The sixth largest city in the world, Moscow is like nowhere else. Only have a few hours and want to make the most of your visit? Here are some ways to get a taste of Moscow — but be warned, you might just end up wanting more!
First off, know that all signs will be in Cyrillic. Street signs are not at intersections but on buildings themselves. If you’re meeting clients at their business, it’s probably best to arrange to be met at the closest metro station (more on those below) as the street numbering and building entrances can be difficult to find. Whatever you do, don’t try and drive. It’s a nightmare. Instead…
Get on the Metro
Moscow is justifiably known for its public transportation (though it is not well designed for people with disabilities). The metro stations are works of art themselves, designed to be Soviet “Palaces of the People”, and Russians are very proud both for the metro’s efficiency as well as its beauty. The most famous line is #5, the Koltsevaya (Кольцевая) Circle Line that goes around city center. Other stations worth seeing are Mayakovskaya station (Маяковская) for its Art Deco columns and Ploschad Revolyutsii (Пло́щадь Револю́ции) with its bronze statues, notably a dog whose nose people rub for good luck. The modern Sretenskiy Bulvar (Сре́тенский Бульва́р) stop and the stunning murals honoring the famous author Fyodor Dostoevsky at Dostoevskaya (Достоевская) are also definitely worth a look. If you’re going to spend some time exploring, avoid the metro before 10 a.m. and from 5-7:30 p.m. because of the packed rush hour traffic. Etiquette for escalators is stand on the right, walk quickly on left (and be careful you don’t get pushed out of the way).
Another tip — the Russian concept of personal space is much different than that of other regions. Queuing up for metro cars or to get on the escalator is the norm, but stand about 6 inches away from the person in front of you, otherwise it won’t look like you’re part of the line.
Take a Walk
The many public parks and gardens in Moscow give your eyes a rest from the seemingly ubiquitous grey cement that makes up most housing blocs. Vorobyovy Gory (Воробьёвы го́ры) gives you a panoramic view of the whole city. The area around Tretyakovskaya Gallery (Третьяковская галерея) is also a good place to stroll. Kolomenskoye (Коло́менское) is another impressive park that’s a former tsarist estate with a beautiful church and plenty of paths to wander. If you want unique souvenirs, head to Izmailovskaya Park (Измайловская Парк), at the Izmailovsky metro stop. You’ll find everything from Soviet memorabilia to hand carved chess sets in what some call a Russian Disney. Don’t forget to snack on some shashlik (kebabs; pictured above) to fuel your shopping.
Visit an Unusual Museum
The Kremlin requires a full day that involves lots of lines. If you only have a few hours, the Cosmonautics Memorial Museum (Мемориальный музей космонавтики) will show you the Russian side of the Space Race, including Yuri Gagarin’s landing pod. The Moscow Polytechnic Museum (Политехнический музей), founded in 1872 is an incredible collection of historical innovations and technology with an old-world feel.
Relax in a Banya (баня)
In many ways the quintessential Russian experience, Moscow is full of both private and public banya. You’ll sit in an extremely hot steam room, then cool off in a pool. We recommend reserving a private banya with a group of friends if possible (some restaurants have them, so you can eat and then relax in the heat). One essential accessory is the felt hat called a shapka — this protects your hair from the extreme temperatures in the steam room.
Also, if you are in Moscow on a work-related trip, check out our Introduction to Russia post for tips on business etiquette.
Счастливого пути! (Bon voyage!)
Photo attribution: trbuh