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Nine things to do in Moscow at Christmas

With colorful decorations and magic lights, Moscow is a top destination to feel the joyous Christmas mood.
 
Moscow at Christmas
Moscow at Christmas
Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7 in accordance with the old Julian calendar. The holiday season in Russia starts on January 1 and lasts for about 10 days. Starting from Mid-December, the capital of Russia turns into a winter fairytale.  Late December is truly a perfect time to book a Moscow tour.

What are the top things to do in Moscow to take in the Christmas atmosphere?

 

Explore Moscow Christmas Markets

Moscow is famous for its numerous Christmas fairs. A British newspaper The Telegraph included Moscow in top-10 cities with the most fabulous Christmas markets. 

Red Square, with its dazzling illumination, atmospheric skating rink, and colorful Christmas fair, will be the magnet for all Moscow visitors.

Christmas markets in Moscow
Christmas markets in Moscow
A trip across all Moscow Christmas venues might take the whole day and even longer. The annual 'Journey to Christmas' festival usually runs for a month from Mid-December to Mid-January and covers 40+ venues around Moscow. The main events typically take place on Manezhnaya Square, Pushkin Square, New Arbat Street as well as Kuznetsky Most street and Moscow Boulevard Ring. Wandering about Moscow, you can taste the most delicious foods from different regions of Russia, get unusual Christmas gifts, watch magnificent figure skating shows, and theatrical performances. Your kids can join exciting masterclasses, ride the ice slide, or practice snowboarding and other winter sports.The detailed information is published on the official Moscow mayor website 
 

Trip Notes

  • In Russia, the official holidays start from January 1 and usually last for 10-12 days. These days all venues of the festival will be very crowded with locals. It might be better to explore Christmas fairs at the end of December.
     
  •  It's good to know that officials often limit Red Square excess on the night of December 31. A better place to watch the fireworks at night would be neighboring Zaradje Park.
     
  •  At the beginning of January, Red Square is usually very busy, so if you don't like the crowds, the only relatively quiet time would be in the morning before 11 am.

    Red Square at Christmas
    Red Square at Christmas

Practice skating 

Moscow offers wonderful opportunities for outdoor skating. Isn’t it a great way to get in the Christmas mood? 

One of the most well-known rinks in Moscow; is the one on Red Square. It is a great place to get incredible views on Red Square and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere of the city. This skating rink might be a bit too busy and touristy, so it is best to come at 10 am when it opens.

Skating on Red Square
Skating on Red Square
The most atmospheric and romantic skating rinks can be found in Moscow parks. Our favorites are the rinks in cozy Hermitage Garden, at Patriarch Ponds, or a much larger one in Gorky Park. The last one offers a great combination of scenery, space, music, and a fun winter atmosphere.

The ice rink in VDNKh is one of the largest skating rinks of Europe. It is worth checking out for the beautiful architecture of the park but it lacks the coziness of some other skating rinks of Moscow.

Enjoy Moscow museums without crowds.
 

Winter is a perfect time to discover a fantastic collection of Moscow museums. Kremlin, Armoury Museum, Tretyakov Gallery, and many other ones will be more enjoyable without crowds of tourists. Moscow at Christmas time is still not a very hot tourist season.


Kremlin at Christmas times
Kremlin at Christmas times
While planning your tour, it is essential to remember:
 
  • It gets dark around 4 pm in December. You'd better plan more outside activities in the morning and visit museums after lunch.
  • On December 31 most museums are open only in the morning, January 1 is a day off in many museums around Moscow.
  • Some museums might be very crowded later in the first week of January during the official Russian holidays. At the start of the New Year between 2–7 January, some museums offer free admission. We'd suggest not going to the most popular ones such as the Space Museum as there might be a long line of people at the entrance.

Watch a mesmerizing ballet performance


Christmas is a wonderful time to go and see a ballet at one of the many beautiful venues around Moscow. 

The Nutcracker performance
The Nutcracker performance
With its dancing snowflakes and the Sugar Plum Fairy, The Nutcracker is a brilliant ballet for everyone willing to feel the spirit of Christmas. As an alternative, you may watch many other great ballet performances such as The Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. 

No surprise Bolshoi theatre would be the first choice for the first-time visitors of Moscow. But it is also the most expensive one. Due to its popularity Nutcracker tickets are usually sold out by Mid-October.

