A weekend in Moscow: express guide

The Red square's name has nothing to do with communism or with the color of many of its buildings. In fact it derives from the word 'krasnyi', which once meant 'beautiful'. Source: Igor Stepanov

The Red square's name has nothing to do with communism or with the color of many of its buildings. In fact it derives from the word 'krasnyi', which once meant 'beautiful'. Source: Igor Stepanov

What to do if fate has brought you to Moscow, but you have just three days to discover this astonishing city? RBTH grabbed a watch and a map, and produced this “Weekend in Moscow” express guide.


4:00 p.m. History Lessons

The first thing anyone wants to do after getting off the plane is stretch their legs. The best way to discover the Russian capital is to walk around the historic city center. Start at Red Square (metro station Okhotny Ryad). Here you will find the History Museum, St. Basil's Cathedral and Lobnoye Mesto (the “Place of Skulls”) — the place where royal decrees were read to the people, from the 14th to 17th centuries.

The world-famous Lenin Mausoleum is here as well; although you will have to wait until May to see it, since it is currently hiding behind a gigantic white tent while reconstruction work is taking place.

One of the walls of the Moscow Kremlin runs along Red Square. On the opposite side of the square is the GUM Department Store building (GUM stands for Glavnyi Universalny Magazin in Russian, translated as Main Universal Store in English). The GUM was built at the end of the 19th century.

You can buy clothes, footwear, jewelry and souvenirs here, although prices are quite steep. Still, visiting the GUM is a must, if only to see the elaborate marble-faced halls and the glass atrium with steel arches that were designed by architect Vladimir Shukhov (who also designed the Shukhov Tower).

6:00 p.m. Cathedral-spotting

Let's conclude our walking tour at the Church of Christ the Savior — a site that shot to fame after it was used as the venue for Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” in February 2012.

Make your way here by leaving Red Square through the Voskresensky Gates, walking the length of Manege Square, then crossing to Mokhovaya Street at the Lenin Library (Russia's main library). Walk on, past the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, and you will find yourself on Volkhonka Street in front of the Church.

11:00 p.m. – 06:00 a.m. Dancing at Propaganda

The perfect way to continue your Friday evening is by dancing the night away at Moscow’s longest-established nightclub, Propaganda — the staff and DJs there lovingly call it “Propka” or “Propa.” Over the course of its15-year history, the club has played host to the likes of Quentin Harris, DJ Deep, Jephte Guillaume, Timmy Regisford and other gurus of the club-music scene.

By day, Propaganda becomes a laid-back café, offering hot sandwiches and business-lunch deals. Closer to evening, the tables are cleared away once more, and the dancing begins anew.



12:00 p.m. A "People's" Lunch

Have breakfast at the Ludi kak Ludi (People are People) Café near the metro station Kitai-Gorod. This café is so tiny that you can reach for a food-stacked plate from the counter without leaving your seat.

Be warned, though: the café is also very popular; coming in the morning is your best chance to get a table. The best dishes here are the pies, as well as the vitamin shakes with fresh fruits and berries.

2:00 p.m. Relaxation and Sport

Gorky Park (metro stations Oktyabrskaya and Park Kultury) is both an artifact of the recent Soviet past and a focus of the popular cultural trends of the present.

After the park’s total reconstruction in 2011, it became the stomping ground for Moscow creative and intellectual crowds, pulling in the so-called intelligentsia elite.

When there are no concerts, sports events or exhibitions going on here, Gorky Park is also a lovely green space along the banks of the Moskva River, replete with avenues and ponds. In the summer, you can lounge in a hammock, sunbathe on Olympic Beach, or watch an outdoor movie. In the winter, there is dog-sledding or skating on Europe’s biggest outdoor ice-rink.

4:00 p.m. Local Food

In the rush to satisfy foreign tourists, Moscow has become mired in a vast array of Italian pizzerias, Japanese sushi-bars, French café-bakeries and hokum English pubs. These days, the only places you can seem to find traditional Russian food at affordable prices are at café chains and fast food restaurants.

At the chain Teremok, you can get buckwheat porridge in several different styles, along with syrniki (cottage cheese fritters) and Russian bliny (pancakes) with different fillings. At a traktir(a kind of small cheap café), you can usually find Petrovskie schi (Czar-Peter-style cabbage soup) with sour cream, or ukha fish soup and rasstegaifish pies. These kinds of cafés can be found all over town.

6:00 p.m. The Arts District

Red October (metro station Kropotinskaya) is a large area of factory-style, red-brick buildings on Bolotny Island, right in the very heart of the city. Until quite recently, the premises were used by the Red October Chocolate Company as their factory.

These days, the former factory buildings are full of art exhibitions, talks about architecture and the arts, and concerts. No matter what day you come, you will find art events going on — perhaps an exhibition at the Lumiere Brothers Gallery, a concert in the bar at Gipsy, or an art-house movie screening at Dome club.


12:00 p.m. The Art Gallery

Midday on Sunday is the perfect time to become more closely acquainted with the classics of Russian Art at the Tretyakov Gallery (metro station Tretyakovskaya). The building may look small, but it houses one of the world’s most important collections of late 19th– and early 20th–century Russian art.

You will not be able to take it all in on one visit, so you should decide beforehand which collections interest you most. Many visitors will be interested in seeing the works by Vasnetsov, Surikov, Savrasov and Vrubel.

4:00 p.m. A Restaurant Lunch

Have lunch at the legendary Yar restaurant (metro station Dinamo) — the successor to the long line of restaurants of the same name from the late 19th century. Yar was famous for wild evenings out and gypsy dance shows. Today, people come for the delicious king-crab dumplings, duck-liver borsch and the atmosphere of Old Moscow.

6:00 p.m. The Theatre

The Moscow Arts Theatre (MXAT), accessible from metro stations Teatralnaya and Okhotny Ryad, is one of the capital’s oldest theatres, founded in 1898. There is a convivial mixture of classic performances of major theatrical works, alongside experimental productions of new works by new young directors.

Those who love classical Russian drama will enjoy Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” while avant-garde fans might enjoy Kirill Serebyannikov’s staging of “Playing the Victim.” You can get tickets for all performances in advance from the theatre’s box office, or on the Internet.

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