125 Best Sights in Moscow, Russia

Armory Chamber

Kremlin/Red Square Fodor's choice

The oldest and richest museum in the Kremlin was founded in 1806 as the Imperial Court Museum, which was created out of three royal treasuries: the Court Treasury, where the regalia of the tsars and ambassadorial gifts were kept; the Stable Treasury, which contained the royal harnesses and carriages used by the tsars during state ceremonies; and the Armory, a collection of arms, armor, and other valuable objects gathered from the country's chief armories and storehouses. The Imperial Court Museum was moved to the present building in 1851 and enhanced and expanded after the Bolshevik Revolution with valuables taken from wealthy noble families as well as from the Patriarchal Sacristy of the Moscow Kremlin. The roughly 4,000 artifacts here date from the 12th century to 1917, and include a rare collection of 17th-century silver. Tickets for the Armory are sold separately at the main box office and allow you to enter at a specific time. Halls (zal) VI–IX are on the first floor, Halls I–V on the second.

Hall I displays the works of goldsmiths and silversmiths of the 12th through 19th centuries, and Hall II contains a collection of 18th- to 20th-century jewelry. One of the most astounding exhibits is the collection of Fabergé eggs on display in Hall II (Case 23). Among them is a silver egg whose surface is engraved with a map of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The "surprise" inside the egg, which is also on display, was a golden clockwork model of a train with a platinum engine, windows of crystal, and a headlight made of a tiny ruby.

Feeling overwhelmed by everything to see at the Armory Chamber? If nothing else, be sure to see the Fabergé eggs. If the weather is too good to spend all day indoors, check out the splendor of the Cathedral Square and come back to see the Armory another day.

Hall III contains Asian and Western European arms and armor, including heavy Western European suits of armor from the 15th to 17th centuries, pistols, and firearms.

Hall IV showcases a large collection of Russian arms and armor from the 12th to early 17th centuries, with a striking display of helmets. The earliest helmet here dates from the 13th century. Here, too, is the helmet of Prince Ivan, the son of Ivan the Terrible. The prince was killed by his father at the age of 28, an accidental victim of the tsar's unpredictable rage. The tragic event has been memorialized in a famous painting by Ilya Repin now in the Tretyakov Gallery, showing the frightened tsar holding his mortally wounded son.

Hall V is filled with foreign gold and silver objects, mostly ambassadorial presents to the tsars. Among the displays is the "Olympic Service" of china presented to Alexander I by Napoléon after the signing of the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807.

Hall VI holds vestments of silk, velvet, and brocade, embroidered with gold and encrusted with jewels and pearls. Also on display in this section are several coronation dresses, including the one Catherine the Great wore in 1762. Notice how small some of the waists are on the dresses. A pair of Peter the Great's leather riding boots are also on display – take note of their huge size.

Hall VII contains regalia and the imperial thrones. The oldest throne, veneered with carved ivory, belonged to Ivan the Terrible. The throne of the first years of Peter the Great's reign, when he shared power with his older brother Ivan, has two seats in front and one hidden in the back. The boys' older sister, Sophia (1657–1704), who ruled as regent from 1682 to 1689, sat in the back, prompting the young rulers to give the right answers to the queries of ambassadors and others. Among the crowns, the oldest is the sable-trimmed Cap of Monomakh, which dates to the 13th century.

Hall VIII contains dress harnesses of the 16th through 18th centuries.

Hall IX has a marvelous collection of court carriages. Here you'll find the Winter Coach that carried Elizaveta Petrovna (daughter of Peter the Great and someone who clearly liked her carriages; 1709–62) from St. Petersburg to Moscow for her coronation.

Bolshoi Theater

Kitai Gorod Fodor's choice

Moscow's biggest (bolshoi means "big") and oldest theater, formerly known as the Great Imperial Theater, was completely rebuilt after a fire in 1854. Lenin made his last public speech here in 1922. The splendor of tapestries, balconies, crystal chandeliers, and gold-leaf trim is matched by the quality of the resident opera and ballet troupes, two of the most famous performing-arts companies in the world. If you want to see a performance at the Bolshoi, be sure to book one of its 2,155 seats as far ahead as possible because performances can sell out quickly. To the left of the Bolshoi is the RAMT (Russian Academic Youth Theater), which puts on performances with a talented group of young actors. This is where you'll find the Bolshoi's main ticket office. The plaza, with fountains and fine wooden benches, is a nice spot for a relaxing look at the theater.

Donskoy Monastery

Southern Outskirts Fodor's choice

In 1591, the Russian army stood waiting for an impending attack from Tatar troops grouped on the opposite side of the river. According to legend, the Russians awoke one morning to find the Tatars gone. Their sudden retreat was considered a miracle, and Boris Godunov ordered a monastery built to commemorate the miraculous victory. The monastery, now in a secluded, wooded area in the southwest section of the city, was named in honor of a wonder-working icon of the Virgin of the Don that Prince Dimitry Donskoy had supposedly carried during his campaign in 1380 in which the Russians won their first decisive victory against the Tatars.

