Moscow is the capital of Russia and there are few cities in the world that have played such a significant part in history. Home to the Kremlin, the Red Square, the colorful St. Basil’s Cathedral, and many more famous landmarks, Moscow is a city like no other.
This Moscow itinerary will help you plan your trip and make the most of your time in Moscow. From the best places to see in Moscow to how to get around, this post has got you covered.
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- Moscow itinerary
Moscow 3 day itinerary: map with highlights
What to do in Moscow in 3 days
- Day 1: The Red Square, GUM Department Store, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and the State Historical Museum.
- Day 2: The Kremlin, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Gorky Park, and the Bolshoi Theatre.
- Day 3: Izmailovsky Market, Bunker 42, and Zaryadye Park.
Important things to know when planning a trip to Moscow
The best time to plan a trip to Moscow is April-May and September-October. During these months temperatures are (generally) quite comfortable, though even in April there can be a bit of snow!
The summer months are hot, both in regard to temperature as well as activities in the city. While it’s a nice time to visit, it’s also the busiest time of the year to visit Moscow. Hotel prices reflect this as well and summer definitely isn’ a great time for budget travelers to visit Moscow.
Winter in Moscow is cold, and I mean seriously cold (-15°C isn’t rare). However, if you can withstand the subzero temperatures and freezing winds, it can be a magical time to visit. A snowcovered St. Basil’s Cathedral is a sight you will never forget. Keep in mind that days are short in winter and be sure to bring plenty of warm winter clothes!
The official currency in Russia is the Russian Ruble (₽ or RUB). Here you can find the current exchange rates, at the time of writing €1 is approximately 70RUB and $1 is around 62RUB.
Yes, you probably do. Getting a visa for Russia requires a bit of time and effort. You need to fill out several forms, provide a detailed travel itinerary and information about your accommodation.
Also, you will need a Visa Support Letter which can be provided by your travel agency or your hotel. Depending on your nationality, there may be additional requirements, please refer to the information provided on the website of your country’s Embassy in Russia.
While most of the things to see in Moscow listed in this post are within walking distance of each other, sometimes you will have to travel a bit further afield.
The best way to get around in Moscow is with the metro. It’s cheap and efficient and a sightseeing activity in itself, because Moscow has the most beautiful metro stations in the world!
Among the most exquisitely decorated stations are Komsomolskaya, Novoslobodskaya, Mayakovskaya, Taganskaya, and Prospect Mira Station, but there are many more worthwhile stations to be found in the Moscow underground.
You can purchase a single ticket from one of the ticket machines or get a rechargeable Troika Card when you plan on taking the metro several times. Read more details on how to use the Moscow metro here.
If you prefer to get around by taxi, that’s possible too. We used the Gett app to order a taxi (similar to Uber) to avoid confusion about our intended destination and having to negotiate in Russian. A convenient extra for families is the Gett Kids option, these cars are outfitted with a car seat.
The best things to do in Moscow
While you could easily spend a week in Moscow (or more), most of us unfortunately don’t have that much time available.
This 3 day Moscow itinerary will guide you to the most popular and important places to visit in Moscow, as well as to some of the more unusual things to do in Moscow.
Below you can find the list of the Moscow sightseeing highlights included in this post.
- The Red Square
- GUM Department Store
- St. Basil’s Cathedral
- Lenin’s Mausoleum
- The State Historical Museum
- The Kremlin
- Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
- Gorky Park
- The Bolshoi Theatre
- Izmailovsky Market
- Bunker 42
- Zaryadye Park
Moscow itinerary day 1
The Red Square
There is no better place to start your first day in Moscow, than at the world-famous Red Square. This square is considered the central square of Moscow, not just because all the major streets start here, but also because no matter where you look when standing on this square, there are historic buildings all around.
Starting with the impressive GUM store and going clockwise, there is the colorful Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, the State Historical Museum, and the Kazan Cathedral.
However, before entering any of these Moscow must see attractions, allow yourself a moment to take in the view and let it sink in you are standing on historical grounds (and a UNESCO site).
The Red Square was the official address of the Soviet government and played an important part in history. Many military parades have been held (and are still being held) here. It’s the place where protests have taken place, as well as high-profile concerts from famous international artists.
