If you’re travelling to Moscow to watch the World Cup, perhaps your biggest problem is knowing where to start your exploration of this fascinating city with its bewildering mix of attractions both ancient and modern, from walks in the sun along the Moskva River to the city’s buzzing nightlife. With plenty of world-famous landmarks to see and countless opportunities to take in a little Russian culture, it’s well worth planning in advance what you want to do during the limited time you’ll have to spend in this wonderful city.
Source: Wiki Commons, Deensel
Where to stay
As you’d expect from any major capital city, Moscow is hardly short of places to stay. From simple backpackers’ hostels to some of the world’s top hotels and everything in between, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in mighty Moscow.
You’ll find most of the world’s top hotel chains in the city, but there are also plenty of independents which may prove more to your liking, offering more in the way of individuality and tradition.
Of course, location is also an issue. There are two stadia in Moscow hosting World Cup matches, so proximity to one or other of these may be your priority. But with Moscow’s extensive public transport facilities, and in particular its spectacular metro, getting around the city is pretty straightforward. And remember: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes.
Whatever your accommodation needs, we can make all the arrangements for you. Check out the website or call us on 0207 985 1234.
Luzhniki Stadium (originally called the Central Lenin Stadium) was built between 1955 and 1956, and then extensively renovated in 1996.
The stadium served as the main venue for the 1980 Olympics, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies, athletics events, football finals and equestrian programme. It also hosted the UEFA Cup final in 1999 between Parma and Marseille (3-0), and the Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea (1-1) in 2008, which Manchester won on penalties.
To prepare for this year’s World Cup, the stands were completely reconstructed, and the first football match at the reopened stadium was a friendly between Russia and Argentina (0-1), played on 11 November of last year.
Apart from the final, Luzhniki will also host the opening match of this year’s event, three further first-round group matches, a round of 16 match, and a semi-final. The opening match of the competition will take place here on Thursday 14 July between the host nation and Saudi Arabia.
You’ll find the stadium at the Luzhniki Sports Complex in a bend of the Moskva River about 6 kilometres south-west of the city centre. It can be reached via the red metro line 1. Sportivnaya and Vorobyovy Gory stations both lie within a short walk of the stadium. Line 1 directly connects with Moscow city centre, and the ride from either Okhotny Ryad or Biblioteka takes no more than 10 minutes.
Moscow’s second World Cup venue is the Otkritie Arena, which recently became the new home of Spartak Moscow. The stadium officially opened on 5 September 2014 with a friendly between Spartak and Red Star, which ended in a 1-1 draw. It also hosted three first-round matches of last year’s Confederations Cup, along with the match for third place. It’s first World Cup match kicks off on Saturday 16 June between Argentina and Iceland.
Located in the north-west of Moscow, just within the Moscow Ring Road, the stadium is about 14 kilometres from the city centre and can be easily reached by metro. The newly constructed Spartak station is on the purple Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya line (line 7), which runs through Moscow’s centre.
What to see
Where do we start? Who hasn’t seen the Kremlin’s red walls and shining towers on the news? Or the displays of Russia’s military might parading through Red Square? Every tourist guide to Moscow features at least one picture of St Basil’s Cathedral with its multi-coloured onion-shaped domes. And who hasn’t heard of possibly the world’s most famous theatre/ballet company – the Bolshoi?
Whatever you do during your time in Moscow, you really must try to find a few minutes – or ideally, hours – to visit the Kremlin. As well as being home to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, it holds countless fascinating stories and impressive monuments, including:
- The Tsar Bell: cast in 1735, this 19-foot bell was damaged in a fire during the decoration stage, which caused a large piece to break off. It has never been rung due to its weight and structural features.
- The Dormition Cathedral: the oldest fully preserved building in Moscow, built in 1479. For many years, it was the venue for the coronation of Russia’s tsars, but today, it operates as a museum.
- The Annunciation Cathedral: once the family chapel of Moscow’s tsars, famous for its floor consisting of sheets of agate yellow-red jasper (otherwise known as imperial jade) and stunning wall frescos.
