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0330 440 3999, monday - friday 9am to 5pm, alfa travel| coach tours & trips 2024.

Alfa Travel Departures From: Nationwide departures available throughout England and North Wales

Alfa 2016

Why choose Alfa Travel?

  • Alfa holidays are terrific value
  • They offer a great choice of holiday destinations across the UK and Europe
  • Alfa holidays tend to include more excursions with more included content than most other operators
  • They have an outstanding fleet of modern luxury coaches
  • Their pick up service offers a wider choice of joining points than the majority of their competitors
  • They are very proud of the standard of their drivers
  • The hotels they use - many owned by their sister company Leisureplex – are of a consistent standard
  • The offer a wide selection of Partner Hotels to offer you more choice than ever
  • Entertainment is included on at least 4 nights per week at most of their hotels
  • Their holiday descriptions are very clear about what is included and they do not omit necessary meals or excursion content just to get down to an eye catching price
  • Alfa do not have any hidden extras; with no charges for pick up points, front seats or specific room types

Although they offer some short breaks, Alfa Travel tends to concentrate on holidays of at least 4 nights duration. Most of their UK holidays are 4, 6 or 7 nights long. Their overseas holidays, which include a wide range of destinations in Ireland and the near Continent, vary from 4 to 11 nights.

Alfa Travel Hotels

The majority of Alfa’s passengers will stay in one of the twenty two hotels owned and operated by their sister company Leisureplex. These hotels are dedicated to the coach tour market and the common ownership gives them the ability to ensure that the content and quality of your stay is first class. Additionally, they operate to a variety of other Partner hotels which have been carefully selected and checked to ensure they meet their rigorous standards. All the Leisureplex Hotels and a majority of the other hotels they use provide entertainment in the evenings

Personal, friendly service

Alfa prides itself on the approachability of their staff and the friendliness of the service which they provide. Whether it's their reliable, happy-to-help drivers or the dedicated staff at their 22 Leisureplex hotels, they always seek to provide the best service possible in order to make your coach holiday or seaside break as relaxing and enjoyable as possible

Alfa Travel Popular For…

Main summer seaside holidays and 5 day breaks throughout the year.

Alfa Travel Coaches

All of the vehicles in their fleet are manufactured and maintained by Mercedes Benz to ensure the best possible standard of comfort and reliability. They are all air conditioned and provided with reclining seats with three point seat belts; they also have a washroom and drinks servery. At peak times, they supplement their fleet with vehicles from a select group of reliable local operators with years of experience in the coach holiday business 

Alfa Travel Awards

2019 – BRONZE – Coach Tour Driver of the Year – UK Coach Awards

2019 – FINALIST – Medium Fleet Operator – UK Coach Awards

2019 – FINALIST – Most Group Friendly Hotel Chain – Group Travel Award

2019 – FINALIST – Coach Operator of the Year- Route One Awards

2018 – WINNER – EO Rising Star - Employee Ownership Awards

2018 - FINALIST - Coach Tour Driver of the Year - Coach Tourism Awards

2018 - FINALIST - Coach Tour Operator of the Year - Coach Tourism Awards

Alfa Travel Pickups

Alfa operates five separate holiday programmes via five ‘hub and spoke’ or ‘feeder’ systems based on: (1)  Bowburn Motorway Services on the A1 near Durham (holidays from Tyneside and Teesside), (2) Burtonwood Motorway Services on the M62 near St.Helens (holidays from North West England, West and North Wales), (3) Tamworth Motorway Services on the M42 (holidays from the Potteries, West and East Midlands), (4) Reading Motorway Services on the M4 (holidays from South East England including Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Greater London) and (5) Woodall Services on the M1 (holidays from Yorkshire, Humberside, North Lincolnshire, North Nottinghamshire and North Derbyshire).  

Other useful info

The insurance offered by Alfa does not have any age restrictions and is very competitive. For the sale of insurance, they are an Appointed Representative of Wrightsure Insurance Services (Hampshire). They are also members of ABTA, the Coach Tourism Council and the Confederation of Passenger Transport. They are members of various Group associations including AGTO, New Meridian and Coach Tourism Association.

Head Office Address: 

Alfa Travel Ltd,   Euxton Lane, Euxton,  Chorley,  Lancashire,  PR7 6AF.

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“At ALFA Travel, we believe that adventure starts with us, and we are passionate about fueling your wanderlust and inspiring a profound love for exploration.”

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Reviews 4.4.

1,672 total

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Exmouth again!

The pick up, and journey to Burtonwood was on time, and straightforward......as was the journey to Exmouth. We have stayed at the Cavendish hotel previously, so knew more or less, what to expect. The hotel is bright,and clean. Our sea view room would have been perfect, except for scaffolding at the front of the hotel, obliterating our view slightly. The menu had plenty of choice, and the food was served hot and tasty, by very pleasant staff. The housekeeping team worked hard, to ensure our rooms were clean and refreshed, by the time we returned after our days out. Unfortunately, due to the time of year ( February), a lot of 'places of interest' on our days out, were still closed, and the galleries, museums, craft fairs, theatres etc, didn't appear to be opening for another few weeks yet! We did enjoy the break away, and next time, we will come back, later in the year,when there is more to do, on the days out, and when (hopefully) the weather is better than than it was, when we were there.

Date of experience : 12 February 2024

Reply from Alfa Travel

Thanks for taking the time to leave us a review. We look forward to welcoming you back when the weather is warmer and the resorts are back in full swing!

Alfa coaches South Devon delights coach and hotel trip.

South Devon delights coach and hotel trip review for Mrs C Farrow. The pick up & feeder was very good, Russell our dedicated driver was first class. Our hotel The Metropole was excellent, the manager and all staff there worked hard to provide us with a great stay. We highly recommend Alfa coaches and have just booked another trip to the West Country.

Waiting around for coach is downside

We went to Tenby & hotel was good. Great staff & we paid extra for sea view which was well worth it. Could do with small soap in bathroom as we had not taken any. The downside is feeder coaches & having to wait around at Services for coach to resort. It is just chaotic with not enough seating.

Hi Liz, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, we really value your feedback, we will pass this on to our operations team and we hope to welcome you back soon.

Bridlington/Scarborough/York

Good feeder experience going. Giid Bridlington driver and comical too. Some things unavoidable. Hotel very good. Food good, pleasant staff and Alex is a great manager at the Monarch Hotel. Trip back to Bury instead of Beverly due to adverse weather conditions. Got family to pick us up from Bury as Burton Wii’s was going to be late due to those from the south held up on M6 accident and we were near our destination anyway. Bury market is a great stop. All in all a good trip.

Date of experience : 05 February 2024

Thanks for taking the time to leave us a review. We are so glad to hear that the bad weather situation didn't spoil your holiday and we hope to welcome you back soon!

We had a fantastic holiday in Great…

We had a fantastic holiday in Great Yarmouth the hotel is superb close to the seafront and all amenities.. it was clean and bright..all the staff without exception were very Good competent polite and helpful.. Our Coach Driver Lee was very informative chatty and good humoured The Food and entertainment was excellent throughout our stay We would highly recommend Alfa to everyone we know.. Thank you keep and up the excellent work 👍

Thanks for taking the time to leave us such a great 5* review! We will pass your lovely comments onto the team and we look forward to welcoming you back soon!

Simply Brilliant

Feeder coach was brilliant and convenient. Our main coach driver was brilliant, and the coach was so spacious. I had loads of leg room. The hotel and it's staff was amazing and the room was very comfortable. Food was superb, being prepared fresh every day, ad the choice was a nice change. Our day trips were very nice (apart from the weather lol) and left us wanting more, so we will definitely be heading back down there. All in, a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

Thanks for taking the time to leave us a 5* review, we are glad you enjoyed your stay with us and hope to welcome you back soon.

Another wonderful holiday at the queens…

Another wonderful holiday at the queens hotel Blackpool ,such lovely staff made us welcome ,so sad to leave but thanks to everyone working there from room 309

Date of experience : 19 February 2024

Overall we had a good holiday

Overall we had a good holiday . The coach driver was excellent, very informative and kept the mood light. The hotel was in a good location and very comfortable. The breakfasts were very good but some of the evening meals were a little disappointing, but it has to be taken in the context of the reasonable cost. The dining room staff were very attentive, and a complimentary drink with each meal was appreciated.

Date of experience : 29 January 2024

Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, we are glad to hear you enjoyed your holiday with us and hope to welcome you back soon!

Excellent holiday from start to finish

Excellent holiday from start to finish. Pickup went well, coach to resort went well, really good hotel. The driver Harri was excellent, enjoyed the trips. Just good, booked another holiday while I was there.

Hi John, Thanks for taking the time to leave us such a great 5* review! We can't wait to welcome you back!

Lovely few days in Cromer with…

Lovely few days in Cromer with brilliant staff, food & hotel, only criticism is the coach had very dirty windows from joining to leaving with no attempt to clean them & the driver was most unhelpful & not once greeted us with a traditional “Good morning etc” so sad as the short break was very good otherwise.

Hi Terence, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, we really value your feedback, to help us improve we have requested some further info - ideally your booking reference so we can look into the issues further. We hope to welcome you back soon!

Holiday very good only thing wrong is the time spent getting there. Time lost waiting for all feeder coaches.

Hi Colin, Thanks for taking the time to leave us a review. We are so glad to hear your holiday was good and hope the journey time didn't affect your enjoyment too much!

Enjoyable experience

The holiday was good value for money, the hotel being well placed near the pier. It was well decorated, the rooms comfortable and the meals were a good average. The staff were very helpful and nothing was too much trouble.

Date of experience : 19 January 2024

Hi Marjorie, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, we are glad to hear you enjoyed your holiday with us and hope to welcome you back soon!

