What to do in Moscow in one day: the ultimate guide from the locals

Tasting national cuisine, exploring signature landmarks and getting an authentic cultural experience in 24 hours.

So you have just one day to explore Moscow and are lost deciding on the best things to do. While Moscow is the largest city in Europe and you will only be able to scratch the surface in one day, we have put together the ultimate guide that will help you make the most of this one day you have to explore the city. So what are the best things to do in Moscow in just one day? We have it all covered: you will see the most famous landmarks, try some traditional Russian dishes and have an authentic Russian cultural experience. Here is your ultimate guide from the locals, this is where we take our friends when they visit 😉  

Have traditional Russian breakfast and walk the streets of the historical city center

Old Arbat Street

 

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Публикация от Пешком по Москве 🏰🚶‍♀️ (@belova_boo)

While you will obviously be tempted to head off straight to the Red Square, for a one-day itinerary we strongly suggest to start your journey with the Old Arbat Street instead.  One of the most famous and oldest streets in Moscow first mentioned as early as 1493, it used to be a trader’s square and later a popular residence of intelligentsia and artistic community. The likes of Pushkin and Tolstoy have resided in this area at different times, so any Russian literature fans out there will appreciate it even more. Old Arbat is the ultimate historic street and the perfect place to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of “back in the day” Russia. Nowadays lined up with numerous cafes, bars and souvenir shops, it is the ideal location to start off your day with traditional Russian breakfast and some matryoshka doll shopping.

 

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Публикация от Katya (@kat_from_led)

Traditional Russian breakfast in Varenichnaya N1

In Varenichnaya N1 you will find a menu full of Russian and Soviet cuisine classics like the “borscht” — vegetable soup, heavy mayo loaded Russian (Soviet time) salads and of course “pelmeni” and “vareniki” — local versions of boiled dumplings with various fillings, from savoury options like meat, potato, cabbage to sweet options like cherry and cottage cheese with sugar. For a detailed briefing on must-try Russian dishes read our guides here, here, and here. And while you’re at it, might as well educate yourself how to drink vodka in Russia.

In Varenichnaya N1, you will not only get a chance to try some of the authentic dishes, but also to experience the Soviet decor and ambiance, surrounded by various items and artworks of the time.

 

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Публикация от Вареничная №1 (@varenichnaya1)

 

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Публикация от Вареничная №1 (@varenichnaya1)

Walk down Tverskaya Street to the Red Square

 

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Публикация от Mina Litvinova (@minaliva)

Now that you are fully fueled you can head towards Red Square that you have been so waiting to see. A walk from the old Arbat to the Red Square will last about an hour and will take you through some beautiful historical streets in the very center of Moscow. You will find yourself on Tverskaya street — the main artery of Moscow, that will give you quite a contrasting perspective into how spacious and grand Moscow can be compared to the older historical streets like the Arbat.

 

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Публикация от Daniar (@_daniar____)

 

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Публикация от @lzshfr

Visit the signature sights of The Red Square

Now that you have reached the Red Square, the main things to see there are:

The Kremlin

 

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Публикация от Mariana Martins (Mari) (@mariandthecity)

“Kremlin” means a fortress inside a city, and there are in fact 23 Kremlins in Russia, almost every major Russian city has one. The Moscow Kremlin is simply the main government office in the country.

St. Basel’s Cathedral

 

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Публикация от Han Solo Traveler 57 Countries (@stampthepassport)

On the southern end of the Red Square you will see the Saint Basel’s Cathedral that you have probably already come across before as it is one of the most famous landmarks of Russia. A colorful mix of styles, patterns and colors is what makes this Cathedral so unique and recognizable. Built all the way back in 1561 it has become a true symbol of Russia ever since.

Lenin’s Mausoleum

 

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Публикация от Koray Bektas (@kobektas)

For a touch of the Soviet era, step by the Lenin’s Mausoleum (tomb). Open to the public in 1924, Lenin’s Mausoleum contains the embalmed body of the legendary Russian revolutionary — Vladimir Lenin, who was the key figure in the transition of Russian history from its imperial epoch to its Soviet chapter. The entrance is free of charge, but make sure to check the schedule in advance.

