Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I spent quite some time in Moscow recently. Actually some even asked me if I moved to the Russian capital. Now I could say no, I went there to collect amazing Moscow travel tips for you. But that would be only half of the truth. The fact is my husband currently lives and works in Moscow, hence my frequent visits to ‘Mama Russia’. If you asked me for a brief opinion about Moscow, I would say: I love the city! It’s vibrant, it’s beautiful, it has amazing art, culture and a thriving food scene. But let me group some of my Moscow travel tips for you – if you ever consider a visit to the Russian capital!
Moscow has a fantastic and very efficient public transport system! My recommendation is to use the metro as much as possible for two reasons: it is super quick and it is easy to find your way once you had a proper look at the metro map. Additionally, get a Troika card at the vending machines (the bigger ones offer English navigation) and charge it with some money to avoid buying tickets everytime. Public transport is pretty cheap and the Moscow metro stations are a highlight in itself! Notice the total absence of annoying ads and billboards! So refreshing!
When you are more in a hurry or want to reach a more tricky address, go for a cab. The cab fare is pretty low too and you can easily call cabs via the Yandex app (it is something like the Russian Uber).
Where to stay in Moscow:
Now here comes a tricky bit. As I mentioned in the intro, every time I was in Moscow, I was staying with my husband in his apartment. So I have no personal hotel experiences and recommendations in Moscow. However, there are all the big hotel chains present in the Russian capital. And some hotels have a very interesting history and might be worth the consideration. The Hotel Metropol Moscow is packed with history as it was the first hotel in Moscow to have hot water, telephones in the rooms, international cuisine, and an American bar. Opened in 1905, the hotel features a well preserved interior design that dates back to the Russian Empire. Moreover, this is the place where the first constitution of the Soviet Union was written. It is no exaggeration to call this hotel legendary.
What to see in Moscow (sightseeing):
Red Square and Kremlin: The most obvious spot to go and see and take in its full impact. The Red Square is more magnificent than I imagined from all the pictures and videos I saw. It is the most touristy spot for sure, but you will be amazed when walking between the Kremlin, the GUM department store, Lenin’s tomb, the State Historical Museum and the ornate St. Basil’s Cathedral. The latter you can visit too – today it is more a museum than an active church and if you’re lucky you will hear a male choir upstairs singing Russian clerical songs. Additionally, the Kremlin complex can be visited too with numerous churches and the Royal Armory.
Zaryadye Park: If you continue past the St. Basil’s Cathedral and descent towards the Moskva river, you will enter the relatively new Zaryadye Park, a landscape urban park. This park is amazing as it features the various landscapes of Russia, offers stages for open-air performances, a floating bridge over the Moskva river, an ice cave, a nature center, a food hall and spectacular views over the Kremlin and Moscow in general. In summer it is extra vibrant of course!
Red October District: Now let us turn towards the beautiful marble-white and golden domed Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. This cathedral resurrected after Soviet times on its old place and is beautiful to visit too. Adjacent is the vibrant Red October district, a former industrial area and chocolate factory turned into a buzzing cultural and gastronomical hub along the riverside. Keep your eyes peeled for some cool shops, galleries, bars and cafés in this area.
Gorki Park: Crossing the Moskva river and walking upstream you will enter the Muzeon Park of Arts and later the Gorki park, a vast green park area with many amenities. Look out for the sculpture park, the Tretyakov gallery and Garage museum (see section ‘What to visit’) as well as numerous café dotted along the park.
Hlebozavod/Flakon District: In northern Moscow, close to the Dmitrovskaya metro station, you will enter the Hlebozavod area, yet another former industrial area that turned into a creative hub. Cool shops, cafés, and event venues are clustered in this area. Just a five minutes walk later you enter the next redesigned industrial area called Flakon. Again, a plethora of shops, cafés, restaurants, event spaces and lots of colorful murals awaits the visitor. My tip: Make a little stop-over at the vegan café/shop Vkus & Tsvet.
