Moscow – the capital of Russia – is one of the largest cities in the world with the population of over 12 million people, and if we include the agglomeration, that would make it 15 million. Moscow is a huge city, you will find here many historical sites, museums, parks, and it is very difficult to find your way around there, especially if you are in Moscow for the first time.
In this article I will try to make it somewhat easier for tourists who plan to spend some time in Moscow. In fact, despite the size and the chaos that, at first glance, seems to be reigning this city, it is not really tough to get a sense of direction here. Geographically, the city is divided into administrative districts, each one of them has some subdistricts, but not all districts or subdistricts are good choices for tourists accommodation. Many of them are residential or business districts, and we will not include them in our list of possible accommodation options.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Moscow?
In order to navigate with ease in the city, you need to have a general idea of its development. Moscow is a city with a radial ring structure. You can easily see it on the map of Moscow the best illustration of this fact is the map of the underground with its circle line and radial lines. Everything that is inside the circle is the center of Moscow with the city’s main attractions. This is the part of the city where most tourists search for accommodation.
It should be noted that when you choose a place to stay in Moscow, you should keep in mind your travel purpose and for how long you plan to stay in the city. For example, if you come to take part in a conference or an exhibition, it is recommended to stay in a hotel close to the place where this exhibition or conference will be held. As a rule, it is Expocenter, or VDNH (up until recently this unique complex was named All-Russian Exhibition Center, VVC). If you come to Russian capital for 3-4 days and plan to explore the main sites, it would make sense to find a hotel or a hostel in the city center, otherwise, you will have to spend a lot of time on commute. And if you transit via Moscow and will stay for just a day or two, but at the same time would like to see the main historical sights, the best accommodation options for you are near the airports or railway stations, depending on what transport you are going to use to reach your final destination.
Based on the most popular travel purposes, I recommend focusing on the following districts that could be considered for accommodation. We will take a closer look at each of them:
- City Center
- Exhibition Centers
- Railway Stations
- Three Station Square (Komsomolskaya Square)
- Belorussky Station
- Kursky Station
- Kievsky and Paveletsky Stations
- The Third Ring Road
- Airports (Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Vnukovo)
Center of Moscow
Central Moscow is quite a large district, located within the Garden Ring Road. The city center is undoubtful attracting the most number of Russian and foreign tourists. Here you will find the main sights of the city. As I have already mentioned, central Moscow’s borders are to a certain extent aligned with the circle line of Moscow underground, which means that all attractions can be easily reached by underground, that is, if you do not want to explore the central area of the capital on foot.
Here you will find the Kremlin, the Red Square with the St. Basil Cathedral and the State Historical Museum. In the same district but a little farther away there is the first pedestrian area of Moscow – the Old Arbat Street. Traditionally, a lot of tourists are interested in visiting Tretyakov Gallery – the largest museum in the world dedicated solely to the Russian art, that is why we will discuss hotels near this museum separately.
The fact is, that despite the large territory occupied by Moscow’s center, you can easily explore it traveling by metro. In just a few minutes you will be able to reach Arbat from the Kremlin, or go to the museums that are of special interest to you. Let’s take a closer look at accommodation in central Moscow, starting with hotels that are located in the very heart of Moscow, right next to the Kremlin.
The Kremlin, the Red Square, Kitay-Gorod
Moscow Kremlin today is the largest in the country Historical and Cultural Museum-Preserve, and is, of course, destination No. 1 for all tourists. Obviously, the closer a hotel is located to the main attraction of the city, the more expensive it is. However, there are probably people out there who would love to stay in one of hotels overlooking the Kremlin, for example, National, Metropol and Baltschug Kempinski. At the same time you should keep in mind, that these hotels are not just expensive but very expensive. These five-star hotels traditionally welcome rich and famous people.
Old Arbat Street
In contrast to hotels near the Kremlin, where for obvious reasons, you will find only incredibly expensive hotels, in the Arbat street there are hotels for any taste and budget – from very affordable hostels to five-star hotels. At the same time you will still stay in the near proximity of the Kremlin and the Red Square and will be able to reach these sights in just 10-15 minutes by metro, and walking there will take just a little bit more time.
