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Things to See on a Moscow City Break - St Basil's Cathedral

9 Things to Do on a Luxury Moscow City Break

Travel

Sarah Barthet

by

Moscow is the perfect location for anyone in search of glamourous city breaks or if craving a luxury weekend getaway. It’s a quick three-and-a-half-hour flight away from London (and most other major cities in Europe in fact!), with British Airways operating a full long-haul cabin set up despite the short distance – first class included! It’s a wonderful alternative to visiting a nearby European capital, and Russia has so much history and culture that it will leave you wanting to book a colourful Moscow city break again and again.

The city is sprawling and the sheer scale of it draws similarities to cities like Beijing, where a short distance on the map can mean several kilometres of walking. The everything about Russian culture is irresistibly intriguing – be it the enthralling history of Russian tsars, the grand architecture, the skill in opulent classical arts like ballet or opera, or the richness and depth of the language.  With so much to offer from so many aspects, Moscow is the perfect destination for the luxury traveller – and we’re breaking down exactly what you should check out whilst in town!


Airports in Moscow

Before diving into all the wonderful things to do in Moscow whilst on a luxury city break, it’s worth highlighting the different airports in Moscow and the best way to reach your hotel. You (likely) have the option of flying into two airports – either Domodedovo (Moscow’s largest and busiest airport) or Sheremetyevo (Aeroflot’s hub). There is a lesser known third airport (Vnukovo – VKO), which is the closest to the heart of the city. This airport also caters to private flights, and is the airport used by the Russian president and the Russian government.

The distance between either Domodedovo or Sheremetyevo and central Moscow is not too different, taking around 45 minutes to one hour to get to the city centre.  One thing to remember is that Moscow has crazy traffic and that can heavily impact your journey. Do bear this in mind if you are working on a tight schedule. 

The best way of getting around is by using apps such as Yandex, and this includes airport transfers.  Unless you’re really desperate, try not to grab a cab from the street, especially if you do not speak Russian.  You’re more than likely going to be ripped off on the fare, and chances are that the driver will not be using a proper meter. Your hotel will also likely provide airport transfers, however again be prepared to pay more than if you were to use the app.  

The View from the Ritz Carlton Moscow Rooftop Bar, the perfect hotel for a Moscow city break
The View from the Ritz-Carlton Rooftop Bar

Best Places to Stay in Moscow

The building and architecture in Moscow is stunning and the luxury hotels, of course, are no exception. There is something quite exquisite and extravagant about their style – think grand chandeliers, gold finishes and rich, deep colours of reds, greens and blues – that kind of luxurious opulence that guests seek from 5-star holidays.

When it comes to location, we recommend staying around the Red Square area or on Tverskaya Street. It’s perfect in terms of proximity to both the shops and main sites. With all this in mind, here are some of the best hotels in Moscow:

  • The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow: located at the top of Tverskaya Street, with a gorgeous rooftop bar offering views of Red Square.
  • The Four Seasons: a 2 minute walk away from the Ritz-Carlton and a favourite amongst celebrities and high net worth individuals.
  • The St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya: the furthest away from Red Square, but only by a few minutes, the St. Regis comes highly recommended. It has a gorgeous rooftop bar with views of Lubyanka Building (the headquarters of the former KGB!).

9 Things to Do on a Moscow City Break

Visit the Iconic Sites on Red Square (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The great thing about finding a hotel so close to Red Square is that you can walk to many of the iconic Moscow landmarks that are simply a must-see. Here are the main attractions that definitely need to be including on your walking tour of Red Square.

Red Square Street Sign - a Dukes Avenue Luxury Moscow City Break

The Kremlin

The Kremlin to Russia is what the White House is to the United States. It is the base of the government of Russia, the official workplace of the President of Russia and, historically, was home to the tsars whose stories have become infamous. Inside the mass area (27 hectares!) that the Kremlin Wall encloses lie plenty of cathedrals and palaces, some of which can be visited. Tourists can opt to purchase two different types of tickets. The first is a ticket to the exterior grounds of the Kremlin, as well as Cathedral Square. The second is a ticket to access the Kremlin Armory.

Overall, the visit can take up to four hours if seeing both the grounds and the armory, so you may want to bare that in mind if travelling to Moscow for a short period of time. Also important to note is that there are no eateries within the walls of the Kremlin, so be sure to have something to eat prior to visiting. Tickets to the Kremlin can be purchased online via their website (and therefore avoid the queues!) – just remember that it is closed on Thursdays!

