As one of the most vibrant European capitals, Moscow is a powerful mix of history and edginess, full of world-famous sites and iconic attractions. Russia’s capital has been in existence for more than 800 years and has enough to keep visitors busy for months. Here’s the ultimate first-timer’s to-do list, from Europe’s oldest fortress and grandiose cathedrals to lively green spaces and futuristic skyscrapers.
The heart of Russia’s capital, Red Square is arguably Moscow’s most visited attraction. The cobblestone square is surrounded by architectural stunners, and is the place where most of the city’s (and the country’s) history unfolded. What used to be a market square until the end of the 15th century is now surrounded by unforgettable sites such as the Kremlin, St.Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum and other celebrated attractions.
Moscow’s ultimate love-it-or-hate-it landmark, Lenin’s Mausoleum houses a glass sarcophagus with the embalmed body of the legendary Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin. First opened to the public in August 1924, the Mausoleum attracts around 2.5 million visitors every year, who don’t mind standing in line and going through a thorough body search to get into the illustrious building.
The biggest active fortress in Europe, Moscow’s Kremlin offers a week’s worth of attractions. Once you get behind the 2,235 meter-long Kremlin walls there are five squares and 18 buildings to explore, 20 towers to learn the names of, and the world’s largest bell and cannon to see.
State Historical Museum
An attraction in its own right, the State Historical Museum, sheltered in a neo-Russian style building, was founded in 1872 by Ivan Zabelin and Aleksey Uvarov. What once was the Principal Medicine Store now houses an impressive collection, which includes relics of prehistoric tribes that once inhabited the territory of present-day Russia, the country’s largest coin collection, as well as 6th-century manuscripts and artworks collected by the Romanov dynasty among other treasures.
As Russia’s most famous department store, GUM is arguably the most beautiful one too. Built in the 1890s, the glass-roofed arcade has successfully retained most of its original interiors. Home to over 200 of upscale boutiques, GUM also offers a variety of great eateries, a Soviet-style grocery store – Gastronom №1 – and the fanciest historic toilet you’ve ever seen.
An elegant historic street right in the city center, Arbat is one of Moscow’s top touristy spots. With lots of cafés and restaurants, live music performers and caricaturists, as well as souvenir shops and tattoo salons, monuments and a theatre, Arbat draws crowds of visitors every day.
Built between 1900 and 1905, Tretyakov Gallery started as the private collection of the Tretyakov brothers, who were 19th-century philanthropists. Designed by Viktor Vasnetsov, the gallery is a home to the world’s largest collection of Russian art, comprising over 100 thousand artworks. Here you can see the largest collection of icons, including Rublev’s Trinity and pre-revolutionary masterpieces such as Girl with Peaches by Valentin Serov, Demon by Mikhail Vrubel and Rooks have Returned by Alexei Savrasov.
Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts
The largest foreign art museum in Moscow comprises three branches housing a collection of incredible works by masters of ancient civilisations, Italian Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age. The main building of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts is home to the Ancient Civilisation and ‘Treasures of Troy’ exhibits, as well as Renaissance and Dutch masterpieces by Botticelli, Tiepolo Veronese and Rembrandt, some of which have never been displayed before. The Gallery of European & American Art, located next door, stores an incredible collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings.
Moscow’s premier green space, Gorky Park offers entertainment for every taste: outdoor dancing sessions, yoga and fitness classes all summer, as well as beach volleyball and ping-pong, rollerblading, skateboarding and cycling, along with segway and boat-rentals. In winter half of the park turns into one of the city’s biggest skating rinks. The park is also home to an open-air movie theatre and the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art.
If you to take a walk from Gorky Park along the Moscow river embankment, you’ll end up in Moscow’s other legendary park – Sparrow Hills. Although the park doesn’t offer as many activities as its hip neighbour, here you can take a closer look at the tallest of the seven Stalinist skyscrapers – the Moscow State University – admire the view from the observation deck or get a cable car ride.
Opened in 1925, the legendary Bolshoi Theatre is one of the best places in Moscow for an evening of entertainment. Designed by Joseph Bové, this architectural stunner has two stages, hosting both ballet and opera performances.
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