Moscow Introduction Walking Tour, Moscow

Moscow Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Moscow

Moscow (Russian: Moskva) is the capital and the largest city in Russia. Cosmopolitan as such, it is the nation’s political, economic, cultural, scientific and religious center. The city's name is thought to have derived from that of the Moskva River upon which it stands.

The first known reference to Moscow dates from 1147 and is associated with Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, the city's founder. The settlement grew fast to become prosperous and powerful, and soon emerged as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Moscow and later the Tsardom of Russia. Moscow continued to play a key role in the political and economic life of the Tsardom throughout most of its history.

Following the Tsardom's reformation into the Russian Empire by Peter the Great, Moscow ceased being the capital when the government moved to the newly-built Saint Petersburg in 1712. After losing its status, both the influence and the population of Moscow had diminished. In 1813, following the destruction of much of the city during the French occupation, a great program of rebuilding was launched, including partial re-planning of the downtown area. Among many buildings constructed or reconstructed at that time was the Grand Kremlin Palace, the Bolshoi Theatre, the Upper Trading Rows (today's GUM) and more.

The capital moved back to Moscow after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the city once again reemerged as the political center of the Soviet Union. The Soviet period was marked by some drastic changes in the architecture of Moscow. Many of the old buildings were mercilessly destroyed to clear space for “new Moscow” manifested in the arrival of Metro in the 1930s, broad avenues, such as Tverskaya (Gorky), and other projects.

Today's Moscow is an “alpha” world megacity and one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. Red Square with Saint Basil's and Kazan Cathedral are undoubtedly must-see attractions and a natural place to start your visit. You wouldn't want to miss the Moscow Kremlin with its UNESCO-listed museums either. Under the ground, Moscow metro stations are outstanding examples of the Soviet period constructions and are well worth the time to explore just as well. If you intend to acquaint yourself with these and other notable attractions in Moscow at your own pace, take this self-guided walk.
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Moscow Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Moscow Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Russia » Moscow (See other walking tours in Moscow)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Red Square
  • St. Basil's Cathedral
  • Lenin's Mausoleum
  • GUM Department Store
  • Kazan Cathedral
  • Moscow Metro: Revolution Square Station
  • Bolshoi Theatre
  • Tverskaya Street
  • Alexander Garden
  • Kremlin
  • Kremlin Armoury
Red Square

1) Red Square (must see)

Red Square (Russian: Krasnaya Ploshchad) is by far the most famous spot in Moscow. Located in the center of the city, 330 meters long by 70 meters wide, it represents in many ways the very “heart of Russia”. In large part, this is due to the adjoining Kremlin, a historic fortress and the seat of the Russian government. Both, Red Square and the Kremlin are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1990.

Built in the late 15th century, the square has been consistently a focal point in the social and political life of Imperial Russia, the Soviet Union, and then the Russian Federation. Over the years, it has seen numerous events: executions, demonstrations, historic speeches and even rock concerts (by the likes of Pink Floyd, Scorpions and Paul McCartney). Each year, on May 9, Red Square hosts a military parade celebrating Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

Contrary to the popular presumption, the name “red” does not refer to the pigment of the Kremlin bricks (which were, in fact, whitewashed at some point in history) nor has anything to do with the “redness” of communism. It reality, it derives from the second meaning of the word “krasnaya” which is the archaic Russian for "beautiful, pretty”, and has been attached to the square since the late 17th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Awash with landmarks: Kremlin to the west, GUM store to the east, the State Historical Museum to the north, and the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed to the south. Next to it is the Lobnoye Mesto, a white stone platform from the 16th century – a place for public proclamations.
Lenin’s mausoleum, the final resting place of Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, is by the Kremlin Wall. Right behind it are the graves of major political leaders and heroes of the Soviet Union, including Joseph Stalin.

Coming at night is a good idea, when the nearby buildings are illuminated.
If you're a keen skater, make sure to visit in winter, when a skate rink is on.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St. Basil's Cathedral

2) St. Basil's Cathedral (must see)

A true symbol of Moscow, the Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Russia. Situated next to the Kremlin, its symmetry and brilliant colors are an immediate eye-catcher when visiting Red Square. The cathedral was built on order from Tsar Ivan the Terrible between 1555 and 1561 to celebrate the conquest of the Kazan Khanate.

St. Basil’s design has no parallel in the Russian architecture. It's very much mosque-like, reflecting influence of the Kazan region, and represents a perfect blend of the eastern and western traditions.

Originally, the building was known as Trinity Church and later Cathedral. It featured eight chapels representing the eight battles of Kazan, arranged around a ninth, with the central chapel dedicated to the Intercession. Each chapel is named after a saint and is interconnected with each other via passages. The tenth chapel – over the grave of the venerated local saint Vasily (Basil) – was added in 1588.