Ermitage Garden: I went to the Ermitage Garden in summer and loved it – it was packed with people enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures, lots of nice cafés and galleries are centered in this park in the Tverskoy district of Moscow.
What to visit in Moscow:
Tretyakov Gallery: If you ever visit Moscow, even for just a weekend, I strongly recommend a visit to the Tretyakov gallery. Why? It is the world’s largest collection of Russian fine art from all stretches of history. The gallery is enormous and I was awestruck while roaming the endless halls of the Tretyakov gallery.
Bolshoi Theater: Another must-visit even during a weekend getaway. No Moscow travel tips would be complete without a visit to the world famous Bolshoi Theater! Here are some insider tips for you: To buy tickets, go to the GUM department store at the Red Square. There is a little booth and you can usually communicate in English to get some tickets. Online ticket shopping is sometimes a tad tricky in Russia. Also keep in mind that the Bolshoi Theater has a number of stages. If you want the classical experience on the big stage, pay attention when choosing the play. Tickets can get pretty pricey! But it is a unique experience.
Tchaikovsky Conservatory: If you love classical music, why not buying tickets for the Tchaikovsky conservatory? I went there for a wonderful violin concert and loved it – again this conservatory has numerous stages/halls, so pay attention when picking the tickets.
Multimedia Art Museum: Here’s a tip for you lovers of contemporary art and photography. The Multimedia museum is a great venue on several floors and features changing exhibitions of contemporary Russian artists. Paintings, photography, video art, installations, sculptures – you name it. You got it. Tip: After the visit head to the close-by 15 Kitchen + Bar for a great bite (see section ‘Where to eat’).
Pushkin Museum: Another highlight – I am sorry to tell you, but is yet another museum I would put on the must-visit list! I tell you, Moscow is incredible when it comes to art and culture! This museum is actually split in two buildings: The main building can easily be recognized – it’s the one with a long line of waiting visitors in front! The main building features paintings of the old masters, pieces from antiquity and more. If you want my personal tip: Go to the adjacent gallery of of 19th and 20th century European and American art. Let me be short: It is ah-mazing!
Garage Museum: Set in the Gorki park, this museum of contemporary art welcomes the visitor with a distinctive architectural structure. Apart from the art, enjoy the great bookstore and the fab café/restaurant.
Zaryadye Hall: The new building of the philharmonic sits in the Zaryadye park and features a fabulous modern architecture and great concerts. Tip: Just go to the cash desks and pick tickets for the same evening and enjoy a great concert in a beautiful ambiance.
Winzavod Contemporary Art Center: I know I sound repetitive, but again a former industrial area has been transformed in an art center – this time expect a dozen art galleries concentrated in a former industrial site. And if you want a unique souvenir, buy some Russian contemporary art here (there are affordable options indeed).
Cool Coffee Places & Bars in Moscow:
Surf Coffee: This coffee chain is like a little holiday getaway – lots of plants, surfboards and good coffee. Enjoy! Surf Coffees can be found across the city.
Strelka Bar: If you come in summer, do not miss a drink on the terrace of the Strelka bar overlooking the Moskva river and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior – it is just next to the Red October district.
Introvert Place: As hipster as it gets – great coffee, excellent cakes, and a über-cool atmosphere. A bit tricky to find, but Google Maps will do the trick! Go into a courtyard up a little flight of stairs.
Bloom’n’Brew: Plants and good coffee in a white interior. In walking distance from the Flakon district. Adjacent is another cool area with venues and co-working spaces (watch out they have a few cafés in Moscow with the same name).
Upside Down Cake, Yumbaker, Skuratov Coffee, Coffee and Milk: Four cool places and all close to each other next to the Apothecary botanical garden. I love all four places! The first one, short UDC, is great for lunch or a healthy breakfast. Yumbaker is great for amazing sweets, the two latter for great coffee. Skuratov offers coffee roasted in the Siberian city of Omsk, and Coffee and Milk is a tiny coffee hut with great coconut cappuccino. Enjoy!
