Moscow is a city speeding into the future, but with strong ties to its history, both cultural and political. With stunning buildings at every turn, Russia's most populous city is a sight to behold. With the Kremlin at its center, Moscow's roads are situated in rings radiating outward. With incredible art museums and galleries (both historic and modern), an impressive and efficient Metro system, clean streets and ample parks and gardens, this is definitely a city worth putting on your "must visit" list.
• Novodevichy Convent
(pictured above): Representing 17th century Russian Baroque architecture, the convent is a mere 7 minute walk from the Sportivnaya Metro stop. The buildings withing the monastic complex are stunning, but most interesting is the cemetery, where notable politicians, writers and poets (Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol and Nikita Khrushchev among them) have been laid to rest.
• Red Square
: This one is pretty obvious, but before visiting Moscow I had no idea how close the most famous sites were to one another. Saint Basil's Cathedral, with its gloriously colorful domes, Lenin's Mausoleum (he is embalmed and on display), which I passed on, the Kremlin, GUM department store and Kazan Cathedral are all close by.
• Art Strekla
: Housed in the Krasny Oktyabr (Red October) building, a former chocolate factory, Strelka houses studios, a lecture hall, bar and rooftop terrace. On the same premises is also the Lumiere Brothers Center of Photography
• Tretyakov Gallery
: The largest collection of Russian art in the world, it encompasses several buildings and is an absolute treasure trove. From religious icons to modern art, the museum contains works from Kandinsky and Chagall and contains a huge portrait gallery, commissioned by its namesake, which includes the likes of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy.
• Moscow Free Tours
: Only the central Moscow tour is free (though, you should certainly tip your guide after), but they are led by English speaking locals and are reasonably priced. I highly recommend the Metro tour of beautiful and stately Metro stations (pictured above).
• Moscow Private Day Tours
: The Hidden Moscow Tour is highly recommended. It can quite be quite pricey at $207, but gives you 6–8 hours of a private tour, and kids up to 14 years of age are free.
• Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow River Cruise
: Sail aboard a luxury yacht and see all the best sights that Moscow has to offer without sitting in the city gridlock on a bus. Prices are around $27 per adult.
• Moscow Bike Tours
: A four hour tour will cost you around $50, but you'll see the sights of the city up-close and in greater detail than by car or Metro. Just watch out for traffic. Drivers in Moscow drive notoriously fast!
• Izmaylovo Market
(pictured above): A wonderful flea market of Soviet-era memorabilia (and many contemporary knockoffs), handicrafts, clothing and art housed in little wooden stalls, this is the place for deals, souvenirs and that one-of-a-kind heirloom (matryoshka doll, anyone?). The vendors will often be happy to talk about their wares, if they speak English or you speak Russian. The most convenient Metro stop is Partisenskaya. Don't forget to haggle! If you don't have time to travel that far out, you can go to Old Arbat Street
. It's more touristy and a bit pricier, but closer in to the city center (Metro stop: Arbatskaya), if you're pressed for time.
: Pronounced "goom", this posh shopping complex was once the State Department Store during the Soviet era. Even if you're not in the mood for designer goods, you can enjoy the plentiful natural light that shines through the glass roof (reminiscent of Kings Cross station in London).
• Gzhel Porcelain
: This distinctive blue and while patterned porcelain has been produced since the 14th century. The shop is located about 30 miles outside of the city, but would be worth the trip if this is your cup of tea.
• Vologda Linen
: The Vologda Region is known for its lace and linen making history. Bring home a lovely set of table linens or some fine sheets. Located in Gostiny Dvor, Ulitsa Ilynka 4. Tel. 7 495 232 9463.
• Cafe Khachapuri
: Khachapuri (pictured above) is a Georgian bread dish with cheese (and sometimes egg or meat) baked inside. Its namesake cafe serves some of the tastiest food in Moscow at an affordable price. Georgian food uses more spices than traditional Russian food, so if you're looking for some flavor, this is the place to go.
• Cafe Pushkin
: This historic cafe will transport you back in time and provide you with a meal and service that is world-class. Also at a world-class price. Each floor has a different mood. For the budget conscious, stick with the dessert menu and coffee or tea.
• Cafe Margarita
: Named after Mikhail Bulgakov's classic novel The Master and Margarita, the cafe boasts a large mural depicting a scene from the work. It also hosts nightly music by professionals and students and is located next to Patriarch's Pond.
• Bar Strelka
(pictured above): As mentioned before, this bar is part of Art Strelka. It's a hip place where the well-heeled mingle with the local artists and have a nice cocktail. It's also a great place to eat a light, fresh meal if you've indulged on too many pelmeni (dumplings).
• City Space Bar & Lounge
: With a 360° view of Moscow, you can't find a better vantage point in the city. Located atop the Swisshotel, it was voted one of the "World's 50 Best Bars 2011" by Drinks International.
• Mayak Bar
: A bar where the "intelligentsiya" mingle and let their hair down. It's a great value and serves French and Italian cuisine in a very homey and friendly atmosphere.
• Golden Apple Boutique Hotel
(pictured above): The Golden Apple is a sweet, well-priced hotel in central Moscow. I'd say it's along the lines of an Ace Hotel here in the States. Modern, stylish and bright, with all the mod cons (without breaking the bank).
• Godzillas Hostel
: Godzillas is one of many hostels recently popping up in Moscow, but this is definitely the favorite of discerning backpackers (and those of us on a budget). You can get a double private room for around $75/night.
• Petrovka Loft
: This is a mashup between an urban loft and a hostel. Private rooms with shared bath facilities start at around $75/night. A 10 minute walk to Red Square and other sights. One of the large hotel chains nearby could easily cost five times this much.
Please help us out and add to the guide in the comments — what are your recommendations for Moscow?
(Images: 1. Flickr user DrPleishner licensed for use by Creative Commons, 2. Michelle Chin, 3. Michelle Chin, 4. Flickr user RichardBowen licensed for use by Creative Commons, 5. Flickr user einalem licensed for use by Creative Commons, 6. Bar Strelka, 7. Golden Apple)