Russia: what to do in Moscow for free

What to do in Moscow, Russia, for free

I have heard from many people that Moscow is expensive. I have visited this city numerous times and I don’t understand where they get this idea from. Prague is somehow always included in the list of the cheapest cities in Europe, and after visiting it I can say that Moscow is much cheaper when it comes to accommodation, food and local transport. Entrance fees to the sights tend to be around 10-13 euro and less. And there are many things to do for free. So, what to do in Moscow for free?

I made a list of those places, but before you dive into it, I want to say that some of these places are partially free. Like, for example, Kolomenskoye, where tickets are needed to get inside the palace, but the surroundings are free to wander.

By the way, I have a long guide with travel tips for Moscow 🙂

1. Panoramic viewpoints

I bet you have heard about Ostankino Tower: this place offers the farthest view of Moscow. It is not a wonder: the panoramic deck is at about 330 meters height. You can imagine the view! But I did not like it 🙂 And it is not free, just like the deck in Moscow-City that offers a much better view.

But we are talking here about what to do in Moscow for free. And I have two free panoramic decks to share with you.

The most famous one is the deck at Vorobyovy Gory. It is right in front of Moscow State University building, one of Stalin’s seven sisters and offers amazing views of Moscow. Visitors can see the famous Luzhniki Stadium, more of Stalin’s skyscrapers, Moscow-City and many other places. Getting there requires a bit of effort: first you have to get to Vorobyovy Gory metro station which is under the bridge and then follow a path up the hill. Frankly, it is better to follow the crowd after exiting the station: I took the wrong turn and circled around 🙂

But I like more another free panoramic deck: this one is at the Academy of Sciences. It offers views of Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow-City, the Kremlin, the statue to Peter I, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Frankly, this view is much better. Getting here is easier: just get to Leninsky Prospect metro station and follow a straight road to the deck. And it is closer to the city center.

How to spend a perfect day in Moscow | View from the Academy of Sciences
View from the Academy of Sciences observation deck

2. The Red Square and its surroundings

Yes, getting inside the Kremlin costs money, and in case you want to see its Cathedral Square, climb the bell-tower of Ivan the Great, visit the Diamond Fund and the Armoury Chamber and some other exhibitions, it will cost you some money. But the surroundings of the Kremlin are free to roam.

Top 10 places to see in Moscow, Russia | GUM at the Red Square
GUM
At the walls of Kremlin in Moscow
At the walls of Kremlin in Moscow

You can freely walk around the Red Square, go to Kazan Cathedral, sit in Aleksandrovsky Garden and enjoy the fairytale fountains, get inside the famous GUM with expensive high-end stores and canteen Stolovaya 57 for a quick grab in Soviet style, visit the Mausoleum, watch the change of guards at the Eternal flame (it is quite a show!), and see the colossal statue to Vladimir, one of the greatest rulers of Kievan Rus.

Statue to Vladimir at the Kremlin in Moscow
Statue to Vladimir at the Kremlin in Moscow
What to do in Moscow for free | Fairytale fountain at the Red Square in Moscow
Fairytale fountain at the Red Square in Moscow

3. Parks

Moscow has some of the most amazing parks I have seen. And Moscow has many parks 😊 I like this fact a lot 😊 Considering how many millions of people live there, and how many cars are in the city, these parks are really necessary.

I guess Gorky Park and Sokolniki are the most famous ones. While Sokolniki is farther from the center (the fact that does not make is less appealing), Gorky Park is right in the city center relatively close to the Kremlin. Sokolniki is huge and has numerous activities on offer like skateboarding, roller-skating, bicycles, ping-pong tables, a swimming pool, etc. Unfortunately, not everything is free. Sometimes concerts and performances are held there.

Gorky Park is a place for skateboarding, roller-skating, bicycles as well. In addition, there is a small lake here and everyone can rent a boat.

Gorky Park
Gorky Park
Entrance Gate to Gorky Park
Entrance Gate to Gorky Park

Muzeon with its weird sculptures and statues of Soviet rulers is next to Gorky Park.

