Although Moscow is known to be one of the world’s most expensive cities, there are still lots of things you can enjoy for free, you just need to know where to look. We’ve put together a list of things that will help you make the most of your Moscow vacation without breaking the bank.
Moscow is home to over 60 parks, most of which offer free admission. While they are all perfect for a green respite, some of them can actually keep you busy for days. Gaze at Tsaritsyno’s 18th-century palaces and admire the music fountain in the evening, stroll around the riverside Kolomenskoe, walk in the location of Russia’s most heart-breaking love story between count Sheremetev and his serf actress Praskovia Kovalyova in Kuskovo park, take a bike ride at forest-like Izmailovo, or experience the soviet grandeur of VDNKh – you can always find an activity to your taste.
If you love classical music, Moscow is the perfect city for you, since there are many venues where you can listen to it for free, just remember to check the programme beforehand. You can enjoy an evening of classical music at many of Moscow’s museums, such as Bulgakov House Museum, Chekhov House Museum, the Museum of Marina Tsvetaeva and Chaliapin House Museum among others. World famous Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory regularly plays host to free concerts on weekends and holidays. Also you can freely attend student concerts and weekend morning performances at the Russian Academy of Music.
Moscow has more clubs, pubs and bars than you can imagine and some of them host free concerts. Stop at the Duma club for indie music, or at the Roadhouse Club for some rhythm & blues, or see who’s performing at Punch & Judy Pub and Imagine Cafe, just take care to check their websites.
Moscow’s metro is believed to be one of the most beautiful in the world – of 206 stations 44 are considered cultural heritage sites and each station has its own history. So if you don’t feel like paying for a guided tour, do a little research beforehand and explore Moscow’s ornate metro stations for the price of a metro pass, just be sure to avoid rush hour!
Besides being a perfect photo op, the candy-colored, onion-domed churches of Moscow are all free to enter. There are certain rules to be observed: women must dress modestly and wear a head covering, while men are not allowed to wear shorts and cover their heads. Other than that, nothing can stop you from visiting the beautiful houses of prayer, some of which date back to the 15th century. Besides St.Basil’s Cathedral and churches of the Kremlin, there are other fascinating centrally located churches like Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Novodevichy Convent, Church of the Prophet Elijah and Yelokhovo Cathedral. But since Moscow has over a thousand of churches and cathedrals, you’re sure to stumble into some of them without even trying too hard.
Over it’s 870 years in existence Moscow has amassed enough historic buildings and monuments to keep you busy for weeks. You can create your own architecture tour depending on what you prefer: the 17th century mansions, Moscow baroque cathedrals, Stalinist-style skyscrapers, constructivist buildings and glass and concrete high-rises.
Moscow is home to over a thousand museums, many of which offer free admission every third Sunday of the month and some of them you can visit at no cost at any time. Start your Moscow literary tour by exploring Gorky’s House, housed in a luxurious Art Nouveau mansion, then move to Bulgakov House, former home of Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov and setting of several scenes from his novel The Master and Margarita. Eager to learn more about the Moscow Metro history, then visit The National Museum of Moscow Metro, and admire the unique collection of old metro cars. You don’t have to pay to visit one of Moscow’s most controversial attractions – Lenin’s tomb, where you can see the embalmed body of the famous revolutionary.
Of course we’re not talking about free admission to Bolshoi or other fancy Moscow theatres. You can freely attend the Student Theatre performances at the Institute of Modern Art and the Higher School of Economics as long as you book tickets in advance. ZIL Cultural Centre is a cornucopia of all things free: as well as exhibitions, workshops and lectures, the venue regularly houses theatre productions you can attend at no charge.
Russians always try to make the most of their short summers, so why dance indoors when you can do it under the shade of century-old trees or on the riverbank and for free too. Every summer one of Moscow’s best known green spaces, Gorky Park offers daily and nightly outdoor dance classes, that you can attend at no charge. Hustle fans gather at Pushkinskaya embankment every day from 19.30 to 23.30, here you can also try capoeira and Irish dancing. The quiet and romantic Bauman Garden is a perfect place to listen to some jazz and learn how to move your body to it at Lindy hop and Boogie-Woogie classes.
Ice-skating is by far the most popular winter activity in Moscow, and if you own a pair of skates, you can practice those toe loops for free. If you don’t feel like going too far from the city centre, there are always Chistye and Patriarch Ponds, two naturally formed and beautifully lit public rinks, that you can visit any time you want (as long as there’s solid ice). The fancy GUM skating-rink tends to have free morning admission, so be sure to check the website and glide mere steps from the Kremlin walls. There are more natural and synthetic ice rinks in other Moscow parks, somewhat farther from the city centre, Sokolniki park, Lyublinskiy park, “Northern Tushino” park complex and Filyovsky Park are good ones to try.