I wanted to visit Moscow, capital of Russia, since I was a child. Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Kremlin and Red Square were imprinted on my mind since childhood, because of the Russian TV programs my family watched then. At that time I thought that these are the most beautiful buildings. As travel was not possible for me then, a small child from a relatively poor family, I only got there recently.
We arrived to Moscow a week before our planned hike along Baikal lake. Our friend Eugene was waiting for us in Novosibirsk, from where we were planning to head towards Baikal lake.
Even though, we spent in Moscow just two and a half days, it’s a city that we will remember. We instantly fell in love with this megalopolis, and now we are eager to return. Read on to learn more about the basic things you need to know, when traveling to Moscow, capital of Russia!
There are several types of public transport in Moscow, and it is inexpensive
I was surprised to know, that public transport in Moscow isn’t expensive. Even Aeroexpress train – direct train – from airports (all of them) is inexpensive.
There are four international airports in Moscow: Domodedovo International Airport, Sheremetyevo International Airport, Vnukovo International Airport and Zhukovsky International Airport. Most of the airlines and low-cost carriers operate regular flights from Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo airports. Zhukovsky is not a popular airport anymore.
Getting to and from these three airports is neither difficult, nor expensive. The most convenient way (after taxi) definitely is Aeroxpress train. The journey costs only 420 roubles (6 EUR), to and from any airport in Moscow, except Zhukovsky airport.
Moscow metro network is expansive. There are 14 metro lines, which cover pretty much all the city. Metro is inexpensive and easy to use. Single ticket costs 50 roubles (0.72 EUR) and it can be purchased in any metro station. The Moscow Metro has 203 stations and it is one of the largest metro systems in the world, as well as the the first metro in the Soviet Union. It was opened in 1935.
But it is not just that – the Moscow Metro has amazingly beautiful stations and they are a popular tourist attraction on their own. Some of the stations are designed like palaces – decorated with intricate decors, beautiful chandeliers and even paintings. Sculptures, alcoves, columns, marble – this is what you can expect to see in Moscow Metro.
Some of the most beautiful stations are Ploshchad Revolutsii metro station, Kievskaya metro station, Komsomolskaya metro station, Prospekt Mira metro station, Mayakovskaya metro station, Taganskaya metro station, Park Pobedy metro station, Novoslobodskaya metro station.
Metro is not the only mode of transport. There are buses, trolleybuses and trams as well! Single ticket costs 50 roubles (0.72 EUR). Tickets can be purchased from a driver when you board a bus, trolleybus or tram, from ticket offices located at some bus stops and from ticket vending machines in all metro stations. You can use the same ticket for bus, trolleybus, tram and metro.
Bus is the second most popular mode of transportation in Moscow after the metro. The bus network is expansive, and buses operate not only within the city, but they can carry one to the suburbs of Moscow.
Trolleybus networks also is expansive. Interesting fact – Moscow has the largest trolleybus system in the world!
Definitely hop on one of the old looking trams as well!
You can find inexpensive accommodation even close to Moscow city center
We came to Moscow directly from Asia. And, of course, when we booked our first accommodation in Moscow, we sighed inwardly, because double rooms here are way more expensive than in Southeast Asia. Hostels, as well. But when comparing to countries in Western Europe, I found accommodation in Russia, and even in Moscow, to be cheaper.
Book in advance! That way you will know where to go. Moscow is big, and for a first time visitor, searching for accommodation just walking around might be tiring.
You can find inexpensive accommodation even close to Kremlin, around city center. We stayed in Babushka doll hotel. Double rooms there starts from 1394 rubles (20 EUR) per night. But… take into account, the cheapest rooms (without en suite bathroom) are super tiny! Basically there is only bed, folding table and chair. You can’t even walk there or store big suitcases. Nevertheless, we found it quite comfy.
There are a lot of cheap hostels in Moscow, even close to city center. In cheapest ones bed in a dorm costs starting from 250 roubles (3.60 EUR) per night, but mostly it is 5-6 EUR per night.
Most hostels and guesthouses in Moscow have kitchen with fridge and all necessary crockery, cutlery, pots, pans and other utensils for cooking. So, you will be able to prepare your own food and save some money.
Check out also Airbnb, if you want to stay in an apartment instead and live like a local in Moscow! Register using my Airbnb link and you will get a 18 euro discount for your first booking!
Try delicious Russian food while visiting Moscow
There are plenty of good restaurants which serve traditional Russian food. There are loads of cheap eateries (stolovaya), cafes and budget restaurants, too. A lot of them offer good lunch deals during weekdays. Russians call it Бизнес ланч (Business Lunch). Mostly two course lunch price starts from 3 EUR, depends on what you are having. Soup and salad is cheaper than potatoes with meat and a soup.
Few restaurants offer all-you-can-eat buffet. One of the best restaurants that offer this is Ёлки-Палки (Yolki-Palki). Pay 600 rubles (8.60 EUR), that’s how much we paid in June of 2016, and eat all what you want and how much you want. They have variety of popular Russian dishes, snacks and even some deserts. Drinks are not included, though. They have good lunch offers, too.
The strangest restaurant we have ever dined in is Кафе Кусочки (Kafe Kusochki) in Moscow. One half of the restaurant is decorated like a prison, another is hospital themed. Male waiters are dressed as doctors and female – as police officers! They even have handcuffs attached to waistbands of their trousers and gun holders!
If you are staying in hostel or guest house with a kitchen, you can cook your own food and save money. Supermarkets are everywhere. There are several markets in Moscow, the popular ones are Даниловский (Danilovsky), Дорогомиловский (Dorogomilovsky) and Цветной (Tvsetnoy) market.
