As an expat who’s logged hundreds (if not thousands) of hours uncovering Moscow on foot, I can say with certainty that the magic of wandering Moscow’s streets is so strong you won’t even mind when the temperature drops well below zero. I’ve been exploring this glorious city for four years now and sometimes I feel as if I’ve only just skimmed the surface of what Moscow has to offer.
See below for a free Moscow weekend itinerary!
Hi, I’m Polly, an American citizen who lived and worked in the Moscow region for 5 years. I’m here to share my knowledge of Russia, Russian culture, and expat life in one of the world’s most interesting countries (in my humble opinion).
I wrote A Complete Guide to Exploring Moscow for the adventurers like me, people who like to see the sights and then slip away into unnoticed side streets to get the REAL history of a place.
If that shoulds like something you might be interested in, this guidebook is probably right for you!
Additionally, this book has been created as both a book and a digital resource file – all points of interest are linked to their websites for easy reference and rather than include quickly out-of-date maps, the book guides you to the most up-to-date and useful apps for your phone or tablet.
2. A Brief History of Moscow
3. Maps + Apps
4. Getting There
5. City Basics
6. Russian Crash Course
7. Central Moscow: Red Square and the Kremlin
8. Kitai-Gorod District
9. Tverskoy District
10. Meshchansky and Krasnoselsky Districts
11. Basmanny District
12. Tagansky District
13. Zamoskvorechye District
14. Yakimanka District
15. Khamovniki District
16. Arbat District
17. Presnensky District
18. Beyond the Circle Line
19. Day Trips from Moscow
21. Night Life
Extras: Is Moscow Safe to Visit & The 10-Hour Moscow Layover
What to do in Moscow
Start in Red Square. Krasnaya ploschad – or Red Square as it’s better known in English – is the heart and soul of Russia, plain and simple. Although the area well-known as the place where the USSR displayed its military prowess, ‘Red’ Square actually had no Communist connotations in Russian pre-Revolution. Certainly, Red Square existed both before and after the USSR and Russia’s Communist government; in fact, krasnaya really refers to the old Russian word meaning ‘beautiful’. Here you’ll be able to visit Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the GUM shopping center, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and the Kremlin.
Head east and check out the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, another one of Moscow’s iconic structures. Initial construction on the cathedral started after a 25 year delay in 1839 under the direction of Konstantin Ton, the architect also behind the Kremlin Armory and the Grand Kremlin Palace. Its first incarnation was sadly cut short when it was destroyed by the Soviet government in 1931 and replaced by the world’s largest pool. (Muscovites were understandably torn about the new space: the fog-covered, perfectly heated pool was a wonderful marvel but the thick fog also hid a number of ‘deleted men’ floating among the swimmers throughout the years.) After the collapse of the Soviet Union, infamous Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov decided to put money into was turned out to be a $360 million reconstruction project.
If the weather’s nice, be sure to head down the pedestrian Arbat street just west of the Kremlin. Full of artists and musicians as well as souvenir shops and cafes as far as the eye can see, wandering down Arbat is a perfect way to spend a few hours when it’s not too cold to be outside!
If you’re looking for even more walking plus an amazing local experience, try the Moscow and Parties tours – totally crafted with curious, off-the-beaten-path visitors in mind. (I took a tour with them, you can see the review here.)
For more idea about where to visit in Moscow, check out the resource guide below:
8 Facts about Russia Your Guidebook Won’t Tell You
Russian Stereotypes: Busted?
What to eat in Moscow
If you want classic Russian food… Cafe Pushkin (Tverskoy bulvar 26A – metro Pushkinskaya, Tverskaya; +7 (496) 739 00 33) Although it’s called a cafe, Cafe Pushkin is really more of a luxury restaurant. The restaurant has been decorated to look a noble per-Revolution estate house and the food is so good it might well have been prepared by someone’s ultra-talented servant. Classic Russian food and, of course, vodka is served. Everything is topped off by the excellent service that just doesn’t really exist in Moscow otherwise. The cafe is open 24 hours a day (great for killing time on those late nights before the metro opens). $$$$
If you’re on a strict budget… Khachipuri (Bolshoy Gneznikovsky pereulok 10 – metro Tverskaya; +7 (495) 764 31 18) Full of traditional Georgian food at very reasonable prices, this restaurant is worth a visit. It’s named for the traditional cheese bread, khachapuri. Aside from grabbing a few of those, everyone should be sure to get two or three (or four) khinkali (boiled dumplings filled with meat). $-$$
If you’ve got money to blow… Varvary (Strastnoy bulvar 8A – metro Pushkinskaya; +7 (495) 229 28 00) Located just off of Tverskaya, Varvary is the place to go if you find yourself with too many rubles left in your wallet. The frontrunner on Moscow’s molecular gastronomy scene, Varvary offers traditional Russian cuisine in the most modern, innovative way possible. While the bill may be more than you paid for your hotel, the experience is worth the splurge. $$$$
If you just want a beer… Zhiguli (Novy Arbat 11, bldg 1 – metro Arbatskaya; +7 495 691 41 44) Need a few beers but hate to pay high prices? Zhiguli is perfect. Right between Old and New Arbat, Zhiguli offers a cafeteria-style meal with its signature Zhiguli beers for a reasonable price. $
Where to stay in Moscow
Hostel options: Fabrika Hostel and Gallery Red October (Bersenevsky pereulok 5/3 – metro Kropotkinskaya; +7 (405) 506 10 91) or Art House Hostel on Polyanka (ulitsa Bolshaya Polyanka 51a/9 – metro Polyanka, Dobryninskaya)
Still feel like there’s more to know! (There totally is!) Grab a copy of my 220-page guidebook, A Complete Guide to Exploring Moscow.