Moscow in Winter – 3 Day Itinerary for First-Timers
Wondering how to spend 3 days in Moscow, Russia during the winter? This itinerary is here to help!
I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record at this point, but I can’t help it! Visiting Moscow, Russia during the winter is SO worth being a little cold to experience.
Besides, when you think of Russia – do you think of hot summer days spent in shorts and sandals? Of course not. You imagine snowstorms, fur coats and icicles hanging from people’s faces. (Granted, Moscow is cold… but a lot of the extreme weather we are picturing is usually from more northern parts of Russia… and Siberia.)
Moscow is absolutely stunning in the winter. And, of course, there are also going to be far fewer tourists during the winter too.
- If you need a little more inspiration of why visiting Moscow during the winter is beyond magical, check out this photo gallery by clicking here.
I was fortunate to have a little over a year to spend experiencing Moscow. However, if you only have 3 full days to spend in Moscow during the winter – this itinerary is sharing the best things to do in Moscow in 3 days and how to make the most of your time here. Enjoy!
How to Spend 3 Days in Moscow During the Winter – The Ultimate Itinerary
Day 1 – The Kremlin + Red Square + Christ the Savior + The Bolshoi Theatre
Go Inside The Kremlin
The Kremlin is a fortified complex in the heart of Moscow. Inside there are five palaces, four cathedrals, and an enclosing wall. The Grand Kremlin Palace is also located inside, which is the official residence of Russia’s president…like The White House. (However, he doesn’t actually live there.)
- Touring the Kremlin will likely take between 3-4 hours if you want to see Cathedral Square and also The Armoury (highly recommend seeing both).
- I also suggest visiting the Kremlin first thing in the morning on your first day here. Getting tickets to the Kremlin is a bit of a process, too.
- Click here for all of my tips for visiting the Kremlin.
Visit Red Square
Red Square is the famous city square in Moscow. Here you’ll find St. Basil’s Cathedral, the GUM Mall and many museums… plus, Lenin’s Mausoleum. From the last weekend in November to about the first weekend in February, Red Square also hosts an ice skating rink and a Christmas Market. It’s so magical to see!
- This can take as long or as short as you want. You could just walk around and take in the sights (this would take no more than 1 hour), or you could spend upwards of 3 hours touring the museums, going inside St. Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s Mausoleum, and also the GUM Mall (which is a high-end, historic shopping mall pictured above).
- Click here for more info on going inside St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Visit Christ the Savior Cathedral
This beautiful white and gold cathedral was actually demolished by Stalin in the 1930s…and turned into a public swimming pool. Then, in 1994 the mayor of Moscow erected a new Christ the Saviour Cathedral in its place. It’s beautiful to see, and only takes around a 1/2 hour to tour inside. (For women – be sure to have a scarf or hat to cover your head with.)
See a Show at the Bolshoi Theatre or Tour the Bolshoi
I highly recommend attending a Ballet performance at the Bolshoi Theatre, if you have the time and the budget to do so. (If you’re going to be here during Christmas and New Year’s, when the ballet is performing “The Nutcracker” – get tickets ASAP. They sell out very quickly.)
- Click here for my blog post about attending a performance at the Bolshoi.
- Click here to the Bolshoi’s official schedule.
Or, if you would rather not attend a performance, you can still do a tour of the Bolshoi Theatre. The schedule for these tours changes frequently, though. Be sure to check the Bolshoi link below before planning your visit.
- Click here for dates/times for the Bolshoi tours.
Evening dining suggestions #1 – Grand Cafe Dr. Zhivago
Grand Cafe Dr. Zhivago’s is located very close to the Bolshoi and is a fine dining restaurant in Moscow with reasonable prices. It also has a fantastic view of the Kremlin. (I do suggest calling ahead to make a reservation – at least 1 week in advance. This place books quickly!)
- Click here for more info on Dr. Zhivago’s.
Evening dining suggestions #2 – Beluga
Beluga is fine dining and located directly above Grand Cafe Dr. Zhivago’s. I, personally, enjoyed dining here more (the staff was WAY better and it was less crowded), and your view of the Kremlin is even better. However, the prices reflect this. This restaurant is quite expensive (but worth it). I do also suggest doing one of their caviar tastings while here as well. (You can’t come to Moscow and not try caviar!)
- Click here for more info on Beluga.
*Note – there is a “Beluga Caviar Bar” located in the GUM mall. Be careful not to get the two restaurants confused!
Day 2 – Izmailovsky Market and Banya
The Izmailovksy Market
The Izmailovksy Market is a MUST if you are going to Moscow. It’s the best spot in the city to buy souvenirs. But even if you’re not interested in purchasing souvenirs, it’s still worth a few hours of your time to simply wander through. (There is even a Museum of Vodka inside.)
- This will take around 3 hours. Note – the market is open every day, but the best time to visit is on the weekend. This is when the majority of the vendors are there.
- Click here for all of my tips for visiting the Izmailovksy Market.