The monastery grounds are surrounded by a high defensive wall with 12 towers, the last of the defense fortifications to be built around Moscow. When you enter through the western gates, the icon looks down on you from above the entrance to the imposing New Cathedral, built in the late 17th century by Peter the Great's half-sister, the regent Sophia. The smaller Old Cathedral was built between 1591 and 1593, during the reign of Boris Godunov. After the plague swept through Moscow in 1771, Catherine the Great forbade any more burials in the city center and the monastery became a fashionable burial place for the well-to-do, and many leading intellectuals, politicians, and aristocrats were buried here in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

From 1934 to 1992, a branch of the Shchusev Architecture Museum kept architectural details of churches, monasteries, and public buildings destroyed under the Soviets inside the monastery walls. Bits and pieces of demolished churches and monuments remain, forming a graveyard of destroyed architecture from Russia's past.

Recommended Fodor's Video

New Maiden Convent

Southern Outskirts Fodor's choice

Tsar Vasily III (1479–1533) founded this convent in 1524 on the road to Smolensk and Lithuania. Due to the tsar's initiative, it enjoyed an elevated position among the many monasteries and convents of Moscow and became a convent primarily for noblewomen. Little remains of the original structure. Enclosed by a crenellated wall with 12 colorful battle towers, today's complex dates largely from the 17th century, when the convent was significantly rebuilt and enhanced.

Among the first of the famous women to take the veil here was Irina, wife of the feebleminded Tsar Fyodor and the sister of Boris Godunov, in the 16th century. Godunov was a powerful nobleman who exerted much influence over the tsar and when Fyodor died, Godunov was the logical successor to the throne. Rather than proclaim himself tsar, he followed his sister to Novodevichy. Biding his time, Godunov waited until the clergy and townspeople begged him to become tsar. His election took place at the convent, inside the Cathedral of Smolensk.

In the next century, Novodevichy became the residence of Sophia, the half-sister of Peter the Great, who ruled as his regent from 1682 through 1689, while he was still a boy. She didn't want to give up her position when the time came for Peter's rule and was deposed by him. He kept her prisoner inside Novodevichy. Even that wasn't enough to restrain the ambitious sister, and from her cell she organized a revolt of the streltsy (Russian militia). The revolt was summarily put down, and to punish Sophia, Peter had the bodies of the dead streltsy hung up along the walls of the convent outside Sophia's window. He left the decaying bodies hanging for more than a year. Yet another of the convent's later "inmates" was Yevdokiya Lopukhina, Peter's first wife. Peter considered her a pest and rid himself of her by sending her to a convent in faraway Suzdal. She outlived him, though, and eventually returned to Moscow. She spent her final years at Novodevichy, where she's buried.

You enter the convent through the arched passageway topped by the Preobrazhensky Tserkov (Gate Church of the Transfiguration), widely considered one of the best examples of Moscow baroque. To your left as you enter is the ticket booth, where tickets are sold to the various exhibits housed in the convent. Exhibits include rare and ancient Russian paintings, both ecclesiastical and secular; woodwork and ceramics; and fabrics and embroidery. There's also a large collection of illuminated and illustrated books, decorated with gold, silver, and jewels. The building to your right is the Lophukin House, where Yevdokiya lived from 1727 to 1731. Sophia's prison, now a guardhouse, is to your far right, in a corner of the northern wall.

The predominant structure inside the convent is the huge five-dome Sobor Smolenskoy Bogomateri (Cathedral of the Virgin of Smolensk), dedicated in 1525 and built by Alexei Fryazin. It was closely modeled after the Kremlin's Assumption Cathedral. Inside, there's a spectacular iconostasis with 84 wooden columns and icons dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Simon Ushakov, a leader in 17th-century icon art, was among the outstanding Moscow artists who participated in the creation of the icons. Also here are the tombs of Sophia and Yevdokiya. Yet another historic tale connected to the convent tells how the cathedral was slated for destruction during the War of 1812. Napoléon had ordered the cathedral dynamited, but a brave nun managed to extinguish the fuse just in time, and the cathedral was spared.

To the right of the cathedral is the Uspensky Tserkov (Church of the Assumption) and Refectory, originally built in 1687 and then rebuilt after a fire in 1796. It was here that the blue-blooded nuns took their meals.

A landmark feature of Novodevichy is the ornate belfry towering above its eastern wall. It rises 236 feet and consists of six ornately decorated tiers. The structure is topped by a gilded dome that can be seen from miles away.

Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

Kropotkinskaya Fodor's choice

One of the finest art museums in Russia, the Pushkin is famous for its collection of works by Gauguin, Cézanne, and Picasso, among other masterpieces. Founded by Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetayev (1847–1913) of Moscow State University, father of poet Marina Tsvetaeva, the museum was originally established as a teaching aid for art students, which explains why some of the collection is made up of copies. The original building dates from 1895 to 1912 and was first known as the Alexander III Museum. It was renamed for Pushkin in 1937, on the centennial of the poet's death.

