When it comes to choosing between Moscow and St Petersburg, lots of people prefer the latter. Of course, magnificent architecture and interesting history make St Petersburg more attractive, but Moscow has its own charm and its share of historical buildings that don’t cease to amaze. And it has the Red Square and Kremlin 🙂 So, if you chose St Petersburg over Moscow, but still want to visit it for a short period, here is my idea on how to spend 1 day in Moscow.
Where to stay in Moscow
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Moscow has an abundance of hotels for every taste and budget, and a lot of Airbnb rooms. For me the main criterion was the location: it is extremely important to choose accommodation as close to the underground stations as possible. Moscow is not a city where you can walk around on foot (although, it is relatively possible), and, what is really important, main tourist attractions are very close to the underground.
The recommendation below is based on my experience solely!
I am not a fan of hostels, but I still needed something cheap, and as close to the city center as possible: I spent 4 days in Moscow, and I did not want to waste my precious time in the underground. Therefore, I chose Aroom Hotel, which actually is within walking distance from the Kremlin. The cheapest rooms are basic and small, but that was enough for me. In addition, the rooms are equipped with microwave ovens, small electric ovens, and have utensils for cooking, so you can save some money on food by cooking yourself. And they offer fast Wi-Fi in every room.
The breakfast options are not as rich as those of 5-star hotels: eggs, sausage, crepes, porridge, tea, coffee, juice from packs. I have been enumerating them and realized that it is enough 🙂 When booking the hotel you will be given the option to choose breakfast for an additional price. I thought I would better have breakfast in a place nearby, and didn’t book it. And I did not regret it! I still had breakfast at the hotel, but as a resident I was given a 20% discount, which meant that I saved around 100 RUB every morning (well, depends on how much food one usually has for breakfast 🙂 ). I used this money to pay for my underground trips.
I will definitely stay there again, and I am already planning a new trip to Moscow 🙂 Alternatively, you could book via AirBnB (click here for a discount on your first booking with AirBnB).
Update February 2018: I just booked this hotel again for my upcoming trip to Moscow in August 🙂
What to do in Moscow in the morning
There are loads of tourist attractions in Moscow, so one day definitely isn’t enough, but I tried to include to my itinerary the main places of interest.
Start your day with a stroll along the most famous pedestrian street in Moscow: Arbat. The street starts at Smolenskaya underground station and runs almost till the Red Square.
Arbat is full of fancy buildings and restaurants. If you are hungry, make sure to check Varenichnaya #1: it is a Soviet-styled cafe that serves all kinds of dumplings. While the dumplings are delicious, it is the interior of the restaurant that attracts attention. Just have a look!
Another specific feature of Arbat are souvenir shops: being the most famous street in the city, it caters a lot to tourists. Every shop has the same assortment, so if you saw one shop, you saw them all.
Sometimes there are paintings exhibited in Arbat, and if you are interested in Alexander Pushkin’s life, you might visit his museum.
What to do in Moscow in the late morning/early afternoon
Spend the next hours around the Red Square and Kremlin. Trust me, there are lots of things to see.
Start with the Kremlin: it is rich in places to visit. Of course, special attention goes to the Armoury Chamber with its collection of royal gifts, objects, regalia, clothes, and horse carriages, and to the Diamond Fund with the exhibits of jewelry.
Go then to the Cathedral Square: it is a square with several old churches holding old icons and graves of Russian rulers like Ivan the Terrible (in the Archangel Cathedral). Keep in mind that you can go inside these churches. In addition, you can climb the bell tower of Ivan the Great, but tickets have to be bought separately, and visitors are allowed in according to a schedule, as it cannot fit many people. If you are in the square on Saturday around 12 PM, you will witness the ceremonial parade of the Horse Guard and Foot Guard of the Presidential Regiment (only from April till October).
NB: you will need to buy separate tickets for each of these places!