Gum Department Store

 

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Публикация от Moscow (@topmoscowphoto)

Straight across from the Mausoleum stands the grand State Department Store, known as GUM. Built between 1890 and 1893, the trapezoidal building features an interesting combination of elements of Russian medieval architecture and a steel framework and glass roof, a similar style to the great Victorian train stations of London. It is a truly delightful architectural sight, as much as it is a shopping destination with over 200 upscale boutiques inside.

Once you are inside GUM make sure to do three things:

— locate the central fountain that is known for its creative decorations that change every season

— visit Gastronome N1 and get overwhelmed with how grand and luxurious Russian grocery stores can be

— Treat yourself with an ice-cream. Traditional ice-cream made following the Soviet time recipe is the most under-discovered and under-appreciated treat, because it is made of real milk and cream. GUM is the perfect place to have one.

Visit one of the world’s greatest parks, take pictures on the “flying bridge” and try authentic regional Russian cuisine for lunch

Zaryadye Park

 

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Публикация от Парк Зарядье🌳 (@park.zaryadye)

Just minutes away from the Red Square sits the recently opened Zaryadye Park, referred to as “one of the World’s greatest places” by the Time magazine and here is why. 13 hectares of green space recreates the landscape and flora of four different climatic zones of Russia: steppe, wetland, mixed forest, and northern landscape. A “floating bridge” extending over the Moskva River without any support and opening a stunning panorama of the Kremlin, the Krymsky Bridge, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and one of the Stalin’s 7 Sisters skyscrapers. A real Arctic underground cave with non-melting glacier inside. A Philharmonic hall with an organ and two concert halls also located under the ground — “embedded” into a hill and adjoining it, a year-round amphitheater with a view of the Kremlin walls.

 

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Публикация от Парк Зарядье🌳 (@park.zaryadye)

 

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Публикация от Парк Зарядье🌳 (@park.zaryadye)

 

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Публикация от Парк Зарядье🌳 (@park.zaryadye)

Lunch in the Zaryadye gastronomic center

 

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Публикация от ГАСТРОЦЕНТР «ЗАРЯДЬЕ» (@zaryadye_gastrocenter)

It’s time for lunch and in Zaryadye’s gastronomic center you can embark on a gastronomic journey around eight different regions of Russia served from eight different food stations.  There is an ice bar with fresh oysters and champagne, a shop-window with a dozen different varieties of crab, langoustine, and prawns, and a deli featuring brisket, balyk, pastrami, and boiled pork. Meanwhile, at the barbecue counter, geese, ducks and quails are roasted on the spit. The soup station offers shchi cabbage soup, ukha fish soup and other stews, with dozens more delicious options on offer at the Dumpling station. The Pie counter serves traditional Russian stuffed and openfaced pies with assorted fillings, while all kinds of deserts, bliny and baked goods are available alongside tea from the Samovar station.

Our favorites are the pie stations and the seafood station. The value for money is worth a special mention. The food is close to restaurant quality, but costs a fraction of the cost. A main meat or fish course will set you back about $10-12, while soupes and pies cost about $5-8 on average. For more information, read our guide around Zaryadye gastronomic center.

 

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Публикация от ГАСТРОЦЕНТР «ЗАРЯДЬЕ» (@zaryadye_gastrocenter)

 

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Публикация от ГАСТРОЦЕНТР «ЗАРЯДЬЕ» (@zaryadye_gastrocenter)

 

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Публикация от ГАСТРОЦЕНТР «ЗАРЯДЬЕ» (@zaryadye_gastrocenter)

Discover the state of the art Moscow metro and signature landmarks from a board of a River Cruise

The Moscow metro

Now that you have discovered the Moskva River from the flying bridge of Zaryadye Park it’s time to take a cruise and discover the city from the riverside. Head down to Kievskaya metro station and take one of the Radisson Cruise boats. You can either take a taxi from Zaryadye Park or kill 2 birds with 1 stone and see one of the spectacular, museum-like stations of the Moscow metro. Walk back towards Red Square and get yourself into Ploshad Revolutsii metro station. It is one of the most picturesque stations, full of bronze monuments.