Jim ,the driver is a credit to your company

Alfa Eastbourne Queens hotel Jim the driver Picked up promptly,arrived at interchange which is comfortable.But it needs more than a young woman shouting coach numbers in a busy service station when many passengers are older and many have hearing loss .Lucky to have same driver to Eastbourne.Great welcome from hotel ,had late dinner 7 pm so often missed out on choice as they had run out .Evening entertainment started at 8.30 so no hanging around for it to start.As my room was above it ,I could hear every word until 11 pm .DONOT book first floor rooms . Late breakfast meant we didn’t go out until 10 am so only had short time at excursion places,I thought they were full day excursions. As Jim ,was local he was excellent at his local knowledge and took us the scenic route giving us a in-depth commentary. At interchange on the way back ,no update as to why we were delayed.The different driver didn’t explain or give estimate times to drop off. Alfa has still not been in contact since trying to stop this review 5 days still no response from Alfa

Hi Catherine, we are sorry to hear things weren't up to standard on your holiday, we have requested some more information so we can look into the issues further.

Super coach trip

Our first time with you the staff at hotel and our driver Jim were superb Food was good at quickly served Only issue spoilt it when we got off our feeder coach to Gravesend, the driver, not sure of name, drove off and I noticed there was a case left there, with a Chatham tag on,so knocked on side of coach as he was driving away. When he opened the door he shouted at me what do you think you are doing damaging my coach, I told him about the case and he said it's got Gravesend on, I said no Chatham,he replied well you could of damaged my coach,no thanks for not letting me drive off and leaving someone's case, but it did not spoil my our time away.

Hi Paul, We are so glad to hear you enjoyed your first holiday with us, thank you for taking the time to leave us a 5* review. We have asked for some more info so we can look into this issue but we are so glad to hear that the situation didn't spoil your holiday and we hope to welcome you back soon!

Our holiday in Devon was very enjoyable…

Our holiday in Devon was very enjoyable and everything ran smoothly. There was a problem at breakfast on more than one occasion when it took a long time to take our order. On one day we waited for 25 minutes before we were asked for our order. This meant we were late for the coach trip and we were told off by the coach driver who said he would go without us if we were late again. We didn’t get the chance to explain why we were late. That said, we had a very good driver.

Hi, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, sorry you were delayed at breakfast, we will pass this feedback on to the hotel. We do hope to welcome you back soon!

Everything fine

Everything fine, hotel and rooms spotless. New bed, bathroom totally refurbished. Food and entertainment A1. All the staff were very polite and helpful especially the manager Alex. Lovely man. Plus company on the trip were all in great form. Had a great laugh.

HI Robert, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a 5* review, we are glad you enjoyed your holiday with us and hope to welcome you back soon.

Great staff good food good location but issues with the room

Staff extremely helpful Jude the waiter is excellent and goes above and beyond food was better than expected and decent portions. Andy the drive was first class and pleasant means a lot to have a good driver ! Nice clean hotel although we had a leaking radiator which caused a large wet area on our carpet so had to keep our shoes on in the room plus terrible bad smell from the drains ???the manger( Lee) did say he would sort it but sadly it never got fixed while we were there even though we reported it several times! The last day the window developed a leak all sounds like a nightmare ?!?😂 But On the whole we had an amazing week shame the room let it down . Update .. I have sent you the booking number as requested we were a party of 6 and all witnessed the issues with the room .

Hi Gillian, we are sorry to hear you didn't have a great experience with us, we would like to look into the issues you have raised so we can make improvements, so we have requested some further information.

What more could I ask for

What a magnificent surprise when I entered my "solo" room. King size bed, palatial sized room and a NASA sized TV. Weather miserable but staff including driver friendly and polite. What more could I ask for?

Hi Tony, Thanks for taking the time to leave us a 5* review, we are glad you enjoyed your stay with us and hope to welcome you back soon!

Thank you . Yes it has been a nice break. The was one thing I would mention, The hotel bar was not open untill 5.15 on an afternoon, which was a shame, as there was a nice lounge to sit and chat with people over coffee or a glass of wine.

Hi Mary, Thank you for Thanks for taking the time to leave us a 5* review. We do appreciate your feedback and we are working on opening our bars earlier. We hope to welcome you back soon.

Started well but some disappointment.

Coach arrived on time though left late from interchange due to driver illness and no relief driver for another group. Hotel acceptable and food OK. Staff lovely. Drinks reasonably priced. Nothing to do when weather bad- no provision/alternative for no buses on NY’sDay so very bored. Single entertainer each night but they worked hard so enjoyable NYE and other evenings. Far too early cases out and breakfast time on departure day made us very tired and it spoiled the trip somewhat.

Date of experience : 30 December 2023

Hi, we are sorry to hear you didn't have a great experience with us, we would like to look into the issues you have raised so we can make improvements, so we have requested some further information.

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17 Best Moscow Tours

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Are you planning a visit to the capital of Russia and looking for the best Moscow tours? From Red Square to the Kremlin and from world-class art to fairytale buildings, Moscow is an enchanting city that offers plenty of excitement and elegance. Its history dates back more than 800 years, and there is culture in abundance for visitors to immerse themselves in.

Make the most of your visit with 17 of the best Moscow tours that let you see everything the city and its surroundings have to offer.

1 – Guided Tour of the Moscow Metro

Guided Tour of the Moscow Metro

Moscow’s metro is world-famous, thanks to the architectural delights on offer underground stations around the capital. This guided tour of the Moscow stations, otherwise known as “the palace of the people” lasts for 1.5 hours and includes an English-speaking guide who will tell you how the Russian metro became one of the most beautiful in the world. Highlights include Mayakovskaya station with its aviation-themed mosaics.

  • Moscow metro tours

2 – Cosmonautics Museum Space Tour

Cosmonautics Museum Space Tour

Discover Cosmonautics Museum with this space tour. Dive into one of the greatest battles between the Soviet Union and the United States – the space race. Hear about the space programs of the USSR and learn about how the USSR shaped space travel and technology.

  • Cosmonautics Museum tours

3 – Guided Tour of the Kremlin

Guided Tour of the Kremlin

A Kremlin is actually a citadel in Russian towns, and Moscow’s version is, without doubt, the most famous. The Kremlin is the heartbeat of the city, and this guided tour takes you to the most important points of interest. See Cathedral Square with its orthodox temples; Tzar Cannon with its 890mm calibre, which is the largest in the world; and the exterior of the all-important government buildings that are located within the Kremlin’s walls.

Click here to learn how to book Kremlin tickets .

  • Kremlin tours

4 – Moscow City Walking Tour

Moscow City Walking Tour

One of the best Moscow tours for seeing everything the city has to offer, this small-group walking tour lasts for 2 hours and includes an expert guide. Make the most of the capital and see the cobbled spaces of Red Square, take pictures of St Basil’s Cathedral, visit the elegant Bolshoi Theatre, and enjoy the ornamental Alexandrovsky Garden.

  • Moscow walking tours

5 – Night Tour of Moscow

Night Tour of Moscow

When the sun sets, the fun begins – and it all starts with a night tour of Russia’s most famous city. The beauty of Moscow comes into full effect after hours, as iconic buildings like St Basil’s Cathedral illuminate against the night sky. Other locations on this tour include the Moscow River and the Ukraine Hotel, which is a landmark skyscraper that was constructed during the era of Stalin.

6 – Sergiev Posad Day Trip

Sergiev Posad Day Trip

One of the best Moscow tours that take you outside of the city, the Sergiev Posad day trip provides the opportunity to see The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s made up of a number of different buildings that include the blue domes of the Cathedral of the Assumption, Church of St. Sergius and the Bell Tower.

  • Sergiev Posad day trips from Moscow

7 – City Sightseeing Moscow Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour with Optional Cruise

City Sightseeing Moscow Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour with Optional Cruise

If your time in Moscow is limited, this hop-on, hop-off bus tour is ideal – and it even features an optional cruise on the river. Choose between a 2 and 3-day ticket and see famous landmarks like Red Square, the Kremlin and the Bolshoi Theatre from an open-top panoramic bus with informative audio commentary. Take your experience to the next level by upgrading to a boat tour.

  • Moscow hop on hop off bus tours

8 – Guided Tour of the Tretyakov Gallery

Guided Tour of the Tretyakov Gallery

As one of the world’s most important galleries, the Tretyakov Gallery is a must-see for any art lovers and is one of the best Moscow tours for culture vultures. Learn about the masterworks of Pablo Tretyakov with a guided tour and discover the secrets behind the paintings. Other noticeable artists on view include Fedotov, Vasnetsov, Rokotov and Kiprenski, who is the author of the famous “Portrait of Alexander Pushkin”.

  • Tretyakov Gallery tours

9 – Alternative Moscow: 2-Hour Walking Tour

Alternative Moscow: 2-Hour Walking Tour

See a different side of Moscow with this 2-hour alternative tour. An expert guide will take you around quirky streets, suburbs and squares while as your veer away from the traditional tourist hotspots. Highlights include a ride on the famous “Annushka” tram and a visit to the neighbourhood of Khitrovka, which was once known as the criminal district of the city.

10 – St.Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square: Private Tour and Ticket

St.Basil's Cathedral and Red Square: Private Tour and Ticket

Combine two of Moscow’s biggest attractions with a visit to Red Square and St.Basil’s Cathedral. Admire the beautiful architecture of St.Basil’s Cathedral from inside and out, before wandering Red Square and learn about the soldiers, farmers and revolutionaries that all called this famous square their home. Round things off with the changing of the guard at Alexander Garden.

  • Red Square tours

11 – Bunker-42 Cold War Museum Guided Tour

Bunker-42 Cold War Museum Guided Tour

Moscow is notorious for the Cold War, which lasted for about 45 years between 1945 and 1990. Head to the world-famous Bunker-42, located 65 meters below ground level, and learn about the storied past. Visit rooms and passages that were set up to shelter 3,000 people in case of nuclear attack and discover other sections, such as the equipment room and the war-proof telecommunications system.