If you wish to see Nutcracker, we’d suggest trying some other Ballet Companies. These are the companies to look at: 
 
  • The Kremlin Ballet Theatre, which is located right inside the Kremlin. This is the website https://en.kremlinpalace.org/events/ballet
     
  • Novaya Opera Theatre. The theatre mostly focuses on opera but it also offers high-quality ballet performances.  You can find tickets at a very affordable price. The theatre is very comfortable inside and is located in a cozy Hermitage garden with a skating rink and restaurants. Their website is https://novayaopera.ru/en/afisha-i-bilety/
     
  • Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater is another alternative to the Bolshoi and is a good value for money. Both music and dancing are of high quality. The theatre is not as luxurious as the Bolshoi, but very well-organized and comfortable.

Admire winter landscapes


Do not only stick to Red Square. While in Moscow you can find gorgeous parks that look magic in winter.

Klomenskoye in winter
Klomenskoye in winter
Our first choice is Kolomesnkoye estate, which gives you the authentic feel of the countryside and offers stunning winter views. While in Kolomenskoye, you can visit the tsar's palace, discover one of Moscow's oldest and most beautiful churches, and learn about the medieval history of Russia.

If time permits, take a day tour to Vladimir and Suzdal. Suzdal is a great place to feel the winter charm and one of the most picturesque towns of the Golden Ring that preserved its unique medieval character. On a snowy day, you may experience a horse-drawn sleigh ride.

Trip Notes

As it gets dark very early in December, we'd recommend you to take the earliest train that leaves Moscow at around 7 am and arrives in Vladimir at 9 am

Suzdal in winter
Suzdal in winter

Experience Russian banya

Banya or a Russian type of sauna is one of the oldest Russian traditions. It remains an integral part of Russian culture. Isn't it fun to try in on a cold winter day?

Sandunovsky bath house
Sandunovsky bath house
A top choice in Moscow is the 200-year-old Sandunovsky bathhouse. Sanduny is the most elegant Rusian banya, which is popular among Russian celebrities. The most authentic experience would be to go to the public bath where men and women go to separate sections. It's good to know that only men attending top class department have a chance to see the most luxurious interiors.  But the top ladies' room looks fantastic as well! You may also book a private cabin, but it wouldn't look as original as the public one.

As an alternative, we may arrange a day trip out of Moscow to a private banya in a Russian dacha. This experience is most typical among the locals.


Take a cruise along Moscow River

Isn't it fun to be on an icebreaker in the middle of the frozen river? On a boat tour, you can catch gorgeous views of the city, enjoy a romantic dinner and relax after a busy day of touring Moscow.

Radisson cruise in winter
Radisson cruise in winter
On a cold day, you don't have to go outside as you can enjoy all the views from a panoramic window of a yacht. It is easy to step out for a few seconds to take the most beautiful shots.

You can book a cruise on the official website  We'd highly recommend booking tickets in advance. We'll be happy to offer the services of our Moscow tour guide to accompany you.

Troika Rides and Dog-sled tours

Why not take a day trip get out of town, enjoy the enchanting winter landscape, and dash through the snow on a colorful sled?

Troika Rides
Troika Rides
We offer various fun winter activities. You may book a Troika Ride or go to a husky farm to experience a dog-sled ride, make friends with cute little puppies and learn about dogs' lifestyles in the North.

However, both dog-sledding and Troika Rides are weather dependent activities and are not possible without snow. We'd recommend you thinking of some backup plans. Thus, if it is not cold and snowy enough, you may book a food tour to taste the most delicious Russian food or spend more time enjoying the festive atmosphere of Christmas markets.

Enjoy a hearty Christmas dinner

Moscow is a great destination for foodies. It is a very cosmopolitan city and here you can find the cuisine for every taste. Among the top Russian restaurants are Café Pushkin, Turandot, LavkaLavka, Oblomov, White Rabbit, and many more. In late December or early January, advance booking is a must. 

Why not experience Russian New Year culinary traditions? The most popular Soviet New Year dishes are Olivier salad, red or black caviar, duck with apples, pies. There are a number of delicacies that might taste bizarre. Thus, Russians love meat jelly known as kholodets. Another unusual salad is called herring under a fur coat. The salad has several layers: salted herring is covered with chopped onions, potatoes, carrots, beetroots, and dressed with mayonnaise.

Isn’t it exciting to taste local food while traveling? Join our food tour of Moscow to taste delicious meals you’ve never eaten before. It'll be a wonderful chance to experience Russian eating and drinking traditions.

Moscow Food Tour
Moscow Food Tour
Top Moscow and Russia tours