The first-floor exhibit halls display a fine collection of ancient Egyptian art (Hall 1); Greece and Rome are also well represented. The museum's great masterpieces include a fine concentration of Italian works from the 15th century (Room 5), among them Botticelli's The Annunciation, Tomaso's The Assassination of Caesar, Guardi's Alexander the Great at the Body of the Persian King Darius, and Sano di Pietro's The Beheading of John the Baptist. Rembrandt's Portrait of an Old Woman is in Room 10, and paintings by Murillo, Rubens, and Van Dyck are in Room 11. There are also frequent exhibits of collections on loan from other prominent European art museums.

Red Square

Kremlin/Red Square Fodor's choice

Famous for the grand military parades staged here during the Soviet era, this vast space was originally called the Torg, the Slavonic word for marketplace. Many suppose that the name "Red Square" has something to do with Communism or the Bolshevik Revolution. In fact, the name dates to the 17th century. The adjective krasny originally meant "beautiful," but over the centuries the meaning of the word changed to "red," hence the square's present name. The square is most beautiful and impressive at night, when it's entirely illuminated by floodlights, with the ruby-red stars atop the Kremlin towers glowing against the dark sky. There are five stars in all, one for each of the tallest towers. They made their appearance in 1937 to replace the double-headed eagle, a tsarist symbol that is again an emblem of Russia. The glass stars, which are lighted from inside and designed to turn with the wind, are far from dainty: the smallest weighs a ton.

Buy Tickets Now

Sanduny Bath House

Kitai Gorod Fodor's choice

This impeccably clean banya, known also simply as "Sanduny," is probably the city's most elegant bathhouse, with a lavish blue-and-gold-painted interior dating to the early 1800s. The entrance is marked by wrought-iron lamps and a circular marble staircase. The VIP section has a pool surrounded by marble columns and a lounge with leather booths. Note that the banya essentials of a towel and a sheet to sit on in the steam room cost extra; you can also bring your own. You can also purchase birch branches, which you may be able to convince a fellow bather to beat you with (or you can hire a trained masseuse there to do it). This is a classic Russian banya procedure that's supposedly good for the skin. There is a thorough list of rules and recommendations printed in English at the ticket booth. On-site facilities include a beauty parlor and, of course, more traditional massage.

St. Basil's Cathedral

Kremlin/Red Square Fodor's choice

The proper name of this whimsical structure is Church of the Intercession. It was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to celebrate his conquest of the Tatar city of Kazan on October 1, 1552, the day of the feast of the Intercession. The central chapel, which rises 107 feet, is surrounded by eight towerlike chapels linked by an elevated gallery. Each chapel is topped by an onion dome carved with its own distinct pattern and dedicated to a saint on whose day the Russian army won battles against the Tatars. The cathedral was built between 1555 and 1560 on the site of the earlier Trinity Church, where the Holy Fool Vasily (Basil) had been buried in 1552. Basil was an adversary of the tsar, publicly reprimanding Ivan the Terrible for his cruel and bloodthirsty ways. He was protected, however, from the tsar by his status as a Holy Fool, for he was considered by the Church to be an emissary of God. Ironically, Ivan the Terrible's greatest creation has come to be known by the name of his greatest adversary. In 1558 an additional chapel was built in the northeast corner over Basil's remains, and from that time on the cathedral has been called St. Basil's.

Very little is known about the architect who built the cathedral. It may have been the work of two men—Barma and Postnik—but now it seems more likely that there was just one architect, Postnik Yakovlyev, who went by the nickname Barma. Legend has it that upon completion of the cathedral, the mad tsar had the architect blinded to ensure that he would never create such a masterpiece again.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, the cathedral was closed and in 1929 turned into a museum dedicated to the Russian conquest of Kazan. Although services are held here on Sunday at 10 am, the museum is still open. The antechamber houses displays that chronicle the Russian conquest of medieval Kazan as well as examples of 16th-century Russian and Tatar weaponry. Another section details the history of the cathedral's construction, with displays of the building materials used. After viewing the museum exhibits, you're free to wander through the cathedral. Compared with the exotic exterior, the dark and simple interiors, their brick walls decorated with faded flower frescoes, are somewhat disappointing. The most interesting chapel is the main one, which contains a 19th-century baroque iconostasis.

Moscow, 109012, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: 500 R, Daily 11--5 winter, 10--7 summer, Closed first Wed. of every month

Tolstoy House Estate Museum

Kropotkinskaya Fodor's choice

Tolstoy bought this house in 1882, at the age of 54, and spent nine winters here with his family. In summer he preferred his country estate in Yasnaya Polyana. The years here were not particularly happy ones. By this time Tolstoy had already experienced a religious conversion that prompted him to disown his earlier great novels, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina. His conversion sparked a feud among his own family members, which manifested itself even at the dining table: Tolstoy's wife, Sofia Andreevna, would sit at one end with their sons, while the writer would sit with their daughters at the opposite end.