Other parks worth attention are Ostankino, Ekaterininsky, Izmailovsky, Fili, Kuzminki, Hermitage, Victory (more about it below).

4. Poklonnaya Hill

Poklonnaya Hill is a special place. Its name can be translated as bow-down hill and the monuments and park on it are dedicated to the victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). Actually, it is quite an important historical landmark: here Napoleon waited for the keys to the city in 1812, and troops left for war from this place.

In the past it was quite a high hill, but it was levelled in the 1980-ies. Now there is a huge Victory Park with numerous monuments to the soldiers, an obelisk 141,8 meters high (a symbolical number, the war lasted for 1418 days) and hundreds of fountains.

Wait here it till it gets dark: the fountains and columns get illuminated with red color, which is a magnificent sight.

What to do in Moscow for free | Victory Park on Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow
Victory Park on Poklonnaya Hill

I guess a special thing is that in this park they erected an Orthodox Church of St. George the Victorious, a mosque to commemorate the Muslim who died during the war, a catholic church to honour the Spanish volunteers, and a synagogue with a Holocaust museum.

There are a couple of military museums on the hill, but they are not free to enter: they exhibit military equipment, numerous tanks, planes and other machines.

Not far from the hill there is another impressive structure: the Arch of Triumph erected in the 1830-ies to commemorate the victory in the Patriotic War of 1812.

The Arch of Triumph in Moscow
The Arch of Triumph in Moscow

5. Churches and monasteries

I love Russian churches and monasteries! Not because I am religious, but for their architecture and vibrant colours.

Let’s start with the monasteries. Novodevichy Convent is the most famous one, but it is not free to enter and as far as I know it is under reconstruction now. Go instead to Novospassky Monastery where some of the Romanov family are buried (not the royals). Vysoko-Petrovsky, Donskoy, Sretensky, Andreevsky, Simonov monasteries are the witnesses of the Russian history.

When it comes to churches, the most famous one is St Basil’s Cathedral in the Red Square which is a true masterpiece. But it is not free to enter. Almost all other churches in Moscow are free to visit but they will most likely be open only during the services. While they might seem unpretentious inside, the architecture and colors are truly stunning! Just look at the pictures below:

Church of the Holy Trinity in Ostankino in Moscow
Church of the Holy Trinity in Ostankino in Moscow
Architectural gems of Moscow, Russia | St Clement's Church
St Clement’s Church
Architectural gems of Moscow, Russia | Church of St Nicholas in Klenniki
Church of St Nicholas in Klenniki
Moscow, Russia | Church Deposition of the Robe on Donskoy
Church Deposition of the Robe on Donskoy

6. Arbat Street

Arbat is the most famous pedestrian street in Moscow: it starts at Smolenskaya metro station and runs almost till the Red Square.

Arbat is full of fancy buildings and restaurants. If you are hungry, I have a place to recommend: Varenichnaya #1 serves all kinds of dumplings. While the dumplings are delicious, it is the interior of the restaurant that attracts attention. Just have a look!

How to spend a perfect day in Moscow | Varenichnaya in Arbat

As Arbat is the most famous street in the city, it caters a lot to tourists so there are many souvenir shops that sell basically the same things 😊

An interesting part of the street is Viktor Tsoi’s wall: he was the founder of Kino, one of the most successful musical bands in Russia. He died in a car crash, but his fans still say Tsoi is alive meaning his music will last forever. Frankly, he is a legend.

Sometimes there are paintings exhibited in Arbat, and Alexander Pushkin’s museum is here as well.

Top 10 places to see in Moscow, Russia | Arbat

7. Krutitskoye Courtyard

Krutitskoye Courtyard is one of my favorite places in Moscow. It is very close to the Novospassky Monastery I mention above, but very few people venture here. This is the place where the spirit of olden times still lives: the buildings are old, it is quiet and cosy here.