After you’re nice and cold from wandering around the Izmailovsky market – head to a banya! A Russian banya is similar to a sauna. The biggest difference, though, is that a “banya” has high levels of humidity in it, while a sauna will have dry air. They’ve been a part of Russian life for over a thousand years. Winter is the perfect time to experience this Russian tradition!
- This will take at least 3 hours.
- Click here for all my tips on visiting a Russian Banya.
Evening Dining Suggestions – #1 Mari Vanna
After a day of walking through the market and experiencing a banya – you’re going to be famished! This is the perfect night to get some hearty Russian food at Mari Vanna. This restaurant is cozy and relaxed and modeled after an old Russian home. (They even have the cutest cat who will come out to say hello to the guests! He’s pictured above.) I recommend getting the Borsch, Beef Stroganoff and their dumplings.
- Click here for more info on Mari Vanna.
Evening Dining Suggestion – #2 Varenichnaya №1
Varenichnaya №1 is actually a popular chain of restaurants in Russia that serves a variety of Russian food for very reasonable prices. I highly recommend stopping at one of their restaurants at least once during your time in Moscow. (And be sure to try their varenniki!)
- Click here for more info on Varenichnaya №1.
Day 3 – *Multiple Options!
Metro Tour / Bunker 42 / Tank ride / Museum of Cosmonautics / Star City / Art Museum
This day I’m going to offer several different suggestions based on your preferences… but one way or another, you NEED to do a metro tour. Moscow’s metro system is simply gorgeous! This could also be wedged into day #2, as you are likely going to be taking the metro to get to the market. However, you could take 1-2 hours to simply ride the metro on day #3, and see all of the best stations.
- This will take between 1-2 hours.
- Click here for my tips for doing a self-guided metro tour.
- Click here to book a guided metro tour.
Option #1 Star City
Star City is where the cosmonauts train. Here you can see their training facilities, the simulators and the world’s largest centrifuge. Until the 90s, this was a top-secret location, but now, you can tour it with a guide. You do have to apply to visit, though, at least 45 business days in advance. (I, personally, was never able to visit, as my application was denied. This was due to wanting to visit on Russian holidays as the facility is not open on weekends.)
- This is an all-day tour.
- Click here to see the Star City tour.
Option #2 Tank Ride
Yes, you can ride a real Soviet tank in Russia! There are several different places to do so near Moscow. The one I did was on a T-34 Tank, and it also included shooting 10 blanks from the gun of your choice too. (I tried the AK-47.) And yes, I did this in fall when some friends were visiting – but they also do these rides in winter!
- This is a half-day adventure. (So, you could easily do your metro tour in the other half of the day.)
- Click here to read about my experience riding a tank in Moscow!
- Click here to see a full-day tank tour.
Option #3 – Visit the Museum of Cosmonautics + Bunker 42 + Metro Tour
Another option, if you’re interested in learning about the cosmonauts but are unable to go to Star City (like me), then head to the Museum of Cosmonautics! The Museum of Cosmonautics is a museum dedicated to space exploration. It charts the history of the Russian space race and famous Russian cosmonauts and has an impressive variety of space equipment, suits…and even some famous taxidermied dogs. (You can also try “space food” while you’re here!)
- This would take around 2 hours to visit.
- Click here for more info on visiting the Museum of Cosmonautics.
Bunker-42 was once a top-secret, Soviet military complex. Stalin had commissioned it to be made after the United States created a nuclear bomb. 65 meters (or about 213 feet) underground, was the desired depth to protect Russia’s top officials from a nuclear attack.
It became operational in 1954. Fortunately, it was never needed for its true purpose and was instead used as the command center of strategic bombers for nearly 30 years in Moscow. Now, it is a museum dedicated to the Cold War. It is a truly unique experience!
- This takes around 1.5 to 2 hours to tour. There is also a restaurant on site, if you would like to stop for lunch and/or dinner or just drinks (You also need to book a guide ahead of time for the tour.)
- Click here for more info on touring Bunker-42.
Metro Tour – you would also have enough time to do a metro tour with this option.
Option #4 Visit the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts + the Tretyakov Gallery + Subway Tour
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts has some of the best European art in Russia. And at the Tretyakov Gallery, you’ll find the world’s most comprehensive collection of Russian art and icons. *Each museum will require roughly a few hours to tour.
Restaurant Recommendation for the Evening – #1 Cafe Pushkin
Cafe Pushkin is an antique-filled dining room of a nobleman’s house, with formal service & a typically Russian menu. It’s a fun experience with some of the best service I have experienced in Moscow! But I do advise making a reservation a day or two in advance, as it can get very busy (at least on weekends).
- Click here for more info on Cafe Pushkin.
Restaurant Recommendation for the Evening – #2 Turandot
Turandot is a few doors down from Cafe Pushkin…. and it is one of the fanciest restaurants I’ve ever dined at! The food is also unique and fantastic. We ate here a few times whenever friends and family visited – and the food never disappointed. However, be prepared, while the food and ambiance are great… we never had a very good service experience here. The waiters and waitresses were always “so-so.”
- Click here for more info on Turandot.
Where to Stay in Moscow
These hotels are top-notch and are in the best spots in the city! Obviously, the prices reflect this.