The ground floor has several of the children's bedrooms and the nursery where Tolstoy's seven-year-old son died of scarlet fever in 1895, a tragedy that haunted the writer for the rest of his life. Also here are the dining rooms and kitchen, as well as the Tolstoys' bedroom, in which you can see the small desk used by his wife to meticulously copy all of her husband's manuscripts by hand.

Upstairs you'll find the Tolstoys' receiving room, where they held small parties and entertained guests, who included most of the leading figures of their day. The grand piano in the corner was played by such greats as Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov. When in this room, you should ask the attendant to play the enchanting recording of Tolstoy greeting a group of schoolchildren, followed by a piano composition written and played by him. Also on this floor is an Asian-style den and Tolstoy's study, where he wrote his last novel, Resurrection.

Although electric lighting and running water were available at the time to even the lesser nobility, Count Tolstoy chose to forgo both, believing it better to live simply. The museum honors his desire and shows the house as it was when he lived there. Inside the museum, each room has signs in English explaining its significance and contents.

21 ul. Lva Tolstogo, Moscow, 119034, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: 200 R, Tues., Thurs. 12--8; Wed., Fri., Sat., Sun. 10--6, Closed Mon. and last Fri. of the month

Tretyakov Gallery

Zamoskvorech’ye Fodor's choice

On view are some of the world's greatest masterpieces of Russian art, spanning the 11th through the 20th centuries. The works include sacred icons, stunning portrait and landscape art, the famous Russian Realists' paintings that culminated in the Wanderers' Group, and splendid creations of Russian Symbolism, impressionism, and art nouveau.

In the mid-1800s, a successful young Moscow industrialist, Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov, was determined to amass a collection of national art that would be worthy of a museum of fine arts for the entire country. In pursuit of this high-minded goal, he began to purchase paintings, drawings, and sculpture. He became one of the—if not the—era's most valued patrons of the arts. In 1892 he donated his collection to the Moscow city government, along with a small inheritance of other fine works collected by his brother Sergei. The holdings have been continually increased by subsequent state acquisitions, including the seizure of privately owned pieces after the Communist revolution.

The rich collection of works completed after 1850 pleases museumgoers the most, for it comprises a selection of pieces from each of the Russian masters, sometimes of their best works. Hanging in the gallery are paintings by Nikolai Ge (Peter the Great Interrogating the Tsarevich Alexei), Vasily Perov (Portrait of Fyodor Dostoyevsky), Vasily Polenov (Grandmother's Garden), Viktor Vasnetsov (After Prince Igor's Battle with the Polovtsy), and many others. Several canvases of the beloved Ivan Shishkin, with their depictions of Russian fields and forests—including Morning in the Pine Forest, of three bear cubs cavorting—fill one room. There are also several paintings by the equally popular Ilya Repin, including his most famous painting, The Volga Boatmen. Later works, from the end of the 19th century, include an entire room devoted to the Symbolist Mikhail Vrubel (The Princess Bride, Demon Seated); Nestorov's glowing Vision of the Youth Bartholomew, the boy who would become St. Sergius, founder of the monastery at Sergeyev-Posad; and the magical pieces by Valentin Serov (Girl with Peaches, Girl in Sunlight). You'll also see turn-of-the-20th-century paintings by Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (1874–1947), whose New York City home is a museum.

The first floor houses the icon collection, including the celebrated Holy Trinity painted by the late-14th- and early-15th-century master Andrei Rublyov. Also on display are some of the earliest icons to reach ancient Kievan Rus', such as the 12th-century Virgin of Vladimir, brought from Byzantium.

The second floor holds 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century paintings and sculpture and is where indefatigable Russian art lovers satisfy their aesthetic longings. A series of halls of 18th-century portraits, including particularly fine works by Dmitry Levitsky, acts as a time machine into the country's noble past. Other rooms are filled with works of the 19th century, embodying the burgeoning movements of romanticism and naturalism in such gems of landscape painting as Silvester Shchedrin's Aqueduct at Tivoli and Mikhail Lebedev's Path in Albano and In the Park. Other favorite pieces to look for are Karl Bryullov's The Last Day of Pompeii, Alexander Ivanov's Appearance of Christ to the People, and Orest Kiprensky's well-known Portrait of the Poet Alexander Pushkin.

When you leave the gallery, pause a moment to look back on the fanciful art nouveau building itself, which is quite compelling. Tretyakov's home still forms a part of the gallery. Keep in mind that the ticket office closes an hour before the museum closes. There are no English-language translations on the plaques here, but you can rent an audio guide or buy an English-language guidebook.

Buy Tickets Now

Alexander Garden

Kremlin/Red Square

Laid out in the 19th century by the Russian architect Osip Bove, this garden named after Alexander I stretches along the northwest wall of the Kremlin, where the Neglinnaya River once flowed. The river now runs beneath the garden, through an underground pipe. Bove added the classical columns topped with an arc of chipped bricks; in the 19th century such "romantic" imitation ruins were popular in gardens. Today this mock ruin is blocked by a gate, but in eras past it was a famous place for winter sledding. A few pleasant outdoor cafés opposite the garden on the side of the Manezh building provide a nice place to rest after a tour of the Kremlin.

