10 best things to see and do with the kids in Moscow
Russia’s capital city is huge, densely populated, fast-paced, and packed with historical sites, grand architecture, world-class museums, and cultural landmarks, so figuring out what to see and do with your kids in Moscow can be a bit daunting. Here are 10 tips to help you out!
Where to stay?
When in Moscow, you would want to stay as close to Red Square as possible to eliminate the choking traffic and be within walking distance to the main sights, shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
If the budget allows, a room on the Club floors at the Ritz Carlton is a great (and ultimately money-saving) option. These rooms include free access to the 11th-floor Club Lounge which offers not only splendid views over Red Square and the Kremlin but most importantly – food presentations throughout the day – breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. Best of all, the Club Lounge has snacks and refreshments round-the-clock – an invaluable convenience when staying with the kids in Moscow, especially in such an expensive city.
As a less-opulent alternative, also with a very central location, room categories of Executive and above at the Marriott Royal Aurora Hotel include access to the Executive Lounge where complimentary snacks, appetizers, and soft drinks are served throughout the day.
What to eat?
Traditional Russian food is definitely worth trying, but borscht, pickles, and pelmeni might not go well with picky eaters. We have found out that the simple, wholesome, and tasty Georgian cuisine (from Georgia the country, not the state), which is very popular in Russia, is perfect for kids. It has just the right mixture of familiar (cheesy bread, grilled meats, fresh salads) and somewhat exotic (grilled zucchini, pumpkin soup) dishes, not to mention the great Georgian wine to keep parents happy.
There are several Georgian restaurants with consistently excellent food in central Moscow, including Khachapuri (after the yummy traditional cheese bread) and Gentatsvale with multiple locations. Give them a try next time you are with the kids in Moscow!
Worse comes to worst, there are tons of local and international fast-food places around Red Square including the likes of McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Subway…
Enter a world of knights and princesses
Located in the Kremlin complex, a visit to the Armory – one of Moscow’s top museums, can be intriguing, educational, and spark a child’s imagination. Boys would be impressed by the weapons and armor from Russia, Western Europe, and the East, while girls would be captivated by the displayed ornate carriages, jewelry (including some by the famous Faberge) and formal dresses once worn by empresses and princesses (including Catherine the Great herself).
…and peek into the past and future of space exploration!
Moscow’s Museum of Cosmonautics (aka the Space Museum) is located at the base of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space (soaring 350 feet high and covered with titanium). Dedicated to the history of space exploration, its exhibits show the evolution of space suits, the Vostok capsule in which Gagarin first flew into space in 1961 (only 7-foot-wide – awfully cramped and claustrophobic), walk-through models of the space stations, and the first satellite – Sputnik. There is a café where you can buy snacks, drinks, and even packages of ‘space food’.
Take a walk down history lane!
Take a break from Moscow’s hideous traffic and stroll along the historic Stary Arbat Street. Back in the middle ages, this was a major trade route into the city, busy with craft shops, inns, and merchant houses. Some of Arbat’s side streets still bear names like ‘Carpenters’ Lane’, ‘Old Stables Lane’, and ‘Silver Lane’. Nowadays, several blocks long, this pedestrian street is lined by cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops, and provides live entertainment in the form of buskers, street artists, book sellers, and snack vendors. Touristy yes, but still a great place to stroll, window-shop, and people-watch with the kids in Moscow!
See a circus or puppet performance!
Want to rub shoulders with other parents and their kids in Moscow? The Nikulin Circus, named after a famous Russian clown and comedian, who for many years served as its director, is a traditional and delightfully old-fashioned one-ring circus with shows focusing on clown acts and animal tricks. It is quite popular, so better secure your seats in advance!
Alternatively, the Obraztsov Puppet Theater – the country’s largest, has regular shows based on children’s fairy tales and classical play adaptations, which are easy to follow even with the script in Russian. The adjacent museum holds a collection of over 3,000 puppets from all over the world.
Get some peace and quiet at a royal country estate!
Just a short drive south of Moscow, the Tsaritsyno Palace complex was commissioned by empress Catherine the Great as a country residence in 1775. Its ornate buildings, landscaped gardens, meadows, and woods dotted by ponds, pergolas, grottoes, and bridges are favorite with locals seeking respite from the city. For the little ones, interactive and educational tours are offered including dressing up in period costumes (for a small fee).
For the military history buffs in the family…
Dedicated to World War 2 (or the Great Patriotic War as the Russians call it), the Victory Museum houses some stirring battle dioramas and models, maps, and weapons from the most crucial battles. A short walk downhill, a large outdoor section has on display military equipment – tanks, artillery, armored vehicles, and aircraft which the little ones are welcome to climb on and explore. Victory Park is huge; you can easily spend half a day there; and offers a perspective of World War 2 which is not usually covered in detail outside of Russia.
Have the kids let off steam at a local park!
With dozens of parks and gardens, kids in Moscow have plenty of spaces to run wild. Gorky Park stretches along the Moskva River and its roller-coasters, playgrounds, ponds with rowing and pedal boats, and fountains attract crowds of local families in the summer. For grown-ups, there are cafés, shady alleys, an outdoor theater, lounge chairs, and free Wi-Fi. And fans of the Cold-War-spy novel ‘Gorky Park’ by Martin Cruz Smith will get a kick out of just being there.
Need a break? Hop on a river boat!
A cruise on the Moskva River is the perfect way to slow down, cool off, and see some of the popular sites from a different angle and without the crowds. If you decide on an evening cruise, many of the buildings and bridges along the river are beautifully illuminated. Among the several companies offering river cruises, my choice would be the Radisson Royal fleet which is managed by the Radisson Royal (formerly the Ukraina) hotel. You can get on board either at the Radisson Royal hotel pier or at the Gorki Park pier and the return journey takes 2.5 – 3 hours.
Spending some time with the kids in Moscow – a cosmopolitan metropolis where tradition often clashes with modernity and conservatism with entrepreneurship, would be a great and memorable introduction to Russia – a country with centuries-old history and culture worth exploring. Need help planning a family trip? I would love to hear from you!
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