All in all, it’s one of the places in Moscow you can’t miss during your Moscow city trip! A great way to learn more about Moscow and its history is this full-day private walking tour.
You will visit the Kremlin, the Red Square, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and more while learning about these sites from a professional and knowledgable English speaking guide. Click here to read more.
GUM Department Store
Yulia from That’s What She Had: it might seem like visiting a department store is not something you’d do on the first visit to Russia’s capital. But GUM is not like any other department store and is well worth your time, if only for its unique architecture.
First of all, it’s located right on the Red Square which makes it an easy stop on your Moscow trip itinerary. Second, GUM is not a simple mall, but an institution built in the late XIX century.
The abbreviation stands for Glavniy Universalniy Magazin or Main Universal Store. Its impressive facade extends for over 240 meters along the eastern side of the Red Square. Inside you’ll find a beautiful glass ceiling supported by a metal framework, not unlike the ones found in the old train stations of Great Britain.
While shopping in GUM will cost you an arm and a leg, there’s one reason why tourists and locals come here anyways: traditional Russian food at Stolovaya #57. Stolovaya is Russian for canteen and this is where you can get your pelmeni, borsch, and pirozhki fix!
Afterward, don’t forget to get the famous plombir ice cream in one of the kiosks on the ground floor.
St. Basil’s Cathedral
Saint Basil’s Cathedral with its colorful domes is easily recognizable and one of the most popular Moscow tourist attractions. The building, built on orders from Ivan the Terrible, was completed in 1561 to commemorate the victory over Kazan and Astrakhan.
Until the construction of Ivan the Great Bell Tower (which can be found within the walls of the Kremlin), it was the tallest building in Moscow. The design of St. Basil’s Cathedral is truly unique; it’s shaped like the flame of a bonfire and not one building in a similar style can be found in the whole of Russia.
A legend tells the story of how Ivan the Terrible had the architects of the Cathedral blinded so they could never build anything comparable. This is a myth, however, but the fact remains that Saint Basil’s Cathedral is one of a kind and it’s not surprising it has become the symbol of Russia.
Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan: Lenin Mausoleum is hard to miss. It’s a stepped-pyramid construction that sits right at the base of the Kremlin walls on the western side of Red Square.
Entrance is free but note that opening hours are quite limited, with visiting hours lasting only from 10 am to 1 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. If seeing Lenin’s embalmed body is important to you, be sure to take this into account when planning your itinerary in Moscow.
One of my top tips for travelers to Russia is to arrive early, well before the mausoleum opens, as the queue is usually quite long. However, usually the queue does move pretty quickly.
This is especially true now that they have lifted the ban on bags and cameras. It used to be that all cameras, smartphones, and bags of any size had to be checked at a left-luggage office nearby. But now you can bring a small handbag or backpack as well as your camera and phone.
Photography inside the mausoleum is still strictly forbidden, but you are allowed to take photos of the graves of various other important Russian figures that line the path leading to the mausoleum.
Once you finally enter the mausoleum, the atmosphere is surprisingly peaceful and uncrowded. It doesn’t feel nearly as rushed as when visiting Mao Ze Dong’s tomb in Beijing or Ho Chi Minh’s body in Hanoi, for example.
The illumination of the body is very well done and would make for superb photography if it wasn’t forbidden. As an added bonus, just after you exit, you’ll see the grave of Joseph Stalin outside.
The State Historical Museum
Rai from A Rai Of Light: the imposing crimson building at the northern end of the Red Square is the State Historical Museum. By decree of Alexander III, the museum was built with the support of Russian historians, philosophers, and artists.
The red brick building, dating from 1875, was designed in the Russian revival style by Vladimir Shervud. The National Museum of Russia houses a collection of over four million items, devoted to the history of the country’s ancient and imperial period.
The exhibitions include many items previously owned by members of the Romanov dynasty, such as documents, artwork, personal items and furnishings and decoration from the palace interiors.
Another exhibit features relics of the prehistoric tribes that once inhabited this region. Notable items include ancient manuscripts, birch-bark scrolls, a longboat excavated from the banks of the Volga River, and the largest coin collection in Russia, sourced from the museums in St Petersburg.