St Basil’s Cathedral

There is no building more synonymous with Moscow than the iconic St Basil’s Cathedral. This eye-catching Orthodox church is one of the most popular cultural symbols of Russia and a site to behold – its colourful and intricate design can’t help but fascinate! Since the fall of the Soviet Union, weekly Orthodox Christian services are now held, and travellers are able to visit the nine chapels located inside, each decorated in their own distinctive style. Entrance at the time of publication is 700 rubles for adults over 16 years of age, and tickets can be bought from the information desk just outside the cathedral.

St Basil's Cathedral - a Dukes Avenue luxury Moscow city break

Lenin’s Mausoleum

Whilst walking around Red Square, it’s worth stopping at Lenin’s Mausoleum, the resting place of the first Soviet President and leader of the October Revolution in 1917. Entrance into the mausoleum is free, however be prepared to wait 30 to 45 minutes in a queue.

Lenin's Mausoleum - A Dukes Avenue Luxury Moscow City Break

GUM Department Store

Red Square is also home to GUM (pronounced ‘goom’) – a beautiful department store not too dissimilar to Harrods in London. The façade of the store is exquisitely designed and the interior is no different. Located inside are plenty of luxury and mid-range boutiques, the Soviet-style grocery shop Gastronom, caviar bars, and of course, the legendary GUM ice-cream! It’s made using a traditional soviet recipe and is absolutely delicious. Although hard to miss, don’t forget to check out the fountain at the heart of the store!

Editor’s Note: remember that it is cheaper to buy European luxury brands in Europe than it is to buy them in Russia!

GUM Department Store - A Luxury Moscow City Break

Visit Moscow Metro Stations

Moscow metro stations are possibly the most extravagant in the world. Each station is decorated beautifully with intricate frescoes, grand chandeliers and sculptures, and all of them are different! If you have extra time in Moscow, you could easily spend a whole afternoon wandering through the stations. If limited on time however, select a few stations that are known for their grandeur and submerse yourself into a local’s daily commute. Novoslobodskaya Station is our personal favourite, but it might be worth doing some research to find a few that suit your own personal tastes.

The metro system in Russia is fast and efficient, and stations are open from 5:30am to 1am. Single tickets can be purchased at each station, but travellers can also use Visa or Mastercard contactless payments directly on the turnstiles. Alternatively, ticket machines are in both Russian and English and can be purchased there too. Before you go, try downloading Yandex Metro. It’s a free app that provides useful maps and allows users to calculate routes without requiring an internet connection!

Novodevichy Convent

The walled Novodevichy Convent is a religious complex that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. It is a wonderful example of the so-called Moscow Baroque style (Naryshkin Baroque); a style that was fashionable in Moscow from the late 17th century to the early 18th century. The convent is intertwined with Russian political, religious and cultural history, and was previously used by the women of the upper classes of society, and the Tsar’s own family. In fact, some were even buried in its cemetery!

A visit to the Novodevichy Convent may take a few hours as there is so much to see, but definitely worth visiting. Convent museums are open from 9am to 5pm and entrance costs 300 rubles. Fun fact: the lake located just outside the high masonry walls of the convent was the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s infamous ballet, Swan Lake!

Dukes Avenue - Novodevichy Convent - A Luxury Moscow City Break
Novodevichy Convent

Whether a lover of fine art or not, the State Tretyakov Gallery is undoubtedly worth a visit. It’s the main national art museum and holds the largest collection of Russian fine art in the world, showcasing work from prominent national painters throughout the centuries up to present day.

The gallery is located on Lavrushinsky Lane, 10 (a mere 15 minute walk away from Red Square) and is open every day from 10am (with the exception of Monday). Tickets to its permanent exhibitions can be purchased online for 500 rubles, with additional tickets available for temporary exhibitions.

Indulge in Fine Dining

When in Moscow, prepare to eat and drink. As a country, Russia stretches from Europe, all the way to Eastern Asia, and as you would expect, the food is a mix of European, Caucasian and Asian influences.  Think lots of rural foods like wild strawberries and mushrooms, honey and fish. Of course, all with a side of caviar.  Expect to eat lots of different breads, drink lots of beers, bread liqueurs and vodka. 

