Although Russia’s beautiful Moscow may not be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it certainly is one of the most unique and interesting, with a long, rich, and diverse history that has lent itself to some amazing historic sites and attractions you have to see to believe. Part of what makes its dramatic history so unique is the fact that Moscow has been destroyed and then rebuilt and restored multiple times—each restoration more beautiful than its predecessor.
Likely the first thing you’ll notice when you enter Moscow—which was restored as the capital of Russia in 1918, then in 1922 the capital of the USSR until 1991, after which it became and remains the Russian Federation’s capital—is the fact that this seemingly loud, busy, boisterous, chaotic, and disorganized city can instantly overwhelm with its “in-your-face” type of welcoming.
However, if you take a little time to get to know Moscow and all its little idiosyncrasies, you’ll be able to soak in all the beautiful sites and attractions you came to see, all the while enjoying a little peace, quiet, harmony, and serenity. You’ll even find some rhyme and reason with its basic layout and organization, with concentric circles pointing to the Kremlin, which lies at the heart of Moscow in both a strategic and symbolic sense. The Kremlin is encircled by the leafy-green Bulvarnoye Koltso (“Boulevard Ring”), on which you’ll find the majority of Moscow’s most famous sites and attractions, as well as by Sadovoe Koltso (“Garden Ring”).
If traveling to Moscow piques your interest, you’ll need to know where to go and what to see. Concentrate first on the Kremlin and its nearby surroundings, with the Red Square along the eastern side of the Kremlin, the famous Diamond collection, many old yet architecturally stunning churches and cathedrals such as St. Basil’s Cathedral, the GUM department store, the Armory museum, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the massive Congress Palace.
Many of the churches and cathedrals still ring their bells, and you can explore the interiors of many of them as a tourist so long as it’s not during mass. With more historic sites and scenic beauty than you could really ask for, the Kremlin is also a central location for hanging out for locals and tourists alike, with beautiful and refreshing fountains, cafés, and street bars littered throughout the area. You can navigate the entire central area on foot. However, if you’re keen on exploring most of the city, and you have limited time, learn how to use the metro system, which will come in handy when you want to get to a completely different area of Moscow.
Moscow also contains a wide variety of historic streets, monasteries, convents, museums, parks, galleries, and theaters found in the Kremlin as well as throughout other parts of the city. Some examples include the dynamic and active Old Arbat Street; Tretyakov Gallery, one of the most renowned museums in the world featuring original Russian art and icons; the famous Bolshoi Theater; Gorky Park; Tverskaya Street; the Kolomenskove imperial estate; Victory Park; and Novodevichy Convent, which is both a convent (nunnery) and a fortress, and includes the famous Novodevichy Cemetery.
Although Moscow is primarily a city of sights (and spectacular ones, at that), there are plenty of things to do in the city as well. You can try the circus (Moscow actually has two: the Nikulin circus on metro Tsvetnoi Bulvar, and a new circus by the university); take in a ballet performance (if you head to the Conference center in the Kremlin you might be able to luck out with a cheap matinee); a Russian children’s puppet show at the Garden Ring’s Obraztsov puppet theater; and for opera lovers, try the Hermitage gardens’ Novy Opera for a brilliant Russian performance.
There is much to see and do in the delightful city of Moscow, Russia, a city steeped in rich culture, traditions, and history.