As the backdrop to some of the most dramatic events of the 20th century, it comes as no surprise that Moscow is packed full of history and intrigue. Three days in Russia’s capital give you time to see Moscow’s most-important landmarks and explore further afield on a day trip. Here’s how.
Day 1: Historic Landmarks
Spend your first day in Moscow getting your bearings. Walking tours orient you in the historic city center and tend to cover top sights such as Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, Lenin’s tomb, and the striking GUM shopping arcade. Many sightseeing tours take you to the elegant Bolshoi, home to the famed Russian ballet company, with some even including a tour its interior. Alternatively, taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour allows you to set your own itinerary and pace—some options include a cruise on the River Moskva.
In the evening, sample some of Moscow’s fine dining options before hitting the town and checking out the nightclub scene. Like New York, Moscow is a city that never sleeps. You can also join a nightlife tour that takes you to some of the city’s buzziest hot spots—this way you avoid the risk of falling for overpriced tourist traps.
Day 2: Art and Architecture
Having glimpsed the Kremlin from the outside, spend your second morning exploring the inside of the former residence of Russian emperors. Book a tour that includes a skip-the-line or priority-access admission ticket in order to avoid lines and enter before the general public.
Afterward, make your way to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts to check out some of the best European art in Russia, or to the Tretyakov Gallery, where you’ll find the world’s most comprehensive collection of Russian art and icons. Be sure to squeeze in a tour of some of Moscow’s most impressive yet unexpected art spaces—Metro stations. Thanks to the Soviet’s architectural ambitions, the stations are opulently decked out with chandeliers, mosaics, and sculptures; a tour lets you tick off the best with ease.
In the evening, opt for the quintessential Russian experience: an opera or ballet performance at the historic Bolshoi Theater.
Day 3: Back in Time
On your third day, take a journey back in time on a tour to an ancient summer home for Russian princes, the Kolomenskoye Museum and Reserve. Southeast of Moscow, the site features the first open-air museum of wooden architecture in Russia. Visiting as part of a guided tour lets you skip the hassle of figuring out bus timetables—ideal if you don’t read Russian. Tours typically include hotel transfers.
Back in Moscow, round out your trip on a specialized evening walking tour. Options include a Communist-themed tour that focuses on the history and legacy of the Soviet-era, and takes you to landmarks such as the former KGB building and Revolution Square, site of the 1917 revolution. Or, join an alternative tour focused on the city’s sinister past. You’ll hear lesser-known stories about sorcerers and murderers as you visit places such as Khitrovka, 19th-century home of Moscow’s criminals.