July and August are the peak tourist season in Moscow. Those intending to visit during the summer months should search for cheap flights to Moscow far in advance.
Late spring and early autumn are good times to book flights to Moscow and travellers are able to experience Den’ Gorda (Moscow City Day), which is held annually over the first weekend in September. The weekend is a celebration of the birth of the Russian Capital and sees a series of parades and entertainment events flock the city’s streets. Locals and tourists can enjoy a weekend of fun fairs, street entertainment, sport contests, live music and vibrant processions whilst tasting the local food and drink at the plentiful stalls on offer. Families and friends also gather at the city’s beautifully maintained parks to have a relaxed picnic lunch. The weather in late spring and early autumn is typically mild, although still unpredictable.
Late May and late August tend to be warm and sunny.
Visitors planning flights to Moscow during winter will enjoy the Russian Winter Festival, held every year from 25th December until the 5th January. The lively and colourful festivities are centred in and around Izmailovo Park, which is transformed into a winter wonderland with an energising party atmosphere of traditional folk music, dancers and performers. The bitterly cold temperatures, which are likely to drop well below zero, are made that bit more bearable through the plenty of heart warming vodka on offer. Visitors can experience Russian traditions in full force through joining in the merry folk dances and games around the New Year Tree and enjoying their signature delicacies such as pancakes, caviar and tea with bagels honey and jam. If you are planning on visiting during the Moscow Winter Festival then organising a sleigh ride through the winter forest is a must.
The snowscapes are breathtaking but so is the bitter cold so bring plenty of warm clothing if planning to visit the city between late November and February.
Red Square is the heartbeat of Moscow, its buildings telling the story of Russia’s past. The Kremlin stands along one side of the square. Inside this ancient seat of the Tsars and now the President is studded with treasures. Here you’ll find magnificent frosted wedding-cake style churches such as the Assumption Cathedral, Archangel’s and Annunciation Cathedrals. Russia’s might is apparent on Ivan Square, where the Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon stand and the Arsenal is on Senatskaya Square. The palaces – the Residence of Russian Tsars and Patriarchs and Grand Kremlin Palace – are suitably awe-inspiring.
Probably the most famous site in Red Square is St Basil’s Cathedral with its ornate onion domes and swirling colours, which comprises nine separate chapels.
The GUM, the shopping mall, is where you’ll find expression of the new Russia. There are more than 150 shops and stalls, big Western brands and huge prices. For more affordable souvenirs such as matrioshka dolls, get to the Old Arbat or Ismailovo Market.
Moscow’s famous fortress, the Kremlin, is built over the oldest and most central part of the city. It dates back to 1147 and is surrounded by a thick, red wall. Inside the wall are 20 towers, museums, residences, monuments and the iconic gold-domed churches. Among the attractions are Cathedral Square, the throne of Ivan the Terrible, the Armoury Palace and the tombs of Russian Orthodox Church leaders. The tallest structure behind the walls is the Belfry of Ivan the Great, which once boasted the world’s biggest bell. The giant ringer fell from the tower in 1701. The Armoury Palace has a wealth of treasures, including bejewelled coronation capes and the famous Fabergé Easter eggs. Also worth a stop is The Diamond Fund Exhibition, which displays a 180-carat diamond once belonging to Catherine the Great.
The cheapest and best way to get around Moscow is by metro. Purchase your ticket at one of the metro stations, which are decorated with artwork and sculptures. You can buy tickets for single or multiple trips. For areas that the metro doesn’t reach, take a tram or bus. Tram and bus tickets are cheapest at metro stations or kiosks, but you can also buy tickets from the driver. Make sure you validate your ticket when you board the bus.
Marshrutky (minibus shuttles that drive along bus routes) and taxis can be flagged down for short trips. It’s easy to get private cars confused with taxis, so make sure you agree on a fare ahead of time. If you’re going to the airport, or taking a long trip, you should call ahead for a taxi.
If you do rent your own car in Moscow, take note of the rules. Using a claxon is only allowed in emergencies and your car must have seat belts, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and an emergency triangle or red light. If you can, avoid driving at night. Drink driving happens often, despite being illegal.
Your flights to Moscow will usually land at 2 airports; Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO), which is situated 26 km northwest of Moscow and Domodedovo International Airport (DME), which is situated 35 km from the city centre. Taxis are available from outside both terminals; passengers should avoid the renegade taxi drivers and go to the official taxi counter. Rates are fixed. There is an express bus services, which leaves from outside Sheremetyevo 1 and 2 for the nearby metro stations that connect to the city centre. Minibuses are also available.