When is the best time to fly to Moscow?
July and August makes up the peak tourist season in Moscow. Those intending to visit during the summer months should book their flights to Moscow and reserve hotel rooms well in advance, in order to get the best deal.
Cheap flights to Moscow are more readily available during the off season; however, airfares and room rates may increase slightly during events.
Late spring and early fall are good times to book a flight to Moscow. Travellers who visit during the first weekend in September will be able to experience Den’ Gorda (Moscow City Day), a celebration of the birth of the Russian Capital. Locals and tourists can enjoy fun fairs, street entertainment, live music, vibrant processions and taste some delicious local food and drinks.
The weather in late spring and early autumn is typically mild, although still unpredictable. Late May and late August tend to be warm and sunny.
Winter is another off peak period, as although the snowscapes are breathtaking, so is the bitter cold. It is advised to bring plenty of warm clothing if planning a visit to the city between late November and February.
Visitors planning flights to Moscow during winter will enjoy the Russian Winter Festival, held every year from 25th December until the 5th January. The area in and around Izmailovo Park is transformed into a winter wonderland, where visitors can experience traditional folk music, dancers and performers and enjoy signature delicacies such as pancakes and caviar. The bitterly cold temperature is made a little more bearable through the heart-warming vodka on offer. If you’re planning on visiting during the Moscow Winter Festival then organising a sleigh ride through the winter forest is a must.
Red Square is the heartbeat of Moscow, its buildings telling the story of Russia's past. The Kremlin stands along one side of the square. Inside, this ancient seat of the Tsars and now, President Medvedev, is studded with treasures. Here you'll find magnificent frosted churches, wedding-cake style, such as the Assumption Cathedral, Archangel’s and Annunciation Cathedrals. Russia's might is apparent on Ivan Square, where the Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon stand and the Arsenal is on Senatskaya Square. The palaces - the Residence of Russian Tsars and Patriarchs and Grand Kremlin Palace - are suitably awe-inspiring.
Probably the most famous site in Red Square is St Basil's Cathedral with its ornate onion domes and swirling colours, which comprises nine separate chapels.
The GUM, the shopping mall, is where you'll find expression of the new Russia. There are more than 150 shops and stalls, big Western brands and huge prices. For more affordable souvenirs such as matrioshka dolls, get to the Old Arbat or Ismailovo Market.
Getting around Moscow
The cheapest and best way to get around Moscow is by metro. Purchase your ticket at one of the metro stations, which are decorated with artwork and sculptures. You can buy tickets for single or multiple trips. For areas that the metro doesn’t reach, take a tram or bus. Tram and bus tickets are cheapest at metro stations or kiosks, but you can also buy tickets from the driver. Make sure you validate your ticket when you board the bus.
Marshrutky (minibus shuttles that drive along bus routes) and taxis can be flagged down for short trips. It’s easy to get private cars confused with taxis, so make sure you agree on a fare ahead of time. If you’re going to the airport, or taking a long trip, you should call ahead for a taxi.
If you do rent your own car in Moscow, take note of the rules. Sounding your claxon is only allowed in emergencies and your car must have seat belts, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and an emergency triangle or red light. If you can, avoid driving at night. Drunk driving happens often, despite being illegal.
Getting from the Airport to the City
Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) is situated 16 miles (26 km) northwest of Moscow.
Domodedovo International Airport (DME) is located 22 miles (35km) from the city centre. Taxis are available from outside both terminals; passengers should avoid the renegade taxi drivers and go to the official taxi counter. Rates are fixed. There is an express bus services, which leaves from outside Sheremetyevo 1 and 2 for the nearby metro stations that connect to the city centre. Minibuses are also available.
Moscow insider information
- Cathedral Square is the centre of the Kremlin. There are three cathedrals: Cathedral of the Dormition where all the tsars were crowned, Cathedral of the Annunciation and Cathedral of the Archangel Michael where the Muscovite monarchs from 13th-17th century are interred. The Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon are on Ivan Square, while the Grand Kremlin Palace, residence of the 19th-century Russian emperors, is on Palace Square.
- Red Square dates from the 15th century, “red” being an archaic word for beautiful, nothing to do with Communism. St Basil's Cathedral with its colourful onion domes is here and at the northern corner of the square stands the Kazan Cathedral. This fancy red-and-white building is a replica. It was rebuilt in 1993 to replace the original, which Stalin had destroyed in 1936 to clear Red Square for military parades. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is also a reconstruction. It was dynamited in 1931, but rebuilt in the 1990s.
- If only the Tube was like this … Mayakovskaya is one of the most lavish stations on the metro system, boasting marble and steel pillars and mosaics.
- Shop in GUM, the State Department Store, a gorgeous three-storey arcade built in the 1890s, which lines the eastern side of Red Square. Most of the usual Western suspects are here among its 150 shops, but there are Russian shops too selling local delicacies. For souvenirs such as matroishka dolls, fur hats, khokhloma (lacquered wood) and old propaganda posters, visit the Arbat or the Izmailovsky Flea Market.
- The Seven Sisters, seven towers to rival the skyscrapers in the US, were built during Stalin’s reign. They have a “wedding cake” style, which concentrates the eye to a central tower.
- Many travellers book flights to Moscow to visit Lenin’s mausoleum; a sight which is a must see on most to-do lists.