Moscow has been on the top of my bucket list for years but the main reason why I wanted to see it wasn’t the Red Square, GUM store, Seven Sisters or onion-domes churches. It was Moscow metro! Everyone knows I’m very much into the railway transport, that’s what I do for a living after all, and as much as I love trains the subway has a special place in my heart too.
Table of contents
- 1 Why Moscow metro is so famous
- 2 Moscow metro history
- 3 Some facts about Moscow metro
- 4 Moscow metro stations architecture
- 5 How much time do you need for visiting Moscow metro stations?
- 6 Must see Moscow metro stations
- 7 Is it possible to take pictures in Moscow metro?
- 8 Is Moscow metro safe?
- 9 Moscow metro tours
- 10 Tips for visiting Moscow metro
- 11 Other beautiful metro stations in post-Soviet countries
- 12 Moscow metro stations pictures
Why Moscow metro is so famous
Moscow metro is a legend and Moscow metro stations are among the most beautiful in the world. While for millions of locals it is just their every day routine on the way to work or school for tourists visiting Moscow metro is a treat and one of the highlights of the fascinating capital of Russia.
I expected the stations to be beautiful but I didn’t know they will be that amazing! Each of them was different, some of them were just random and with nothing special while others were rich in details and ornaments. I didn’t know where to look as everything around me was spectacular.
Moscow metro history
The first project of Moscow metro was created in 1901 but the first line – Sokolnicheskaya (line 1, red) – was opened only on 15th May 1935. Before World War 2 there were two more lines opened: Arbatsko–Pokrovskaya (line 3, blue) and Zamoskvoretskaya (line 2, green). The newest station – Salaryevo on red line 1 – was opened on 15th February 2016.
The most beautiful line is Koltsevaya (the circle line 5, brown on the map), built in years 1950-1954. The legend says that Stalin put his coffee cup on the Moscow metro map. Once he lifted it again the cup left the brown stain around the city center. No one was brave enough to say no to Stalin and the circle stain was already on the map hence the line was built.
During World War 2 Moscow metro served as air-raid shelters, some of the trains were removed from the tunnels to give the space. On several occasions Stalin made his speeches at Mayakovskaya platforms (on line 2, green). It was decided that in case of the enemy approaching Moscow metro will be destroyed – thankfully it didn’t happen and we can admire this gem right now.
Some facts about Moscow metro
Since this is such a fascinating place it is good to know some facts about Moscow metro. It is not the oldest one (London was first in the world) or the biggest (Shanghai is a leader) but it surely is the most known one. After all everyone has heard about the incredible beauty that hides under Moscow.
Each day there are 9 million passengers using Moscow metro, both locals and tourists – in such a busy metropolis this is the fastest and most convenient mode of transportation. The average distance between the stations is 1,8kms and the deepest metro station is 84 meters.
There are 637 escalators with the total length of 66,8kms. Each carriage travels on average 548,7kms per day with the speed of 41,62 kms/h. 99.98% of trains run on schedule. Guess now you know I’m a bit of a nerd inside.
Another interesting fact about Moscow metro is announcements: in the direction towards the center you will hear the man’s voice announcing next stations while in the trains heading away from the center it will be women. The unofficial version says that’s because man is encouraging people to work harder once they arrive to the workplace while woman makes them relax on the way back home. On the circular line you can hear man’s voice in the trains going in the clockwise direction and woman’s in the opposite.
Moscow metro stations architecture
Moscow metro stations are considered to be the most beautiful in the world and I have to agree they are stunning. Some of them look like museums, palaces or ballrooms, they are so rich in decorations. The most beautiful stations were built until 1960s and they are a perfect example of Soviet art, with a lot of marble, statues, mosaics, stained glass, chandeliers, bas-reliefs and so many other details. If tracing down Soviet symbols like sickle and hammer is your thing you are in for a treat – there are so many of them around you will stop counting after first few stations.
The short time between the trains might not be enough to see the station properly. 44 of the stations are listed as the places of Russian cultural heritage! Even if Moscow metro stations are similar in a way they all are different, even if sometimes little details distinguish them.
How much time do you need for visiting Moscow metro stations?
There are 203 Moscow metro stations on 12 lines and while not all of them are special it’s safe to say you will need to block a solid part of your Moscow itinerary to see some of the best ones. Even if metro runs very often, every 2 or so minutes, it still takes time to see everything and to get between places.
You can dedicate the whole day to visiting Moscow metro and you won’t be bored or, like me, you can just spend few hours each day travelling from one station to another and admiring the beauty along the way. This way you won’t spend the whole day underground without seeing much of the day light and you won’t get tired of seeing metro and metro only for solid few hours.
Must see Moscow metro stations
Of course I could tell you to visit all Moscow metro stations but that would take you way too long and to be honest not all of them are worth the time.
The Russian architect Yuri Gridchin made a ranking of the most beautiful Moscow metro stations, dividing them into four categories: superb stations, beautiful stations, recommend to look at presence of time and other stations – in the first group there are 20 stations! I used his ranking when planning my visit in Moscow and I had on my list more metro stations than any other places!
