Looking for unusual things to do in Moscow? I commend your explorer spirit! It’s so easy to get lost in the overwhelming, never sleeping Moscow. The Russian capital is filled with many wonders, but unless you know where you’re headed, you will end up walking the same central streets over and over again. If you stop a person on the street and ask them how to get somewhere, odds are they won’t be able to tell you. We’re all foreigners in Moscow!
Which is why this list of unusual things to do in Moscow is meant to bring together the best viewing points, overlooked museums, local spots and truly iconic locations that you might not see otherwise. Ready? Let’s go!
P.S.: I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, and have visited Moscow multiple times. Some of the activities I’ll talk about I haven’t done myself yet – if that is the case, I will make sure to mark it and give you a heads up so that you can make your own decision. And if you’d like to read more about travel in Russia, read my unusual things to do in St. Petersburg guide! (I’ve got a penchant for finding fun activities, like the unusual things to do in London too…)
Here are the contents of today's post:
- 1 Top Interesting Things To Do in Moscow:
- 1.1 Discover the “Odd Flat” from Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita”
- 1.2 Tour the Bolshoi Theatre
- 1.3 Explore the pavilions of the VDNKh
- 1.4 Visit the free Moscow metro museum
- 1.5 Enjoy the view from Sparrow Hills
- 1.6 Eat at Danilovsky Market
- 1.7 Bathe in the iconic Sanduny banya
- 1.8 Visit the local creative hangout at Flacon
- 1.9 Enjoy sunset views of Moscow city center
- 1.10 Spot Tsereteli sculptures all over Moscow
- 1.11 Discover the horrors of the Stalinist rule at the House on the Embankment
- 1.12 Visit the Picturesque Bridge for a stunning perspective
- 1.13 Take a trip into the past in the Izmailovo Kremlin
- 1.14 Visit Moscow City platform for panoramic views of Moscow
- 1.15 Go on a retro steam train adventure
- 1.16 Explore one of the oldest buildings in Moscow
- 1.17 Visit the Chambers of the Romanov Boyars
Top Interesting Things To Do in Moscow:
Discover the “Odd Flat” from Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita”
This might just be my favorite spot in Moscow! I am a huge fan of “The Master and Margarita” and this museum delivers on the mysterious atmosphere of Berlioz’s “bad apartment” in spades. Bulgakov himself lived in it from 1921 to 1924, back when this communal apartment was divided into parts.
The experience starts even before you set foot in the apartment № 50 on Bolshaya Sadovaya 10. The courtyard welcomes you with a monument to Korovyev and the mischievous cat Begemot. If you lift the receiver of the apartment phone, you’ll be able to overhear a conversation from the book.
Aside from guided tours of the museum, there are also a couple of walking tours that are offered in English. They offer insight into Bulgakov’s process and inspiration and will take you the key spots in Moscow, such as Margarita’s house, the Patriarch Ponds, and others…
Keep in mind that there is not one but two separate museums by the same address, one of them called Mikhail Bulgakov Museum, which is a government museum which is dedicated to Bulgakov’s work throughout his whole life.
The other one is a first-floor museum of the Master & Margarita apartment called Bulgakov House. Both museums have different tours available, from walking tours around Moscow attractions that are mentioned in The Master and Margarita, spotting architecture that was mentioned on a themed bus tour, and museum apartment tours.
Tickets: 150 rubles | Tours: available in English by prior booking | Address: Bolshaya Sadovaya Ulitsa, 10, ap. 50
Tour the Bolshoi Theatre
The performances in the Bolshoi Theatre are world-famous. But did you know you could also get a guided tour of the Theatre with the group? The tour focuses on the history and architecture of the theatre and includes the auditorium, the Royal box, the upper rehearsal stage, underground Beethoven hall, and the tailoring workshop.
There is only one English language tour per day at 11:30. The tour lasts an hour and costs 1500 RUB. Tickets are available in the Theatre directly or you can also book a tour through GetYourGuide.
Explore the pavilions of the VDNKh
VDNKh is a permanent exhibition center which was a way to celebrate the achievements of the National Economy during the USSR. The enormous space is filled with fountains and pavilions. There is a lot to do here: explore the Space pavilion, feed the squirrels in the Ostankino park, take arts and crafts classes in the Craft Park or marvel at the historical monuments. Definitely take a couple of hours to explore the surroundings and give yourself the space to breathe and enjoy it!