The Arbat is the pedestrian area in Moscow, very cozy and similar to many streets like that in other European capitals. This small district is very popular with locals and tourists thanks to a special creative atmosphere reigning here. Here you can also find a number of nice restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops, as well as groceries and supermarkets.
Hotels at the Arbat are a great choice if you want to have the most exciting memories from your Moscow trip.
Budget-friendly options include PEOPLE Hotel at Novinskiy Boulevard and Hostel L'abordage, located in the close proximity to Smolenskaya underground station. You can also get a good value for money in the hotel Belgrad. And if you are used to a five-star hotels’ quality, then Moscow Marriott Hotel Novy Arbat is a great option for you.
Tretyakov Gallery Neighborhood
As you probably know by now, the Tretyakov Gallery is also located in the central Moscow. You can reach the Kremlin and the Red Square in about 10-15 minutes as they are just couple of stations away by metro (or you can walk there). Not far from this district you will also find the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Pushkin Museum.
This district is home to a great number of hostels and mini-hotels, so it is a good option for tourists on a tight budget who would like to explore the Tretyakov Gallery, the collection of which is comprised of over 100,000 works of Russian art from 7th to 20th century.
Good accommodation options here are 3 Penguins Hostel on Pyatnitskaya, Seasons Hostel and Hostel Ivan da Marya, all of them are located within a 5-minute walk from the Tretyakov Gallery. If hostels are not really your thing, you can choose hotels Comfort Moscow or Medeya. They boast the same convenient location but a better level of privacy.
Annually Moscow hosts a few dozen of large exhibitions and conferences. If you plan to participate or visit one of them, then staying in a hotel near the convention center where the event will be held is probably the best option. It will help you save travel time, and at the same time you will easily be able to see the Kremlin and other sights that attract your attention thanks to a very convenient transport connection.
Hotels near Expocenter
Expocenter Exhibition Center is one of the largest in Moscow – every year it hosts some of the key Russian and European events, attracting millions of business tourists from all over the world. The district near Expocenter is a very picturesque area with a great view over the Moskva river. This is a very comfortable district for accommodation: the Kremlin is just 20 minutes away, and the underground station is 50 meters from the exhibition center.
Good options for accommodation here are Novotel Moscow City and Crown Plaza, at the same time they are the most expensive ones. If you want to save on accommodation, choose one of mini-hotels, such as Expo Hotel or Octavia.
VDNH (or VVC) is the oldest exhibition center in Moscow. You should visit it even if you don’t plan to participate in an exhibition. The complex itself is huge, it occupies an area of 250 ha. It feels like it is a separate town where each building sparks interest, makes you turn your head and admire it. In addition to exhibition halls you will find here small but nice museums, an upside down house, and amazing fountains – VDNH is especially beautiful in the evening with the night illumination.
Within a short distance from the entrance (3 minutes on foot) there is an underground station that will allow you to easily move between the main tourist attractions in Moscow.
There is a fair share of hotels in the VDNH area, however, most of them were built back in Soviet times and seem to be a bit old-fashioned. One of the most famous hotels in the area is Cosmos Hotel that was built for the 1980 Olympic Games. The rooms in this hotel boast some spectacular views of the VDNH.
Crocus Expo was opened in 2004, and today it hosts large international exhibitions and conferences. Geographically, Crocus Expo is located outside of Moscow, so it only makes sense to choose a hotel nearby if you plan to take part in an exhibition or a conference, or if you want to see a concert in Crocus City Hall (it is a place where Russian and international stars perform regularly).
You will find here Crocus City Mall – a great place for luxury shopping, a yacht club Shore House, and a number of good restaurants. In the coming years, business and entertainment center Crocus City Riviera will also open here.
Thankfully, it is not really a problem to reach Crocus Expo from Moscow – there is a modern underground station Myakinino here.