Throughout its more than 450-year history, the cathedral has survived several fires, invasion of Napoleonic army and even found itself on the verge of demolition under Joseph Stalin, who thought it might obstruct military parades on Red Square.

Among other highlights of the cathedral are a garden, 400+ icons from the 16th-19th centuries, and a 19th-century portrait of Saint Basil. The onion-style, ten-dome ensemble creates the image of a bonfire flame rising into the sky.

Today, this picturesque ex-house of worship acts as a museum. Also, once a year it hosts the annual Day of Intercession service.

Why You Should Visit:
A true gem of architecture and history, ideal for photo geeks. Pictures taken during daytime or at night are equally impressive.
The colorful exterior is matched by the multi-chapel interior filled with numerous well-kept paintings and wooden carvings.
Oftentimes, small choirs are on hand during the day to showcase the building’s superb acoustics.

A new expansive park behind St. Basil’s, along the river, offers stunning views and camera angles for the cathedral.
Make sure to check if the tours are on – schedules vary randomly during the week.
Lenin's Mausoleum

3) Lenin's Mausoleum (must see)

The Red Square Mausoleum is the final resting place of Vladimir Lenin, the illustrious leader of the Russian Revolution and the founder of the Soviet state. Lenin died on January 21, 1924, aged 53. Despite his expressed will to be buried alongside his mother in St. Petersburg, the overall public sentiment suggested that a simple burial would not be enough.

In response to thousands of appeals urging to preserve Lenin’s memory for future generations, Stalin pushed for the decision to embalm his body and the government began the task of constructing a proper tomb for it. The marble and granite mausoleum, replacing a temporary wooden one, was designed by Alexey Shchusev and completed in 1930.

Here Lenin’s body has been on display ever since, with rare exceptions during wartime in the 1940s when it was evacuated to Siberia. Over the decades, it has been one of the main tourist attractions in Moscow, visited by tens of millions of people.

Contrary to the rumors about a “wax mummy” being on display, it is in fact Lenin that you see. A special and complicated embalming process helps to keep the body presentable to the public. An interesting side note about the tomb is that Joseph Stalin was briefly interred there beside Lenin until the government removed it and buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis during the de-Stalinization campaign in the 1960s.

No photography, video or audio recording of any sort is allowed inside the mausoleum. All visitors are searched prior to entering and are obliged to show respect during the visit: no talking, smoking, hands in pockets, or wearing hats (except for females).

Why You Should Visit:
A glimpse of the historic figure, if only for a minute or so!

Remember to keep moving – you won't be there to stop and stare.
The entrance is free.
GUM Department Store

4) GUM Department Store (must see)

Overlooking Red Square, the famous shopping center, known as GUM, has been in place since 1893. The emporium was built by architect Alexander Pomerantsev and engineer Vladimir Shukhov, and was initially called the Upper Trading Rows. The current abbreviation “GUM” emerged after the Revolution of 1917 and first stood for Gosuderstvenny Universalny Magazin (State Department Store). Later, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and privatization, it was changed to Glavnyi Universalny Magazin (Main Universal Store).

Under Joseph Stalin, GUM served as an office building. It resumed being a shopping mall only after his death in 1953. During the Soviet era it was mostly all queues, as people lined up for the hard-to-get items amid the nationwide deficit of consumer goods. Unlike other stores, GUM never suffered from shortages of inventory. Moreover, its upper floor housed the secret Section 200 which served exclusively the highest ranking members of the PolitBureau, the Communist Party and other Soviet elite.

In the 1990s, the mall was privatized and changed several hands. Today GUM is famed for its exclusive boutiques carrying some of the top international labels money can buy. Still, GUM is more than just a luxury shopping venue.

Many cultural and artistic events take place here on a regular basis. Within the mall there are several notable eateries, such as Café Festivalnoe, Beluga Caviar Bar, Stolovaya № 57 and № 1, to mention but a few well worth visiting. Also, in winter there is a grand skating rink outside GUM where some of the top Russian figure skaters can be spotted alongside regular folk.

Why You Should Visit:
Huge number of boutiques, including many high-end, plus eateries serving some of the best meals near Red Square.
Architecturally mesmerizing, with the glass ceiling being star of the show.
Particularly worth visiting at night, when it's lit up.