Visit the free Moscow metro museum
Moscow Metro is known as one of the most beautiful in the world. Each station is a work of art in its own right. But did you know there was a small museum section? Yep, and it’s free for all. The museum is located in the southern vestibule of the metro station Sportivnaya. You will be able to peek into the driver’s cabin, see the collection of metro tokens from different cities, and see different models of the turnstile, traffic lights, escalator, and more.
Where to go from here? If you’re up for a bit of a journey, start at the Ploshchad Revolyutsii which is famous for its 76 sculptures depicting Soviet people. Other stations with the status of cultural heritage are Novoslobodskaya, Universitet and the futuristic Mayakovskaya. More than 15 stations are protected by this status.
Enjoy the view from Sparrow Hills
Looking for one of the best panoramic views of Moscow? I recommend you come to Sparrow Hills then. This viewing point is located at Ulitsa Kosygina, Moskva, Russia and overlooks the Moskva River and the Luzhniki stadium. The platform is situated right next to the Moscow State University, next to which you can also rent bikes, or descend lower into the Park after you’re done perusing.
Eat at Danilovsky Market
One of the best ways to discover Russian cuisine is to take a look at what is sold at the local markets. Granted, Danilovsky Market is more expensive than your average market. It’s also a bit more European than most, but it’s a great starting point, especially considering that the cupola-covered market is open since 1986 and was renovated a couple of years ago to modernize it.
Danilovsky is part market, part food court, combining many different cuisines from all over the world. Take a look at the stalls where you will find lots of products that are beloved in Russia: dried fruit, halva, Turkish delight, all kinds of pickled vegetables such as ramsons, garlic and, of course, pickled cabbage.
If you have the time, try some marmalade or cakes. The locals come here for the delicious Pho Bo soup, although all the food courts have something delicious in them. There is Armenian food, Korean, Georgian, Mexican, Russian, and many more.
Opening hours: 8 AM – 9 PM | Address: Mytnaya Ulitsa, 74, metro Tulskaya
Bathe in the iconic Sanduny banya
You might find the Sanduny banya in your travel guide for a very good reason. The classical Russian bathing house opened its doors to esteemed visitors since 1808. Since then, the bathhouse grew more and more famous thanks to combining typical Russian banya services with highly luxurious interiors and service.
You will find fantastic interiors in Sanduny – the change room is done in a Gothic style, and everything from the floor to the vaulted ceiling conveys splendor. Sanduny appeared in many Russian movie classics, keeping their reputation strong.
If you like spa and sauna, you should experience the Russian bathing style at least once, going into it with an open mind and hiring a specialist to steam you as it’s meant to be done, with a besom. This actually involves being beaten repeatedly by the besom’s harsh leaves to improve circulation, so perhaps is best left for a professional, eh?
When picking a category you can choose between bathing in a communal banya or renting your own rooms which are themed. The communal banya has two categories: one is famous for lighter steam and is better for beginners, the other one is called “highest” and it’s stronger.
Sanduny also has a restaurant so once you’re done with your bathing experience, you can easily grab a bite. Keep in mind that this might differ from your typical spa experience in that there are no jacuzzis and it is definitely sauna-focused. If you prefer to have company, a tour to Sanduny with pick-up might be convenient.
Website | Opening hours: Closed on Tuesdays. Open from 8 AM to 10 PM |Address: Neglinnaya St, 14| Price range: from 1200 RUB for 2 hours. A besom costs 370 RUB. There is a separate selection of spa procedures. You can hire a professional to steam you for 1800 RUB.
Visit the local creative hangout at Flacon
Back in the 19th-century Flacon used to be a factory but ever since 2009 it has flourished as an artsy spot with lots of creatives opening up their businesses, workshops, creating fun artwork and more. If you’re in search of places where locals go to hang out, check out the Flacon quarters.
You will find lots of wall art, graffiti, flea markets and stores, and yummy food and artisan coffee as well. To get to the Flacon space, head over to Bol’shaya Novodmitrovskaya Ulitsa 36, the closest metro station is Dmitrovskaya.
Enjoy sunset views of Moscow city center
I really love this viewing platform on the rooftop of the Central Children’s Store in Moscow. Even though the building isn’t too high, the view that opens up from it is absolutely beautiful. You can see the whole city center open up before you. To get to this platform, head to the Central Children’s Store and go up to the 6th floor.
The platform used to be free, but now the owners charge 50 RUB for it which is less than one dollar. The entrance to the open-air terrace goes through a small toy museum which is included in the ticket price.