Buy Tickets Now
Moscow, 119019, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Fri.–Wed. 10--5, Closed Thurs.

Amusement Palace

Kremlin/Red Square

Behind the State Kremlin Palace stands this smaller palace used by boyarin (nobleman) Alexei in the 17th century as a venue for theatrical productions. Stalin and Trotsky had apartments here, those these are closed to the public.

Andrei Bely Apartment Museum


On display are artifacts from the life of the writer Andrei Bely (1880–1934), considered to be one of the great Russian Symbolists—he's most famous for his novel Petersburg. The "Lines of Life" drawing on the wall of the first room shows the "energy" of Bely's life (the blue line in the middle) marked by dates and names of people he knew during specific times. The keepers of the museum offer exhaustive tours of the apartment, but they are in Russian only.

55 ul. Arbat, Moscow, 119002, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: 200 R, Wed., Fri., Sat., Sun. 10--6, Thurs. 12--9, Closed Mon., Tues. and the last Fri. of the month

Andronikov Monastery of the Saviour

Eastern Outskirts

A stroll inside the heavy stone fortifications of this monastery, founded in 1360 by Metropolitan Alexei and named in honor of its first abbot, St. Andronik, is an excursion into Moscow's past. The loud crowing of birds overhead drowns out the rumble of the city. Even the air seems purer here, perhaps because of the old birch trees growing on the monastery grounds and just outside its walls. The site was chosen not only for its strategic importance—on the steep banks of the Moskva River—but also because, according to legend, it was from this hill that Metropolitan Alexei got his first glimpse of the Kremlin.

The dominating structure on the monastery grounds is the Spassky Sobor (Cathedral of the Savior), Moscow's oldest stone structure. Erected in 1420–27 on the site of an earlier, wooden church, it rests on the mass grave of Russian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380), the decisive Russian victory that eventually led to the end of Mongol rule in Russia. Unfortunately, the original interiors, which were painted by Andrei Rublyov and another famous icon painter, Danil Chorny, were lost in a fire in 1812. Fragments of some frescoes have been restored, however.

The building to your immediate left as you enter the monastery is the former abbot's residence. It now houses a permanent exhibit titled "Masterpieces of Ancient Russian Art," with works from the 13th through 16th centuries. The next building, to the left and across the pathway from the Cathedral of the Savior, is the Refectory, built during the reign of Ivan the Great, between 1504 and 1506 and housing icons from the 19th and 20th centuries. Attached to the Refectory is the Tserkov Archangela Mikhaila (Church of St. Michael the Archangel), another example of the style known as Moscow baroque. It was commissioned by the Lopukhin family—relatives of Yevdokiya Lopukhina, the first, unloved wife of Peter the Great—as the family crypt in 1694. But there are no Lopukhins buried here, as Peter had Yevdokiya banished to a monastery in faraway Suzdal and her family was exiled to Siberia.

The last exhibit is in the former monks' residence and is devoted to 3rd-century saint Nikolai the Miracle Worker (270–343), better known in the West as St. Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus. Icons here depict his life and work.

10 pl. Andronevskaya, Moscow, 105120, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Daily 8--8

Annunciation Cathedral

Kremlin/Red Square

This remarkable monument of Russian architecture, linking three centuries of art and religion, was the private chapel of the royal family. Its foundations were laid in the 14th century, and in the 15th century a triangular brick church in the early Moscow style was erected on the site. Partially destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt in the 16th century during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, when six gilded cupolas were added. Tsar Ivan would enter the church by the southeast-side porch entrance, built especially for him. He was married three times too many (for a total of six wives) and was therefore, under the bylaws of the Orthodox religion, not allowed to enter the church through its main entrance. The interior is decorated by brilliant frescoes painted in 1508 by the Russian artist Feodosy. The polished tiles of agate jasper covering the floor are said to be a gift from the Shah of Persia. Most striking of all is the chapel's iconostasis. The fine icons of the second and third tiers were painted by some of Russia's greatest masters—Andrei Rublyov, Theophanes the Greek, and Prokhor of Gorodets.

Moscow, 103132, Russia
495-695--4146-Excursion office (open daily 9--5)
Sights Details
Rate Includes: 500R Ticket for the entire architectural complex, Fri.–Wed. 10--5, Closed Thurs.

Arkhangelskoye Estate Museum

This striking assemblage was begun at the end of the 18th century for Prince Golitsyn by the French architect Chevalier de Huerne. In 1810 the family fell upon hard times and sold the estate to a rich landlord, Yusupov, the onetime director of the imperial theaters and St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum, and ambassador to several European lands.

The estate became home to Prince Yusupov's extraordinary art collection. The collection includes paintings by Boucher, Vigée-Lebrun, Hubert Robert, Roslin, Tiepolo, Van Dyck, and many others, as well as antique statues, furniture, mirrors, chandeliers, glassware, and china. Much of the priceless furniture once belonged to Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour. There are also samples of fabrics, china, and glassware that were produced on the estate itself.

