An extensive beginners guide to Moscow

Hello dear readers, in this post, which will be a bit longer than the usual ones, I want to give you insights, what you can do, when you travel the first time to Moscow, which transport options there are etc.; simply everything you need to know to make you stay in the city as pleasant as possible.

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Arriving & getting into the city:

Most likely you will arrive at one of the three major airports, Sheremetyevo,Domodedovo  or Vnukovo. Before picking up your luggage, you need to go through passport control, which in Russia is usually very fast, you simply need to tell the agent where you come from (airport) and after to sign the immigration card. After immigration, at all three airports, you will get your luggage after that. In the arrivals hall, there are usually many people who want to offer you cheap taxi rides. Please simply ignore those as they will most likely rip you off – better get a taxi via one of the official operators, like Gett Taxi, Yandex Taxi, CityMobil and many more. Another easy variant is Uber, which also works just fine in Moscow.

The fare in any way should not be more than 1200RUB and the normal taxi companies will have fix rates to and from the airport to any point in the centre. Please also take note, that there is a lot of traffic in Moscow, especially in the morning and early evening and during these rush hours, it can take up to two hours to get to your hotel in the centre.

Another variant is the Aeroexpress, which is the express train from the airports to train stations in the centre (the Aeroexpress train from Vnukovo airport will arrive at Kievskaya train station, the Aeroexpress train from Sheremetyevo airport will arrive at Belorusskaya train station and from Domodedovo airport will arrive at Paveletskaya train station. One way tickets cost 570RUB so if you are more than one person, a taxi will be already cheaper.

The cheapest, but also the most time is to take the bus to the nearest metro station from the airports. From Sheremetyevo airport there is a bus connection to the metro Station Rechnoy Vokzal, from Domodedovo there is a bus to metro station Domodedovskaya and from Vnukovo airport to metro station Yugo-Zapadnaya.

Recentely there also opened a fourth airport in the Moscow metro area for passengers, but so far only some flights to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan as well as two daily flights to Minsk on Belavia. But there is a frequent bus connection from Metro station Kotelniki.

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Getting around Moscow

Metro

The most comfortable and fastest way to get around Moscow is the for sure the metro. With its 203 stations and a track length of 346km it is currently the fifth longest metro system in the world (after Shanghai, Beijing, London and New York).

There are several tickets available, so you can check how many rides you need and buy the right one. Below I will list you the current fares:

  • one ride  : 55RUB
  • two rides: 110RUB
  • 20 rides: 650RUB
  • 40 rides: 1300RUB
  • 60 rides: 1570RUB

With a ticket you can do unlimited transfers on the metro, although if you want to catch a bus after a metro ride, you need to use a new one.

When entering a metro station, there are electronic turnstiles with a reader, which scans your ticket and then opens.

The metro works roughly from 05:30 in the morning until 01:00 in the night and the frequency varies from 30 seconds during rush hours to two minutes during calmer times. To calculate your travel time you can either download the app “Metro” in the Apple App store or Google Play store, use the web based interactive  Metro Map or roughly count three minutes per station.

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Metro Map

Trolleybus

Next to the metro lines there are trolley bus lines. For you, which are unfamiliar with that term: Trolley busses are electrical busses, which you overhead power just like trams.

Currently there are 73 trolleybus lines and they connect places which are not covered well by metro, or where a journey by metro would involve a lot of backtracking.

To use the trolley busses, the same ticket as with the metro can be used.

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Trolleybus map

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Bus

As in every smaller and bigger city, there is also an extensive Bus network, although especially during rush hours it can take some time, as there are not everywhere bus lines available.

The same ticket like in the metro can also be used here.

Tram

There are also some tram lines, which can be a nice way to see something of the city, as compared to the metro, it goes completely overground, but there is no tram line which goes right through the centre, where most of the sights are situated.

Mashrutka

On many routes where busses are not going, the so called Mashrutka mini busses go frequently. You can find more about Mashrutka in an earlier post here.

By foot

The walk ways in Moscow are excellent and usually there are tunnels under the big streets, so to explore the city by foot is also not a problem.