The State Historical Museum is opened daily from 10 am to 6 pm. The entrance fee is 700₽ per adult.
Moscow itinerary day 2
When listing the best Moscow things to do, one cannot miss the Kremlin! The Kremlin houses the current seat of power in Russia and has done so for several decades.
Within its walls, the offices of the Russian Government can be found. During Soviet rule, the Kremlin was where all the important decisions were made but its history goes back for many centuries.
The first mention of the Kremlin in history books was in 1147, however, the current citadel dates from the 16th century. The Kremlin is one of the major fortifications found in Europe, with walls that are up to 6.5 meters thick and 19 meters high in particular sections.
Inside the complex, there are many government buildings, however, these aren’t accessible to the public.
Around Cathedral Square you’ll find (as the name suggests) many churches and cathedrals, such as the Cathedral of the Archangel, Annunciation Cathedral, the Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe and Ivan the Great Bell-Tower.
While Cathedral Square is definitely worth visiting, the highlight of the Kremlin is a visit to the Armoury.
Inside you can find an impressive collection of Faberge eggs, beautiful dresses worn by Catherine the Great, intricately decorated thrones used by the Tsars and much more. Unfortunately, photography is forbidden inside the Armoury.
Practical information about visiting the Kremlin
In order to visit both Cathedral Square and the Armoury, you will have to buy two separate tickets. A ticket to Cathedral Square costs 700₽ and a ticket to the Armoury is 1000₽. Prices mentioned are for adults, children below 16 years old are free.
You can also visit the Kremlin (Cathedral Square and the Armoury) as part of a guided tour and skip the line. Click here to read more and to book a ticket.
Tickets can be bought at the ticket office onsite on the same day, however, there is no guarantee tickets will still be available, especially during peak season.
Conveniently, tickets can be bought online as well, which is highly advisable if you want to make sure you’ll be able to visit the Kremlin during your city trip to Moscow.
How much time to spend at the Kremlin
Be sure to allow plenty of time to explore the Kremlin, at least half a day but it’s easy to spend more time as there is so much to see. Please note there isn’t any food sold inside the Kremlin, so bring a snack and enough water (especially in summer when it can get pretty hot).
Backpacks aren’t allowed inside the Kremlin, they can be stored (for free) in the cloakroom, but you can bring your camera and a small purse. We could also take our Babyzen Yoyo stroller inside, which was very convenient as our 10-month-old son could take a nap while we explored the sights.
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
After the original Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was demolished by Stalin in 1931, a new version was completed in 2000. The imposing building is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world (103 meters high), and beautiful on the outside as well as on the inside.
Visiting the Cathedral is free of charge and it’s open any day of the week from 10 am to 5 pm (except on Mondays when the opening hours are 1 to 5 pm).
When visiting the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour it’s important to dress appropriately. For men, this means no shorts or tank tops. Women can’t enter with mini skirts or shorts, strap tops or anything too revealing. Also, women are advised to cover their heads with a scarf as a sign of respect.
Inside the Cathedral photography isn’t allowed, but believe me when I say there is plenty to see. There are beautiful frescoes, colorful icons, impressive statues, and other vivid decorations.
For a beautiful view over Moscow, walk up the stairs to the 40-meter high observation deck (entrance fee 400₽).
Visit Gorky Park
Helen from Holidays from Hels: Gorky Park, named after the Soviet writer Maxim Gorky, has recently undergone extensive regeneration to become Moscow’s central leisure hub for young Muscovites.
Every day of the week you can find many Moscow residents strolling along the banks of the river in the summer, hiring bikes, picnicking on the grass or dining at one of the many restaurants.
Open-air cinemas, petanque and ping pong are all on offer. Not to be missed is the iconic white stone entranceway and museum, complete with columns and carved with Soviet hammers and sickles.
In winter, look out for the ducks waddling across the frozen Moskva River, and watch boats attempting to navigate through the cracked ice. However, the real winter highlight is to try ice skating on one of the biggest rinks in Europe!