- Metropol Hotel – If you’re a fan of the book “A Gentleman in Moscow” then you must stay at the historic Metropol Hotel! It’s located directly across from the Bolshoi as well. Click here for my experience here.
- The Four Seasons – Arguably the most centrally located hotel of them all. The Four Seasons is literally just outside the walls of the Kremlin as well as the Bolshoi. (I, personally, liked grabbing a drink at their bar to people watch in the winter.)
- The Ritz Carlton – located just across the road from the Kremlin with modern rooms and great views of the Kremlin.
Centrally located hotels that are less expensive:
These hotels have great locations and will be within walking distance of many attractions. However, many of the hotels mentioned below are quite dated. So, be aware of that before making your booking.
- Moscow Marriott Royal Aurora Hotel – My friends stayed at this hotel for a few weeks and said it was in a fantastic location and the staff are great – but the rooms are quite dated.)
- Budapest Hotel – Had another set of friends stay here – they loved the location. It’s just a couple blocks away from the Marriott above. But, again, the rooms are very dated.)
- Centeral Hostel Moscow – This is in a fantastic location as well, and it is also near the two hotels mentioned above. The price tag on this hostel is very reasonable in winter as well.
My Personal Favorite Hotel:
- Marriott Moscow Hotel Novy Arbat – This is the hotel I had stayed at when I was in between apartments. It’s a little further away from everything, and would likely require a cab to get to most of the attractions during winter. However, the rooms here are very nice and the breakfast and lounge are fantastic as well. I also really like the spa and gym at this hotel.
Getting Around in Moscow
- I recommend walking as much as possible when in Moscow. It’s one of the safest and most beautiful cities I have ever visited. For this, I recommend getting the Yandex Maps app. (Google Maps is getting there, however, Yandex is still the best for maps in Russia.)
- Then, I recommend taking the metro as frequently as possible! It’s affordable, and many of the stations are absolutely beautiful. (Click here for all my tips for taking the Moscow Metro.)
- But sometimes, it’s just easier and quicker to take a cab. For taking a cab, I recommend downloading the Gett and Yandex Taxi apps. These are English-friendly apps that work the same as Uber. (Uber currently does not work in Moscow.) Gett is my personal favorite taxi app.
If anyone has any questions at all about visiting Moscow, please feel free to reach out in the comments section at the end of this post or send me an email at [email protected]
- Read next: 30+ Best Things to Do in Moscow by a Moscow Resident
- Read next: 20 of the Best Moscow Restaurants by a Local
- Read next: How to Get a Russian Tourist Visa as an American
- Read next: 7 Crazy and Unusual Things to Do in Moscow, Russia
- Read next: Russian Banya Experience – A Must-Do on Your Trip to Russia
- Read next: 17 Incredible Things to Do in St. Petersburg, Russia
- Click here to see all of my blog posts from Russia.
- Click here for my packing tips for visiting Russia in the winter.
It’s a good idea, no matter where your adventure takes you, to have travel insurance. You never know what might happen! Whether you get sick before your trip and can’t go, or you become sick or injured while on your adventure – being covered with travel insurance is a must. Some credit card companies do provide this service (check with yours), or you can get a quote from companies such as Squaremouth to find the best plan for you and your adventure. (This is the company I, personally, use. They are even recommended by Forbes!) To get a free quote, click here.
To check if your country requires a Visa for traveling to Russia, click here. If you are from the United States you NEED a visa. Click here for information on how to obtain one.
- This post is now available as a self-guided walking tour via GPSmyCITY. Click here to download it!
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I’m visiting Moscow for a few days next week, and I’m trying to figure out if I have to be a guest at the Metropol Hotel in order to eat there. Is it possible to just go there for lunch/dinner?
Thank you for your super helpful blog posts; I am definitely going to do many of the things you recommend here!
I’m not sure what the current schedule is for the Metropol. However, the last time I was there, they were only serving breakfast. You don’t need to be a guest to go to breakfast. You can make a reservation online ahead of time, too, for breakfast: https://metropol-moscow.ru/en/restaurants/ The bar area is open afternoon/evening, though. It’s a nice spot to grab a drink!
I’m so excited travel is picking up again to Moscow! You’re going to have a wonderful time! Thank you for reading!
Thank you so much for such an in depth guide! Been studying your posts all day for my upcoming trip to Moscow and St Petersburg.
I am so happy to hear the posts have been helpful! Please feel free to reach out with any questions you have about traveling to Russia. Have a great trip!
What a great guide! thanks so much for putting together, it all looks so lovely although very cold with all that snow! 🙂 It’s sweet you got to celebrate your birthday there as well!
Hope that your week is off to a good start! We went to the Enchanted Gardens yesterday afternoon to see the Christmas lights which was beautiful 🙂
Thank you so much. I’m so glad you enjoyed this guide.
You’re making me want to visit Moscow! It looks like it is especially gorgeous this time of year.
It really is!
I love how much information you provide Lindsey. And you’re right…you don’t think about touring Russia in the summer…ha ha!!
I would never think to tour the metro either. That’s great info!
Thank you, Jodie! So glad you liked the post!