Visiting all of Moscow’s most famous landmarks in a week

by Georgiy Makeev,
winner of the "Moscow's Best Tour Guide" contest
The Kremlin, Zamoskvorechie, Tsaritsino and Kolomenskoye, tiny terraces and spacious banks — Russia’s capital can always offer something to do. Winner of the "Moscow's Best Tour Guide" contest Georgiy Makeev explains how to get the most out of Moscow, if you’re a tourist and you only have a week.
Georgiy Makeev
winner of the "Moscow's Best Tour Guide" contest
"I feel like I was made for this job – navigating tourists around cities. I've been in this profession for 13 years. I performed my first tour when I was 17, back in school. Since I was born and raised in Kislovodsk, back then I lived in the Caucasus region. My parents were tour guides too, and my father hired my for his tour company to sell tickets. But the company's director offered me to go on these tours myself and see how it all worked from the inside. A couple of weeks later I worked my first tour and started to get into the profession. I took tourists around the Caucasus region – Kislovodsk, Pyatigorsk, Zheleznovodsk, and then branched out into Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkar Republic. Six years later I moved to Moscow in search of a better life, worked all sorts of jobs: call operator, promoter, bartender, even a cab driver. But eventually I pivoted back to being a tour guide. Nowadays I work on tours around Moscow for Russian-speaking tourists".

Day 1
Start with the Kremlin and its surroundings

It’s the oldest and most popular landmark of Moscow. Begin with the Cathedral Square — "The Heart of the Kremlin". Learn to tell apart the Assumption Cathedral — built by Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti, the Archangel Cathedral — the shrine of Russian monarchs, and the Blagoveschenskiy Cathedral — the church of knyazes of Moscow. Then, near the bell tower of Ivan the Great (which used to be the tallest building in Moscow until the construction of the Church of Christ the Saviour in the XIX century) you’ll see the Tsar-Kolokol (the tsar’s bell), and near the Patriarchial Palace — the Tsar-Pushka (the tsar’s cannon).

Visit the Armory — the royal treasury. Among the numerous priceless treasures preserved there are the Hat of Monomakh, the legendary ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible, Monomakh’s globus cruciger, coronation dresses of monarchs, Faberge eggs, the first printed books with golden, diamond-encrusted covers, ancient sabres and armor, as well as gifts from foreign embassies. If you had enough of museums for one day — you can visit the Diamond Fund later, digitally.

Then, from the Kutafia tower, go down to the Alexander Palace. Walk around the trees and fountains, stop near the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb (one of the main tributes to the victory in the Great Patriotic War) and wait until the shift of the Honorary Guard. Then move towards George Zhukov’s monument. The building behind it is the Historical Museum, considered the most important museum in the country, and the noisy street in the background is Tverskaya Street. Before entering the Red Square, take a moment to notice the "0th kilometer" sign before the Voskresensky Gate — a symbolic spot where all of Russia’s main highways begin.

In the XVI century the Lobnoe Place on the Red Suare was used to announce the most important news, in 1755 the first university in the country opened right there on this square, in the XIX century a shopping mall was built in the style of Italian galleries, and in 1945 Soviet tanks rolled over these very bricks to celebrate the end of the war. Listen to the Kremlin chimes, taste Soviet soft drinks in the GUM and head towards the Vasiljevskiy descent. We’ll check out the ancient -shopping buildings and the churches of Kitai-Gorod — the oldest part of Moscow.

On your left you’ll see a patch of green — that’s the recently-opened Park Zaryadje, which was included in Time’s top 100 landmarks on Earth. It’s hard to imagine that just 10 years ago this area was completely deserted. Visit the Ice Cave, Flight over Moscow (or over Russia), both in time and space. Climb the Floating Bridge for a beautiful view of golden capes of Kremlin cathedrals, as well as the industrial shapes of the "vysotkas" - signature buildings of Stalin’s regime.

The northern border of the park — Varvarka — is the "Street of churches and chambers". The Church of Varvara the Great Martyr, the Old English estate, the chambers of Romanov and the Znamenskiy Cathedral, George’s Church, and on both sides you’ll see architectural wonders from barocco to classicism. Turn on the Kitaigorodskiy Way to find the remains of the Kitai-Gorod Wall. Slavyanskaya Square houses the monument to Kirill and Mefodiy, while the Iljinskiy Gate Square has the Polytechnical Museum and its recently-renovated facade.

Then turn onto the Iljinka, where you can see the Stock Exchange and the Old Gostiniy Dvor, since 100 years ago Kitai-Gorod was to Moscow what The City is to London today. And finally, finish off the day on Nikolskaya Street, which has seen the first printed book being published in 1564, Europe’s largest drug store in the XIX century, and finally — the celebrations of Team Russia’s victories during last year’s FIFA World Cup.

Day 2

This is a district laying on the other side of the Moscow River, right opposite the Kremlin, retaining the feel of old, merchant Moscow — with one-story buildings, narrow pathways and tiny churches. I would obviously recommend to take an organized tour there.