  • Bunker-42 Cold War Museum tours

12 – Architecture Tour of Moscow’s Metro and Kolomenskoye Estate

Architecture Tour of Moscow's Metro and Kolomenskoye Estate

Combine the beauty of the metro stations with the Kolomenskoye Estate and see some of Moscow’s grandest sights. After visiting the elegant metro stations, it’s time to go to the Kolomenskoye Estate, which is filled with UNESCO-listed sites that are dedicated to Tsar Peter the Great.

  • Kolomenskoye tours

13 – Tour of Soviet Moscow

Tour of Soviet Moscow

Unpick the history of the USSR with one of the best Moscow tours for discovering Soviet Moscow. Starting at Monument to the Conquerors of Space, a tribute to the success of the Soviet space programme, the tour includes historical landmarks and interesting tidbits about Soviet Russia. There is also a visit to the All-Russia Exhibition Centre (VDNKh), a site that was constructed under the aegis of the USSR in tribute to state achievements.

14 – Moscow: 2.5-Hour Luxury River Cruise with Dining Option

Moscow: 2.5-Hour Luxury River Cruise with Dining Option

Sail down the Moscow River on this 2.5 hour tour that provides a different perspective of the city and includes landmark sights. The boat features two decks and has panoramic views as well as free Wi-Fi access. Attractions along the route include Ukraine hotel, Sparrow Hills, Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Crimean Bridge, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Zaryadye Park and more.

  • Moscow boat tours

15 – Izmailovo Market and Vodka Museum Tour

Izmailovo Market and Vodka Museum Tour

Visit the museum of Vodka and gain insight into one of Russia’s most famous exports and head to the Izmailovo antique and handicraft market to find a gem or two. The tour starts with Izmailovo market, which features the iconic matryoshka dolls, fur hats and amber jewellery. Next up is a trip to the Museum of Vodka, where you will discover a distillery that dates back to the 15th century.

  • Izmailovo market tours

16 – Súzdal and Vladímir Day Tour

Súzdal and Vladímir Day Tour

Discover Russia’s famous “Golden Ring” on this tour of two medieval cities outside of Moscow. The historic city of Vladimir is first up with its Golden Gate, which is an ancient city-fortress that dates back to the 13th century. Next up is the neighbouring town of Suzdal, which features historic architecture and the Kremlin, where you can see its striking white walls topped with blue domes.

  • Suzdal & Vladimir tours from Moscow

17- Moscow Food Tasting & Walking Tour

Moscow Food Tasting & Walking Tour

Sample the unique flavours of Moscow with this food tour that lasts for 3 hours and features more than 15 different food and drink tastings. Weave in and out of small alleys in the city centre while enjoying the best food spots in town. See Moscow like a local while trying classic dishes from local breakfast haunts, bustling markets, the oldest monastery in Moscow, and dumpling cafes where you can taste authentic dumplings and enjoy local coffee.

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Home » Europe » Moscow

EPIC MOSCOW Itinerary! (2024)

Moscow is the heart of Mother Russia. Just the mention of this city conjures images of colorful bulbous pointed domes, crisp temperatures, and a uniquely original spirit!

Moscow has an incredibly turbulent history, a seemingly resilient culture, and a unique enchantment that pulls countless tourists to the city each year! Although the warmer months make exploring Moscow’s attractions more favorable, there’s just something about a fresh snowfall that only enhances the appearance of the city’s iconic sites!

If you’re a first-time visitor to Moscow, or simply wanting to see as much of the city as possible, this Moscow itinerary will help you do just that!

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Best Time To Visit Moscow

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Here is a quick look at the seasons so you can decide when to visit Moscow!

The summer months (June-August) are a great time to travel to Moscow to take advantage of the enjoyable mild temperatures. This is considered peak travel season. Bear in mind that hotel prices rise along with the temperatures!

when to visit moscow

If you’re planning a trip to Moscow during fall (September-November) try to plan for early fall. This way the temperatures will still be pleasant and winter won’t be threatening.

Russian winters (December-February) are not for the faint of heart as Napoleon learned to his peril. Some days the sun will be out for less than an hour, and snow is guaranteed. Although winters are exceptionally cold, this is when you’ll get a true glimpse of the Moscow experience!

The best time to visit Moscow is during spring  (March-May). The temperatures will begin to creep up and the sun begins to shine for significant portions of the day. Hotel rates will also have yet to skyrocket into peak ranges!

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With a Moscow City Pass , you can experience the best of Moscow at the CHEAPEST prices. Discounts, attractions, tickets, and even public transport are all standards in any good city pass – be sure invest now and save them $$$ when you arrive!

Moscow is a large city with many accommodation options to choose from. Staying in a location that fits with your travel plans will only enhance your Moscow itinerary. Here is a brief introduction to a few great areas of the city we recommend checking out!

The best place to stay in Moscow to be close to all the action is Kitay-Gorod. This charming neighborhood will put you within walking distance to Moscow’s famous Red Square, thus cutting down on travel time. This will allow you to see more of the city in a shorter amount of time!

where to stay in moscow

It’s surrounded by restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops. If you’re a first-time visitor to Moscow, or just planning a quick weekend in Moscow, then this area is perfect for you!

Another great area to consider is the Zamoskvorechye district. This area of the city offers a blend of new and old Moscow. It has an artsy vibe and there are plenty of fun sites you can explore outside of the main touristy areas of Moscow.

Of course, as in all areas of Moscow, it’s close to public transportation that will quickly connect you with the rest of the city and make your Moscow itinerary super accessible!

Best Airbnb in Moscow – Exclusive Apartment in Old Moscow

Exclusive Apartment in Old Moscow

Modern and cozy, this apartment is in the heart of Old Moscow. Bordering the Basmanny and Kitay-Gorod districts, this two-bedroom flat is walking distance to the Kremlin and Red Square. Safe, quiet, and comfortable, this is the best Airbnb in Moscow, no question!

Best Budget Hotel in Moscow – Izmailovo Alfa Hotel

moscow itinerary

The Izmailovo Alfa Hotel is a very highly rated accommodation that provides all the components necessary for a comfortable trip to Moscow. There is an on-site restaurant, bar, fitness center, and an airport shuttle service. The rooms are modern and spacious and are equipped with a TV, heating/air conditioning, minibar, and more!

Best Luxury Hotel in Moscow – Crowne Plaza Moscow World Trade Centre

moscow itinerary

If you’re touring Moscow in luxury, the Crowne Plaza Moscow World Trade Centre is the hotel for you! Elegantly furnished rooms are equipped with a minibar, flat-screen TV,  in-room safes, as well as tea and coffee making facilities! Bathrooms come with bathrobes, slippers, and free toiletries. There is also an onsite restaurant, bar, and fitness center.

Best Hostel in Moscow – Godzillas Hostel

moscow itinerary

Godzillas Hostel is located in the center of Moscow, just a short walk from all the major tourist attractions and the metro station. Guests will enjoy all the usual hostel perks such as self-catering facilities, 24-hour reception, Free Wi-Fi, and security lockers. This is one of the best hostels in Moscow and its wonderful social atmosphere and will make your vacation in Moscow extra special!

Godzillas Hostel is one of our favourites in Moscow but they’re not taking guests right now. We’re not sure if they’re closed for good but we hope they’ll come back soon.

An important aspect of planning any trip is figuring out the transportation situation. You’re probably wondering how you’re going to get to all of your Moscow points of interest right? Luckily, this sprawling city has an excellent network of public transportation that will make traveling a breeze!

The underground metro system is the quickest and most efficient way to travel around Moscow. Most visitors rely exclusively on this super-efficient transportation system, which allows you to get to pretty much anywhere in the city! It’s also a great option if you’re planning a Moscow itinerary during the colder months, as you’ll be sheltered from the snow and freezing temperatures!

moscow itinerary

If you prefer above-ground transportation, buses, trams, and trolleybuses, run throughout the city and provide a rather comfortable alternative to the metro.

Moscow’s metro, buses, trams, and trolleybuses are all accessible with a ‘Troika’ card. This card can be topped up with any sum of money at a metro cash desk. The ticket is simple, convenient, and even refundable upon return to a cashier!

No matter which method you choose, you’ll never find yourself without an easy means of getting from point A to point B!

Red Square | Moscow Kremlin | Lenin’s Mausoleum | St. Basil’s Cathedral  | GUM Department Store

Spend the first day of your itinerary taking your own self guided Moscow walking tour around the historic Red Square! This is Moscow’s compact city center and every stop on this list is within easy walking distance to the next! Get ready to see all of the top Moscow landmarks!

Day 1 / Stop 1 – The Red Square

  • Why it’s awesome: The Red Square is the most recognizable area in Moscow, it has mesmerizing architecture and centuries worth of history attached to its name.
  • Cost: Free to walk around, individual attractions in the square have separate fees. 
  • Food nearby: Check out Bar BQ Cafe for friendly service and good food in a great location! The atmosphere is upbeat and they’re open 24/7!

The Red Square is Moscow’s historic fortress and the center of the Russian government. The origins of the square date back to the late 15th century, when Ivan the Great decided to expand the Kremlin to reflect Moscow’s growing power and prestige!

During the 20th century, the square became famous as the site for demonstrations designed to showcase Soviet strength. Visiting the Red Square today, you’ll find it teeming with tourists, who come to witness its magical architecture up close!

The Red Square

The square is the picture postcard of Russian tourism, so make sure to bring your camera when you visit! No matter the season, or the time of day, it’s delightfully photogenic! 

It’s also home to some of Russia’s most distinguishing and important landmarks, which we’ve made sure to include further down in this itinerary. It’s an important center of Russia’s cultural life and one of the top places to visit in Moscow!