Allées and strolling lanes wind through the French Park, which is populated with statues and monuments commemorating royal visits. There's also a monument to Pushkin, for whom Arkhangelskoye was a favorite retreat. In the western part of the park is an interesting small pavilion, known as the Temple to the Memory of Catherine the Great, that depicts the empress as Themis, goddess of justice. Supposedly Yusupov turned the head of Russia's empress, and he allegedly built the temple to complement a painting she had previously commissioned—one in which she was depicted as Venus, with Yusupov as Apollo.

Back outside the estate grounds on the right-hand side of the main road stands the Estate (Serf) Theater, built in 1817 by the serf architect Ivanov. Currently a museum, the theater originally seated 400 and was the home of the biggest and best-known company of serf actors in Russia, who first appeared in Russia in the mid-18th century and disappeared after 1861, when Tsar Alexander II freed the serfs. In his summer serf theater, Prince Nikolai Yusupov favored weekly opera performances as well as dance shows with rich stage decorations. The well-preserved stage decorations are by the Venetian artist Pietrodi Gonzaga.

The main palace has been under restoration for many years and only some rooms are open. To go by public transit, take Bus 541 or 549 from the Moscow metro station Tushinskaya to the Arkhangelskoye stop, or minibus 151 to the Sanatory stop. To get there by car, go west on shosse Novorizhskoye and look for the signs for the estate.

Arkhangelskoye, 143420, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: 150 R, [Park]: Mon.-Fri. 10--10, Sat., Sun. and public holiday 10--9, [Displays and exhibitions]: Wed.-Fri. 10--5, Sat., Sun. and public holiday from 10--6, Closed Mon., Tues., and last Wed. of the month


Kremlin/Red Square

Commissioned in 1701 by Peter the Great, the weapons arsenal was partially destroyed by the fire that greeted Napoléon as he stormed the city in 1812 (some say the Russian army set fire to the city intentionally). Its present form dates from the early 19th century, when it was given its yellow color and simple but impressive shape by Osip Bove (the same architect who designed the Alexander Garden). Notable on the building's facade are arched windows framed in white granite and statuettes built into the walls flanking the main entrance. Once planned to be the site of a museum dedicated to the Napoleonic wars, today it houses government offices and is closed to the public.

Assumption Cathedral

Kremlin/Red Square

This dominating structure is one of the oldest edifices of the Kremlin, built in 1475–79 by the Italian architect Aristotle Fiorovanti, who had spent many years in Russia studying traditional Russian architecture. Until the 1917 revolution, this was Russia's principal church, where the crowning ceremonies of the tsars took place, a tradition that continued even after the capital was transferred to St. Petersburg. Patriarchs and metropolitans were enthroned and buried here.

Topped by five gilded domes, the cathedral is both austere and solemn. The ceremonial entrance faces Cathedral Square; the visitor entrance is on the west side (to the left). After visiting the Archangel and Annunciation cathedrals, you may be struck by the spacious interior here, unusual for a medieval church. Light pours in through two rows of narrow windows. The cathedral contains rare ancient paintings, including the icon of the Virgin of Vladimir (the work of an 11th-century Byzantine artist), the 12th-century icon of St. George, and the 14th-century Trinity icon. The carved throne in the right-hand corner belonged to Ivan the Terrible, and the gilt wood throne to the far left was the seat of the tsarina. Between the two is the patriarch's throne.

After the revolution the church was turned into a museum, but in 1989 religious services were resumed on major church holidays.

Buy Tickets Now

Bely Dom

Ulitsa Bolshaya Nikitskaya

This large, white, modern building perched along the riverbank is the headquarters of the Russian government and the prime minister. Before the August 1991 coup, the "White House" was the headquarters of the Russian Republic of the USSR. In October 1993 the building was shelled in response to the rioting and near-coup by Vice President Alexander Rutskoi and parliamentarians. They had barricaded themselves in the White House after Boris Yeltsin's decision to dissolve parliament and hold new elections. Today the building is also known as the Dom Pravitelstvo, or Government House. It sits directly across the Moskva River from the Radisson Royal Hotel, once the Ukraina, one of the seven "Stalin Gothic" skyscrapers built in Moscow in the mid-20th century.

Cathedral of Christ The Savior


Moscow's largest Orthodox cathedral has a colorful past of destruction and reconstruction. Built between 1839 and 1883 as a memorial to the Russian troops who fell fighting Napoléon's forces in 1812, the cathedral was for more than a century the largest single structure in Moscow, and it dominated the city's skyline. It took almost 50 years to build what only a few hours would destroy: on December 5, 1931, the cathedral was blown up. Under Stalin, the site had been designated for a mammoth new "Palace of Soviets," intended to replace the Kremlin as the seat of the Soviet government. Plans called for topping the 1,378-foot-tall structure with a 300-foot statue of Lenin that would have spent more time above the clouds than in plain view if the plans had ever materialized. World War II delayed construction, and the entire project was scrapped when it was discovered that the land along the embankment was too damp to support such a heavy structure.

