Touching down in Moscow with limited time to see the sights? If you're whipping up your own whirlwind tour of Russia's capital city, make sure you add these top attractions to your itinerary.
Head into the city for your first stop: the Kremlin. Just a 35-minute drive from our Radisson Blu Hotel, Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, Russia’s most famous building sits perched on top of Kremlin Hill, overlooking the Moscow River and Red Square. Historically, it was the center of the Russian Orthodox Church, hosting the coronation of each new Tsar, but since 1991, it has been the residence of the Russian president. Aside from the private area allocated for that purpose, it includes a museum and concert hall that are open to the public.
The oldest part of the Kremlin is Cathedral Square, which was established in the early 14th century. Today, Cathedral Square includes several cathedrals, the Church of Laying Our Lady's Holy Robe, the Patriarch's Palace, the Faceted Chamber, Tsarina's Golden Chamber, and the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower complex.
The world’s most famous square
The famous Red Square began life as a slum beneath the walls of the Kremlin, which was eventually cleared by Ivan III at the end of the 13th century. It was previously dubbed Trinity Square, named after the cathedral that preceded St. Basil’s. The new name became official in the mid-17th century. The English name is derived from the Russian word ‘krasnyi’, which once meant 'beautiful' and now means 'red' in modern Russian.
Few edifices are as synonymous with Russia as St. Basil’s Cathedral, located on the edge of the Red Square. The cathedral was built in the 16th century at the behest of Ivan the Terrible as a monument celebrating the Russian victory over the Tartar Mongols. According to legend, after the cathedral was completed the Tsar ordered that the architects be blinded, so that they could not replicate the beautiful structure. The nine colorful spirals of the cathedral top the nine separate chapels that make up the building itself. Considered a 'masterpiece of Orthodox art,' it lends a sense of whimsy to the city with its swirling colors, intricate patterns and domed spires.
The magnificent Metro
In Moscow, the Metro isn't merely a means of transporting people from point A to point B – the stations themselves are noteworthy attractions. It's no exaggeration to say that the grandeur of some stations rivals the world's great ballrooms and art museums.
Stroll through the Komsomolskaya station, where you'll find vaulted ceilings and gilded bas-relief scenes depicting wartime victories. By contrast, the much more recently constructed Dostoevskaya station takes a fairly understated approach, but Dostoevsky fans will be delighted by the quirky murals depicting scenes from the mastermind's writings. If you're headed to the city's historical center, you might find yourself exiting at Okhotny Ryad. Look out for Italian-marble pylons and a ceramic-tile wall from which a mosaic of Karl Marx still gazes at fast-paced commuters.
If you find yourself captivated by Moscow's metros, it's possible to arrange English-speaking tours of the network, taking in all the most enchanting 'people's palaces.' Just don't forget to pop your head above ground at least a few times on your trip. There's plenty to see up there, too.