architects.
And a few personal recommendations: I feel that the essence of Moscow can be found in long walks, be that in the city center or closer to the outskirts, so I would encourage you to enjoy as many of those as you can. Alternatively, you can take a window seat on a downtown bus (for instance, the central parts of routes e10 or m90) and enjoy the views on your trip, however long you wish to make it. Another idea is to ride the metro, especially in the city center, and to admire the beautiful stations that truly speak to the grandeur of the city.
If you are looking to explore other destinations in Russia, here is a collection of our travel guides.