The site lay empty and abandoned until 1958, when the Moscow Pool, one of the world's largest outdoor swimming pools, was built. Divided into several sections, for training, competition, diving, and public swimming, it was heated and kept open all year long, even in the coldest days of winter. The pool was connected to the locker rooms by covered tunnels, and you could reach it by swimming through them. The pool was dismantled in 1994. Then—in perhaps one of architectural history's stranger twists—the cathedral was resurrected in 1997 from the ruins at a cost of more than $150 million.

You enter a hallway lined with writing that surrounds the central chamber. These marble panels covered in prerevolution Russian script describe the Napoléonic invasion of Russia in 1812. Hundreds of battles are detailed, beginning with the French army's first steps into Russian territory and ending with Napoléon's downfall in Paris and the reinstatement of peace in Europe. The immense main hall is covered in frescoes. Look straight up into the central cupola to see a dramatic painting of the Holy Father with baby Jesus in his hands. Across from the figures is the word "elohim" (meaning "God") written in Hebrew. Off to one side are two thrones behind a short fence. These are symbolic seats for Saint Nicholas the Miracle-Maker and the legendary Russian war hero Prince Alexander Nevsky, who has been honored as a saint by the Orthodox Church since his death in 1243.

The cathedral has been at the center of several controversies. A consumer watchdog group has accused the fund that oversees the church of profiting on the Orthodox Church's property by allowing a car wash, parking lot, dry cleaner, conference center, and café to operate underneath the huge structure. In 2012, the all-female, Russian punk band Pussy Riot performed a now-notorious protest concert inside the church. The stunt landed three of the members behind bars after a trial critics claimed was the Kremlin's harsh punishment for dissent.

15 ul. Volkhonka, Moscow, 119019, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Mon 1--5, Tue.- Sun 10--5

Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan

Kitai Gorod

Built between 1633 and 1636 to commemorate Russia's liberation from Polish occupation during the Time of Troubles, this church was purposely blown up in 1936, at the beginning of a planned remodeling of all Kitai Gorod that was to help usher in a new industrial era. The centerpiece of the area was to be a monumental House of Industry, but neither the House nor the plan ever came to fruition. The current cathedral is a replica, rebuilt and fully restored in 1993. Its salmon-and-cream–painted brick and gleaming gold cupolas are now a colorful magnet at the northeast corner of Red Square, between the Historical Museum and GUM. Inside and outside hang icons of Our Lady of Kazan; every inch of the impressive interior is covered in frescoes and whorled floral patterns. Many worshippers visit throughout the day.

Cathedral of the Archangel

Kremlin/Red Square

This five-dome cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Great (1440–1505), whose reign witnessed much new construction in Moscow and in the Kremlin in particular. The cathedral was built in 1505–09 to replace an earlier church of the same name. The architect was the Italian Aleviso Novi, who came to Moscow at the invitation of the tsar; note the distinct elements of the Italian Renaissance in the cathedral's ornate decoration, particularly in the scallop-shaped gables on its facade. Until 1712, when the Russian capital was moved to St. Petersburg, the cathedral was the burial place of Russian princes and tsars. Inside there are 46 tombs, including that of Ivan Kalita (Ivan "Moneybags"; circa 1304–40), who was buried in the earlier cathedral in 1340. The tomb of Ivan the Terrible (1530–84) is hidden behind the altar; that of his young son, Dmitry, is under the stone canopy to your right as you enter the cathedral. Dmitry's death at the age of seven is one of the many unsolved mysteries in Russian history. He was the last descendant of Ivan the Terrible, and many believe he was murdered because he posed a threat to the ill-fated Boris Godunov (circa 1551–1605), who at the time ruled as regent. A government commission set up to investigate Dmitry's death concluded that he was playing with a knife and "accidentally" slit his own throat. The only tsar to be buried here after 1712 was Peter II (Peter the Great's grandson; 1715–30), who died of smallpox while visiting Moscow.

The walls and pillars of the cathedral are covered in frescoes that tell the story of ancient Russian history. The original frescoes, painted right after the church was built, were repainted in the 17th century by a team of more than 50 leading artists from several Russian towns. Restoration work in the 1950s uncovered some of the original medieval frescoes, fragments of which can be seen in the altar area. The pillars are decorated with figures of warriors; Byzantine emperors; the early princes of Kievan Rus' (the predecessor of modern-day Russia and Ukraine), Vladimir and Novgorod; as well as the princes of Moscow, including Vasily III, the son of Ivan the Great. The frescoes on the walls depict religious scenes, including the deeds of Archangel Michael. The carved baroque iconostasis is 43 feet high and dates from the 19th century. The icons themselves are mostly 17th century, although the revered icon of Archangel Michael is believed to date to the 14th century.