The park’s maze of pedestrian pathways is transformed into one huge skating rink, which can play host to up to four thousand skaters. Not surprisingly, Russians are talented ice-skaters and there is a good chance you will find yourself next to a pirouetting ballerina.
Handily, you will find you will already be wearing most of what you need – gloves, hat, scarf, and thick socks and you can hire skates on site. Lockers are included in the price if you don’t fancy skating with your day pack.
Disco tunes fill the air, and the whole arena is back-lit in spectacular neon lights. Rest your weary legs and warm up at one of the cafes dotted along the frozen pathways, with the added bonus of not having to take off your skates.
The rink is open from 10 am until 11 pm on weekdays and until midnight at weekends, but closes between 3 and 5 pm. Like most attractions in Moscow, the rink is closed on a Monday.
The prices range from 350-650₽ and go up in the evening, which is the best time for the light show. Arriving at 5 pm, just as the rink opens for the evening session will give you time to find your ice-legs before it fills up with more confident skaters.
Whilst waiting for the rink to open, try out the nearby tubing track where you can shoot down a snowy hill on an inflatable ring repeatedly for a very enjoyable half an hour!
The nearest metro is Park Kultury Station, on the other side of the river. As always, check out in advance what this looks like in the Russian Alphabet so you know when to get off!
James Ian at Travel Collecting: one of the best places to go in Moscow is the famous Bolshoi Theater, located only a short walk from Red square. Bolshoy means big in Russian, and the theatre is not only big but also beautiful.
There are two ways to see the theater: on a guided tour or by watching a performance.
Take a guided tour
- English tours are held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11:30 am. Tickets for these tours can be bought (on the same day) at the ticket office located in the Historic building of the theatre (door #12).
- A ticket costs 2000₽ per person, tours last one hour and the number of people on a tour is limited to a maximum of 20. The tour takes you inside the theater and to the historic main stage.
- Online tickets can only be purchased for Thursday tours (check the official website for more information).
Watch a performance
My favorite way to see the theater, though, is to enjoy a performance and experience the theater as a patron. The entrance is a little underwhelming when you first arrive, the street lobby is small and quite plain and you will be immediately directed up to your floor.
There are helpful attendants on each floor to guide you to the correct door. Arrive a little early and head up to the Grand Salon on the top floor where you can enjoy a glass of champagne while people-watching (Russians dress up for the theater).
Then head to your seat and take in the stunning theater before enjoying the famous Bolshoi Ballet or another performance. Be sure to book a show at the historic stage, there is a modern stage as well but that isn’t nearly as much fun.
Moscow itinerary day 3
Karen from WanderlustingK: one of the most interesting Moscow places to visit is the Izmailovsky Market. This flea market and tourist attraction a bit outside of the tourist center is a recreation of a Tzar’s Palace, known as a Kremlin, produced in a colorful 16th-century style.
The market is filled with tiny stalls that sell everything from snacks to kitsch to authentic items from Soviet times such as hats, pins, and other pieces of memorabilia.
You’ll also find authentic antiques such as vases, paintings, and other religious items if you’re looking to splurge within the interior parts of the market.
Negotiating in English is not always possible as many vendors only speak Russian, so be sure to practice your Russian numbers and see how well you can do with haggling.
It’s important to carry cash when you visit given that many vendors do not accept cards. We ended up purchasing a series of hats at the market, along with a beautiful hot tea glass with a metal holder with a typical Russian scene.
Elsewhere in the market, you’ll also find a few tourist shops that sell typical Russian products. It takes a few hours to see the market in full, so arrive early as the best items go quickly!
Lindsey from Have Clothes, Will Travel: Bunker-42 was once a top-secret, Soviet military complex. Stalin commissioned its construction after the United States succeeded in creating a nuclear bomb.
An impressive 65 meters (or about 213 feet) underground, was the desired depth to protect Russia’s top officials from a nuclear attack.
Bunker 42 became operational in 1954. Fortunately, it was never needed for its true purpose and instead it was used as the command center of strategic bombers for nearly 30 years.
Nowadays it’s a museum dedicated to the Cold War and visiting is a truly unique experience!