In 1990, UNESCO designated Russia’s Red Square as a World Heritage site. Visiting this historic site is a true bucket-list event and essential addition to your itinerary for Moscow!

Day 1 / Stop 2 – The Moscow Kremlin

  • Why it’s awesome: The Moscow Kremlin complex includes several palaces and cathedrals and is surrounded by the Kremlin wall. It also houses the principal museum of Russia (the Kremlin Armory).
  • Cost: USD $15.00
  • Food nearby: Bosco Cafe is a charming place to grat a casual bite to eat. They have excellent coffee and wonderful views of the Red Square and the Moscow Kremlin!

The iconic Moscow Kremlin , also known as the Kremlin museum complex, sits on Borovitsky Hill, rising above the Moscow River. It is a fortified complex in the center of the city, overlooking several iconic buildings in the Red Square!

It’s the best known of the Russian Kremlins – citadels or fortress’ protecting and dominating a city. During the early decades of the Soviet era, the Kremlin was a private enclave where the state’s governing elite lived and worked.

The Kremlin is outlined by an irregularly shaped triangular wall that encloses an area of 68 acres! The existing walls and towers were built from 1485 to 1495. Inside the Kremlin museum complex, there are five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers.

The Armoury Chamber is a part of the Grand Kremlin Palace’s complex and is one of the oldest museums of Moscow, established in 1851. It showcases Russian history and displays many cherished relics. Definitely make sure to check out this museum while you’re here!

The Moscow Kremlin

The churches inside the Moscow Kremlin are the Cathedral of the Dormition, Church of the Archangel, Church of the Annunciation, and the bell tower of Ivan Veliki (a church tower).

The five-domed Cathedral of the Dormition is considered the most famous. It was built from 1475–1479 by an Italian architect and has served as a wedding and coronation place for great princes, tsars, and emperors of Russia. Church services are given in the Kremlin’s numerous cathedrals on a regular basis.

The Grand Kremlin Palace was the former Tsar’s Moscow residence and today it serves as the official workplace of the President of the Russian Federation (Vladimir Putin seems to have bagged that title for life) .

Insider Tip: The Kremlin is closed every Thursday! Make sure to plan this stop on your Moscow itinerary for any other day of the week!

Day 1 / Stop 3 – Lenin’s Mausoleum

  • Why it’s awesome: The mausoleum displays the preserved body of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin .
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: Khinkal’naya is a charming Georgian restaurant with vaulted ceilings and exposed brick. It’s a popular place with locals and right next to the Red Square!

Lenin’s Mausoleum, also known as Lenin’s Tomb, is the modernist mausoleum for the revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin. It’s located within the Red Square and serves as the resting place for the Soviet leader! His preserved body has been on public display since shortly after his death in 1924.

It’s located just a few steps away from the Kremlin Wall and is one of the most controversial yet popular Moscow attractions!

Admission is free for everyone, you’ll only need to pay if you need to check a bag. Before visitors are allowed to enter the mausoleum, they have to go through a metal detector first. No metal objects, liquids, or large bags are allowed in the mausoleum!

Lenins Mausoleum

Expect a line to enter the building, and while you’re inside the building, you’ll be constantly moving in line with other visitors. This means you won’t be able to spend as long as you’d like viewing the mausoleum, but you’ll still be able to get a good look. Pictures and filming while inside the building are strictly prohibited, and security guards will stop you if they see you breaking this rule.

The mausoleum is only open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday – unless it’s a public holiday or a day scheduled for maintenance. The hours it’s open for each day are limited, make sure to check online before you visit to make sure you can fit this into your Moscow itinerary for that day!

Insider Tip: The Lenin’s Museum is there for people to pay their respect; remember to keep silent and move along quickly, it’s not intended for people to congregate around. Also, men are not allowed to wear hats and everyone must take their hands out of their pockets when inside the building.

Day 1 / Stop 4 – St. Basil’s Cathedral

  • Why it’s awesome: A dazzling designed cathedral that showcases Russia’s unique architecture. This cathedral is one of the most recognizable symbols of the country!
  • Cost: USD $8.00
  • Food nearby: Moskovskiy Chaynyy Klub is a cozy cafe serving food items and pipping hot tea; it’s the perfect place to go if you’re visiting Moscow during the winter months!

Located in the Red Square, the ornate 16th-century St. Basil’s Cathedral is probably the building you picture when you think of Moscow’s unique architecture. Its colorful onion-shaped domes tower over the Moscow skyline!

The cathedral was built from 1555-1561 by order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. It was designed with an iconic onion dome facade and enchanting colors that captivate all who see it. Fun fact: If you’re wondering why Russian churches have onion domes, they are popularly believed to symbolize burning candles!

This iconic cathedral has become a symbol of Russia due to its distinguishing architecture and prominent position inside the Red Square. It’s one of the most beautiful, wonderful, and mesmerizing historical cathedrals in the world!

St. Basils Cathedral

The interior of the church surprises most people when they visit. In contrast to the large exterior, the inside is not so much one large area, but rather a collection of smaller areas, with many corridors and small rooms. There are 9 small chapels and one mausoleum grouped around a central tower.

Visiting the inside is like walking through a maze, there are even small signs all around the cathedral tracing where to walk, and pointing you in the right direction! The walls are meticulously decorated and painted with intricate floral designs and religious themes.

The church rarely holds service and is instead a museum open for the public to visit.

Insider Tip: During the summer months the line to go inside the cathedral can get quite long! Make sure to arrive early or reserve your tickets online to guarantee quick access into the cathedral!

Day 1 / Stop 5 – GUM Department Store

  • Why it’s awesome: This is Russia’s most famous shopping mall! It’s designed with elegant and opulent architecture and provides a real sense of nostalgia!
  • Cost: Free to enter
  • Food nearby: Stolovaya 57 is a cafeteria-style restaurant with a variety of inexpensive Russian cuisine menu items including soups, salads, meat dishes, and desserts. It’s also located inside the GUM department store, making it very easily accessible when you’re shopping!

The enormous GUM Department Store is located within the historic Red Square. It has a whimsical enchantment to it that sets it apart from your typical department store.

A massive domed glass ceiling lines the top of the building and fills the interior with natural sunlight. There are live plants and flowers placed throughout the mall that give the shopping complex a lively and cheerful feel! A playful fountain sits in the center, further adding to the malls inviting a sense of wonder and amusement!

The GUM department store opened on December 2, 1893. Today, it includes local and luxury stores, including Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and many more! There are numerous cafes, restaurants, and even a movie theater inside!

GUM Department Store

For a special treat, head into Gastronom 1. This 1950s-style shop sells gourmet food items, like wine, freshly-baked pastries, cheese, Russian chocolate, and of course, vodka! Also, be on the lookout for a bicycle pedaling ice cream truck with an employing selling ice cream!

The ambiance is simply amazing, a trip to this idyllic shopping mall is an absolute must on any Moscow itinerary!

Insider Tip: Make sure to carry some small change on you in case you need to use the restroom, you’ll need to pay 50 rubles – or about USD $0.80 to use the bathroom in GUM.

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Novodevichy Convent | Gorky Park | State Tretyakov Gallery | All-Russian Exhibition Center | Bolshoi Theater

On your 2 day itinerary in Moscow, you’ll have a chance to use the city’s excellent public transportation service! You’ll explore a few more of Moscow’s historic highlight as well as some modern attractions. These sites are a little more spread out, but still very easily accessible thanks to the metro!

Day 2 / Stop 1 – Novodevichy Convent

  • Why it’s awesome: The Novodevichy Convent is rich in imperial Russian history and contains some of Russia’s best examples of classical architecture!
  • Cost: USD $5.00
  • Food nearby: Culinary Shop Karavaevs Brothers is a cozy and simple place to have a quick bite, they also have vegetarian options!

The Novodevichy Convent is the best-known and most popular cloister of Moscow. The convent complex is contained within high walls, and there are many attractions this site is known for! 

The six-pillared five-domed Smolensk Cathedral is the main attraction. It was built to resemble the Kremlin’s Assumption Cathedral and its facade boasts beautiful snowy white walls and a pristine golden onion dome as its centerpiece. It’s the oldest structure in the convent, built from 1524 -1525, and is situated in the center of the complex between the two entrance gates.

There are other churches inside the convent as well, all dating back from many centuries past. The convent is filled with an abundance of 16th and 17th-century religious artworks, including numerous large and extravagant frescos!

Novodevichy Convent

Just outside the convent’s grounds lies the Novodevichy Cemetery. Here, you can visit the graves of famous Russians, including esteemed authors, composers, and politicians. Probably the most intriguing gravestone belongs to Russian politician Nikita Khruschev!

The Novodevichy Convent is located near the Moscow River and offers a peaceful retreat from the busy city. In 2004, it was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The convent remains remarkably well-preserved and is an outstanding example of Moscow Baroque architecture! 

Insider Tip: To enter the cathedrals inside the complex, women are advised to cover their heads and shoulders, while men should wear long pants.

Day 2 / Stop 2 – Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure

  • Why it’s awesome: A large amusement area in the heart of the city offering many attractions!
  • Cost: Free! 
  • Food nearby: Check out Mepkato, located inside Gorky Central Park for a casual meal in a cozy setting. There are indoor and outdoor seating options and the restaurant is child-friendly!

Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure is a large green space in the heart of Moscow. The park opened in 1928, and it stretches along the scenic embankment of the Moskva River. It covers an area of 300-acres and offers a lovely contrast from the compact city center.

You’ll find all sorts of wonderful attractions, from boat rides to bike rentals to tennis courts and ping-pong tables, and much more! there are an open-air cinema and festive events and concerts scheduled in the summer months.  A wide selection of free fitness classes is also offered on a regular basis, including jogging, roller skating, and dancing!

Although many of the options you’ll find here are more suited for outdoor leisure during the summer, you’ll also a selection of winter attractions, including one of Europe’s largest ice rinks for ice-skating!

Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure

If you’re trying to decide what to do in Moscow with kids, the park also offers several venues designed specifically for kids. Check out the year-round Green School which offers hands-on classes in gardening and art! You can also feed the squirrels and birds at the Golitsinsky Ponds!

The park is very well maintained and kept clean and the entrance is free of charge, although most individual attractions cost money. There is also Wi-Fi available throughout the park.

With so many attractions, you could easily spend all day here! If you’re only planning a 2 day itinerary in Moscow, make sure to plan your time accordingly and map out all the areas you want to see beforehand!

Day 2 / Stop 3 – The State Tretyakov Gallery

  • Why it’s awesome: The gallery’s collection consists entirely of Russian art made by Russian artists!
  • Food nearby : Brothers Tretyakovs is located right across the street from the gallery. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric restaurant serving top quality food and drinks!

The State Tretyakov Gallery was founded in 1856 by influential merchant and collector Pavel Tretyakov.  The gallery is a national treasury of Russian fine art and one of the most important museums in Russia!

It houses the world’s best collection of Russian art and contains more than 130, 000 paintings, sculptures, and graphics! These works have been created throughout the centuries by generations of Russia’s most talented artists!

The State Tretyakov Gallery

The exhibits range from mysterious 12th-century images to politically charged canvases. The collection is rich and revealing and offers great insight into the history and attitudes of this long-suffering yet inspired people!

All pictures are also labeled in English. If you plan to take your time and see everything inside the museum it will take a good 3-4 hours, so make sure to plan your Moscow trip itinerary accordingly! This gallery is a must-see stop for art lovers, or anyone wanting to explore the local culture and history of Russia in a creative and insightful manner! 

Insider Tip: When planning your 2 days in Moscow itinerary, keep in mind that most museums in Moscow are closed on Mondays, this includes The State Tretyakov Gallery!

Day 2 / Stop 4 – All-Russian Exhibition Center

  • Why it’s awesome: This large exhibition center showcases the achievements of the Soviet Union in several different spheres. 
  • Food nearby: Varenichnaya No. 1 serves authentic and homestyle Russian cuisine in an intimate and casual setting.

The All-Russian Exhibition Center is a massive park that presents the glory of the Soviet era! It pays homage to the achievements of Soviet Russia with its many different sites found on the property.

The center was officially opened in 1939 to exhibit the achievements of the Soviet Union. It’s a huge complex of buildings and the largest exhibition center in Moscow. There are several exhibition halls dedicated to different achievements and every year there are more than one hundred and fifty specialized exhibitions!

All Russian Exhibition Center

The Peoples Friendship Fountain was constructed in 1954 and is a highlight of the park. The stunning gold fountain features 16 gilded statues of girls, each representing the former Soviet Union republics. 

The Stone Flower Fountain was also built in 1954 and is worth checking out. The centerpiece of this large fountain is a flower carved from stones from the Ural Mountains! Along the side of the fountain are various bronze sculptures.

You will find many people zipping around on rollerblades and bicycles across the large area that the venue covers. It’s also home to amusement rides and carousels, making it the perfect place to stop with kids on your Moscow itinerary! Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and allow a few hours to explore all the areas that interest you!

Day 2 / Stop 5 – Bolshoi Theater

  • Why it’s awesome: The Bolshoi Theater is a historic venue that hosts world-class ballet and opera performances!
  • Cost: Prices vary largely between USD $2.00 –  USD $228.00 based on seat location.
  • Food nearby: Head to the Russian restaurant, Bolshoi for high-quality food and drinks and excellent service!

The Bolshoi Theater is among the oldest and most renowned ballet and opera companies in the world! It also boasts the world’s biggest ballet company, with more than 200 dancers!

The theater has been rebuilt and renovated several times during its long history. In 2011 it finished its most recent renovation after an extensive six-year restoration that started in 2005. The renovation included an improvement in acoustics and the restoration of the original Imperial decor.

The Bolshoi Theater has put on many of the world’s most famous ballet acts! Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake premiered at the theater in 1877 and other notable performances of the Bolshoi repertoire include Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker!

Bolshoi Theater

Today, when you visit the theater, you can expect a magical performance from skilled singers, dancers, and musicians with the highest level of technique!

If you don’t have time to see a show, the theater also provides guided tours on select days of the week. Tours are given in both Russian and English and will provide visitors with a more intimate look at the different areas of the theater!

The stage of this iconic Russian theater has seen many outstanding performances. If you’re a fan of the performing arts, the Bolshoi Theater is one of the greatest and oldest ballet and opera companies in the world, making it a must-see attraction on your Moscow itinerary!

moscow itinerary

Godzillas Hostel

Godzillas Hostel is located in the center of Moscow, just a short walk from all the major tourist attractions and the metro station.

  • Towels Included

Cosmonautics Museum | Alexander Garden | Ostankino Tower | Izmaylovo District | Soviet Arcade Museum

Now that we’ve covered what to do in Moscow in 2 days, if you’re able to spend more time in the city you’re going to need more attractions to fill your time. Here are a few more really cool things to do in Moscow we recommend!

Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics

  • Hear the timeline of the ‘space race’ from the Russian perspective
  • This museum is fun for both adults and children!
  • Admission is USD $4.00

The Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics is a museum dedicated to space exploration! The museum explores the history of flight, astronomy, space exploration, space technology, and space in the arts. It houses a large assortment of Soviet and Russian space-related exhibits, and the museum’s collection holds approximately 85,000 different items!

Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics

The museum does an excellent job of telling the full story of the exciting space race between the USSR and the US! It highlights the brightest moments in Russian history and humanity and is very interesting and fun for all ages!

If you’re a fan of space or just curious about gaining insight into Russia’s fascinating history of space exploration, make sure to add this to your 3 day itinerary in Moscow!

The Alexander Garden

  • A tranquil place to relax near the Red Square
  • Green lawns dotted with sculptures and lovely water features
  • The park is open every day and has no entrance fee

The Alexander Garden was one of the first urban public parks in Moscow! The garden premiered in 1821 and was built to celebrate Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s forces in 1812!

The park is beautiful and well maintained with paths to walk on and benches to rest on. The park contains three separate gardens: the upper garden, middle garden, and lower garden.

The Alexander Garden

Located in the upper garden, towards the main entrance to the park is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its eternal flame. This monument was created in 1967 and contains the body of a soldier who fell during the Great Patriotic War!

The park stretches along all the length of the western Kremlin wall for about half a mile. Due to its central location in the city, it’ll be easily accessible when you’re out exploring The Red Square.

It provides a bit of relief from the city’s high-energy city streets. Bring a picnic lunch, go for a walk, or just sit and people watch, this is one of the best Moscow sites to wind-down and relax!

Ostankino Television Tower

  • Television and radio tower in Moscow
  • Currently the tallest free-standing structure in Europe
  • Make sure you bring your passport when you visit, you can’t go up without it!

For spectacular views of the city, make sure to add the Ostankino Television Tower to your itinerary for Moscow! This impressive free-standing structure provides stunning views of the city in every direction. The glass floor at the top also provides great alternative views of the city!

Ostankino Television Tower

It takes just 58 seconds for visitors to reach the Tower’s observation deck by super fast elevator. The tower is open every day for long hours and is a great site in Moscow to check out! There is even a restaurant at the top where you can enjoy rotating views of the city while you dine on traditional Russian cuisine or European cuisine!

The tower is somewhat of an architectural surprise in a city that is not known for skyscrapers! To see the city from a new perspective, make sure to add this stop to your Moscow itinerary!

Izmaylovo District

  • The most popular attractions in this district are the kremlin and the flea market
  • Outside of the city center and easy to reach via metro
  • Most popular during the summer and on weekends

Travel outside the city center and discover a unique area of the city! The Izmaylovo District is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and one of the coolest places to see in Moscow! The two main attractions we recommend checking out are the Kremlin and the flea market.

The Izmailovo Kremlin was established as a cultural center and molded after traditional Russian architecture. This colorful complex is home to several single-subject museums, including a Russian folk art museum and a vodka museum!

Izmaylovo District

Next to the Kremlin is the Izmailovo open-air market, which dates back to the 17th century! The market is connected to the Izmailovo Kremlin by a wooden bridge. Pick up all your Russian souvenirs here, including traditional handicrafts, paintings, books, retro toys, and Soviet memorabilia!

You will find many hand-made and hand-painted options available at higher prices, as well as mass-produced souvenir options at lower prices!

Museum of Soviet Arcade Games

  • Closed on Mondays
  • Filled with old arcade games that visitors get to try out!
  • The museum also includes a small cafe and burger shop

For something a little different, check out the Museum of Soviet Arcade Games! The museum features roughly 60 machines from the Soviet era, including video games, pinball machines, and collaborative hockey foosball! The machines inside the museum were produced in the USSR in the mid-1970s.

Museum of Soviet Arcade Games

The best part is, most of the games are still playable! Purchase tickets and try the games out for yourself! The museum also has a neat little screening room that plays old Soviet cartoons and an area with Soviet magazines! This unique attraction is a fun addition to a 3 day itinerary in Moscow, and an attraction that all ages will enjoy! 

Whether you’re spending one day in Moscow, or more, safety is an important thing to keep in mind when traveling to a big city! Overall, Moscow is a very safe place to visit. However, it is always recommended that tourists take certain precautions when traveling to a new destination!

The police in Moscow is extremely effective at making the city a safe place to visit and do their best to patrol all of the top Moscow, Russia tourist attractions. However, tourists can still be a target for pickpockets and scammers.

Moscow has a huge flow of tourists, therefore there is a risk for pickpocketing. Simple precautions will help eliminate your chances of being robbed. Stay vigilant, keep your items close to you at all times, and don’t flash your valuables!