Try lining up for the special & very popular ice cream at kiosks to enrich the experience. Enjoying ice cream whilst walking under the glass arcade is quite a treat.
Also, take a moment (and some cash) to explore the onsite luxury toilet.
Kazan Cathedral

5) Kazan Cathedral

Formally known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, this Russian Orthodox temple is largely regarded to be one of the most important churches in Moscow. Among other things, it is famous for being home to the Kazan Icon, symbol of the Virgin Mary – the guardian and patroness of the city of Kazan, which is reported to possess supernatural properties.

The original wooden church on the site was built by Prince Dmitry Pozharsky in the late 1610s-early 1620s to celebrate victory over the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the liberation of Moscow in 1612. The prince financed the construction from his own funds in gratitude for the divine help from the icon, to which he had prayed on several occasions. For years afterwards, the cathedral had been the scene of annual celebrations with a solemn parade led by the Patriarch and the Tsar of Russia carrying a processional cross from the Kremlin. During the Napoleonic invasion, the Kazan Icon once again was heavily prayed to for the safe delivery of Moscow.

After the wooden shrine was destroyed by fire in 1632, Tsar Michael I ordered its replacement with a brick church. In the late 17th century, the church was expanded with a bell tower and a redesigned entrance. Numerous other additions followed over the 1800s, seeing much of the original design lost.

Under the Soviet rule, briefly – from 1929 to 1932 – the building served as the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. It was finally demolished by the Bolsheviks in 1936. What we see today is a replica reconstructed in 1993.

Nowadays, the cathedral is fully restored for religious services, which are held daily. An interesting side note is that the former Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, renamed the Museum of the History of Religion, shares premises with the church.

Why You Should Visit:
Nice at night, as well as during daytime for a photo shoot. Also worth going in for a little while to enjoy listening to the Russian Orthodox chant. The entire service, except for the sermon, is sung.
Inside, you will find a small but highly decorative interior with iconic images and other items associated with the Russian Orthodox faith.
Moscow Metro: Revolution Square Station

6) Moscow Metro: Revolution Square Station (must see)

The Revolution Square subway station (Russian: Ploshchad Revolyutsii) is one of the oldest on the Moscow Metro network. It opened in 1938, designed by Soviet architect Alexey Dushkin, featuring red and yellow marble arches resting on low pylons faced with black Armenian marble.

The most eye-catching element of the decoration is the 76 bronze statues depicting people of the Soviet Union: soldiers, farmers, athletes, writers, aviators, industrial workers, and schoolchildren – created in the style of socialist realism. The sculptures are grouped in 10 pairs replicated four times throughout the station, flanking the archways and two platforms.

The pairs are placed in a certain order, symbolizing Russia's transformation from the pre-revolutionary past, through the revolution, into the post-revolutionary present, and are as follows:

Male worker-partisan & soldier
Male agricultural laborer & sailor with pistol
Male sailor & female aviator
Male frontier guard with a dog & female sharpshooter
Male miner & engineer
Male & female agricultural laborers
Male & female students
Male football player & female athlete
Mother & father in swim clothing
Male & female students in Young Pioneer uniforms

Local folklore has it that some of the sculptures bring good luck, if rubbed. This concerns specific parts of the sculptures, such as the sailor's pistol, the patrolman's dog's nose, the roosters, and the female student's shoe. Numerous passengers touch or rub the statues as they pass, thus giving their bronze a permanent shine.

Why You Should Visit:
Among many nice metro stations in Moscow, this is one of the most beautiful – makes your feel like you're in a museum or in palace hallways!

Amateur photography is allowed, but professional photography requires a special permit from the metro authorities.
To see the station in its full splendor, you need to have a valid ticket. If you intend to get in and out without traveling, consider the minimal possible option, which is a one-way ticket worth under $1.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Bolshoi Theatre

7) Bolshoi Theatre (must see)

Bolshoi Theatre (Russian: Bolshoy Teatr) is the leading theatre company for ballet and opera in Russia, and one of the most renowned in the world. It has by far the world's biggest ballet troupe of more than 200 dancers, attesting to the name "Bolshoi" (Russian for “grand”).

The theatre's history dates back to 1776. The current building was constructed in 1856 after two of its predecessors had burned down.

As of the late 19th century, Bolshoi has been a major influence on the opera and ballet scene throughout the Western world. Perhaps this had helped it survive the Russian Revolution of 1917. At some point, the Bolsheviks considered demolishing the theatre as the relic of the tsarist regime.

During its history the theatre has successfully survived two world wars, as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The landmark edifice has been renovated several times, with the latest rebuild taking place in 2005-2011. Upon its completion, the Bolshoi regained its pre-Soviet times acoustics along with the imperial décor, seeing, among other things, the replacement of the Soviet hammer & sickle emblem with the two-headed eagle coat of arms on the façade.

