Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Moscow's number one sight to see on every tourist's list is of course - The Red Square. It is akin to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Russia's beating red heart at the center of it all. In my opinion, it is completely worthy of the hype that surrounds it, but it is not the only "Must See" the city has to offer. I've put together a list of my favourite sights in Russia's dynamic capital.
St. Basil's Cathedral
Okay let's get this guy out of the way first. The crowning jewel of the Red Square was built by Ivan the Terrible ( Ivan Vasilyevich - Russia's First Tsar) back in the mid 1500s. It draws it's name a from an allegedly prophetic "fool" named Basil who predicted the fire of 1547 that destroyed almost a third of Moscow. It was originally white in colour - built to match the Kremlin's white stone; and became technicolour in the 17th century. The pigment is said to be inspired by a Biblical description of the Kingdom of Heaven. The cost of entry at the time of my visit was 500 rubles (about 7 euros). Though the cathedral's exterior is it's showstopper, the interior is worth a visit as well.
This statue is situated near a military research station, slightly off the beaten path. This one may not be on everyone's list, but I am a big fan of dogs (especially dogs with jobs) and I wanted to see this sweet statue dedicated to the Russian space industry's noble hero. Laika grew up on the streets of Moscow before she was selected to become the first animal to orbit earth entirely. Laika was fitted into a special dog-spacesuit and launched into orbit on November 3rd, 1957. Tragically, this was a one way ticket. Laika's spaceship Sputnik 2 made over 2000 revolutions of the earth before disintegrating upon re-entry. In 2002, the Russian government finally revealed that Laika had died within hours of her launch due to heat exhaustion. This darling girl's story breaks my heart, but it is comforting to see her honoured in this way.
Lenin's mausoleum is a trip. Sitting in the middle of the Red Square, it looks fairly insignificant from the outside. On the inside however, lies the mummified body of the man that launched the Bolshevik Revolution ending nearly 500 years of Tsarist autocracy. The line to enter the mausoleum is always long, and they cut off entrance at 1:00 pm. I had made the mistake of leaving it till my last day in Moscow, and miraculously, I was the last person to make the 1:00 pm cut off. A guard walked up to me, and put her hand behind my back and announced "That's it!". There was probably another 30-40 people behind me, and a few came up to the guard and begged her to let them in. I wanted to offer my spot to the more desperate sounding tourists but I didn't think the guard was much for bargaining. Once I was inside there were two guards watching our every move. We were told not to take any photographs, and if we stopped moving for too long they ushered us along. It was pretty surreal to see the body of Lenin, just laying there. He was a lot smaller than I had imagined. Taken from Atlas Obscura "The sarcophagus is kept at a constant temperature of 16° C (61° F) and humidity of 80 - 90 percent. Weekly, a mild bleach is used to fight discoloring fungus and mold on Lenin’s skin, and every eighteen months the corpse undergoes a chemical bath of glycerol and potassium for thirty days while the mausoleum is closed. During this time, Lenin’s clothes are washed and carefully ironed. And every three years, Lenin receives a new suit." Once you exit the mausoleum, you are taken to the Kremlin Wall Necropolis where several important characters are buried, including Joseph Stalin. *Note: The photo of Lenin below was stolen from Google images. I wasn't allowed to take a photo of the mummified chap.*
It seems strange to list any city's public transport as a "must see", but Moscow's underground is truly a work of art. There are quite a few tours that take you to the most beautiful stations, but in my opinion it's a waste of money. With Google Maps and a metro pass, you can easily do your own tour for a fraction of the price. A metro card costs around 65 rubles + whatever amount you choose to top it up with. Most major metro stations will have an English speaking agent at the ticket booth, but if they don't you can just type out the amount you'd like to top up with on your phone. Some particularly gorgeous ones include Mayakovskaya, Arbatskaya, Komsomolskaya, and Kievskaya. Yana (my local tour guide) put it beautifully when she said "The Soviet government built underground palaces for the working people."
Monument to the Conquerors of Space
This monument was erected in 1964 to celebrate achievements of the Soviet people in space exploration. The monument is free to visit, and there is a small museum next to it but it was all in Russian so I didn't bother going in. It's right across the street from the All Russian Exhibition Center (or VDNKh) which is a lovely little spot to wander around. There were loads of different buskers and although there is no real note-worthy bits, it has a great atmosphere.
The Bolshoi Theatre
Unfortunately I can't personally vouch for this one. I had purchased tickets to see a performance by the Bolshoi Academy but tragically misread the date when I purchased the tickets. I arrived to the theatre all dolled up with my ticket in hand, only to be told that the performance had actually been the night before. I sat outside the theatre feeling very sorry for myself, but still took the time to admire the beautiful building. Built in the early 19th century it is home to the largest ballet company in the world with more than 200 dancers. The next time I'm in Moscow I'll be sure to get tickets, and write the date on my forehead.