If you’re planning a solo Moscow itinerary, you should have no need to worry, as the city is also considered safe for solo travelers, even women. Stay in the populated areas, try and not travel alone late at night, and never accept rides from strangers or taxis without a meter and correct signage.

The threat of natural disasters in Moscow is low, with the exception of severe winters when the temperature can dip below freezing! Bring a good, warm jacket if you visit in Winter.

However, please note that Russian views on homsexuality are far less accepting than those in Western Europe. Likewise, Non-Caucasian travellers may sadly encounter racism in Russia .

Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance for Moscow

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

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SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Now that we’ve covered all the top things to see in Moscow, we thought we’d include some exciting day trips to other areas of the country!

Sergiev Posad (Golden Ring)

Sergiev Posad Golden Ring

On this 7-hour guided tour, you’ll visit several scenic and historic areas of Russia. Start your day with hotel pick-up as you’re transferred by a comfortable car or minivan to Sergiev Posad. Admire the charming Russian countryside on your drive and enjoy a quick stop to visit the Russian village, Rudonezh!

You’ll see the majestic Saint Spring and the Church of Sergiev Radonezh. You’ll also visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, one of the most famous Orthodox sites in Russia!

Lastly, you’ll swing by the local Matreshka market and enjoy a break in a nice Russian restaurant before returning to Moscow!

Day Trip to Vladimir and Suzdal

Day Trip to Vladimir and Suzdal

On this 13-hour trip, you’ll discover old Russia, with its picturesque landscapes and white-stoned beautiful churches! You’ll visit the main towns of the famous Golden Ring of Russia – the name for several cities and smaller towns north-east of Moscow.

Your first stop will be in the town of Vladimir, the ancient capital of all Russian principalities. The city dates back to the 11th century and is one of the oldest and the most important towns along the Ring! Next, you’ll visit Suzdal, a calm ancient Russian town north of Vladimir with only 13,000 inhabitants!

The old-style architecture and buildings of Suzdal are kept wonderfully intact. If you’re spending three days in Moscow, or more, this is a great option for exploring the charming areas outside the city!

Zvenigorod Day Trip and Russian Countryside

Zvenigorod Day Trip and Russian Countryside

On this 9-hour private tour, you’ll explore the ancient town of Zvenigorod, one of the oldest towns in the Moscow region! As you leave Moscow you’ll enjoy the stunning scenery along the Moscow River, and make a few stops at old churches along the way to Zvenigorod.

Upon arrival, you’ll explore the medieval center, including the 14th-century Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery. Next, you’ll take a break for lunch (own expense) where you’ll have the chance to try out the Russian cuisine! Next, you’ll visit the Museum of Russian Dessert and sip on tea at a Russian tea ceremony.

The final stop of the day is at the Ershovo Estate, a gorgeous place to walk around and enjoy nature!

Day Trip to St Petersburg by Train visiting Hermitage & Faberge

Day Trip to St Petersburg by Train visiting Hermitage and Faberge

On this full-day tour, you’ll enjoy a a full round trip to St Petersburg where you’ll spend an exciting day exploring another popular Russian city! You’ll be picked up from your hotel in Moscow and be transferred to the train station where you’ll ride the high-speed train ‘Sapsan’ to St Petersburg.

Upon arrival, you’ll start the day by touring the Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace. Next, you’ll visit the Faberge Museum, where you’ll explore the impressive collection of rare Faberge Eggs! In the afternoon, enjoy a sightseeing boat ride and a traditional 3-course Russian lunch.

If you’re spending 3 days in Moscow, or more, this is an excellent trip to take!

Trip to Kolomna – Authentic Cultural Experience from Moscow

Trip to Kolomna - Authentic Cultural Experience from Moscow

On this 10-hour tour, you’ll escape the city and travel to the historic town of Kolomna! First, you’ll visit the 14th-century Kolomna Kremlin, home to the Assumption Cathedral and an abundance of museums!

Next, enjoy lunch at a local cafe (own expense) before embarking on a tour of the Marshmallow Museum – of course, a marshmallow tasting is provided!  Your final stop is the Museum of Forging Settlements, where displays include armor and accessories for fishing and hunting.

Discover this beautiful Russian fairytale city on a private trip, where all of the planning is taken care of for you!

Active Roots Security Belt

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Find out what people want to know when planning their Moscow itinerary.

How many days you need in Moscow?

We recommend that you spend at least two or three days in Moscow to take it all in.

What’s the best month to visit Moscow?

The best time to visit Moscow is over the spring, from March to May as temperatures are mild, crowds are thin and prices are reasonable.

What are some unusual things to do in Moscow?

I mean, queuing up to see an almost 100 year old corpse is pretty unsual! Check out Lenin’s Mausoleum if you fancy it!

What are some fun things to do in Moscow?

The Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics is a fun place to explore the famous space race from the perspective of the ‘other side’!

We hope you enjoyed our Moscow itinerary! We’ve made sure to cover all the Moscow must-sees as well as some unique attractions in the city! Our addition of insider tips, favorite food stops, and day trips from Moscow is an added bonus and will guarantee you make the most out of your exciting Russian vacation!

Immerse yourself in the modern and traditional Russian lifestyle! Get lost in museums, witness awe-inspiring architecture, and indulge in Russian cuisine! Spend the day strolling through all of the charming sites of Moscow, admiring the beautiful scenery and discovering the city’s fairytale-like enchantment!

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And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links . That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!

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How to choose a hotel in Moscow: Your guide for every travel occasion

Aerial Moscow city panorama

Aerial Moscow city panorama

Some basic advice for travelers:

Don't be afraid to book a hotel that’s not in the city center, even if it’s a little further out. But make sure there’s a metro station nearby. Even from the most distant metro stations it takes no longer than 30 minutes to reach the city center, and close to many of these stations you can find a nice park, be it Izmailovsky or the Soviet-era VDNKh, or perhaps an exceptional historical site or museum. In addition, the metro is also an important site that deserves to be enjoyed. Check out the interactive metro map here metro.yandex.ru.

  • Hotel  Astrus  – $60-150* (next to Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station, red Line 1)
  • Hotel complex in Izmailovo:  Alfa ,  Beta ,  Gamma ,  Vega ,  Delta  – from $40 to $400 (five big hotels of various quality next to the huge Izmailovsky Park and Partizanskaya metro station on blue Line 3 and Moscow Center Railroad)
  • Holiday Inn Sokolniki  (metro station Sokolniki, red Line 1, next to the beautiful park) – $60-200
  • Hotel  Cosmos  (next to VDNKh metro station on orange Line 6 and VDNKh, with space museum and oceanarium inside) – $50-220

If you’re traveling for a sporting or big musical event :

An aerial view of Luzhniki Stadium

An aerial view of Luzhniki Stadium

We strongly recommend inquiring in advance about your stay before such major events as FIFA World Cup™. Prices are quite high at these times and hotels are overbooked, so you might have to rent an apartment, which is not always a guarantee of a good price-quality relationship.

If you need to be clos e to Spartak Stadium :

  • Aquarium hotel , $130-190
  • DOSAAF hotel , $30-80
  • Happy Hotel , $72
  • Mini hostel  next to the stadium, $10-40

For  Luzhniki Stadium :

  • Hotel  Corston , $80-300
  • Hotel  Luzhniki , $145-160
  • Hotel  Yunost , $80-130
  • Sweet Dream  hostel, $10-30

For  CSKA Arena :

  • Triumph Palace Boutique  Hotel, $145-320
  • ART  Hotel, $40-180
  • Aeropolis  Hotel, $40-140
  • CSKA  Hotel, $40-70

For  VTB Ice Arena :

  • Maxima Panorama  Hotel, $60-200
  • Apart-Hotel  PointZil , $45-95
  • Best Seasons  Hotel, $45-80
  • Hostels  Rus – Avtozavodskaya  $7-10

On a business trip :

Moscow City business center

Moscow City business center

If your personal assistant hasn’t booked a good hotel, or if you don’t have a personal assistant yet, then it’s better to stay close to your office or conference hall, or a rail station with Aeroexpress trains to airports.

  • Ibis  Kievskaya  situated on blue Line 3 is fine if you need the Moscow City business hub or Crocus City. If you need Vnukovo Airport, then the nearby Kievskaya rail station is right there with a fast train to the airport – $50
  • Nearby is  Radisson Slavyanskaya  Hotel by Kievskaya metro and rail station, $100-300
  • Novotel Moscow  is right in the Moscow City business center, from $80
  • Hotel Crocus Star  15-minute walk to Myakinino metro station, Crocus City Hall and Crocus Expo. Nearby is the indoor ski and snowboard venue, Snezh.com, $70

If you want to party hard :

Patriarshiye Ponds

Patriarshiye Ponds

Moscow has great nightlife, and clubs open 24/7 can be found almost everywhere. But these places have a large concentration of restaurants and bars: Pyatnitskaya Street, Patriarshiye Ponds, Tverskaya Streets and the former Red October factory zone. The best option will be to choose something nearby to save money on taxis (the Moscow metro works from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.).

  • Marco Polo Presnja  Hotel, $70-250
  • Peking Hotel  with a rooftop bar, $65-150
  • Citycomfort Hotel  Novokuznetskaya, $40-60
  • Fabrika hostel gallery café , $46-120

If you’re in town for museums and cultural life :

Aivazovsky at the Tretyakov Gallery

Aivazovsky at the Tretyakov Gallery

If you’ve come to Moscow for the first time, the most important things to see can be found in a maximum range of 20 minutes walk from each other. There are two options. The first is the area near the Kremlin, State Historical Museum, Pushkin Museum for Fine Arts and Multimedia Art Museum. In that case, the following hotels will suit you:

  • The National  – just 5 minutes walk from Kremlin. If you can’t afford staying here, have breakfast at the Dr Zhivago restaurant; from $270
  • In Time Hotel  next to Kremlin and Biblioteka Imeni Lenina metro station; $70-100

Option No. 2: if you prefer the Garage Museum in Gorky Park, the State Tretyakov Gallery and New Tretyakov Gallery, then:

  • President  Hotel, $90-200
  • Medea hotel  Novokuznetskaya metro station, $90-160

A riverside room please :

One of the Stalin's seven sisters, former hotel Ukraina

One of the Stalin's seven sisters, former hotel Ukraina

The Moskva River might be not as famous as St. Petersburg’s Neva, but its banks are no less picturesque.