Why You Should Visit:
To enjoy ballet and/or opera in this world-famous venue – a once-in-a-lifetime experience you'll never forget. Tickets are expensive, but you have to get there at least once!
Even if you don't get in, the external architecture is really powerful in both daytime light and night illumination. The theatre is part of the Circle of Light festival, a unique light show, playing on the architectural form of the building.

Be sure to check on their website what's on and book long in advance because the famous shows sell out quickly.
Be attentive choosing your seats – on the website, there is a seating plan with visibility limitations.
If you're not so interested in seats for the 'historic' stage and just want to see a great performance, you can always choose the 'new' (cheaper) stage next door.
Note: no cards are accepted in bars (cash only), but there is an ATM inside the theatre.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Tverskaya Street

8) Tverskaya Street

Tverskaya Street (Russian: Tverskaya Ulitsa) is the Moscow answer to New York's 5th Avenue, London's Oxford Street and Paris's Champs-Élysées. This is the most expensive thoroughfare in the country and the third most expensive street in the world, based on commercial rent. The bustling boulevard is also the beating heart of the capital's social life and entertainment.

Tverskaya emerged in the 12th century, linking Moscow to its superior, and later chief rival, Tver. The nobility considered fashionable to settle here. Among the Palladian mansions dating from the reign of Catherine the Great are the residence of the Mayor of Moscow (1778–82, rebuilt in), and the English Club (1780s). Towards the end of the 19th century, the street was reconstructed, with the stately neoclassical mansions giving way to the grandiose commercial buildings, such as the eclectic Hotel National (1901-1903) boasting a landmark Russian Art Nouveau interior.

Between the Revolution of 1917 and the rise of Stalinist architecture in the mid-1930s, the street acquired three modernist buildings: constructivist Izvestia Building (1925–1927), Central Telegraph Building (1927-29), and a stern "black cube" of the Lenin Institute (1926). In 1932 Tverskaya was renamed Gorky Street, after Maxim Gorky, the famous revolutionary writer admired by Lenin and Stalin. It was also widened and turned into an avenue, so as to bury the reminders of the ‘tsarism’ epoch (sadly, along with some valuable old houses, too). The most precious ones, however, from the Soviet standpoint, were preserved. Among them was the Moscow Town Hall – presently, the Mayor's office – moved back from the road by 13.5 meters in 1938. What's remarkable is that the building was moved and put on a new foundation in just 41 minutes!!!

The main radial street of Moscow, it stretches from the Kremlin northwards, encompassing all of the city, offering a snapshot of all its European history, stunning architecture, and diverse walks of life.
Walking the entire length of Tverskaya may take some time. If you go for it, do it closer to midnight when the traffic is low, air is fresher and the buildings are intricately lit. Some say, it's better to start from the north and progress "down the hill" towards the Kremlin, which is helpful given that the street is really long.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Alexander Garden

9) Alexander Garden

Alexander Gardens (Russian: Alexandrovsky Sad) is one of the first public parks in Moscow. It was laid out between 1819 and 1823 by order from Tsar Alexander I, and is situated on the site of the riverbed of the Neglinnaya River channeled underground. The garden is subdivided in three smaller ones (Upper, Middle, and Lower), and stretches along all the entire length of the western Kremlin wall.

Immediately next to the main entrance lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Dedicated to all the Soviet soldiers fallen in World War II, it has an eternal flame burning in the center. The Tomb was created in 1967; it contains the body of an unidentified soldier who fell defending Moscow at the 41st kilometer of Leningradskoe Shosse (Highway), which is the nearest point to the capital that the Nazis could get. Known as Post Number One, the Tomb is guarded by the honor sentinels, moved here to from in front of Lenin's Mausoleum in the 1990s.

Further into the middle section of the Upper Garden is an artificial ruined grotto with four marble columns. The grotto was built in 1841 as a reminder of the war of 1812 with real fragments of the houses destroyed during the French occupation of Moscow. The cast iron gate and grille, enclosing this part of the garden, were designed to commemorate the Russian military victory over Napoleon.

In front of the grotto you will find an obelisk erected in 1914 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. Four years later, after the dynasty was gone, the Bolsheviks removed the imperial eagle and re-carved the monument with a list of 19 socialist and communist philosophers and political leaders, personally approved by Lenin. Originally in the Lower Garden, it was moved to its present location in 1966.

From the Lower Garden, members of the public can access the Kremlin through the Borovitskaya Tower. The northern part of the garden is adjacent to the large underground shopping complex at Manege Square.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

10) Kremlin (must see)

The word Kremlin means fortress or fortified city. Situated in the heart of the Russian capital, the Moscow Kremlin (Russian: Moskovskiy Kreml) is a historic citadel overlooking the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west.

