Moscow travel guide and things to do: Nine must-do highlights


Seat of medieval tsars, Soviet leaders and current presidents, the Kremlin fortress, behind high red walls, has been centre stage through centuries of Russian history. Four glorious cathedrals where tsars were married, crowned or buried gleam with gold and icons. The Palace Armoury is crammed with Romanov treasures, including Fabergé Easter eggs. See


Nothing says Moscow like Red Square, scene of Soviet army parades and modern-day rock concerts. It's overlooked by the Kremlin's walls, beneath which you'll find the tomb of Lenin and other famous Soviets such as Yuri Gagarin. Opposite, the giant GUM department store is a 19th-century palace crammed with 21st century luxuries. In winter, take a spin on Red Square's ice rink.


The other fabulous monument of Red Square is St Basil's Cathedral, whose popping domes are a swirl of candy-cane colours. It's a pity few visitors venture inside, since the shadowy, medieval interior is quite the contrast to the building's cheerful exterior. Every chapel is different, and the tomb of St Basil is splendid in red and gold. See


The world's best ensemble of Russian art at the State Tretyakov Gallery starts with glowing medieval icons and continues with landscapes, portraiture and historical scenes through to early 20th century works. You'll find masterpieces by Russian artists such as Rublev, Ivanov, Surikov and Repin. The museum's separate 20th-century branch has works by Chagall and Kandinsky. See


Lomonosov Porcelain, founded in 1744 under Empress Elizabeth, supplied royals and aristocrats until the Russian Revolution. Styles range from the traditional to avant-garde, but the signature design of the revived Imperial Porcelain is a cobalt-blue pattern on tea and dinner sets. You can also buy figurines and Easter eggs. There are nine city-centre stores, including one inside GUM. See


Gorky Park isn't so much a green escape as a city-centre leisure and cultural venue designed in the 1920s as a showcase for Soviet downtime. Today it's filled with Muscovites cycling, playing volleyball, jogging or boating on the lake. It still hosts exhibitions, arts fairs and festivals, and has several open-air bars and restaurants. See


Located on chic Tverskaya shopping street near Red Square, The Ritz-Carlton Moscow is the city's most elegant hotel, luxuriously decorated with marble, gilt and Venetian glass in classic 19th-century style. Russian imperial furnishings meet high-tech gadgets in guestrooms. The lobby is spectacular, the über-chic O2 rooftop cocktail lounge has fantastic Kremlin views, and its spa is the ultimate in indulgence. See


The Moscow Metro, with its gargantuan stations and long escalators, isn't just the easiest way to get about traffic-choked Moscow, but an attraction in itself. Some of its Soviet-era stations are decorated with mosaics or frescoes, busts of Lenin and Art Deco metal work. Among the best stops are Komsomolskaya, Mayakovskaya and Ploshchad Revolutsii. See


Named for Russia's famed 19th-century writer and housed in a mansion from the same era, Café Pushkin's opulent pre-revolutionary interior is matched by food to delight a tsar. Set lunch menus are a more modest alternative to formal evening dining, when you can blow the budget on blinis with caviar, Russian dumplings, sturgeon and outrageous desserts. See



If you're keen to see more of Russia, consider a river cruise that starts with three nights in Moscow and heads north via the Volga River, Lake Onega and various waterways before sailing the Neva River into St Petersburg. It's a rewarding historical journey through the Russian heartland of old trading cities, monasteries and seemingly endless forest. See

Brian Johnston travelled as a guest of Viking Cruises.