With nearly 1,000 years of recorded history, Moscow is a city of majesty, elegance, and secrets. It’s the heart of the largest country in the world, and it’s an international hub that has played a pivotal role in shaping not only modern-day Europe, but the world.
Considering Moscow’s history, culture, art, and unbreakable spirit, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would leave the city off of their bucket list.
No one should miss the chance to marvel at the Kremlin, the Red Square, and the colorful domes of Saint Basil's Cathedral; to learn more about the Communist history of the region; to enjoy breathtaking performing arts, from ballet to opera to the symphony; to relish the architecture; and to indulge in world-class dining.
Moscow is truly one of the world's most fascinating places, a city where creation and expression are revered.
In case you’re not convinced, here are seven reasons to add Moscow to your travel bucket list.
1. Its Architecture Is Legendary
The iconic buildings of Moscow are, in a word, majestic. Images on the covers of glossy magazines give an idea of what they are like, but they hardly do them justice. These spectacular works of architecture are reason enough to put Moscow on your travel bucket list.
Start with the Kremlin, the center of Russian politics. It used to be the head of the Orthodox Church, and today it is the nucleus of Moscow and the rest of the country. The Kremlin sits on the Moscow River’s north bank and is shuttered behind walls more than a mile long, with the Red Square to the east.
Speaking of the Red Square, the mesmerizing, almost fictitious-looking space is yet another architectural highlight of the city. The expansive cobblestone space is Moscow’s center, where Russian (and world) history has been made time and time again. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Place of Skulls, a raised platform from which decrees were read centuries ago. At the southern end of the square is Saint Basil’s Cathedral, a Dr. Seussesque structure that is truly mind-boggling. The downtown skyline is Moscow at its finest.
If you prefer more modern architecture, visit the Gorky House Museum, which is located within the historic Garden Ring district, just a short walk from the Kremlin. The Gorky House Museum is a prime example of Art Nouveau architecture. Admire the sculpted doorways, ceiling murals, stained glass, and magnificent limestone staircase.
2. Its Metro Puts All Other Metros To Shame
It's not often that you see a metro system on a travel bucket list, but Moscow’s might be the one and only exception. Moscow's subway system is the stuff of legend. Picture marble and granite, bronze statues, colorful mosaics, and more. The metro of Moscow is truly grand, and it has attracted visitors from all over the world since the 1930s.
The museum-like underground city was designed to be a palace for the people, with each station paying homage to a different form of art, like painting, sculpture, stained glass, and more. Be sure to stop at the Komsomolskaya station, known for its dramatic arches and yellow ceiling, bronze chandeliers, marble arcades, and mosaics. There is also the Novoslobodskaya station, known for its 32 stained-glass panels. Other stops to visit are the Ploshchad Revolyutsii station, the Mayakovskaya station, and the stops on the Circle Line.
3. It’s A Walkable City
When you’re not marveling at the metro, it’s easy to get around Moscow on foot; it’s a great place to visit if you don’t want to worry about renting a car or paying for taxis.
Back in 2015, Moscow underwent a citywide renovation called My Street (Moya Ulitsa); it was one of the largest city-improvement projects in Moscow's modern history. In addition to developing green spaces, widening streets, and turning the embankments of the river into beautiful promenades, the city also added pedestrian streets and paved public spaces perfect for strolling around the city.
“Triumfalnaya Square has become a commodious, user-friendly space that connects to nearby pedestrian streets, with swings, plantings, cafés, and local people enjoying a ramble,” said Douglas Grimes, cofounder and president of MIR, a travel company with more than 30 years of experience in Central Asia and Russia. “The result of all this urban renewal is a relaxed, clean, well-lit, and inviting city center, one that's easy to enjoy on foot.”
Many of the pedestrian streets are connected as well, so visitors can take long walks to see numerous sites.
4. Its Art And Culture Are Splendid
Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Kandinsky -- when it comes to Russian culture, there is a seemingly endless list of internationally recognized names. Russia is no doubt one of the cultural and artistic giants of the world -- a leader in dance, music, literature, and other art forms.
“For culture vultures, take in a performance at the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet,” said Andrea Godfrey, a Russia travel specialist with Regent Holidays.
The Bolshoi Theatre is one of Moscow's most entertaining experiences. A veritable trip back in time, the theater offers six tiers of seating, where guests have listened to and watched performances for more than 200 years. Both ballet and opera are on offer in this space.
“Admire world-class masterpieces at the Tretyakov Gallery, what the [State] Hermitage [Museum] is to Saint Petersburg,” Godfrey added. “Moscow has so much to offer in terms of Russian and Soviet history and architecture, but glimpse beneath the surface and discover contemporary colonies with modern art galleries, Russian clothes-design shops such as Sputnik 1985, and more.”
5. Its Culinary Scene Is Booming
Borscht and cabbage rolls might not be your idea of fine dining, but Moscow’s kitchens have gone through an evolution that has turned the food scene on its head. The city is now one of the most exciting dining destinations in the world. From traditional Russian specialties to modern dining with a twist to international favorites, there’s plenty of great food to enjoy in Moscow.
First meal in Moscow? The choice is obvious: Café Pushkin, which is frequently on the short list of best restaurants in Moscow. Known for its elegant decor, impeccable cuisine, and highly attentive service, Café Pushkin is a warm welcome for any foodie visiting the city.
From the Old World tables of Moscow comes the latest in experimental cooking. Be sure to book a table at AQ Kitchen for some molecular gastronomy. Savor the Thai chicken soup with lemon jelly in the shabby-chic dining room with its expansive, gleaming windows.
Then there is White Rabbit, one of the world’s top 20 restaurants and a must for any traveling foodie. Serving refined European cuisine (with plenty for vegetarians), White Rabbit is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.
Don’t miss Grand-Café Dr. Zhivago for quintessential Russian cooking with views of the Kremlin. This iconic restaurant within the Hotel National is washed in white with pops of crimson, and the menu sports Russian favorites with an elegant, modern twist.
6. It’s One Of The World’s Greatest Historic Capitals
Moscow first appeared in writing back in the 12th century, and since then, it has been at the epicenter of some of the world's most important moments -- for better or worse. There are reminders of Moscow’s storied past everywhere you turn.
The Museum of the Great Patriotic War, dedicated to World War II and set within Park Pobedy, includes an art gallery, hall of remembrance, and other exhibits, including the table and chairs used by Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill during the 1943 Tehran Conference.
Moscow is also home to the tomb of Lenin, one of the most well-known figures of the 20th century. He lies embalmed in a building in the Red Square, which is open to the public for viewing.
After the fall of Communism, where did all the fallen statues of Soviet heroes go to rest? You’ll find them in the Tretyakov Gallery. Keep your eyes peeled for the figure of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the organization that was to become the KGB (the Committee for State Security).
7. Its Greenery Is Lovely
Unbeknownst to many, much of Moscow is green, and the city’s parks have become a bragging right among Muscovites. These well-groomed spaces are some of the best spots for people-watching and feature many attractions for travelers, from sports and board games to outdoor cafés.
Gorky Park is one of the most popular green spaces, as is the Muzeon Park of Arts, which has its own music festivals and fairs. Sokolniki Park and Izmailovsky Park both offer bike rentals.
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