Exit the Kremlin via the Spasskaya Tower that leads straight to the Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral. I guess it is mandatory to take a selfie in front of the St Basil’s Cathedral 🙂 After all, it is the most picturesque landmark in the Red Square. If you wish, you can go inside, but against a fee of 500 RUB. Unlike St Basil’s, the Kazan Cathedral is free to enter, but keep in mind that it is a fully functioning church, so do not wander around talking loudly or taking pictures.
Then peek into the famous GUM: if you are a budget traveller, it will be window-shopping only, as it is extremely expensive 🙂 In case you want to see Lenin, visit the Mausoleum.
After the square, take a stroll along Alexander garden. At the Eternal Flame you might see the change of guards, which happens every hour from 8 AM till 8 PM.
Spend some time at the fairy tale fountains in the garden, and head in the direction of the Moskva River: just at the end of the Kremlin you will see the giant statue to Vladimir, one of the most famous rulers in the Russian history.
What to do in Moscow in the late afternoon
After exploring the area around the Kremlin, use the underground to get to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (the red line from Biblioteka imeni Lenina station to Kropotkinskaya station). Of course, you can try getting there on foot, just like I did, and this is the reason why I advise you against it: you will be tired of walking by this time.
The cathedral is the main church in Moscow, and you will see its golden domes from afar. Its exterior is not as intricate as that of the churches of St Petersburg, but its white walls are a very imposing sight.
The entrance is free, but they close at 5 pm, so just make sure that you manage to visit it. If you are hungry, you might go to Voronezh restaurant: it is in Prechistenka street not far from the cathedral: Tripadvisor scored it at 4 (just to be clear: I didn’t go there).
What to do in Moscow in the evening
I suggest spending the evening in one of the observation decks of Moscow. There are 2 really famous ones, and you can get to both of them taking the underground. Let’s take them one by one.
The observation deck on the Sparrow Hills (the red line from Kropotkinskaya station to Vorob’evy Gory) offers truly amazing views of Moscow. You will see the new business district Moscow City with its skyscrapers (you might wonder what is so special about it, but when you see them standing out of the main cityscape, you will understand it), the Luzhniki Stadium, the famous Stalin’s skyscrapers (the so-called Seven Sisters), etc. Actually, one of these skyscrapers, the MGU (the State University of Moscow) building will be just behind you. What is important to note here is that the deck is in a park, so you will have to go through it and climb some steps as well.
The observation deck at the Russian Academy of Sciences is closer to the city center, and, in my humble opinion, offers a better view of Moscow, as in addition to Moscow City and Luzhniki you can see the Moskva River flowing just below you, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the giant statue of Peter I, and some other fancy buildings. If I were to choose, I would go to this one, but keep in mind that to get there you will have to walk a lot: take the red line to Vorob’evy Gory and then on foot along Andreevsky embankment.
There is another way of getting there but it involves changing the lines twice: first you will have to take the red line from Kropotkinskaya station to Park Kultury station, then change to the brown circle line to Oktyabrskaya station, and from there by orange line to Leninsky Prospekt station. If you think it is too complicated, opt for the Sparrow Hills observation deck.
I guess the most important thing about observation decks is to wait there until dark (please, keep in mind, there are no benches in any of these decks!) to see Moscow in its full glory with glowing lights. I am not going to lie, I was so tired that I could not wait until dark and missed this spectacular show 🙁
I am pretty sure, by this time you will be excited, full of emotions, and… tired 🙂 It is time to go back to your hotel. If you choose Aroom Hotel, there are lots of places to dine on your way to the hotel, and if you want something on budget, try Brusnika Café: it is going to be really quick, as it is canteen-styled, meaning the food is ready and you choose it from the stalls. You can eat your food in the café, or take it with you to the hotel.
I hope my ideas on how to spend a perfect day in Moscow will motivate you to go there, even if you did not plan it 🙂 After all, Moscow is just as full of history as St Petersburg, and it is a heaven for architecture lovers.
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