The Central Children’s Store is fun to walk around as well, as long as you or your companions love toys. I definitely recommend walking through the store for the fun LEGO statues. While you’re walking around, check out the biggest LEGO in the world, which is a rocket during launch, stretching 4 floors tall. So this is a perfect situation of showing up for the toys and staying for the views!
Tickets: 50 RUB | Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10 AM – 9:30 PM | Address: Teatral’nyy Proyezd, 5/1
Spot Tsereteli sculptures all over Moscow
From the beautiful fairytale-inspired Tsereteli sculptures on the Manege Square to the horrific monstrosity of a sculpture of Peter The Great, towering above the Moskva river, you are unlikely to miss the art of Zurab Tsereteli during your visit. When it comes to him, everyone has an opinion. So if you feel like forming yours, why not pop into his workshop?
Website | Opening hours: Tue-Sun 12 PM – 9 PM | Address: Bolshaya Gruzinskaya Street, 15
Discover the horrors of the Stalinist rule at the House on the Embankment
If you are a history buff and want to learn more about the harsh realities of life, stop by the House on the Embankment. This unusual museum is located at a building, apartments from which were previously allocated by the government to house the Soviet elite during the darkest years of Stalin’s rule (1931-1940). Over 700 residents suffered from Stalin’s repressions.
The museum recreates an authentic atmosphere of the 1930s and offers tours that will plunge you into the time period with the stories of its inhabitants and the story of how an elite apartment building turned into the worst place to live.
From the beginning, this apartment building was created to be one of the most prestigious places to live. It even had its own built-in cinema, a sports hall and a cantine. But what was created to be a flourishing environment, turned into a nightmare.
I recommend taking a guided tour of the museum to learn more about its history and the fates of the people who lived there. A tour costs 200 RUB per person with a minimum of 3 people required.
Tickets: 100 RUB | | Opening hours here | Address: Serafimovicha Ulitsa, 2
Visit the Picturesque Bridge for a stunning perspective
If you’re a fan of modern architecture, you might feel like checking out this unusual bridge that literally goes by the name “Picturesque bridge”. Initially, a cafe and a viewing deck were supposed to open on the very top but the preparations have been going on for years and it’s still closed.
The view from the Zhivopisniy Bridge is really beautiful though, and you can look over the Moskva river, and basically in every direction. There is a pedestrian path on the bridge so you can stroll beneath the chords and take great pictures.
Take a trip into the past in the Izmailovo Kremlin
The Kremlin in Izmailovo is a beautiful imitation of Russian architecture of the 16th and 17th-centuries. It’s a big ensemble built in a neo-historical style, and besides its colorful cupolas, there is plenty to uncover for both locals and tourists. There are 7 different museums, each meant to introduce you to a certain part of Russian culture.
There is the Museum of Bread where you can try Russian pancakes and decorated gingerbread, Museum of Folk Art, The History of Vodka Museum where you can get a vodka cocktail, Museum of the Russian Navy, and several others.
The locals come here for the flea market and the antiquities. Those markets draw a lot of attention thanks to their variety, so keep an eye out if you visit during the weekend! If you’re just in it for the souvenirs, there’s plenty of those too. Bring cash and someone Russian if you don’t want to overpay, otherwise, you can always try haggling or coming with a private Izmailovo Kremlin tour which includes the flea market.
As part of the ensemble, the city built a real wooden Russian Orthodox church which still holds services on Sundays at 9:30 AM. Don’t forget to climb the bell tower which offers a view over the ensemble. The place is more a fantasy than anything else, but if you’d like a vibrant day out, it’s the perfect place to get started.
Website | Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 8 AM to 9 PM (different museum hours might vary)| Address: Izmaylovskoye Shosse, 73Ж, metro Partizanskaya
Visit Moscow City platform for panoramic views of Moscow
If you like your city views to come with skyscrapers and elevators that whoosh upwards at a speed of 8 meters per second, then you’re going to like this one. Located in the business quarter aptly named Moscow City, the Panorama 360° is an observation deck that will take your breath away. If not with the views, then with the elevators *evil laugh*.
Actually, this is a great spot to enjoy evening views. Not only does this platform offer a panoramic view, but it’s closed off on the 89th floor—which means no wind—and, perhaps, its most important perk, the ticket includes free ice cream.
The owners really added a little ice-cream factory onto the floor, which runs interactive master-classes of its own. If you are traveling with kids, consider signing up in advance through the website. That way you get to make your own Eskimo ice cream which has long been a classic in Russia.
But what of the views? The views are worth it, even though it’s not the cheapest viewing platform. From here you can see practically everything, and the platform is open till late, without particular time slots. You can stay as long as you like. This way you can come for the sunset and stay till the later hours to enjoy the nighttime illumination.