The courtyard is so different from what people see in the city; it is still a part of that old Moscow that disappeared. Just look at these buildings:

In Krutitskoye Courtyard in Moscow
In Krutitskoye Courtyard in Moscow

This courtyard belonged to Krutitsky Metropolitans, and a couple of churches from the 17th century are preserved along with palaces and houses.

What to do in Moscow for free | Krutitskoye Courtyard
Krutitskoye Courtyard in Moscow

8. VDNKh

VDNKh or the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy or All-Russian Exhibition Center is one of the most popular places among locals. I was there a couple of times and I don’t remember seeing many tourists.

The complex containing hundreds of palaces and pavilions was built in the 1930-ies. The aim was to showcase the achievements of the Soviet Union in the field of agriculture. The industrial part was added later.

Every building was built in its own style to either represent a Soviet republic or house a specific collection. Frankly, all these pavilions are architectural masterpieces. Some of them are free to visit, others require an entrance fee, like the Pavilion of Space with replicas of satellites, spaceships, etc. I think it is the most popular one in VDNKh.

There is an aquarium there as well, but it is not free: I was there and, frankly, I was not impressed.

My favorite part of VDNKh is the fountains with famous sculptures like the Friendship of Peoples and the Stone Flower on the central alley. And, I guess, everyone is excited to see the replica of the famous Vostok rocket. And the exhibited planes, of course 😊

The fountain Friendship of Peoples in VDNKH in Moscow
The fountain Friendship of Peoples in VDNKH in Moscow
Vostok rocket in VDNKh in Moscow
Vostok rocket in VDNKh

Visitors are free to wander around the area, so don’t miss this opportunity. I was lucky to go there on a sunny day, and it was incredible!

9. Christ the Savior Cathedral

I decided to mention this church separately. First of all, it is the main church in Moscow. Secondly, there is a curious legend linked to the place. Thirdly, it is simply stunning 😊

The construction of the first cathedral in this place started in the late 1830-ies and took more than 40 years. But it was destroyed in 1931 as the Soviet rulers wanted to build the House of the Soviets on its site. They even had to blow it up to level it. In the end, they built a swimming pool there, very popular, by the way. The current cathedral was built in the 1990-ies, and the famous Zurab Tsereteli was one of the architects.

So, about the legend. Alekseevsky Convent stood on this site, so it had to be destroyed to build the cathedral. When the decision was taken, Mother Superior presumably said in a fit of anger that nothing would ever be in this place except a puddle. Another legend claims that Mother Superior said that nothing would stand here for more than 50 years. So far, the latter one seems to be true: the construction of the cathedral finished in 1883, and in 1931 it was destroyed. The swimming pool Moscow was built in 1960 and closed in 1994. The current cathedral is about 20 years old.

Now about the cathedral: it is stunning! I mean, just look at these majestic white walls and golden domes! And inside, where everything is covered in paintings and the light comes in and makes everything shine like gold… you just can’t miss the cathedral!

What to do in Moscow for free | The Cathedral of Christ of Saviour
The Cathedral of Christ of Saviour in Moscow

Pictures are not allowed inside the churches, so I do not have any of the interior: you will have to see it yourself 😊

The cathedral is free to visit, but if you want to climb its dome, you will have to pay. As I did not climb it, I am not sure about the procedure: some claim that tourists can do it individually, others say that it is possible in groups only.

And don’t forget to go to the nearby Patriarshy Bridge: the view of the river and the Kremlin from here is amazing!

View from Patriarshy Bridge in Moscow
View from Patriarshy Bridge

10. Zaryadye Park and Varvarka Street

Zaryadye Park is a new addition to Moscow: it was laid out not far from the Kremlin on the historical Varvarka Street.

There are some magnificent churches on the street and some historical buildings like the Old English Court, the oldest office of another country in Moscow, and the Chambers of the Romanov Boyars exhibiting the residential and household interior of the 16th-17th centuries. I think both require entrance fee, but all the buildings can be enjoyed from outside.