Buy Tickets Now

Cathedral of the Christ's Ascension in Storozhakh near Nikitsky Gate

Ulitsa Bolshaya Nikitskaya

Like Moscow State University, this classical church was designed by Matvei Kazakov and built in the 1820s. The church is most famous as the site where the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin married the younger Natalya Goncharova; Pushkin died six years later, in a duel defending her honor. There is a kitschy and much despised statue of the couple on the square outside the church. (History has judged Natalya harshly; she was probably not guilty of adultery, although she did enjoy flirting.) The statue in the park to the left of the church as you face it is of Alexey Tolstoy, a relative of Leo's and a well-known Soviet writer of historical novels. The church stood empty and abandoned for many years, but after major repairs, religious services have resumed.

Cathedral of the Epiphany

Kitai Gorod

This church is all that remains of the monastery that was founded on this site in the 13th century by Prince Daniil of Moscow. A good example of the Moscow baroque style, the imposing late-17th-century cathedral sits among former mansions and current government buildings near Red Square. One exit of the Ploshchad Revolutsii metro station is directly across the street. The entire church, both inside and out, has been restored in recent years, though the rather plain interior pales in comparison to the bright pink bell tower and walls of the facade.

Cathedral of the Icon of the Mother of God "The Sign"

Kitai Gorod

This solid redbrick church, topped with one gold and four green onion domes, was part of the monastery of the same name, built on the estate of the Romanovs in the 17th century, right after the establishment of the Romanov dynasty. The church was indeed a sign of hope, as the election of the young Mikhail Romanov as tsar by the Boyar Council brought an end to the so-called Time of Troubles, as the dark period marked by internal strife and foreign intervention that set in after the death of the last heir to Ivan the Terrible was known.

8--12 ul. Varvarka, Moscow, 109012, Russia

Cathedral Square

Kremlin/Red Square

The ancient center of the Kremlin complex is framed by three large cathedrals in the old Russian style, the imposing Ivan the Great Bell Tower, and the Palace of Facets. A changing-of-the-guard ceremony takes place in the square every Saturday at noon in the summer months.

CDL: Central House of Writers

Ulitsa Bolshaya Nikitskaya

It's believed that Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) used this large mansion, the administrative offices of the Writers' Union, as a model for the Rostov home in War and Peace. A statue of Tolstoy stands in the courtyard. Mikhail Bulgakov (1891–1940) set part of his satire of Soviet life, The Master and Margarita, here. The beautiful wood-paneled dining room is open to the public.

Central House of Artists


The street entrance of this huge, modern building leads to the exhibit halls of the Artists' Union, where members display their work on three floors. This is a great place to find a sketch or watercolor to take home with you. There's also a tiny movie theater that shows old international cinema as well as a concert hall with pop and rock performances almost nightly. Massive exhibitions on everything from books to fur coats to architecture take over the building periodically, and some are worth checking out. The cavernous space also has room enough to house the modern branch of the Tretyakov Gallery. Next door is the Art Park, where contemporary sculpture and old statues of Soviet dignitaries stand side by side. It's a pleasant place for a stroll.

10 Krymsky Val, Moscow, 119049, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: 350 R, Tues.-Sun. 11--8, Closed Mon.

Central Telegraph

Ulitsa Tverskaya

Once the place where foreigners had to go to phone home, Central Telegraph is a blocky, early constructivist building that's one block up Tverskaya ulitsa from Red Square. You can still make phone calls abroad here, as well as buy stamps, send a fax, or use the Internet—but mainly, Central Telegraph is a sight just worth a quick look from the outside now. The striking semicircular entrance is adorned with a huge digital clock and a large and constantly revolving lit-up globe. Inside are currency-exchange counters, a pharmacy, a coffee shop, and ATMs in the lobby, plus the main post office.

7 ul. Tverskaya, Moscow, 125375, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Mon.--Fri. 8 am--10 pm; Sat. 8--6, Closed Sun.

Chaliapin House Museum

Ulitsa Bolshaya Nikitskaya

Fyodor Chaliapin (1873–1938), one of the world's greatest opera singers, lived in this beautifully restored manor house from 1910 to 1922. Chaliapin was stripped of his Soviet citizenship while on tour in France in 1922; he never returned to Russia again. The Soviets turned his home into an apartment building, and until restorations in the 1980s, the building contained 60 communal apartments. With help from Chaliapin's family in France, the rooms have again been arranged and furnished as they were when the singer lived here. The walls are covered with works of art given to Chaliapin by talented friends, such as the artists Mikhail Vrubel and Isaac Levitan. Also on display are Chaliapin's colorful costumes, which were donated to the museum by his son. When you reach the piano room, you'll hear original recordings of Chaliapin singing his favorite roles. Entrance is from inside the courtyard. English-language tours are available and should be reserved ahead of time.

25-27 bul. Novinsky, Moscow, 123242, Russia
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Tues. 10--7; Wed. and Thurs. 12--9; Sat. 11--7; Sun. 11--6., Closed Mon., Tues. and last Fri. of the month