The only hotel in this area is Aquarium Hotel with 225 rooms, and it means that you probably will need to book a room very well in advance.
Geographically, almost all railway stations are in the center of Moscow or very close to it, but we will take a closer look at them to help you navigate easier through the city, especially if you come by train and don’t really know if it makes sense to stay in a hotel near the station or how far the station is from all the main sights.
Three Station Square (Komsomolskaya Square)
Komsomolskaya Square is a square where three railway stations are located: Leningradsky, Yaroslavsky and Kazansky stations. This square is known as the Three Station Square.
The buildings of these three railway stations are architectural monuments and attract tourists’ attention. The most beautiful, in my opinion, is the Neorussian building of Yaroslavsky station. From Yaroslavsky Station you can go, for example, to Yaroslavl, Vorkuta, Vologda, Kirov, Arkhangelsk, Ekaterinburg, Perm, Tyumen, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Beijing, Ulan-Bator.
Leningradsky Station is the oldest railway station in Moscow, from here trains depart to Saint-Petersburg, Murmansk, Petrozavodsk, Velikyi Novgorod, Helsinki, Tallinn and other cities in the North-West.
Finally, Kazansky Station is the largest railway station in Moscow. Trains from Voronezh, Cheboksary, Togliatti, Samara, Penza, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Izhevsk, Rostov-on-Don, Adler, Anapa, Vladikavkaz and other cities arrive here.
An experienced tourist knows that districts around railway stations are as a rule very loud and very chaotic, with constant flow of people with heavy luggage (or without it) on the way to their destinations. It is easy to imagine that the district with three railway stations will be the most chaotic you have ever seen. However, you don’t get this feeling when you are at the Three Station Square. A well thought-through infrastructure helps to avoid the global chaos.
Staying in the area of the Komsomolskaya Square is not a bad option: it is close to the stations if you need to travel by train, there are many restaurants here (from fast food to some really decent cafes and restaurants), and the number of available hotels in this district keeps growing every year. Back in Soviet times the only hotel in the area was hotel Leningradskaya known today as Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya (prices, obviously, correspond with a five-star status of the hotel). However, today you can find a number of small but nice hotels in the close proximity to the Three Station Square. For example, Mandarin Hotel, Apart-Hotel Volga and Orange Hotel on Komsomolskaya. All of them are located not far from the stations but on quiet streets. From here you can reach the Red Square and the Kremlin in just 10-15 minutes by metro.
Belorussky Station is important because of a couple of reasons. First, from here you can travel to the West or South-West, you can even reach Berlin if you are afraid to fly, for example. And second, from this station you can easily reach Sheremetyevo airport by aeroexpress. It means that if you come to Moscow by train and in a couple of days you plan to fly to your final destination (or the other way around – when you plan to stay in Moscow for a couple days after you come back from your vacation), then staying in the district near the Belorussky Station will be a great option – affordable and very convenient in terms of location (just 3 metro stops away from the Kremlin, and the metro station here is within an easy reach from the station).
If we talk about the district, you will see that it is a little chaotic next to the station, but 500–600 meters away when you move to the nearby streets, the atmosphere changes – everything is quiet and respectable, there are many restaurants and cafes for any taste and budget. Most of hotels here are four- and five-star hotels targeted at business tourists but, of course, you can also find families with kids there. If you like to save some money, choose one of hostels in the area, for example, Rus-Yammy or V-Now. There is, however, the lack of middle price range hotels in this district. But four-star hotels are quite affordable for an average tourist, especially if you book them in advance.
A good option here is a chain hotel Holiday Inn Lesnaya – in addition to the default Holiday Inn quality the hotel offers to its guests great a la carte breakfasts, for a decent price you can choose a French, an American, an English or a Russian breakfast.
The building of Kursky Station is not really very remarkable, it has been rebuilt numerous times and today it is a very characterless building. There are no tourist attractions in the near proximity of the station, but from here you can reach the center of Moscow in 10-15 minutes (just one metro stop). Actually, this is a pretty average railway station district that would be a great option for those who plan to travel to Nizhny Novgorod, Adler, Baku, Orel or Kursk.
