Visit Moscow’s historic Kremlin
One of Russia’s most prominent monuments, the Kremlin is the government building right in the middle of Red Square – next to the multi-coloured candy cane spirals of St Basil’s Cathedral – and should be high on your list if you’re a first-time visitor to Moscow. The word “Kremlin” means “strength” owing to the huge fortifications that run around the outskirts of this mini-town full of stately buildings, churches and palaces. The Kremlin has been home to Tsars and houses the Kremlin Armoury museum where you can see the diamond fund – one of the largest collections of its kind in the world.
Kremlin, Red Square, Moscow. 10am-5pm.
Travel in style on the Moscow metro
Possibly the most impressive architecture of any transport system in the world, travelling on the Moscow system is a tourist attraction in itself. Some of the most impressive stations include Art Deco Mayakovskaya, with its symmetrical archways and domed roof, as well as Komsomolskaya, whose elaborate stucco buttercream yellow ceiling and chandeliers looks like a regal palace. There’s also the central Elektrozavodskaya – named after the nearby lightbulb factory, with 318 circular lamps in the ceiling of the main hall. Don’t miss the 32 multicoloured stained-glass windows in Novoslobodskaya station, too.
Pick up a Matryoshka doll souvenir
These stacked folk wooden dolls are synonymous with Russia, and you can often get dozens of dolls nesting inside one another, all decorated as women in traditional peasant dress. The most elaborate go for millions of roubles, but you can pick up cheaper versions. Find an authentic doll at the historic Arbat Street, one of the oldest streets in the city filled with pastel-hued houses.
Watch ballet at the Bolshoi theatre
Home to the biggest ballet company in the world with more than 200 dancers, seeing a show at Moscow’s Bolshoi theatre is an unparalleled experience. The Bolshoi theatre was built in 1825 and since then has undergone many renovations, but still maintains the original wedding-cake exterior with plush red velvet seats in the domed auditorium. Check the website for various events including opera, classical concerts and theatre – there are also daytime tours.
Go shopping at the GUM department store
Though there are many branches of this famous Russian state-owned department store in other cities, the GUM flagship in Red Square is the most impressive – and only partly because of the shopping. The architecture of the building mixes Russian medieval and Gothic revival – with epic iron-and-glass tunnel skylights. In terms of labels, you can find luxury in the form of Cartier, Dior and Fendi. For more impressive shopping, check out six-storey TsUM nearby – the biggest department store in Eastern Europe.
GUM, open daily 10am-10pm.