A church in Varvarka Street in Moscow
A church in Varvarka Street

Gostiniy Dvor is on Varvarka Street as well. I went in for free. There is nothing spectacular, frankly, but still it is nice to see it.

The park itself is split in several areas like the Birch Forest, Coniferous Forest, the Steppe, Northern Landscapes, etc. The ice cave is a curious place to visit: it is not free, but a very desired place to be when it is hot outside 😊 The amphitheater and the huge glass dome certainly attract attention.

Zaryadye Park in Moscow
Zaryadye Park

The park offers amazing views of the Kremlin, and its floating bridge can be considered a panoramic deck as well, it offers spectacular views of the Kremlin, the Moskva River, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and one of Stalin’s skyscrapers.

In general, you will have busy time here 😊

11. Tsvetnoy Boulevard

As I am Russian-speaking and watched Soviet and Russian movies, I have heard quite often about Tsvetnoy Boulevard, but I had no idea what it was. That said, I knew I had to see it. So, one sunny summer day I went there. My god, it is a magnificent place! Just make sure you go there in summer when everything is green and flowers are blooming.

Moscow pictures: stunning photos of Moscow | Trubnaya Square in Moscow
Trubnaya Square in Moscow

The boulevard is famous for Nikulin’s Circus and, I guess, it would not be a mistake to call it the most popular one in Moscow. I have not been to the circus, so I like the boulevard for its park with circus-related sculptures and arches with blooming flowers and the views from the nearby Trubnaya square.

The sculptures on Tsvetnoy Boulevard in Moscow
The sculptures on Tsvetnoy Boulevard in Moscow

12. Patriarch’s Ponds

“At the sunset hour of one warm spring day two men were to be seen at Patriarch’s Ponds. The first of them – aged about forty, dressed in a greyish summer suit – was short, dark-haired, well-fed and bald. He carried his decorous pork-pie hat by the brim and his neatly shaven face was embellished by black hornrimmed spectacles of preternatural dimensions. The other, a broad-shouldered young man with curly reddish hair and a check cap pushed back to the nape of his neck, was wearing a tartan shirt, chewed white trousers and black sneakers.” This is how the world-known novel by Mikhail Bulgakov the Master and Margarita starts. And I guess it made Patriarch’s Ponds so famous nowadays.

Today a huge pond is surrounded by trees, but about 300 years ago it was a marshy place. At the end of the 17th century these marshes were dried and three ponds for growing fish were dug. In the beginning of the 19th century two of the ponds were filled up and trees were planted around the remaining one. After some difficult times and reconstructions, it acquired its present aspect.

What to do in Moscow for free | Patriarchs Ponds
Patriarchs Ponds in Moscow

It is a pleasant area for walks, very popular among locals: trust me, all benches will be taken 😊

13. Izmailovsky Kremlin

Izmailovsky Kremlin is the most vibrant place in Moscow. When I saw it for the first time, I couldn’t believe my eyes: with its colorful walls and towers and wooden buildings it was Russian fairy tales come alive.

Architectural gems of Moscow, Russia | Izmailovsky Kremlin
Izmailovsky Kremlin

This is not a historical place, its construction started in 1998 and took about 10 years. Now there are many buildings and the majority of them are free to visit.

Top 10 places to see in Moscow, Russia | Izmailovsky Kremlin

My personal favorites are the wooden church of St Nicholas right in the center and opposite it another wooden building, the Palace of Russian Meal (this is the closest translation I can make).
But the Kremlin is not buildings only. There are a couple of markets on its territory: in one they sell paintings, the second one is full of Russian souvenirs like matryoshka dolls and boxes, and an antique market. I love every one of these markets!

Another curious part of the Kremlin are the museums. I guess many people are interested in the Museum of Vodka, but it is not free: I think the entrance fee is 250 RUB. The last time I heard the museums of bread and chocolate were free to visit.

And, of course, there are restaurants with Russian cuisine decorated in Russian style 😊

It is far from the usual tourist route, but it is easily accessible: take Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line at Biblioteka imeni Lenina metro station at the Kremlin and get off at Partizanskaya station.

