10 best things to do in Moscow on a rainy day
Updated: Nov 6, 2018
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Right, a little bit of rain outside is definitely not a reason to be digging yourself in a pile of blankets, flicking dust off a melancholic Spotify playlist, pouring tea in the biggest mug you own and finally be making a dramatic instagram report of it for all day. Not on your epic trip to Moscow at least.
I suggest to save that set for gloom and doom indulgence for another time and put on some weather appropriate clothes to be able to jump in the taxi or metro. As you are about to explore some of the indoor activities Moscow has to offer. Here is my list with top 10 picks.
1. Pay a visit to the Bolshoi
Ideally you will be spending a rainy evening in the warmth and softness of a scarlet-red chair in the main theatre in Russia. Witnessing legendary ballet and tearing up a little bit at the beauty of exceptional classical music and overall magic of what’s happening. If you haven’t booked your Swan Lake tickets well in advance however, chances are really slim of getting in to see the ballet on Bolshoi's historical stage at short notice. Or you might be unpleasantly surprised with the amount of zeroes on the tickets price.
As an alternative, you can join one of the historical tours of the Bolshoi. This Moscow landmark, depicted on every other postcard simply oozes Russian arts history. Grand renovation of the theatre, finished fairly recently, in 2011, brought back its interior historical appearance which was lost during the Soviet times. Come and see for yourself the beauty of this magical palace, featuring plentiful of gold, arabescas and iconic dome ceiling lights.
2. Lose yourself in abundance of Fine Arts
Depending on how big your hunger for arts is, you can spend anything between 2 hours and infinity in all the many fine arts venues in Moscow. My suggestion for express option: Gallery of 19th and 20th Century European and American Art, especially if you are into French impressionists. Top it off with several works of Picasso including Girl on the ball. Delight for the eye!
Most advanced art lovers, who are ready to walk longer ranges and to spend at least half a day within the walls of a gallery, can opt for one of the Tretyakov galleries or the main building of Pushkin Museum. Pleasant art overload guaranteed. For a maximum historical deep dive, get a guide.
3. Explore what contemporary arts scene has to offer
If solving riddles of modern arts sounds more like your cup of tea, Moscow won’t disappoint either. At your disposition are 5 locations of MMoMA spread around the city, as well as Garage museum - much talked about creation of Daria Zhukova and Roman Abramovich. And many more addresses, including art clusters.
The latter are nested in what used to be industrial areas of different sorts: Flacon, ZIL, Red October, Vinzavod. A visit to one of these former factory grounds will not just get you into an exhibition space. Activities extend to attending noteworthy seminars held by creative minds of Moscow, grabbing a drink, brunching or dining at a food market, buying some unique clothing and homeware from local designers. Make sure to check official websites before visiting to see what’s on.
4. Have a spa day Russian style
Rainy day could be perfect for giving much needed pampering to your body and soul. Russian banya is historically known for its beneficial health effects, including elimination of toxins, better blood circulation and relaxing tight muscles. Sounds like a dream, right?
In order to fully experience all the goodness of the ritual, be sure to pick a trustworthy proper banya address (Nope, it is not a sauna room at your hotel’s fitness facilities). Some elements that will help you realize you are in the right place are: stone-built stove, good amount of steam, fito-massage with bath-brooms, a plunge tub to cool down. Extras might include all sorts of massages and peelings depending on the venue.
Beware, that some banya enthusiasts might try to convince you that most authentic experience also includes drinking beer or even vodka, but benefits of this bonus for health are highly questionable to say the least. Please don’t try this.
As far as the places recommendations, you can never go wrong with Sanduny, the most historic bathhouse in Moscow. If you would like a banya experience with all the bits and bolts of the ritual explained, book yourself in for a guided session. More of tried and tested banya locations I mentioned in this blogpost.
5. Have a drink with a view
Moscow is gorgeous in all of its manifestations, be it in the heat of a summer day, or with snowflakes landing on the streets. Even in the rain it is absolutely stunning too! To check this out I am not inviting you to get a pneumonia by walking for hours under October rain. No. Instead why not enjoy an aperitif or even dinner enjoying your newly befriended city from atop?
All of the museum hopping and shopping must have made you really thirsty. I have shared some of my favourite places that serve great refreshments with a side of stunning Moscow views in this guest blog post. Most of them are great for any weather conditions too. Choose away where you will be admiring Moscow landmarks to the sound of raindrops.