 

So after this short introduction, how to get around the city I want to present you a 5 day plan, which includes all the sights, which you have to see in and around Moscow.

Day 1

I think the most famous sight in Moscow is the Red Square with the Kremlin, St. Basils Cathedral, the National Historical Museum and the department store Gum, so this in my opinion should be also the first place where you should go when being in the city.

For the Kremlin, I recommend you to buy your tickets in advance – I already wrote more details about the museum in the Kremlin here. You can find there information about how to reserve your tickets online etc.

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After this museums you can visit St. Basils Cathedral after a leisurely walk across Red Square.

In the department store GUM, you need to taste their iconic ice-cream, which is a steal at only 50RUB. About GUM you can read more here.

For lunch I recommend you the café “Brothers Karavaevi”, which has a mix of french pastries, cakes, but also Russian salads, meat, fish etc. The quality is very good and the prices are in my opinion very fair. They have a few dozen cafés around the centre of Moscow and their website is available in Russian, English and French. You can find it here. You can also take away your food with you.

 

After lunch you can either go to the National Historical Museum, which is also located right at the Red Square (more information about it in my article about the museum here).

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If you already tired about museums and culture, you can also take a walk further through Aleksandresky Sad, where you will see Manege.

Not far from you can also see the famous Bolshoi Theatre. Tickets for it are very hard to get and can be pricey, but nevertheless some might be available at the official website here.

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Day 2

On the second day I recommend you to start the day at the Tretyakov Gallery with its impressive collection of art. To read more about the gallery you can follow my article here.

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Depending on how interested you are in art – you can easily spend the whole day there, but if you want to do some other things as well, you should walk from the Tretyakov Gallery to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. On the way there you will pass the Monument of the famous Russian painter Ilya Repin. You can read more about him here.

 

From the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour you can walk along the Moskva river and cross it to see the Monument of Peter the Great (more about him here) and further on to Gorky Park, where especially during some will see many locals also just go for a walk.

If you like Japanese food I recommend you Tanuki for dinner, which in my opinion is the best of the Japanese food chains in Moscow. I wrote more them in my article here.

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Day 3

This day I would start in one of the many cafés on the Arbat street. It is a famous pedestrian-only street in the heart of Moscow and has a lot of cafés and smaller shops on offer. For fans of Hard Rock Café – it is also located here.

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After some coffee you can walk further to the Moscow Zoo, which has a big range of animals to see and is located in a nice area. The website of the zoo here also offers a lot more information about the park, as well as a detailed map. Entrance costs currently 500RUB.

Next to the zoo you can find the Moscow Planetarium, which is also worth a visit, if you want to learn more about plants and stars. It also has many interactive shows on offer.You can find more information here.

As today is the day of walking a lot, I recommend you now to take the metro to VDNH, one of the biggest parks in Moscow, which also hosts a lot of pavilions with exhibitions. You can also rent here bikes in summer and in winter it hosts one of the biggest ice rinks in Moscow. More information here.

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Day 4

This day you can start in Park Pobedy – a memorial to the soldiers who fell in WWII. It also hosts a very interesting museum which exhibits everything related to the army and those times. You can get more information about the museum here.

After the museum visit you can take the metro back to Tverskaya, where you will find the McDonalds, which was the first to open in Russia. More information about that event here. A very interesting read. After you can walk along Tverskaya Street back to the centre, where you will find a lot of shops along the roads. You will also pass by the famous Hotel National.

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Day 5

As you have seen a lot of Moscow already now and got some Russia experience, I think you are ready to leave Moscow to a city in the golden Ring with the old Kremlin and city centres. For Russia beginners I recommend you Kolomna, as it is only 100km away from Moscow and within some hours you can see everything it has on offer. You can find all information about how to get to Kolomna and also what to see there in my article about the city here.

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There are also a lot of other recommendable cities around Moscow, which can easily be done within day, such as Sergiev Passad, about which I wrote detailed here. Further on Istra and Zvenigorod are also worth a visit.

I hope this guide helped you and if you have more detailed questions about the itinerary or need advice – I am glad to help you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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