14. The Alley of Russian rulers

Russia has a rich and long history and some very famous rulers, and in Moscow there is a place to see them all at once. It is a small exhibition of busts hidden from the eyes of tourists. Frankly, when I was there, I saw only three other people around.

This is the place to see Ivan the Terrible, Alexander Nevsky, emperors from the Romanov family, Lenin and Yeltsin.

The Alley of Russian Rulers in Moscow
The Alley of Russian Rulers in Moscow

The alley is next to Gorka Park opposite the Moscow Choral Synagogue in Bolshoy Spasoglinishchevskiy Pereulok.

15. Curious architecture

Moscow had been the capital of Russia before it was moved to St Petersburg in the beginning of the 18th century. Obviously, many noble families moved there as well, building palaces and mansions in the new capital. One might think that nothing remained in Moscow, considering that it was burnt in 1812 when Napoleon took it. But some of the buildings survived including the Old English Court I mention above.

But there are some buildings I consider truly magnificent. For example, the mansion of Arseny Morozov on Vozdvizhenka. Its owner was inspired by Pena Palace in Sintra and the Casa de las Conchas in Salamanca. It was so weird for Moscow that it got the nickname of “fool’s house”. Now it is a government office, so no entrance.

Architectural gems of Moscow, Russia | Arseny Morozov's Mansion on Vozdvizhenka
Arseny Morozov’s Mansion on Vozdvizhenka: inspired by the Pena Palace in Sintra and La Casa de las Conchas in Salamanca, this house was so weird for Moscow, that it was called ‘fool’s house’

Another famous building that is free to enter is a tea shop on 19 Myasnitskaya street. You will recognize it immediately, trust me! It is so out-of-place in Moscow with Asian motifs on its façade and inside. As it is a shop, you are free to wander inside 😊

What to do in Moscow for free | A tea shop in Myasnitskaya street in Moscow
The tea shop in Myasnitskaya street

A modern addition to the curious architecture of Moscow is the Egg House on Mashkov Street. Yes, that’s right, it is a house that looks like an egg 😊 Not sure whether it is possible to see the interior.

Egg House in Moscow
Egg House in Moscow

Other buildings worth attention are the House of Pashkov at the Kremlin, the mansion of Morozov on Spiridonovka, mansions of the Saltykov-Chertkov and Apraksin-Trubetskoy families, and many-many others. One option is just walk along the streets in the center of Moscow and enjoy the views.

Pashkov House in Moscow
Pashkov House in Moscow

16. Walk around Tsaritsyno

I bet Tsaritsyno is the most famous former royal estate in Moscow, mainly because it is associated with Catherine the Great.

I have been there a couple of times and I must say that the palace is much beautiful outside than inside. Maybe that’s because I am spoilt by the luxurious palaces of St Petersburg and expected too much when visited this one, but I was disappointed. Except some really spectacular halls, there is not much to see. So, I can wholeheartedly recommend walking around the palace and admire the fancy buildings as they are quite one of a kind. Just have a look at the Figure Bridge!

The palace in Tsaritsyno in Moscow
The palace in Tsaritsyno in Moscow
The Figure Bridge in Tsaritsyno in Moscow
The Figure Bridge in Tsaritsyno in Moscow

Another curious thing here is the musical fountain not far from the entrance: don’t miss the show!

What I strongly advise you to do here is just walk around the park, see its pavilions, ponds, flowers, trees and gardens.

The park in Tsaritsyno in Moscow
The park in Tsaritsyno in Moscow

I came once across an app izi.Travel which has loads of useful info on Tsaritsyno. It includes audio guide for the park and is linked to phone’s GPS. I think it requires internet connection, but you can download audios beforehand. It has some other tours for Moscow, not only Tsaritsyno.

17. Walk around Kolomenskoye

Kolomenskoye is a fantastic place and you should definitely visit it. It is another former royal estate and the area is huge, so you will need at least a day if you are ready to pay for entrance tickets.