 

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Публикация от Moscow Metro. Photo Narodizkiy (@moscow_metro_architecture)

You will not only have the opportunity to take some fantastic pictures but also contribute to your good fortune. Legend has it that rubbing the nose of the bronze guard dog statues brings good luck.

 

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Публикация от Jojo 吴俐璇 (@gojojojojogoh)

The Moscow River Cruise

 

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Публикация от Флотилия Рэдиссон Ройал (@radisson_cruise)

From here you can take just three direct stops to Kievskaya metro station. Walk to the Radisson hotel, that is occupying one of Stalin’s Seven Sisters skyscrappers and right in front of it you will see the Radisson flotilla to take your cruise. This is hands down the most pleasant and fastest way to see most of the signature central landmarks like the Gorky Park, Monument to Peter the Great, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and a different perspective at the Kremlin and the Embankment. Don’t forget to get a glass of champagne on board 😉

Finish off your day with a traditional, cultural or fine-dining experience

Depending on your mood, preference and budget here are the three evening game-plan suggestions to choose from.

Option 1 — Discover the Russian banya

 

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Публикация от Sanduny (@sanduny)

To immerse yourself even further into Russian national traditions head to the Sunduny baths for a Russian banya experience. Sunduny is the oldest functioning baths in Moscow and are set in the most luxurious museum-style interiors, so spectacular the likes of John Travolta and Naomi Campbell couldn’t resist a visit to this establishment.

 

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Публикация от Sanduny (@sanduny)

As for the banya experience itself, here is what it looks like. A Russian banya is essentially a type of dry steam room. Traditionally made entirely from wood, it is equipped with several layers of benches ascending like steps one above the other. You can choose to either sit or lie down on the bench, the higher you will go, the hotter the air will be. While you are in the steam room make sure to try to the most exotic part of the Russian banya — the so called “beating with a bush”. While you are inside the steam room it is customary to smack the body with a herbal broom called “venik” in Russian, it is assembled from twigs and leafy branches of birch trees. It is believed to have many health benefits including improving blood circulation and soothing your muscles. Every banya has a professional “banshik” — a person trained to work the “venik” properly, who you can hire to make sure you have the best experience.

Once you have warmed up to your limit in the steam room and had yourself smacked with the “venik” you will leave the steam room and either plunge into an ice-cold pool or dump a bucket of ice-cold water over your head to cool down.

Then do it all over again, having some herbal tea, beers or even vodkas in between the sessions. After all traditional Russian banya is meant to be a place to bond with friends.

Option 2: Visit the Bolshoi Theatre for ballet or opera

 

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Публикация от Большой Театр (@bolshoi_theatre)


If you are after a sophisticated cultural experience rather than a folklore experience and your budget allows for it, the Bolshoi Theatre is definitely a must-do. One of the most celebrated theatres in the world and one of the most recognizable symbols of Russia throughout history it features various performances with world renowned stars of performing arts.

Option 3: Have drinks with panoramic views of the city

 

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Публикация от Ресторан Buono (@buonomoscow)

If instead of diving head down into the Russian reality you would rather observe and reflect on it, a drink with panoramic view of Moscow is just the perfect idea. Luckily you hardly have to go anywhere after your Radisson Cruise, since Radisson Hotel has 2 panoramic restaurants on the 29th and 30th floors — Mercedes-Benz Bar and Italian Restaurant Buono. For more locations with panoramic views of Moscow see our guide here

 

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Публикация от Ресторан Buono (@buonomoscow)

 

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Публикация от Mercedes Bar (@mercedesbarmoscow)

In case you can’t get over Russian food and are craving a third authentic meal, have dinner in Matryoshka restaurant nearby first, before heading for drinks in the rooftop bars. This place is a rather recent addition to Moscow’s gastronomic scene and will treat you to dishes of Imperial Russian times in a contemporary setting. You can read a more detailed review from one of our contributors here.

 

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Публикация от Матрёшка / Matryoshka (@matryoshka_moscow)

There it is, your complete guide to things to do in Moscow in one day. As promised we managed to squeeze tasting the national cuisine, exploring major sights and landmarks both on foot and by boat, and getting signature traditional and cultural experiences — all in just 24 hours. We hope you find this guide helpful, if you have any questions or comments, please DM us on instagram @rad.russia. We see you 😉

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