- The Armoury Chamber, with its collection of state regalia, military decorations, bejewelled weapons, the dresses of Russian empresses and the harnesses and horse-drawn carriages of the 15th-18th centuries.
- The Tsar Cannon: cast in 1586, this bronze cannon with a barrel 4 feet in diameter has never been fired.
To get one of the best views of the Kremlin, walk across the Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge over the Moskva River, which in the Middle Ages used to house residential homes, shops and offices.
Right next to the Kremlin stands Red Square, overlooked by the Kremlin’s Nikolskaya and Spasskaya Towers, the State Historical Museum and massive GUM department store with its multicoloured windows and outdoor café.
Before the 1900s, it was the place where vendors hawked their wares, royal edicts were read out loud and occasional public executions were staged. Today, it’s perhaps most famous for the military parade it hosts on Victory Day, 9 May.
If visiting Red Square, don’t miss:
- Saint Basil’s Cathedral: Moscow’s most recognisable temple dominates Red Square. Saint Basil’s is not one, but nine churches with 11 multi-coloured ‘onion’ domes. Its construction was ordered by none other than Ivan the Terrible.
- Lenin’s Mausoleum: built in 1930, it contains the mummified body of Vladimir Lenin, who led the 1917 Russian Revolution that ended the tsar’s rule, established the Bolsheviks’ authority and subsequently saw the founding of the USSR.
- Monument to Minin and Pozharsky: next to St Basil’s Cathedral is the monument to the leaders of the second all-Russian volunteer army against the Polish invaders in 1611 – Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky – which was erected in 1818.
The list of landmarks worth a visit it virtually endless. Fancy a little ballet with your football? Then head for the Bolshoi. Or maybe you’d like to see where the feared KGB had their headquarters, in which case you should head for Lubyanskaya Square where their modern equivalent, the FSB (Federal Security Service), is based.
Maybe the State Historical Museum is more your thing, with its collection of artefacts of Russian and world history, from primeval times to the present (around 5 million items and 14 million priceless documents in total). Or to take home a few souvenirs of your visit, the place to be is the GUM department store, a tourist Mecca that’s as famous for its lavish restrooms as for its incredible range of shops and boutiques, cafes, a cinema, ice-cream sellers…
If you’ve got children with you, the Central Children’s Store on Lubyanka is a safe bet. Apart from toys, it offers visitors an interactive library and aquarium, a light show about the history of Russia and an amusement ride called Travel to Mars. And while you’re there, why not head up to the observation deck on the roof, watch a dinosaur show or spend a few hours at Kidburg – a children’s play area which imitates a real city where children can try out different professions.
Alternatively, take a stroll down Nikolskaya Street, which up until the end of the 13th century was a road leading to the city of Vladimir, making it one of Moscow’s oldest streets. Today, its shops, hotels and tenement houses from the 19th century stand side by side with monastery buildings dating back to the 17th century. Or visit the Novodevichy Cemetery where you’ll find the graves of writers Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov and Mikhail Bulgakov, poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, film director Sergei Eisenstein, and artist Isaac Levitan.
The list goes on. Moscow is full of fascinating churches and cathedrals, palaces and mansions, and cold, functional buildings from the Soviet era, in particular the so-called ‘Seven Sisters’ – seven very similar buildings erected during Stalin’s time in power – which today house hotels, government and administrative offices, residential apartments and the main building of Moscow State University.
Bars and restaurants
Where to start? Moscow is awash with great places to eat and drink … and watch the matches, if you haven’t got a ticket. Wherever you are, you’re never far from a bar or eatery to suit your taste and budget. There are plenty of suggestions on the official Russia 2018 website.
Watch for free
All 11 World Cup host cities have their own Fan Fest site, where fans can gather and watch all the matches for free on the giant screen. Moscow’s is located at the Lomonosov Moscow State University, situated on a hill on the right bank of the Moskva River, with amazing views of the city. And with a capacity of 40 000 fans, it’s the next best thing to being in the stadium and cheering on your favourite team in person!