You should start with the Tretyakov Gallery to see all of its legendary paintings:"Trinity" by Andrey Rublev, "Portrait of Maria Lopukhina" by Vladimir Borovikovskiy, "Portrait of Alexander Pushkin" by Orest Kiprenskiy, "Rooks Have Come" by Savrasov, "Apopheosis of War" by Vasiliy Vereschagin, "Bogatyrs" by Victor Vasnetsov, "The Girl with Peaches" by Valentin Serov and many others.

After you’re done with the gallery, try finding the biggest church of Zamoskvorechye — the Church of the Great Martyr Pope Clement, the house of merchant Igumnov, Marfa-Marrinskaya cloister built by Alexey Schusev, the Alexey Bahrushin’s Theatrical Museum built in English neo-gothic style, the "cursed house" of the Novikov-Sveshnikov family, and the Moscow historical mosque on the Bolshaya Tatarskaya Street.
You can finish the day by visiting a restaurant. When my relatives come to visit me, I always take them to the restaurant on the roof of the Ritz-Carlton. They serve Russian cuisine and from there you can see all of the Kremlin's towers — that's the backdrop a lot of TV channels use to interview celebrities. If you're not exhausted by now, you can easily reach both Arbats from there — the Old, where Pushkin and Gogol once walked, and the New, that eerily resembles New York.
Georgiy Makeev

Day 3
The streets of Moscow

Nearly every street and corner in old Moscow has a story. First you'll want to find out why the Boulevard Ring isn't actually a "ring", per se, but more like a "horseshoe" of 10 boulevards transitioning into each other. In the past the walls of the White Town passed through there, but in late-XVIII century they were demolished and replaced with boulevards. Anmd before you set off for a walk, visit the Church of Christ the Savior — the biggest in Russia.

The Boulevard Ring begins with Gogolevskiy Boulevard, where the monument to writer Nikolai Gogol stands. By the way, the monument is often called "happy Gogol" - Google why. On your left begin the Old and New Arbats. Notice the house in the shape of an iron — that's the famous Prague restaurant. While walking along the next, Nikitskiy boulevard, on your left you'll see the Church of Ascension near the Nikitskiy Gates — there Alexander Pushkin and Natalya Goncharova married.

The longest boulevard — Tverskoy — is 857 meters long. It's followed by the widest — Strastsnoy — which is 123 meters wide. Then you make it to the Petrovskiy boulevard, which leads to the Trubnaya Square — in the past the Neglinnaya River flowed there, but in the XIX century it was rerouted underground, away from human eyes.

From Rozhdestvenskiy boulevard you go to Sretenskiy boulevard — both are named after nearby monasteries. Chistoprudniy boulevard is known for its ecology, since it once hosted the "Filthy Swamps". Pokrovskiy boulevard houses the archeological amphitheatre with the fragment of the old White Town wall. After the Yauzskiy boulevard go up the Solyanka and to Ivanoskaya hill — one of Moscow's seven hills with an assortment of monasteries and churches.
In the evening, meanwhile, I suggest you go to one of the world-famous theatres around here, though I'm not a fan of drama myself. If you can catch a ticket in advance — the Bolshoy is there. There's also the MHAT, founded by Konstantin Stanislavskiy, author of the famous "Veryu!" (I believe!) and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. After the performance you can walk along the Bolshaya Dmitrovka, Kamergerskiy alley, Kuznetskiy bridge and Stoleshnikovskiy alley, which light up beautifully in the night.
Georgiy Makeev

Day 4
VDNH, or Exhibition of Accomplishments of Local Production

It’s a whole city within a city- you can spend hours getting lost there. Moscow’s landmark park has recently turned 80. It was opened in 1939 as the All-Soviet Agricultural Exhibition, and throughout the years it has changed names numerous times: VSHV, VPV, VDNH USSR, VVZ. Now, though, it got its original name back, along with the restoration of most fountains and pavilions.

Begin with the new interactive Museum of VDNH. There you can find out how this massive exhibition, hosting over 30 million visitors per year, was built. Nearby there’s the "Friendship of the People" fountain showcasing the 16 Soviet republics.

My favorite pavilion is "Armenia" - they serve local congak there. Another one is #32 through 34 — "Space". It’s breathtaking both inside and outside. Right before it stands the real-size copy of the Vostok rocket, which delivered Yuri Gagarin into orbit. The "Argiculture" pavilion (formerly named "Ukraine") was recently renovated, with the Center for Slavic writing inside.

You can finish the day aboard a boat — to do it, get to the "Hotel Ukraine" pier on Taras Shevchenko bank. I really like the whire Radission yachts — they can go through ice even in the harshest Moscow winter. Throughout the 2.5-hour sail you can see a completely different Moscow — with silhouettes of the House of the Government, the legendary Luzhniki Stadium, the Church of Christ the Savior, and, of course, the Kremlin.
My favorite pavilion is "Armenia" - they serve local congak there. Another one is #32 through 34 — "Space". It's breathtaking both inside and outside. Right before it stands the real-size copy of the Vostok rocket, which delivered Yuri Gagarin into orbit. The "Argiculture" pavilion (formerly named "Ukraine") was recently renovated, with the Center for Slavic writing inside.
Georgiy Makeev
You can finish the day aboard a boat — to do it, get to the "Hotel Ukraine" pier on Taras Shevchenko bank. I really like the whire Radission yachts — they can go through ice even in the harshest Moscow winter. Throughout the 2.5-hour sail you can see a completely different Moscow — with silhouettes of the House of the Government, the legendary Luzhniki Stadium, the Church of Christ the Savior, and, of course, the Kremlin.