6. Indulge in Russian cuisine
If borsh, pelmeni or blini sound for you like a mantra of a Russian babushka or the bear whisperer, you must have not eaten proper Russian food yet. To repair this injustice you can put on your most festive-looking wellies and head out to one of the numerous spots serving yummy Russian specialties. If in need of addresses inspiration, check out this post of mine.
Want something more adventurous than a restaurant setting? The I suggest to roll your sleeves and try making your own borsh! Attending a cooking class will guarantee a lot of fun for a good half of a day and a happy belly.
7. Get your souvenirs
You must have a long list of friends and family waiting for you to return with a whole lot of gifts from a Russian adventure. If so, buying memorable things can take up a lot of your day. Just use the opportunity that rainy weather provides and indulge in a guilt-free shopping spree. Feeling stuck on ideas of what to get? No worries, there is a whole world of options out there apart from matryoshka dolls and Soviet fur hats with earflaps. I have written parts 1 and 2 of shopping guides full of tips and addresses to go gift-shopping. Feel free to borrow a page.
8. Take a Moscow metro tour
Moscow city centre is actually very much walkable and compact. Hence if weather and other circumstances permit, I always recommend not to miss out on exploring a new city on foot. Just walk and enjoy the scenery getting around between A and B whenever possible. This said, noone should leave Moscow without visiting its underground landmark at least once. On a rainy day you will surely be safe and dry there except for an occasional rendez-vous with fellow passenger’s wet umbrella.
This city knows no humbleness when it comes to showing off its grandeur, and metro is not an exception. Variety of materials that architects used in their artful solutions include: marble, porcelain, copper, granite, as well as colourful mosaics, ornaments, sculptures, majestic columns. All of this laid up with a clear objective - to blow the mind of anyone who sets their foot in the metro.
Take your time to explore the most beautiful of stations: Komsomolskaya, Novoslobodskaya, Teatralnaya, just to name a few. Stations’ design is inspired by moments that Russia takes pride in, be it history, culture, literature or art. So much is hidden in kilometres of underground world.
If exploring on your own, make sure to time the visit wisely and avoid rush hour. This is when a cultural trip underground may turn into survival of the fittest race, competing for a title of the strongest elbows and the most well-aimed push to get through. If you need to spice up your journey with historical references, opt for a guided metro tour with an insightful expert.
9. Check out best non-art museums
If admiring world renowned paintings and sculptures doesn’t rock your boat, there are plenty of other museums in Moscow that cater for different tastes and interests. Those hungry for soviet military legends can treat themselves to a tour of Bunker-42, an anti-nuclear fortification facility located 65 meters underground.
For insights into history of Russian Jewry, visit Jewish Tolerance Centre. Relatively young, having only been opened in 2012, the museum has received loads of love from both locals and Moscow guests. Not only it is comprehensive in coverage, it definitely impresses with its high-techie side showcasing some rare archive video footage.
Ever dreamt of becoming a cosmonaut? Regardless of the answer, a visit to Space museum rarely leaves disappointed and will brighten up any rainy day. Become a small kid for a couple of hours, admire the famous exhibits of space stations, satellites, spacesuits and even try space food!
10. Discover food markets
A great deal of work has been put into Moscow food markets over the years to shape them into essential elements of city identity. Use an excuse of nasty weather to head to one of the covered urban food heavens and see for yourself. Transformation converted what used to resemble aftersounds of Soviet times and turbulent 90s into pleasurable pastime spaces.
Whether you are just aisles-strolling or grabbing your brunch, be sure to just take some time and soak in the buzzing atmosphere and people watch too. As for vendors, they normally range from traditional sellers of fresh produce and regional specialties to those offering urban food from all over the world to hungry visitors.
For me the real draw is getting late breakfast at Danilovsky market. I listed some of my favourite spots there in this guest blog post. As far as the other addresses are, Usachevsky and Cheremushkinsky have also got plenty of top comfort food stalls. If you are after more centrally located addresses, try Tsentralny with food corners offering anything from Greek and Caucasian cuisine to Vietnamese and oysters. For a great pasta and gelato fix, Italian themed gastro market Eataly is your spot.
If you would like a more detailed consultation on planning a trip to Moscow or inspiration for activities in general, send me a message . I would love to hear from you.