So, according to the architect the absolutely must visit stations are:
- Line 1, red: Komsomolskaya, Krasnye vorota, Kropotkinskaya, Vorob’yevy gory
- Line 2, green: Mayakovskaya, Novokuznetskaya, Avtozavodskaya
- Line 3, blue: Park Pobedy, Kievskaya, Arbatskaya, Ploschad Revolyutsii, Elektrozavodskaya
- Line 5, brown: Taganskaya, Komsomolskaya, Prospekt mira, Novoslobodskaya, Kievskaya
- Line 7, purple: Pushkinskaya, Kuznetskiy most
- Line 9, grey: Nagatinskaya
I would also add to the list following stations: Okhotny ryad, Biblioteka imeni Lenina, Frunzenskaya, Sportivnaya, Sokol, Aeroport, Belorusskaya, Teatralnaya, Paveletskaya, Slavyanskiy bul’var, Kurskaya, Semyonovskaya, Park Kultury, Oktyabrskaya, Dobryninskaya, Krasnopresnenskaya, Marxistskaya, Aviamotornaya, Mendeleevskaya, Tsvetnoy bul’var, Chekhovskaya, Borovitskaya, Chertanovskaya, Chkalovskaya and Rimskaya.
I prepared for you the map with all the best Moscow metro stations – you can download it (.kml file) and put it on your phone at maps.me app to use offline during your visit in Moscow!
Is it possible to take pictures in Moscow metro?
Yes! That was a nice surprise to be honest as, after my adventures in Kharkiv, Ukraine, I was afraid I would have to be sneaky again. But fortunately all is legal there.
You are even encouraged to take pictures – on the ground you can see the special photo points marked. Apparently you can capture the best picture of the station when standing at this point.
Is Moscow metro safe?
In general – yes. Keep in mind you are in a big place and Moscow metro can get really busy so use your typical precautious methods and use your common sense – as usual in such places there might be pickpockets. But metro in Moscow is no different than metro system in other big cities. There are security and police officers present at stations so that might increase the safety there.
Moscow metro tours
If you would like to learn more about Moscow metro it is possible to visit the undergrounds with a tour. I really regret not finding out about the tours early enough as there are so many fascinating stories and details only a guide can tell and show you. I was hanging around few tours when I saw them and they were surely interesting! There are numerous tours available, both private and group – click here to find the best one for you, they are really affordable.
Tips for visiting Moscow metro
- One ride costs 55RUB ($0,80/€0,71), making it the cheapest of all the Moscow attractions. It is not time limited so once you go through the reel you are free to explore Moscow metro as long as you’d like to. There are also no zones so you don’t need to worry you will go too far with your ticket.
- You can get a ticket at every metro station either at the tickets office (written in Cyrillic “KACCA”) or at the ticket machine – I used mostly those and they are available also in English. They accept both money and cards
- Unlike in most of the post-Soviet countries you won’t get a token for your ride but a magnetic card. You can load up to two rides when buying the ticket in the machine – it’s especially useful when you are travelling with someone as you and your companion can use the same card. One person opens the gate for another and afterwards for himself/herself. The cards aren’t reusable so once you go through the gate and your card is empty you can throw it to the bin.
- If you are not used to escalators in post-Soviet countries you might be surprised how fast they go. That’s because the rides are usually long (the longest escalator is 126 meters) and already takes much time to take you all the way down. If you are afraid just count to three and jump on the stairs or walk confidently in.
- While the announcements in the trains are often in English the information at the stations are in Russian only. Once you get to the platform you will see the directions which side of the platform serves which stations but it will be all in Russian. I recommend getting a map (either print it at home or download it on your phone to have always with you) with all the stations written in both Russian and English. You can download one here.
- Many of the stations are where the lines connect – just follow the people if you want to switch lines (as again, all the signs are in Russian). There are also directions with the number of the line and arrows painted on the ground.
- Try to avoid visiting Moscow metro stations in the rush hours (8-10 in the morning and 17-19 in the afternoon) – you won’t see much because of the number of people commuting and you will be constantly pushed around. I found Sunday mornings to be the best for wandering around stations and taking pictures.
- If you have the crazy idea like I had – to ride the metro in the middle of the night to avoid crowds and take the best pictures I have bad news for you – Moscow metro runs only between 5.30am and 1am.
- If you would like to learn more about Russia travel tips I wrote the whole post about it. They will make your preparation for the trip and the trip itself much smoother. Click here to read them all.
Other beautiful metro stations in post-Soviet countries
If you like metro systems and enjoyed Moscow metro you should consider visiting other destinations in former USSR where maybe metro wasn’t as stunning as in Moscow but it was surely interesting and beautiful. My favorite ones are in:
- Sankt Petersburg, Russia
- Minsk, Belarus
- Kiev, Ukraine (that’s where the deepest metro station in the world is located – Arsenalna, 105 meters underground)
- Kharkiv, Ukraine
- Tbilisi, Georgia
- Yerevan, Armenia
- Baku, Azerbaijan
- and my newest discovery – Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Moscow metro stations pictures
If I didn’t convinced you enough that it is worth to give some time to Moscow metro here are some pictures to show you how beautiful the stations are. You might also want to check the Instagram account I’ve discovered recetly that focus on Moscow metro architecture only – it’s so pretty!
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