If you do not speak or understand Russian, the Moscow Metro can seem complicated to use. However, when you begin using it you will quickly realize that in reality it is very simple. Moreover, the Moscow Metro is also an important tourist attraction due to the beauty of some of the stations. I will explain to you what stations are worth a visit.
Updated on February 20, 2020. Published on December 15, 2015
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The Moscow Metro (also known as the People’s Palace) was inaugurated in 1935 in the era of Stalin. It is one of the biggest and densest in the world. It connects the city center with the industrial and residential areas and allows you to travel quickly and easily if you are visiting Moscow.
On the official website of the Moscow Metro, you can find some interesting facts:
- In 2019 it transported 2.560 million travellers (about 7 million travellers each day)
- It is made up of 14 lines, 228 stations and is 393,7 kilometers long
- The deepest station, at 84 meters below ground, is Victoria Park (Park Pobedi), where you can find the longest escalator, at 126 meters long.
- The average frequency at which the trains pass is 90 seconds (in the centrally located stations it’s even more frequent). It’s not worth running if you hear a train arriving.
1. Useful information
Before beginning to use the Moscow Metro, there is some useful information that you can consult via the Internet:
Official website of the Moscow Metro:
Official map of the Moscow Metro:
- Official English version (PDF, 3,4 Mb). I would advise you to print this version, although you can also find copies of the map in the Moscow Metro as well.
- Interactive map of the Moscow Metro in order to calculate your route.
Mobile applications: Yandex Metro is a free app that is extremely useful and is not necessary to use with an Internet connection in order to look at maps and calculate routes. It is available for Android and iPhone and also offers a web version in English.
Moscow Metro Schedule: the majority of stations are open from 5:30AM until 1:00AM.
Types of tickets: you can buy single tickets (57 rubles) or the Troika card (40 rubles per trip). You can also pay directly on turnstiles with a Visa or Mastercard or with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. These transit tickets are also used for transport by bus, trolleybus and tram. In this article you have a detailed explanation of the different tickets and credit cards that you can purchase, as well as the rates: Public Transportation in Moscow: the Troika Card and Unified Tickets
2. How to travel by the Moscow Metro
I am going to explain in the simplest way possible explain how to travel via the Moscow Metro. If you are accustomed to travelling via the Metro in other cities, many of the issues that I go over here will seem obvious to you, others perhaps not as obvious.
2.1. The entrance to the Metro
On the street the Metro stations are identified with a large red M.
You can access the stations at street level or by going down the stairs, at the bottom of which you will see:
- A series of doors with green signs through which you can access the Metro that say “Metro Entrance” in Russian or English.
- Another series of doors with red signs that say ‘Do not enter” that are the exit doors.
Once you go in you will see that there is a large Metro map in the hall of each station, along with automatic machines that dispense tickets and a ticket booth.
2.2. Purchasing tickets
Once inside the Metro you can buy tickets. You can get them in two basic ways:
- Automatic dispensing machines. They are in Russian and English and are not difficult to use.
- Ticket booth. Although it is not hard to use the machines, it is much more comfortable to use the ticket booth manned by a person (they are marked with the Word “KACCA”). Get in line (if there is one) and wait your turn. At the ticket booth you can buy tickets with needing to know a Word of Russian. For example, if you want to buy the Troika card and recharge it with 500 rubles the first time, all you have to do is mention the word Troika at the ticket window and give them 550 rubles, which include the deposit of 50 rubles. After paying, the cashier will give you a card that will serve as your ticket.
2.3. Accessing the platform
From the ticket sales area, you will see turnstyles where you can enter the Metro that come with a card reader (in some stations they are older and in others they are more modern).
You should go through the turnstyle and put your card on the cardreader. You will see the light change from red to green indicating that you can go through. The screen of the reader will show you how many trips you have left or the outstanding balance.