Moscow is home to some of the world’s greatest restaurants, and if booking a luxury Moscow city break, there are two restaurants that deserve a visit. The first is White Rabbit, ranking the 13th best restaurant in the world under the guidance of Moscow’s most famous chef Vladimir Mukhin. White Rabbit is a wonderful location to explore the flavours of Russia in an elegant setting. Be sure to read the Dukes Avenue full review on White Rabbit – it includes images of several dishes on their tasting menu and the details you need to book a table on your upcoming visit to Moscow.

The second eatery worth dining at is the iconic Café Pushkin, a restaurant with a story behind it that’s as extravagant as its cuisine. Reserving a table at Café Pushkin is almost like travelling back in time, where a traditional Russian menu (with a French twist!) is served in the antique-filled dining room of an 18th century Russian aristocrat’s mansion. Some reviews claim that eating at Café Pushkin is just like eating inside a museum!

Watch an Opera or Ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre

For many, watching a performance at the Bolshoi Theatre is right up there when it comes to bucket list goals – and with good reason. The Bolshoi Theatre is one of the most respected opera and ballet houses in the world, with a reputation for excellence and a symbol of national pride. It’s one of the largest performance halls in Europe, and home to one of the most revered ballet companies in the world.

Whilst it is possible to explore the Bolshoi Theatre via a guided tour, missing out on a live performance would be to miss out on the finest talent Russia has to showcase. Operas and ballets are performed in the historic main building that dates all the way back to 1856. Tickets can be purchased from the theatre’s official website, and they normally go on sale about 2 to 3 months in advance. Check out Google’s virtual tour of the Bolshoi Theatre here.

Dukes Avenue - Bolshoi Theatre - a Luxury Moscow City Break

Catch a Moskva River Cruise

An upscale river cruise down Moskva River is the perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening. Not only does it give visitors the opportunity to view a number of Moscow landmarks from a different perspective, but they can also opt to enjoy a fine dining meal whilst cruising down the river. The yacht has both an indoor and outdoor deck, as well as an onboard bar and free wifi.

The food on the yacht is wonderful and can be enjoyed whilst cruising past sites such as Ukraine Hotel and Gorky Park (both of which are starting points for the cruise), Tretyakov Gallery, Christ the Saviour Cathedral and the Floating Bridge to name just a few! It’s a truly indulgent way to leisurely see the best of Moscow. Book your tickets here!

Editor’s Note: we recommend booking the river cruise during the evening, to view Moscow when it switches on all its lights!

A Moskva River Cruise on a Luxury Moscow City Break

Visit Sparrows Hill

Sparrow Hills (or Vorobyovy Gory) has one of the most spectacular panoramic views of the city of Moscow. It’s a high hill located on the bank of the Moskva River and at the edge of the well-known Gorky Park. Whilst you may want to stroll through Gorky Park and the nearby botanical garden, you can also reach the location by car. The nearest attraction is Moscow State University and it is just across the road from the viewpoint.

The main building of Moscow State University is, in fact, an attraction in itself. It’s one of the incredible Seven Sisters – seven magnificent skyscrapers built in the Stalinist style from 1947 to 1953. The seven are: Hotel Ukraina, Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Apartments, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hotel, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs main building and the Red Gates Administrative Building. Fun fact: the first stone of each of the Seven Sisters buildings was laid at 1pm on September 7th 1947.

The Panoramic View from Sparrows Hill in Moscow
The Panoramic View from Sparrows Hill in Moscow

Party at Soho Rooms

We’ve covered the best things to see in Moscow and the best places to indulge in fine dining, but we haven’t yet covered the best place to party – and that is Soho Rooms! Soho Rooms is an uber-swank night club that will give anyone an excuse to put on their finest dancing shoes and look their sharpest! Cocktails may be a little expensive, but it’s a small price to pay for the cool music and exclusive guestlist – the likes of Naomi Campbell, Vin Diesel and Edward Norton have all been spotted there!

If you have a little more time in Russia and want to explore further afield, you might want to consider booking a trip to St. Petersburg. Alternatively, if searching for day trip adventures closer to Moscow, try visiting cities in the Golden Ring like the historic Sergiev Posad, home to the oldest working bell tower in Russia and the famous Cathedral of Assumption. There are some wonderful private guided tours on offer with pick-up and a local guide that are definitely worth checking out!

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