You will need to join a tour in order to see the museum. You can call ahead to book your tour (the number is: +7 499 703-44-55), there are several English tours throughout the day that are held at 13:30, 16:30, 18:30 (the price is 2200₽).
On Mondays, there is an extra tour at 17:30, which lasts an additional 30 minutes and costs 2800₽ per person. There is also the option to book a private tour. However, I am unsure of the price for this.
You will have to wait until exactly 15 minutes before your tour begins before you’ll be admitted inside. After paying for your tickets and a quick restroom stop you will descend 65 meters underground…
Another option for visiting Bunker-42, if you would rather not do the tour, is to visit the restaurant inside Bunker-42. Actually, I highly recommend visiting the restaurant before or after a tour as well!
While the food is not that great, it’s worth visiting for a drink. The restaurant is also located within the bunker and is decorated in the old Soviet-style.
From time to time there will be live performances and visiting Bunker 42 is definitely an experience worth having while in Moscow! After all, how many people can say they’ve had a drink in a top-secret Soviet military bunker?
If you’re visiting Moscow during peak season (June-July-August), it would be worth making a reservation, to avoid having to wait. Otherwise, I would not say you need to worry about a reservation at the restaurant.
Bunker-42 is a short cab ride away from Red Square (10-15 minutes). But I recommend taking the metro to get there. The closest station is Taganskaya, which is a beautiful metro station very much worth visiting.
Park Zaryad’ye or Zaryadye Park is a lovely place for a stroll and a nice place to relax after a day of sightseeing in Moscow, especially when exploring Moscow with kids.
There are many things to see and do in this park, but I recommend starting your visit at The River Overlook, a 70-meter-long boardwalk with beautiful views over the river and the Kremlin.
Other interesting places to visit in Zaryadye Park are the Ice Cave, The Museum of Nature and The Glass Crust (read more about these sights on the Park website).
But most importantly, do as the Muscovites do and find yourself a nice place in the park to sit down and relax. Enjoy the view, do some people watching and take a moment to think back about all the Moscow top sights you’ve seen in the past couple of days.
Where to stay in Moscow
Budget hotel (less than €50 a night): Veliy Hotel Mokhovaya
This 3-star budget hotel is one of the best cheap Moscow hotels and is all about location! From the Veliy Hotel Mokhovaya, it’s just a 10-minute walk to the Kremlin and only 600 meters to the Christ the Savior Cathedral.
Set in a historic 19th-century mansion, the hotel features classic rooms with ensuite bathrooms. The staff is friendly and there is a metro station nearby (Borovitskaya), making it easy to get to the Moscow attractions a bit further afield.
Medium budget hotel (less than €100 a night): Barin Residence Myasnitskaya
The Barin Residence Myasnitskaya is a newly built hotel, located about 1.2km from the Red Square (about a 15-20 minute walk). Rooms and bathrooms are very modern and clean, the beds are comfortable and room service is available.
This hotel is an excellent choice for travelers looking for a nice hotel without a hefty price tag.
Luxury hotel (€150+ a night): Hotel National, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Moscowis potentially the best Moscow hotel. It’s a gorgeous 5-star hotel located just a stone’s throw away from the Bolshoi Theater, the Red Square and the Kremlin.
The building was designed by architect Alexander Ivanov and completed in 1903 and has been welcoming international travelers every since. With its imperial architecture, luxury design and charming classic rooms (some with a view of the Kremlin!), the Hotel National is a unique property.
Furthermore, you can enjoy an indoor pool, sauna, and fitness center as well as the well-reviewed Beluga restaurant that serves both Russian and European dishes.
While this hotel doesn’t come cheap, your stay at the Hotel National will make your trip to Moscow an unforgettable experience.
Moscow itinerary and travel guide: in conclusion
I hope this guide to Moscow will help you plan a trip to this interesting Russian city. Feel free to ask any questions you may have by leaving a comment or send me an email!
Below you can find my other posts about the Trans Mongolian Express, and the stops we made along the way:
- St. Petersburg itinerary
- Irkutsk and Lake Baikal itinerary
- Ulaanbaatar itinerary
- Trans-Mongolian Express travel guide
This post was updated in December 2020.