Day 5
Take a look at one of the royal or noble residences

Choose the one in which you have not yet been — Tsaritsyno, Izmailovo, Arkhangelskoye, Vorontsovo, Kuskovo, Ostankino, Kuzminki. If for the first time in the capital, start with Kolomensky. This is the favorite residence of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, which was mentioned in the XIV century. There is the first stone tent temple of Russia — the Church of the Ascension, built by Vasily III in honor of the birth of his son, the future Ivan the Terrible.
I advise you to climb the Lookout Tower of the Palace of Alexei Mikhailovich — you will find a breathtaking view of the Moscow River and the surrounding area. In the Palace itself — a historical copy of the 17th century — look at the patterned mansions of the king and his family. And then take a stroll through the orchard with apples, pears and plums that bloom so beautifully in spring.
Georgiy Makeev
After that, I advise you to go to Victory Park on Poklonnaya Hill — one of the largest memorial complexes in the world with an area of 135 hectares. There you will see the Victory Monument with an obelisk of 141.8 meters — the Great Patriotic War lasted so many days without a comma. Go to the Museum of Victory — under the dome of the Hall of Fame every hour they watch a 3D film "The Road to Victory". And when you leave the museum, the fountains will light up with red lights.

From there, along Kutuzovsky Prospekt you can walk to the Taras Shevchenko embankment. There, overlooking Bagration Bridge, one can see what Moscow-City, the most modern and business district of Moscow, is often pronounced in the English manner. Federation Tower is the highest in Europe, 374 meters. A bright orange tower with a running line — "Mercury". Curving in the form of a DNA molecule — "Evolution". So in a day you will go the historical way — from the wooden architecture of imperial times to modern skyscrapers.

Day 6
Ride a bike along the embankments of the Moscow River

The sixth day I propose to make really active. Bicycles for rent are at almost every step — just download the Velobike application. The bends of the Moscow River with gulfs and backwaters stretched for more than 200 km throughout the capital, but it is better to take the main highway — from the monument to Peter I to the Sparrow Hills. And not just ride in a straight line, but look into the parks.
Georgiy Makeev
The first one on the way is the Muzeon art park — there are more than 800 various sculptures and a Tretyakov branch on Krymsky Val. The second is Gorky Park, where exhibitions are held at the Garage Museum of Modern Art, music festivals, open-air film screenings, and lectures. Third — Neskuchny garden with romantic alleys and, they say, friendly squirrels. And then the huge natural park "Sparrow Hills". On the road, look around — notice at the beginning the golden top of the building of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Luzhniki sports facilities and workout sites.

After getting off the bike bikes, go to the observation deck of the Sparrow Hills — from there another panoramic view of Moscow will open. For the thrill of taking a round-trip ticket to the new cable car across the Moscow River. And then get to the main university in the country — Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov. Behind the most recognizable Stalinist skyscraper at 240 meters there is a whole campus with apple trees and lilacs.

Do not forget that Moscow is also a gastronomic capital. In the evening, go to the completely new format of the gastro-quarter — "DEPO" within the walls of the former Mius Tram depot, or look at one of the bars in the vicinity of Kitai Gorod. And then take a ride around Moscow at night — it is even more mysterious and attractive in the light of lights, and even freer — there are less traffic jams at night. Prechistenskaya Embankment and Ostozhenka, Chistye Prudy and Myasnitskaya Street, Novy Arbat and Kievsky Station, Kutuzovsky Prospekt and Poklonnaya Gora — there are a lot of options.

Day 7
Take a trip to Sergiev Posad

Moscow isn’t just defined by its historical center, but also the colorful surroundings. Sergiev Posad is an hour’s drive from the capital. Its main attraction is the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a man’s monastery founded in 1337 by St. Sergius of Radonezh. Today it has more than 50 buildings and 10 temples — the Assumption Cathedral, the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the Smolensk Church and others.

But the most impressive view of the Lavra opens from the Pancake slide. Previously, the best pancake houses were located there, where pilgrims from different parts of the earth stayed. Going down to the prospectus of the Red Army, go up it to the museum complex "Horse Yard" - look at the exhibition "Museum of the Russian Matryoshka". Or go down it to the Toy Museum — you will find imperial family toys, French porcelain dolls, Japanese netsuke. And in general, you will understand why Sergiev Posad is called the "capital of the toy kingdom."
We thank the Russian Geography Society and the organizers of the "Russia's best tour guide" contest for helping with this article.

Header image:

Author: Tatiana Grigorieva
Layout: Natalia Afanasyeva