For those with limited time in Russia’s capital, our guide to 48 hours in the city is a must-read
Moscow is Russia’s most populous city as well as being the largest conurbation in the European continent, meaning there is an abundance of things to see and do there. As well as being Russia’s political capital, the city is host to a wealth of culture, commerce and, of course, spectacular architecture that is not to be missed.
Start your trip with a visit to Moscow’s most famous square. It’s best to arrive early at Red Square and beat the crowds. For those wishing to tour magnificent Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the museum there is open daily from 11am (but closed on Tuesdays) and tickets cost around ₽500. Inside, you can explore the vast network of nine chapels whose decor is even more striking than the coloured domes outside. If you’re feeling brave you can also visit (free of charge) Lenin’s Mausoleum to see the Soviet leader’s embalmed body; just be mindful of queuing time in high season.
While you are in this historic area of the city, it is definitely worth visiting the Kremlin. The heart of Russia’s government, the Kremlin is its own fortified city spread over 27 hectares. Inside, you will find multiple museums, palaces, churches and monuments. Visitors can purchase tickets simply to walk around the grounds and take in the splendour or they can buy an additional ticket to the Armoury museum, which covers vast swathes of Russian history. It can take up to two hours just to tour the grounds so be sure to leave enough time. Note that the Kremlin is closed for visits on Thursdays.
Once you’ve taken in the grandeur of Moscow’s history above ground, the next attraction not to be missed lies beneath the surface. The Moscow metro is one of the most incredible underground train systems in the world. As well as its efficiency and far reach, it has many stations that resemble grand concert halls or historic palaces, and these are worth visiting for the decor alone.
If you’re keen to jump on a metro train and take a trip outside the city centre, Izmailovo Market is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. Built to resemble a Russian medieval citadel, the market is ideal for browsing and picking up traditional Russian souvenirs, from wooden dolls to Soviet hats.
For an evening meal, there is no spot more prestigious in Moscow than Café Pushkin. The restaurant opened in 1999, taking its name from a popular French song that mentioned a fictitious Moscow restaurant of the same name. The location was a favourite haunt of the restaurant’s namesake poet, Alexander Pushkin, and many literary references can be found inside; the building even houses its own library full of Russian literary works. The menu is traditionally Russian, featuring classic dishes such as borscht (beetroot soup), pelmeni (dumplings) and, of course, a healthy selection of caviar.
Once you have dined on traditional Russian fare, it seems fitting to take in some traditional culture. A short walk from Café Pushkin is the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre. If you are lucky enough to get a seat at one of the incredible performances there you are certainly in for a treat. Tickets often sell out in advance, but even a walk across Theatre Square or a visit to the foyer could make for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For those wishing to know more, the theatre also runs daily tours in English as well as Russian.
To round off a day of the glitz and glamour of Moscow life, one of the most exceptional places to rest your head is the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Located on prestigious Tverskaya Street, the hotel is an opulent, gilded reminder of the city’s prestigious past. If you’re sticking around for longer, its famous Sunday brunch is not to be missed. For a nightcap on the way back to the hotel stop by fashion-crowd favourite Denis Simachev; the eclectic cocktail bar is open 24 hours a day and is perfect for a late-night tipple.
Take your second morning in Moscow as an opportunity to explore the great outdoors. Gorky Park, one of the city’s 96 parks, was founded in 1928 and regenerated in 2011 to become the city’s official Park of Culture and Rest. Behind the grand main entrance, you will find acres of beautiful parkland, immaculate gardens, historic houses and museums, ponds and fountains and a wealth of trendy cafés and restaurants. In short there is enough in Gorky Park to keep you occupied all day, whatever your taste.
In stark contrast to the classical Russian museums around Red Square, one museum that is a must-visit while you are at Gorky Park is the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. Opened in 2008 by Dasha Zhukova, who later went on to found the namesake Garage magazine in New York in 2011, the gallery is a beacon of modern art and design in Russia, featuring pieces from the 1950s to the present day. Originally based on the private art collection of Zhukova and her then-husband Roman Abramovich, the gallery now hosts multiple exhibitions and events throughout the year as well as containing a vast research library. If you haven’t been tempted by any of Gorky Park’s other eating establishments, a visit to the Garage Café is a must. The menu features an array of innovative international dishes with just a hint of Russian influence.
To finish your visit in style, leave the city and head to another example of contemporary Russia. Located eight kilometres west of Moscow, the Barvikha Hotel & Spa is a modern oasis. Part of the Leading Hotels of the World group, it has 54 spacious rooms with sleek minimalist interiors, and an award-winning spa. The hotel is set in Barvikha Luxury Village, a brand new development containing luxury boutiques, restaurants and even a concert hall, making it the ideal playground in which to end your trip.
For those seeking to discover the heart of Russia, both old and new, Moscow offers the best of all worlds. From luxury facilities to centres of world history, there are endless discoveries to be made in this fascinating, cosmopolitan city.