  • Swisshotel   Krasnye Kholmy  is not far from Paveletskaya metro station and the House of Music concert hall, from $190
  • Riverside Hotel  (from $120) shares with  Radisson Royal  (from $270) in a Stalin-era skyscraper and former Ukraine hotel building. Nearby is a pier for Moskva River boat tours.
  • Moscow Point Red October  on the former factory site and full of night clubs , $90-170
  • Ivan Chai - hotel and coffee  is not far from Kolomensky Park and metro station, $40-60

If you’re a badass luxury traveler :

A Kremlin-view room in Baltschug Kempinski

A Kremlin-view room in Baltschug Kempinski

These hotels don’t need special introduction; they have history and offer services at the highest level. But they’re not affordable for everyone. Foreign celebrities, presidents and sheikhs often stay here.

  • Four Seasons Hotel  Moscow – from $500; built anew based on the Stalin era plans; this is probably Moscow’s most expensive luxury hotel and the closest to the Kremlin.
  • The Ritz-Carlton , from $560, with Novikov restaurant on the first floor.
  • Ararat Park Hyatt , the rooftop bar has a fantastic view, from $400
  • Hotel Baltschug Kempinski  Moscow
  • St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya , from $300
  • Metropol , from $200; the mosaics by Mikhail Vrubel on the façade can be enjoyed for free

*All prices are taken from Booking.com’s summer offerings.

Don’t forget to read our guide,  What to do in Moscow  24 or 48 hours (you can even  download and print it  as a small brochure).

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

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  • Airport hotels in Moscow & St. Petersburg: Pros and Cons
  • Travel like Madonna: The 5 most expensive suites in Moscow hotels
  • 10 things a foreigner should never do in Russia

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Alfa Travel   Reviews

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Reviews 4.4.

1,672 total

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Exmouth again!

The pick up, and journey to Burtonwood was on time, and straightforward......as was the journey to Exmouth. We have stayed at the Cavendish hotel previously, so knew more or less, what to expect. The hotel is bright,and clean. Our sea view room would have been perfect, except for scaffolding at the front of the hotel, obliterating our view slightly. The menu had plenty of choice, and the food was served hot and tasty, by very pleasant staff. The housekeeping team worked hard, to ensure our rooms were clean and refreshed, by the time we returned after our days out. Unfortunately, due to the time of year ( February), a lot of 'places of interest' on our days out, were still closed, and the galleries, museums, craft fairs, theatres etc, didn't appear to be opening for another few weeks yet! We did enjoy the break away, and next time, we will come back, later in the year,when there is more to do, on the days out, and when (hopefully) the weather is better than than it was, when we were there.

Date of experience : February 12, 2024

Reply from Alfa Travel

Thanks for taking the time to leave us a review. We look forward to welcoming you back when the weather is warmer and the resorts are back in full swing!

Alfa coaches South Devon delights coach and hotel trip.

South Devon delights coach and hotel trip review for Mrs C Farrow. The pick up & feeder was very good, Russell our dedicated driver was first class. Our hotel The Metropole was excellent, the manager and all staff there worked hard to provide us with a great stay. We highly recommend Alfa coaches and have just booked another trip to the West Country.

Waiting around for coach is downside

We went to Tenby & hotel was good. Great staff & we paid extra for sea view which was well worth it. Could do with small soap in bathroom as we had not taken any. The downside is feeder coaches & having to wait around at Services for coach to resort. It is just chaotic with not enough seating.

Hi Liz, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, we really value your feedback, we will pass this on to our operations team and we hope to welcome you back soon.

Bridlington/Scarborough/York

Good feeder experience going. Giid Bridlington driver and comical too. Some things unavoidable. Hotel very good. Food good, pleasant staff and Alex is a great manager at the Monarch Hotel. Trip back to Bury instead of Beverly due to adverse weather conditions. Got family to pick us up from Bury as Burton Wii’s was going to be late due to those from the south held up on M6 accident and we were near our destination anyway. Bury market is a great stop. All in all a good trip.

Date of experience : February 05, 2024

Thanks for taking the time to leave us a review. We are so glad to hear that the bad weather situation didn't spoil your holiday and we hope to welcome you back soon!

We had a fantastic holiday in Great…

We had a fantastic holiday in Great Yarmouth the hotel is superb close to the seafront and all amenities.. it was clean and bright..all the staff without exception were very Good competent polite and helpful.. Our Coach Driver Lee was very informative chatty and good humoured The Food and entertainment was excellent throughout our stay We would highly recommend Alfa to everyone we know.. Thank you keep and up the excellent work 👍

Thanks for taking the time to leave us such a great 5* review! We will pass your lovely comments onto the team and we look forward to welcoming you back soon!

Simply Brilliant

Feeder coach was brilliant and convenient. Our main coach driver was brilliant, and the coach was so spacious. I had loads of leg room. The hotel and it's staff was amazing and the room was very comfortable. Food was superb, being prepared fresh every day, ad the choice was a nice change. Our day trips were very nice (apart from the weather lol) and left us wanting more, so we will definitely be heading back down there. All in, a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

Thanks for taking the time to leave us a 5* review, we are glad you enjoyed your stay with us and hope to welcome you back soon.

Another wonderful holiday at the queens…

Another wonderful holiday at the queens hotel Blackpool ,such lovely staff made us welcome ,so sad to leave but thanks to everyone working there from room 309

Date of experience : February 19, 2024

Overall we had a good holiday

Overall we had a good holiday . The coach driver was excellent, very informative and kept the mood light. The hotel was in a good location and very comfortable. The breakfasts were very good but some of the evening meals were a little disappointing, but it has to be taken in the context of the reasonable cost. The dining room staff were very attentive, and a complimentary drink with each meal was appreciated.

Date of experience : January 29, 2024

Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, we are glad to hear you enjoyed your holiday with us and hope to welcome you back soon!

Excellent holiday from start to finish

Excellent holiday from start to finish. Pickup went well, coach to resort went well, really good hotel. The driver Harri was excellent, enjoyed the trips. Just good, booked another holiday while I was there.

Hi John, Thanks for taking the time to leave us such a great 5* review! We can't wait to welcome you back!

Lovely few days in Cromer with…

Lovely few days in Cromer with brilliant staff, food & hotel, only criticism is the coach had very dirty windows from joining to leaving with no attempt to clean them & the driver was most unhelpful & not once greeted us with a traditional “Good morning etc” so sad as the short break was very good otherwise.

Hi Terence, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, we really value your feedback, to help us improve we have requested some further info - ideally your booking reference so we can look into the issues further. We hope to welcome you back soon!

Holiday very good only thing wrong is the time spent getting there. Time lost waiting for all feeder coaches.

Hi Colin, Thanks for taking the time to leave us a review. We are so glad to hear your holiday was good and hope the journey time didn't affect your enjoyment too much!

Enjoyable experience

The holiday was good value for money, the hotel being well placed near the pier. It was well decorated, the rooms comfortable and the meals were a good average. The staff were very helpful and nothing was too much trouble.

Date of experience : January 19, 2024

Hi Marjorie, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, we are glad to hear you enjoyed your holiday with us and hope to welcome you back soon!

Jim ,the driver is a credit to your company

Alfa Eastbourne Queens hotel Jim the driver Picked up promptly,arrived at interchange which is comfortable.But it needs more than a young woman shouting coach numbers in a busy service station when many passengers are older and many have hearing loss .Lucky to have same driver to Eastbourne.Great welcome from hotel ,had late dinner 7 pm so often missed out on choice as they had run out .Evening entertainment started at 8.30 so no hanging around for it to start.As my room was above it ,I could hear every word until 11 pm .DONOT book first floor rooms . Late breakfast meant we didn’t go out until 10 am so only had short time at excursion places,I thought they were full day excursions. As Jim ,was local he was excellent at his local knowledge and took us the scenic route giving us a in-depth commentary. At interchange on the way back ,no update as to why we were delayed.The different driver didn’t explain or give estimate times to drop off. Alfa has still not been in contact since trying to stop this review 5 days still no response from Alfa

Hi Catherine, we are sorry to hear things weren't up to standard on your holiday, we have requested some more information so we can look into the issues further.

Super coach trip

Our first time with you the staff at hotel and our driver Jim were superb Food was good at quickly served Only issue spoilt it when we got off our feeder coach to Gravesend, the driver, not sure of name, drove off and I noticed there was a case left there, with a Chatham tag on,so knocked on side of coach as he was driving away. When he opened the door he shouted at me what do you think you are doing damaging my coach, I told him about the case and he said it's got Gravesend on, I said no Chatham,he replied well you could of damaged my coach,no thanks for not letting me drive off and leaving someone's case, but it did not spoil my our time away.

Hi Paul, We are so glad to hear you enjoyed your first holiday with us, thank you for taking the time to leave us a 5* review. We have asked for some more info so we can look into this issue but we are so glad to hear that the situation didn't spoil your holiday and we hope to welcome you back soon!

Our holiday in Devon was very enjoyable…

Our holiday in Devon was very enjoyable and everything ran smoothly. There was a problem at breakfast on more than one occasion when it took a long time to take our order. On one day we waited for 25 minutes before we were asked for our order. This meant we were late for the coach trip and we were told off by the coach driver who said he would go without us if we were late again. We didn’t get the chance to explain why we were late. That said, we had a very good driver.

