Best of Moscow in 3 to 10 days
Moscow is one of the oldest and most beautiful Russian cities. The emperors, or tsars, made the city their base of rule until 1712, when the capital was moved to Saint Petersburg. Moscow was restored as Russia's capital in 1918, and it served as the capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1922 until 1991. Since then Moscow has been the capital of the Russian Federation.
Moscow has a long and dramatic history. The city has been completely destroyed and rebuilt again many times throughout the years. Its most ancient wooden buildings disappeared in fires. Each time the city was resurrected from the ashes, it became more and more beautiful. For every rebuilding, the most talented and famous architects were invited from around the world to restore Moscow.
This history of reconstruction Moscow has undergone is part of the reason she has absorbed the many different and diverse styles that visitors experience here. Stalin's epic and monumental buildings neighbour with small two-store nineteenth century town houses, while splendid cathedrals peer out from behind modern skyscrapers. Even in the heart of Moscow, in the Kremlin, old churches compete with the immense Congress Palace for space.
To see all of the main sights of Moscow and its environs you need at least two weeks. Add another week to that if you want to do a thorough job of exploring the city's many museums along the way. If your time is limited, you'll have to be very selective in planning excursions.
If You Have 3 Days
Start with a stroll across Red Square, a tour of St. Basil's Cathedral, the shopping arcades of GUM, and, if you're a devoted student of Soviet history and/or embalming techniques, the Lenin Mausoleum. Then walk through Alexander Garden to reach the tourist entrance to the Kremlin. Plan on spending the better part of your first day exploring the churches, monuments, and exhibits within the grounds of this most famous of Russian fortresses. On the second day, spend the morning sightseeing and shopping on Tverskaya ulitsa. In the afternoon, head to Kitai Gorod; this neighbourhood has churches and historic buildings on Varvarka ulitsa, which extends from the eastern edge of Red Square, just behind St. Basil's. Try also, toward the end of the day, to squeeze in a stroll across Teatralnaya Ploshchad to see the Bolshoi and Maly theaters. Devote the third morning to the Tretyakov Gallery, which has the finest collection of Russian art in the country. In the afternoon stroll down the Arbat, where you can find plenty of options for haggling over Russian souvenirs.
If You Have 7 Days
Follow the three-day itinerary above. On the fourth day explore Bolshaya Nikitskaya ulitsa, with its enchanting mansions. Devote the fifth day to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and an exploration of some of the streets in the surrounding Kropotkinsky District. Come back the next day and walk from the Russian State Library to the Kropotkinsky District. Be sure to include the Pushkin Memorial Museum and a walk along the Kremlyovskaya naberezhnaya (the embankment of the Moskva River) in the late afternoon for the spectacular views of the cupolas and towers of the Kremlin. Depending on whether your interests tend toward the religious or the secular, you could spend your last day visiting either the New Maiden's Convent and the adjoining cemetery or Gorky Park and the Tolstoy House Estate Museum, where Tolstoy once lived.
If You Have 10 Days
After following the seven-day itinerary above, plan on traveling farther afield on day trips to visit the cathedrals and museums of Arkhangelskoye, Ostankino, Kolomenskoye, and the Golden Ring towns. Depending on your interests, you could also use this extra time to visit some of the numerous smaller museums devoted to the lives and accomplishments of prominent Russians, such as Pushkin Apartment Museum and Lermontov House Museum, the former homes of the writers Pushkin and Lermontov, respectively.