Here is the list of most popular Russian dishes, which you should try during your visit:
- Olivye salad – the most popular salad in Russia! You will see it in almost every restaurant and eatery in Russia. It is made with pickled cucumbers, green peas, eggs, potatoes, carrots, onions and boiled chicken or other meat, or sausage, and dressed with mayonnaise.
- Herring under fur coat (dressed herring) – layered salad, made with marinated herring, onions, grated boiled carrots, beet root and potatoes, and dressed with mayonnaise.
- Kholodets – a jellied meat dish, served cold.
- Salted or marinated herring with Russian cottage cheese (tvorog) and potatoes
- Pelmeni – dumplings with minced filling. They can be filled with minced beef, pork, lamb, chicken or fish. Pelmeni are usually served with sour cream (smetana).
- Varenyky – savory as well as sweet dumplings, stuffed with potatoes, Russian cottage cheese (tvorog), cabbage, cheese, mushrooms, fruit and berries.
- Okroshka, Solyanka and Borscht – most popular soups in Russia. Borscht is made with stock, beet root, cabbage, potatoes, onions and carrots. Okroshka is a cold soup, made from eggs, spring onions, cucumbers, spring onions, meat and potatoes. Solyanka is sour soup , which contain pickled cucumbers, cabbage, sour cream, dill and meat or fish.
- Shashlik – skewered meat. Well, it isn’t Russian dish, but it is very popular there.
- Kissel – a popular desert, which is something like jelly. It consists of berries and berry juice and is thickened with starch.
- Kvas – fermented beverage made from bread. Mmm, we love it!
Where to go and what to see in Moscow
The most popular place in Moscow definitely is Moscow Kremlin. It is a walled complex located at the historic and geographic center of Moscow, and it is the oldest place of the city. It is enclosed by Kremlin wall with Kremlin towers. Kremlin is a residence of President of Russia.
Several other historical and significant buildings are located around there – Spasskaya Tower, Ivan the Great Bell Tower, Cathedral of the Dormition, Cathedral of the Annunciation and Lenin’s Mausoleum. Lenin’s Mausoleum is a Lenin’s tomb and his embalmed body is on public display. Mausoleum is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 1 PM, except for public holidays. Entrance is free.
If you are visiting Kremlin, walk around Red Square, too. It is a big plaza located just next to Kremlin. Many other remarkable building surround the square, such as Saint Basil’s Cathedral, State Historical Museum, Kazan Cathedral and GUM department store.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. It reminds me of a candy or gingerbread house. Now cathedral houses a museum. The church, Moscow Kremlin and Red Square is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The church has been part of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990.
GUM (ГУМ / Государственный универсальный магазин) is Russia’s most popular shopping mall located in Red Square. It is an impressive building built at the end of 19th century. Interior is impressive, too. It has beautifully shaped windows, chandeliers, intricate decorations and a glass roof.
Definitely visit Alexander Gardens which is located at the Western Kremlin Wall. It is one of the first public parks in Moscow, and it consists of three gardens – upper, middle and lower. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame is located near the entrance to the park, in the upper garden.
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is impressive, golden-domed, Orthodox cathedral near Kremlin. Amazing fact is that it is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world! It was demolished in 1931, but it was rebuilt in 2000. And it’s capacity is about 10 000 people!
Go to Moscow International Business Center – Moscow City! It is a commercial district of Moscow. Moscow city currently is under development, but several skyscrapers already have been finished. 5 of the 6 tallest buildings of Europe are located there, and Federation Tower: East Tower is the tallest of them.
Visit Kitay-gorod, which is a cultural and historical part of central Moscow. Several significant historical buildings are located there, for instance Plevna Chapel monument, church of the Trinity in Nikitniki, Iberian Chapel and Gate, which leads to Red Square. It used to be a trading area of central Moscow. There used to be walls around Kitay-gorod, but now only one part of it remains.
When we first saw name “Kitay-gorod” (“Китай-город”), we thought that it is Chinatown of Moscow! Because – Китай (kitay) in Russian is China, and город (gorod) – town or city. But it has nothing to do with China! I read that, it is not clear, why exactly Kitay-gorod got this name, but most probably it has something to do with “Kita”, which is an old fashioned word for plait, braiding and weaving.
Visit Muzeon Park of Arts and Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure. These two big parks are located next to each other, and are really amazing. In Gorky park you will spot a lot of different style benches and beds for relaxing, fountains, ponds and well kept patches of grass, on which people are allowed to lie down. Muzeon park is less crowded, and Peter the Great Statue is located there. It is a massive, 98-meter-high, statue depicting a man on a ship (see the photo above), and it is built to celebrate 300 years of the Russian Navy. It is regarded as one of the tallest statues in the world!
Muzeon Park and Gorky Park are good places for cycling, running, rollerblading, walking or just relaxing or reading a book!
Government buildings in Moscow are impressive, especially, Moscow State Duma, The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, The House of the Government of the Russian Federation (White House), Foreign Affairs Ministry, Moscow State University and buildings in Lubyanka Square.
If you are a “museum-person”, you won’t be disappointed, as there are several amazing museums in Moscow. For instance, Pushkin Museum, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Museum of Optical Illusions, Retro cars museum, Mikhail Bulgakov’s Museum, State History Museum, The Armoury, Borodino Battle Museum, Central Armed Forces Museum of Russian Federation and others.
If you still have some questions about Moscow or traveling in Russia, contact us!
Author: Una Baufala
Una is a traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. Apart from traveling and exploring new places she loves to read books. And she adores cats. Together with Kaspars they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since October 2013. WeAreFromLatvia.com is where she shares her travel experiences.