Hi, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review, sorry you were delayed at breakfast, we will pass this feedback on to the hotel. We do hope to welcome you back soon!

Everything fine

Everything fine, hotel and rooms spotless. New bed, bathroom totally refurbished. Food and entertainment A1. All the staff were very polite and helpful especially the manager Alex. Lovely man. Plus company on the trip were all in great form. Had a great laugh.

HI Robert, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a 5* review, we are glad you enjoyed your holiday with us and hope to welcome you back soon.

Great staff good food good location but issues with the room

Staff extremely helpful Jude the waiter is excellent and goes above and beyond food was better than expected and decent portions. Andy the drive was first class and pleasant means a lot to have a good driver ! Nice clean hotel although we had a leaking radiator which caused a large wet area on our carpet so had to keep our shoes on in the room plus terrible bad smell from the drains ???the manger( Lee) did say he would sort it but sadly it never got fixed while we were there even though we reported it several times! The last day the window developed a leak all sounds like a nightmare ?!?😂 But On the whole we had an amazing week shame the room let it down . Update .. I have sent you the booking number as requested we were a party of 6 and all witnessed the issues with the room .

Hi Gillian, we are sorry to hear you didn't have a great experience with us, we would like to look into the issues you have raised so we can make improvements, so we have requested some further information.

What more could I ask for

What a magnificent surprise when I entered my "solo" room. King size bed, palatial sized room and a NASA sized TV. Weather miserable but staff including driver friendly and polite. What more could I ask for?

Hi Tony, Thanks for taking the time to leave us a 5* review, we are glad you enjoyed your stay with us and hope to welcome you back soon!

Thank you . Yes it has been a nice break. The was one thing I would mention, The hotel bar was not open untill 5.15 on an afternoon, which was a shame, as there was a nice lounge to sit and chat with people over coffee or a glass of wine.

Hi Mary, Thank you for Thanks for taking the time to leave us a 5* review. We do appreciate your feedback and we are working on opening our bars earlier. We hope to welcome you back soon.

Started well but some disappointment.

Coach arrived on time though left late from interchange due to driver illness and no relief driver for another group. Hotel acceptable and food OK. Staff lovely. Drinks reasonably priced. Nothing to do when weather bad- no provision/alternative for no buses on NY’sDay so very bored. Single entertainer each night but they worked hard so enjoyable NYE and other evenings. Far too early cases out and breakfast time on departure day made us very tired and it spoiled the trip somewhat.

Date of experience : December 30, 2023

Hi, we are sorry to hear you didn't have a great experience with us, we would like to look into the issues you have raised so we can make improvements, so we have requested some further information.

What Tucker Carlson Saw in Moscow

He never quite says what precisely he thinks Russia gets right.

Tucker Carlson in Russian supermarket

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Produced by ElevenLabs and NOA, News Over Audio, using AI narration.

Tucker Carlson went to Moscow last week and had an absolute blast. He rode the subway and marveled at its clean cars, the fancy tilework in Kievskaya Station, and the lack of booze-drenched hobos. He went to a grocery store and was astonished by what ordinary people could apparently buy. He even managed to meet a local history buff and sit down for tea and conversation. Carlson, who had never previously visited Moscow, declared himself “radicalized” against America’s leaders by the experience. He didn’t want to live in Moscow, but he did want to know why we in America have to put up with street crime and crappy food when the supposedly bankrupt Russia provided such a nice life for its people, or at least those people not named Alexei Navalny .

My former Atlantic colleague Ralph Waldo Emerson called travel a “fool’s paradise,” but not all forms of foolishness are equal. Many commentators have guffawed at Carlson’s Russophilia and pointed out that Russia’s murder rate is roughly that of the United States, and that its citizens are dirt poor, about a fifth as wealthy per capita as the citizens of the United States overall. “I don’t care what some flagship supermarket in an imperial city looks like,” The Dispatch ’s Jonah Goldberg tweeted. “Russia is far, far poorer than our poorest state, Mississippi.” Bloomberg ’s Joe Weisenthal suggested that Carlson instead visit the grocery stores of the “10th or 50th” richest Russian cities, and see how they compare with America’s.

In 2019, I visited several large and small Russian cities, and I went grocery shopping at least once in each. Would you believe that Tucker Carlson is on to something? In Moscow (the largest) and St. Petersburg (No. 2), the flagship supermarkets are indeed spectacular. The Azbuka Vkusa branch next to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow is more luxurious than any grocery store within 100 miles of Washington, D.C. Other branches in Moscow vary in quality, and they are usually smaller than American supermarkets. But to some extent that’s just a matter of culture: The U.S. has fewer supermarkets, but each one is big enough to feed the 82nd Airborne Division for a month; in Europe, supermarkets are more numerous but tiny.

Anne Applebaum: The false romance of Russia

Makhachkala (22), the capital of Dagestan, followed a similar pattern to Moscow. One supermarket downtown was amazing, the equal of an upscale supermarket in Washington or Dallas. On the outskirts the quality varied, but not drastically. Local residents were not eating soups made from grass clippings. In Murmansk (71), the cramped bodega near my rented flat had a good wine selection and enough fresh staple foods to prepare a different meal your mom would approve of every day of the week. Only in Derbent (134) did I start to wonder whether the bad old days of the Soviet Union were still in effect. But even that would be an exaggeration. In Derbent, for $15, you could get champagne and caviar with blini and velvety sour cream. If you want to flash back to Cold War communism, go to Havana. There the grocery stores stock only dust and mildew.

With apologies to Emerson, travel can disabuse you of foolish notions just as often as it plants them in your head. An idea ripe for dispelling among Americans at this particular moment is that life in Russia must suck because the frigid depression of the Cold War never ended. In those days ordinary citizens were spied upon and tortured and killed, and the shops were empty, save for substandard goods at prices few could afford. Now Russia is different. The state repression is much more limited, though no less brutal toward those who attract its attention. Until the Ukraine war added a huge category of forbidden topics, the main ones that you could get locked up for discussing were war in the Caucasus and the personal life and finances of President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle. Most other topics were broachable, and you could whine all you liked about them.

Equally in need of updating are American expectations about Russian economic misery. Those whose visits to Russia stopped 20 years ago tend to have outdated views of the best the country has to offer. My visits started 24 years ago. Back then, I spent days at a time on the Trans-Siberian, crammed into railway cabins with little to do but talk with Russians and see how they lived. Life was not beautiful. The men busied themselves with crosswords and sullenly browsed pornography. When not in motion, I stayed with Russian friends in single-room flats that looked straight out of a New York tenement building 100 years ago. No one I met was starving, but women sometimes approached me in train stations hoping to rent out their homes or bodies, or to sell me family heirlooms. That type of desperation seems to have subsided, although I would be shocked if any of those people are able to buy the jamón ibérico at the Smolenskaya branch of Azbuka Vkusa yet. On the roads between the big cities, there are still villages so ramshackle that they look like sets from The Little Rascals . Evidence suggests that the Russian military’s frontline troops tend to come from these depressed and benighted lands, the places that really are stuck in the 20th century.

Certain aspects of life remain dismal even in the cities. My flat in Murmansk had surly drunks tottering outside its entrance, and its stairwell smelled like every cat, dog, and human resident had marked its territory there regularly since the Brezhnev era. But the playgrounds were decent, and you could get a delicious smoked-reindeer pizza at a cozy restaurant for $7. Remember, this is in a small, depressed Russian city—not somewhere stocked with goodies just in case an American wanders out of the lobby of the Radisson and needs to be impressed. The “useful idiots” of yesteryear were treated to fake Moscows, which evanesced as soon as the next Aeroflot flights took off. The luxuries of Moscow that Carlson sees, and that I saw, are not evanescent, and they are not (as they are in North Korea, say) a curated experience available only to those on controlled visits.

The stubborn belief that all good things in Russia must be illusory can in turn warp one’s analysis of the country, and in particular of Putin’s durability in power. After all, why would anyone remain loyal to an autocrat who delivered only hunger, penury, and the reek of cat piss? Putin rules by fear but not only by fear. Most Russians will tell you that Russia today is better than it was before Putin. They compare it not with the Soviet era but with the anarchy and decline of the 1990s. Life expectancy has risen, public parks are better maintained, and certain fruits of capitalism can be tasted by Russians of all classes. Who would risk these gains? Like every autocrat, Putin has ensured that his downfall just might destroy every good thing Russia has experienced in the past two decades. This risk is, from the perspective of regime continuity, a positive feature, because it keeps all but the most principled and brave opposition quiet, and content to shut up and enjoy their cheap caviar. Those like Navalny who object do not object for long.

Carlson’s videos never quite say what precisely he thinks Russia gets right. Moscow is in many ways superior to New York. But Paris has a good subway system too. Japan and Thailand have fine grocery stores, and I wonder, when I enter them, why entering my neighborhood Stop & Shop in America is such a depressing experience by comparison. Carlson’s stated preference for Putin’s leadership over Joe Biden’s suggests that the affection is not for fine food or working public transit but for firm autocratic rule—which, as French, Thais, and Japanese will attest, is not a precondition for high-quality goods and services. And in an authoritarian state, those goods and services can serve to prolong the regime.

I confess I still enjoy watching Carlson post videos of Moscow, wide-eyed and credulous as he slowly learns to love a country that I love too. I hope he posts more of them. One goes through stages of love for Russia, often starting with the literature and music, then moving to its dark humor and the personalities of its people, which are always cycling between thaw and frost. Inevitably one reflects on the irony that this civilization, whose achievement is almost without equal in some respects, is utterly cursed in others—consigned to literally centuries of misgovernment, incompetence, and tyranny. The final stage is realizing that the greatness of Russia is part of the curse, a heightening of the irony, as if no matter how much goes right, something is deeply wrong. Maybe when things go right, the more deeply wrong it is. Carlson seems to still be in one of the early stages of this journey.

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