The complex comprises five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with towers. Within its walls you will find the most varied monuments, museums and administrative buildings, such as the Grand Kremlin Palace, formerly the Tsar's Moscow residence. Presently, the Kremlin is also the official residence of the Russian President.

Established in 1961, the Kremlin Museums were among the first Soviet patrimonies inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990. Among them are the Armoury Chamber (complete with the Russian Diamond Fund), Tsar Cannon, Tsar Bell, artillery pieces, and more.

The Kremlin Wall was built between the 15th and 16th centuries, replacing the original wooden wall dated from the foundation of Moscow in 1147. The Soviet government moved to Moscow from Petrograd (today's St. Petersburg) in 1918. Both Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin had their personal rooms in the Kremlin. In a bid to remove all the "relics of the tsarist regime" Stalin had the golden eagles on the towers replaced with shining stars, while the wall near Lenin's Mausoleum was turned into the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.

In his turn, Vladimir Putin authorized the construction of helipad inside the Kremlin to avoid disruptions of traffic caused by presidential motorcades. The helipad was completed in May 2013.

Why You Should Visit:
A key feature of any Moscow tour, the Kremlin bursts with interest and, except for presidential and administrative buildings, is open to the public for group and individual guided tours.
Impressive and well maintained, including the park that goes with it and features lots of fountains and storybook sculptures.

Take your photos from the opposite bank of the Moskva river or from the boat.
You can also get a fantastic view of the East walls from the new viewing bridge in Zaryadye Park.
The lines to enter the Kremlin are usually quite long, and the area itself is large, so you'll need to account for that time.
For access to different areas in addition to Kremlin, such as the Armoury, the Diamond Fund or the church area, you will need separate tickets.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Kremlin Armoury

11) Kremlin Armoury (must see)

Established in 1806 by Tsar Alexander I, The Kremlin Armoury (Russian: Oruzheinaya Palata) is the first public museum in Moscow. Located in the Moscow Kremlin it is now part of Moscow Kremlin Museums. The Armoury itself originated as the royal arsenal in 1508, charged with producing, purchasing and storing weapons, jewelry and various household items of the royal family.

In 1700, it was enriched with treasures from the Golden and Silver chambers of the Russian tsars. After the Bolshevik Revolution, the collection grew further with treasures looted from the Patriarch sacristy, Kremlin cathedrals, monasteries and private collections. Apart from the numerous pieces of Russian and European weaponry, the museum also holds tens of arms and armours from Persia and Turkey.

The Armoury is also home to the Russian Diamond Fund, holding unique collections of the Russian, Western European and Eastern applied arts spanning the period from the 5th to the 20th centuries. Some of the highlights include the Imperial Crown of Russia, Monomakh's Cap, the ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible, and the largest collection of Fabergé eggs owned by a single proprietor.

Why You Should Visit:
A unique collection of Russia's historic artifacts, from Alexander the Great's boots to crowns, jewels and gem-encrusted items, splendid costumes, royal coaches, religious artifacts, state gifts, a beautiful Fabergé display and so on...

Getting tickets online is a great time-saver because all you have to do is go to the ticket office and claim your pre-purchased tickets.
Tickets to the Armoury are for a specific time and separate from the Cathedral tickets, so make sure you check for your entrance time.
Once inside, you can easily borrow audio guides (deposit required) and can stroll through the halls.
Visit Duration: approximately 2 hours
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Moscow, Russia

Create Your Own Walk in Moscow

Create Your Own Walk in Moscow

Creating your own self-guided walk in Moscow is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Arbat Street Walking Tour

Arbat Street Walking Tour

The historic center of Moscow is mainly associated with Arbat, one of the oldest streets in the city, emerged as far back as the early 15th century. The origin of the name “Arbat” is subject to numerous theories suggesting the Russian, Tatar, Persian, or even Arab roots, meaning the "bumpy road", the "cart road", the "suburb", or the "outskirts".

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
Communist Moscow Tour

Communist Moscow Tour

The arrival of communist ideology left an indelible imprint in the history of the 20th century, largely affecting the lives of people, arts, and architecture. Having been at the heart of the Soviet empire for almost 70 years, Moscow is a great destination for everyone interested in the Soviet heritage, the traces of which are found throughout the city.

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Red Square Walking Tour

Red Square Walking Tour

There's hardly any place in Russia more popular than Moscow's Red Square. Marking the center of the city, Red Square indeed represents in many ways the very heart of the Russian capital and the whole country. Built in the late 15th century, it has been a focal point in Russia's social and political life ever since, witnessing many historic and sometimes dramatic events including...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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