Café Pushkin: The name already hints at the place – it is a wonderful classic Russian restaurant and café with late 19th century vibes and waiters in uniforms all of whom speak pretty good English. Famous among tourists, yet great quality and atmosphere. Go for lunch or dinner. Tip: Try the traditional fish pie called Rasstegai. I loved it!
Gift Coffee: In the back of a cool bookstore in the Red October area, this café is a relaxed place to unwind amidst books.
Voda Bar: The ultimate tip for great cocktails. It is a ‘hidden bar’ in a courtyard. Black door, ring the bell, smile and enjoy a cool urban bar with DJ and excellent cocktails (no menu, just tell the waiter what you love and let yourself be surprised).
Where to eat in Moscow:
Sempre: I’ve been to Moscow three times so far. And probably six or seven times to Sempre. This says it all. Expect a real jungle of plants and excellent cuisine. I never booked a table and there was always a free place!
Ugolek: Another favorite of mine! Dark, industrial interior, open-fire cuisine, cool staff and happy bellies at the end!
Severyane: Next to Ugolek. Great for dinner or brunch on weekends! Again cool interior and excellent food!
Twins Garden: This restaurant is really something – more to the high-end, a great gastronomical experience of Russian cuisine with a contemporary twist concocted by two twin brothers from Krasnodar in southern Russia. Do not miss the Kamchatka crab and some Russian sparkling wine!
Tilda: Wonderful small restaurant with delicious food – my fave: the tuna tartar in coconut milk. Yum.
Café Polet: I spotted this restaurant in the Wallpaper magazine and as a interior design fan I had to go there and see it for myself. I approve: great design, great food! Worth the taxi ride!
Madame Galife: I like to say that Georgian cuisine in Russia is like Italian cuisine in Western Europe. It is like staples and can be found literally on every corner. Madame Galife, also next to the Apothecary botanical garden, is a great option with green vistas. No visit to a Georgian restaurant without an Adjaruli Khachapouri. Don’t ask me, just try it!
Sadovyi Bufet: This food court is in the Apothecary botanical garden complex and offers a variety of small food stalls in a green environment – from Vietnamese, over Georgian, pizza to my beloved Avocado Point.
Food Embassy: Again in the same area as the aforementioned Sadovyi Bufet, this restaurant is the realm of chef Julia Vysotskaya and offers great food options – I liked it for lunch!
15 Kitchen + Bar: Fab restaurant for lunch close to the Multimedia Museum. Nice atmosphere too!
Remy Kitchen Bakery: Probably one of the city’s best bakeries and restaurants! Went twice and loved it both times! Will definitely go back next time! Do not miss their bread and some pastries bien sûr!
Depo Moscow: Here comes a great tip! You don’t know what you fancy tonight for dinner? Go to the Depo Moscow. This food court opened last year in the former tram depot and offers endless food options and cuisines, shops, juice bars, and even DJ music. My tip for any location: try the local ‘Oblepicha’ tea. It is a warm fruit tea made with local sea buckthorn and other fruits. A real treat!
Dom Kultur: Want something cool again? Dom Kultur is a mix of student bar, restaurant and club with a raw style and lush plants. Big like!
Lavka Lavka: Great Russian cuisine with a modern twist in a funky ambiance – and English speaking waiters. Enjoy Lavka Lavka!
By now you will think I was basically eating non-stop, visiting museums, drinking gallons of coffee and writing too long blog posts. That’s why I am stopping here. But be reassured: there is a second part of Moscow travel tips waiting for you. Next time with some design and plant tips. Stay tuned. Also you can find even more tips and pictures in my Instagram highlight stories Moscow 1 and Moscow 2. Now I need a coffee. Thanks for bearing with me!
Photography by Igor Josifovic