Are you on a bit of a budget? You can cut some corners by coming on a weekday in the morning before 12:30. In that case, the ticket costs 800 RUB instead of the full price, 1200 RUB. If you like booking everything in advance and would rather avoid the hassle with exchanging money, you can get a ticket directly.
Website | Price: 1200 RUB | Address: Afimall City, Presnenskaya Naberezhnaya, 2 (check website) | Opening hours: Sun-Thu 10 AM – 11 PM, Fri-Sat 10 AM – 12 AM
Go on a retro steam train adventure
Now, this one I haven’t done myself yet but I’m definitely doing this next time I’m in Moscow! Does your heart beat faster at the thought of a train journey? Then I recommend going on a short trip on a beautiful retro steam train to the outskirts of Moscow. Not quite the Trans-Siberian Express but is definitely a nice start when we’re talking about unusual things to do in Moscow.
This beautiful Soviet train will take you on a trip to the Moscow engine house built in 1901. The steam train journey is quite short and lasts only 15 minutes one way. However, the whole experience includes a tour of the engine house. You will see the first Cherepanov train built in Russia all the way back in 1833. You will also learn how the station works and examine a cutaway of a cargo locomotive.
The train journey also includes a cup of tea. We Russians love tea, especially in trains, in those lovely glasses inside those intricate metal holders. It’s a great photo opportunity as well thanks to the beautiful red star on the front of the locomotive.
This also includes a guided tour of the open air railway museum, which you can totally visit separately, hopefully, when the weather is good. The museum is right next to the Moscow Rizhsky Railway Station and has around 60 different items, including 22 locomotives. Some are steam, others are diesel. These are all in real size, mind you. If you pay an extra 200 RUB you can take as many pictures as you want. The oldest locomotive is now over a century old!
Are you really into your trains or planning to travel with train lovers or children? Then hop into the Exhibition Complex RZhD across the road. It has a big train model with moving details which is also quite fun, but functions as a separate museum.
Website | Price: 3600 RUB per person | Open Air Moscow Rizhsky Railway Station is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM, with the ticket office open up to an hour before closing time. Prepare to pay 250-300 RUB for an entrance ticket, cash only.
Explore one of the oldest buildings in MoscowThe name “The Old English Court” doesn’t exactly lend itself to a historical monument of Russian architecture. But just by looking at it, you could tell there was something special about that building, and you’d be right. Moscow has suffered from multiple fires throughout the ages.
The raging Moscow fire during the Napoleon War in 1812 destroyed most of the old houses. In its aftermath, there were next to no examples of old architecture.
This house dates back to the XV-XVI centuries, once housing the English Muscovy Company. The company was founded in 1551, and established a monopoly on trading with Russia. Now the building is transformed into “The Old English Court” museum, highlighting the relationship between Russians and the English.
It features objects from daily life, including the most beautiful Russian oven. It has been lovingly restored to its former glory, down to the tile design. This house is a rare opportunity to learn more about a 15th-century Russian household. You might learn how it was used for daily trade back in the day.
I mean, seriously, how cool is it? There’s even a hatchway in the side of the building used to store supplies straight from the street.
Website| Tickets: 250 RUB for the main exhibit, 50 RUB for temporary exhibit | 1-hour English language tour: 6000 RUB per group | Address: Ulitsa Varvarka, 4a, metro Kitai-Gorod
Visit the Chambers of the Romanov BoyarsThe Chambers of the Romanov Boyars will plunge you into the world of Russian nobility. You will learn about their way of life before Tsar Peter The Great. Back then the European influence on Russian culture was considerably smaller. Coincidentally, this museum is located right next to The Old English Court. You can combine the two museums into one visit.
What will you see? The house maintains a traditional Russian structure. Some recognizable features are low vaulted ceilings, decorative woodwork window frames. There was also a distinction between the men’s chambers and the woman’s chambers. Take a walk through the house, from the cellars to the dining room. You will see a study room, and make your way to the brightest room in the house.
The ”room of light” was used by women for work that demanded light and careful attention, like embroidery. Most of the objects are authentic to the time period. The ambiance will definitely plunge you into the spirit of the time.
Website| Tickets: 400 RUB | Address: Ulitsa Varvarka, 10, metro Kitai-Gorod | Opening hours: Wed 11 AM – 7 OM, Thu-Mon 10 AM – 6 PM. Closed on Tuesday and first Monday of the month.