Basically, Kolomenskoye is an enormous park with a wooden palace, numerous churches and other facilities like the water tower, kitchens, falcon house, the cabin of Peter I and many other buildings. Unfortunately, going inside these buildings is not free, but if you decide to pay, you won’t regret it.

The wooden palace is absolutely stunning, and you can admire it from outside if you do not want to pay. It is not the original one, but an exact modern replica built according to the actual sketches. However, the majority of the objects inside the palace are authentic.

The wooden palace in Kolomenskoye in Moscow
The wooden palace in Kolomenskoye

While I strongly advise you to pay for the visit to the palace, the churches are better enjoyed from outside, but that’s my opinion only.

A wooden church in Kolomenskoye in Moscow
A wooden church in Kolomenskoye

But the most outstanding part of Kolomenskoye is the actual park. Just walk around the place, go to Dyakovo Settlement for spectacular views of Moscow and the Moskva River, go down to the river and walk at the waterfront, see its apple gardens, walk along Golosov Ravine, sit at the famous boulders Maiden’s Stone and Goose Stone. When I was there last August, there were not many people in these places, they were mostly interested in the palace and churches, so you will have the whole place to yourself.

What to do in Moscow for free | View from Dyakovo Settlement in Kolomenskoye
View from Dyakovo Settlement in Kolomenskoye

18. Moscow-City

This is an absolutely otherworldly sight in Moscow! I have heard that many locals opposed the construction of this stone and glass jungle, but I think that the result is simply amazing. I have never been to New York, but I guess it looks like this 😊

So, what is Moscow-City? It is a group of skyscrapers on the riverfront that have to combine residential apartments, business centers and entertainment facilities. Everyone is built in its own fashion and many of them are higher than 330 meters! Every skyscraper here has a name, and I think the highest one is Vostok Federation Tower: it is 374 meters high! Actually, it had been the highest in Europe before Lakhta Center in St Petersburg was built.

What to do in Moscow for free | The skyscrapers in Moscow-City
The skyscrapers in Moscow-City

This place is definitely worth a visit! I don’t think it is possible to get inside as there are guards everywhere. Of course, except the 360 panoramic deck in the above-mentioned Federation Tower: the view is stunning, but it requires an entrance fee. I know that I am writing here about what to do in Moscow for free, but if you have the possibility, go to the deck: we had an interesting tour in Russian and our guide was very knowledgeable. If you want it in English call them first.

19. Metro tour

Moscow metro is one of the most beautiful in the world, it’s a fact. You can see everything here: stucco, paintings, sculptures, chandeliers, gilded walls, vibrant colours… some stations are true masterpieces!

Pay a visit to Mayakovskaya, Kievskaya, Novoperedelkino, Komsomolskaya, Rasskazovka, Elektrozavodskaya, Ploshchad Revolyutsii (Revolution Square), Novoslobodskaya, Novokuznetskaya, Arbatskaya, etc.

Well, naturally, entering the metro is not free, with Troyka card it costs 35 rubles. Why do I consider it free? Because you will use the metro anyway, and when you are inside you are free to do whatever you want 😊

20. Free days in museums

There are hundreds of museums in Moscow, including really big ones and small memorial houses. Almost all of them require tickets, but there are some that offer free entrance on specific days. Unfortunately, Tretyakov Gallery and Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts are not in this list.

Below are some museums that offer free entrance. When it comes to others, just check the respective website:

The Moscow Museum of Modern Art on Petrovka: free every third Tuesday on the month. But in the courtyard of the museum there is an exhibition of curious sculptures. My understanding is that it is free to everyone every day.

What to do in Moscow fore free | Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Moscow Museum of Modern Art on Petrovka
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Moscow Museum of Modern Art on Petrovka

Bulgakov’s Museum: free every third Sunday of the month.

The Museum of Cosmonautics: free every third Sunday of the month.

State Darwin Museum: free every third Thursday of the month.

That is a long list but that’s not all you can do in Moscow for free. I will keep updating it as I visit Moscow every year.

Have fun in Moscow!

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