In each line of turnstiles, there is a cabin with someone who makes sure that that no one sneaks in and who allows access to children under 7 (who don’t pay) or to people in a wheelchair.
It is also important to know that, according to the regulations, each passenger must have their own ticket; however, with the fare for the 60-ride Troika Card or with the Wallet Fare of the Troika Card, it is common practice to share a card with several members of the same family or several friends. In no case can sharing the card be done with the 90-minute ticket or with the ticket that allows unlimited travel for a number of days.
Once you have gone through the turnstyle, you will see an escalator that will take you down deeper underground (stand to the right on the escalator in order to allow people in a hurry to pass). When you arrive down below, there will be signs indicating the lines and the direction they are travelling in. At this time it is important to have a Metro map that is in Russian and English since signs in the Metro are usually in Cyrillic. However, since the World Cup in 2018, most stations are already marked in English.
Trains pass practically every 1-2 minutes, so if you hear a train arriving it is not necessary to run because another train will pass by shortly.
2.4. Getting on the train
Once the train arrives, you should simply wait for people to exit before getting out. During rush hour there can be a lot of people, so be careful not to get pushed around too much. The most important thing is to get to the doors and get on board while they are open, since the doors close hard.
Once inside the train, look for somewhere to sit or stand somewhere where you can hold onto on of the bars, since the trains can move around a lot. The train cars are generally pretty old and loud, although they are progressively renewing.
2.5. Travelling from station to station
If you do not read nor understand Russian, you will have to consult your map of the Metro and count the number of stops in order to arrive at your destination. In each car, next to the door, there is a map of the Metro and a map of the line on which you are travelling.
The announcements on the train are in Russian and in English. In general, the announcement of the next station will be read out by a man’s voice on the trains travelling to the center of the city and by a woman’s voice on the trains travelling away from the city center. On the circular line (the maroon colored line 5) a man’s voice indicates the stops if it is travelling in a clockwise direction and in a woman’s voice if it’s travelling counter clockwise.
You will also see that each station has signs with its name posted but they can be in Russian and can be difficult to see from inside the train.
If you have to switch trains, after exiting the train you should look for signs for the lines that you need to take. These signs are in color (each line has its own color) and are very easy to follow if you know the color of the line that you need to take.
Switching lines can involve going up or down either stairs or escalators and passing through underground passageways. You can change trains as you desire on a single ticket, which is valid until you exit the Metro system.
If you miss your stop, it’s not a problem. Trains go in both directions. Simply get off and take the train going in the opposite direction.
2.6. Exiting the Metro
Once you have arrived at your destination, simply leave the train and look for the white sign with black letters that says “Exit to the city” via the escalator up. You can exit via several exits to the city. Look for the exit most appropriate to your final destination.
3. What stations are worth visiting
What stations are the most beautiful is somewhat subjective and it depends on each person’s tastes. To make a recommendation I am will refer to the classification from the year 2011 put together by the Russian architect Yuri Gridchin and I believe to be the best. You can find her rankings at the following link:
This architect classifies that best stations into two groups. In the first group, the magnificent stations (5 stars), made up of a total of 20. They are signified in the following map with a rectangle according to the color of the line:
Practically all of them are on lines 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7. You can click on each of the following links in order to see photos of the stations:
- Line 1:
- Line 2:
- Line 3:
- Line 5
- Line 7:
- Line 9:
In the second classification there are 46 stations with 4 stars (“beautiful stations”). If you have time and want to, you can also visit some of these. You can see them by following this link.
4. Guided tours in English in the Moscow Metro
Finally, I also have to say that there are several companies that organize guided tours of the Moscow Metro in English. A good option is the GetYourGuide platform, where you can find various guided tours. Simply insert “Moscow Metro” in the search form of the platform to see all the guided tours. For example:
- Moscow Metro Tour
- Moscow Metro Private Tour
- Small group Metro Tour
- Moscow Metro Stations Private Tour with Hotel Pickup
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