However, a convenient location, proximity to the city center, a fair share of restaurants and cafes within an easy reach, and a great number of hotels (from five-star hotels to mini-hotels and hostels) have turned this district into a desirable destination for many tourists visiting Moscow.
Kievsky and Paveletsky Stations
There are two more railway stations that are worth mentioning – Kievsky and Paveletsky Stations. They are also located on the circle underground line, and you won’t have any troubles to reach the Kremlin and the Red Square from here. Additionally, Paveletsky Station is in close proximity to the Tretyakov Gallery. Plus, from these stations you can take an express train (aeroexpress) to Vnukovo airport (from Kievsky Station) and Domodedovo airport (from Paveletsky Station). So, if your itinerary includes these railway stations and/or these airports, it makes sense to find an accommodation near the stations.
An additional benefit of staying near the Kievsky Station is the proximity of one of the largest shopping and entertaining centers in Moscow – The Europeisky "Evropeysky" Shopping Mall – this is a great opportunity for shopping. Besides, there are good cafes and restaurants here, a bowling alley, a cinema and an entertainment center for kids.
Hotels in these districts target well-off guests, so, if your budget is unlimited, you can choose Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel or Radisson Royal Hotel (formerly known as Hotel Ukraina, located in one of the famous Seven Sisters skyscrapers designed in the Stalinist style) near the Kievsky Station or Swissotel Krasnye Holmy at the Paveletsky Station.
Third Ring Road
You probably remember that Moscow is a city with a radial ring structure. Up until now we have checked the hotels in central Moscow, those inside the Garden Ring Road or the Circle Line of the underground. However, there is still life beyond the Garden Ring Road, and of course, there are hotels there that are getting cheaper when you move farther away from the center. It makes sense to choose a hotel here if you want to save money and are fine with spending more time for getting to the main attractions. But in this case you should only consider hotels that are within a short walking distance from the metro. This territory is huge and there are a lot of hotels here. The districts are not really remarkable in and of themselves – these are just residential areas with supermarkets and shops, or business centers. Here you will be able to find hotels away from the main roads which means that you will have peaceful time.
If we take into account the most important criteria for tourists, such as convenient location (close to the metro), comfortable rooms, complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi, as well as affordable rates, then the following hotels at the Third Ring Road could be a great choice for you: Slavyanka Hotel, Blues Hotel, Holiday Inn Moscow Suschevsky and Maxima Panorama Hotel. Budget-friendly hotels include the Welcome mini-hotel that is a part of the Microhotels chain and the ID Hostel.
Just like in any other city, it makes sense to choose a hotel near the airport, if you are transiting through the city and/or stay there for just a couple of days before flying to your next destination. In this case you will not have to move around Moscow with your luggage, you can leave it in your hotel room and go explore the city center.
There are three large airports in Moscow: Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo. There are some accommodation options next to each of them.
In Domodedovo there is only one hotel – Airhotel Domodedovo.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel in Moscow
Moscow is a very large and attractive for tourists city that welcomes millions of guests every year. The pace of hotels construction can’t catch up with the growing number of tourists, that’s why Moscow experiences the lack of rooms, especially in middle price range hotels. In the recent years, more mini-hotels and hostels have appeared, however, they still can’t satisfy the high demand. So, if you planned to visit Moscow, book hotels in advance, or you will be very unpleasantly surprised with the prices in available hotels.
If your goal is to see the main tourist attractions, then it is better to stay within the Garden Ring Road near underground stations. Here you will find a great selection of hotels and hostels for any budget. Don’t forget that the hotel should be within an easy reach from the underground station, or you will have to spend too much time on travel from one destination to another one.
And finally, don’t forget to check tourists’ feedback on booking websites, preferably not older than 3-4 months, because old feedback is less interesting – a lot could have changed in the hotel in these 3-4 months, both for better or for worse.