Moscow, the sprawling Russian capital, is a city that’s both full of history and contemporary culture.
This is the centre of the Russian world, a city that armies have invaded, where nations have clashed and where revolutions have played out through the centuries.
It’s a city on the fringe of Europe, but a place that is very much at the heart of European history and politics, and for visitors, it can be a complex and enthralling destination to visit.
As much as there is to see and to do in the city itself, there is just as much to experience on day trips from Moscow too.
While Russia is undoubtedly an expansive country, and many of the better-known cities such as St Petersburg or Volgograd are hundreds and hundreds of miles away, there are many more unknown and unusual destinations to visit within a few hours’ drive of the capital.
Immerse yourself in the Russian countryside, visit war memorials, battlefields and the lavish estates of the former Russian nobility. There are rural villages, grand Orthodox Monasteries and the chance to see Russian life outside of the city first-hand.
Here are the best day trips from Moscow.
Located just an hour north of the Moscow city centre, Korolev is an area that is almost a suburb of the expansive capital, but has retained its own unique identity. During the Soviet era, this was one of the most important industrial areas in the country, because this was the base for Soviet Space Exploration.
During World War II, the factories here produced anti-tank guns that helped keep the Soviet Union in the fight. After Germany was defeated, the factories and research centres began to focus on space.
The city became a ‘Science City’ as skilled workers from across the Union came here to settle and to launch the space programme. It became one of the more affluent areas in the country, and today, that distinction can still be seen on the streets and in the buildings.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Korolev remained the headquarters of Russian space travel and still hosts Russian Mission Control.
A two-hour drive to the west of Moscow is the battlefield of Borodino. This is a place that is revered in Russian history, and which perhaps should be much more well-known in wider European history too, because this is where the infamous French General Napolean Bonaparte fought the Russians during his invasion in 1812.
Although the French won the Battle of Borodino and went on to capture Moscow, this was the beginning of the end for Napolean, as he went on to be ravaged by the Russian Winter and was forced to retreat soon after.
Just outside the small village of Borodino is the green and grassy field where the battle was fought. On top of a substantial hill is a lasting monument to the important event.
Located to the south-east of Moscow is the city of Kolomna, which in comparison to the Russian capital is very much a small-town escape.
This is one of the oldest Russian cities in the region and there is a long and intriguing history to be discovered in the museums and monasteries.
Interestingly, the city was off-limits for much its tenure under the Soviet Union, because it was the site of important weapons factories. It was only in 1994 that the city was opened up and even now it is still very much unknown to tourists.
Kolomna makes for a great day trip, and you can explore the restored medieval walls, and the city’s very own Kremlin, a huge fortress which dates back to the 16th century.
Zvenigorod is as little as an hour’s drive away from Moscow city centre, and the small town makes for a pleasant break from the capital.
Zvenigorod is an old and historic place, with a history dating back almost a thousand years.
There are some beautiful monasteries to visit as well as the unusual Museum of Russian Desserts, where you can sample and explore this aspect of the local culinary culture.
Zvenigorod was also a town where the world-renowned Anton Checkov once lived, and you can visit a museum here that’s dedicated to his life.
5. Sergiyev Posad
North of the capital is the city of Sergiyev Posad, which is one of the few well-known tourist destinations in the surrounding region.
You will find this as a suggested stop on most travel itineraries to Moscow, and many tour companies include this as part of their excursions around the city because this city is home to the famous Trinity Lavra of St Sergius.
This is a huge Russian Orthodox Monastery which has been here for hundreds of years, and continues to be run by monks who look after the revered tomb of St Sergius, who was laid to rest here.
It’s an important pilgrimage place for Orthodox Christians and an important stop for tourists.
6. Kubinka Tank Museum
Outside Moscow, you can find an unusual museum which will give you a truly ‘Russian’ experience.
The Kubinka Tank Museum was once the location of a Red Army tank testing ground. Now, it’s been turned into a huge museum that showcases every conceivable type of armoured vehicle.
7. Arkhangelskoye Estate
The Arkhangelskoye Estate was built on the outskirts of Moscow and dates back to the late 18th century when it was constructed by a Rusian aristocratic family.
For over a century, it was the domain of the nobility, until of course, the Russian Revolution and the advent of Communism swept the family that owned the estate out of the country.
The estate was opened to the public by the Communists and turned into a museum, which it remains today.
Restoration work after the fall of the Soviet Union saved the Arkhangelskoye Estate from falling into disrepair and kept the grounds and the grand palace as a lavish example of pre-Revolution Russia.
Yaroslavl is found a few hours to the north of Moscow and makes for a long day trip from the city. It’s worth the journey to experience one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations.
Yaroslavl is found on the banks of the River Volga and has been a historically important city throughout Russian history. The city has even been the capital of the country at various points.
You can explore the many museums and monasteries to learn more about this intriguing destination.
9. Rostov Veliky
Just south of Yaroslavl is the small but culturally rich town of Rostov Veliky.
This is another important site in Russian history, as the town can date its origins back to early Slavic settlement around Moscow.
Lake Nero is a beautiful and expansive lake near the town, fringed on one side by an ancient fortress, giving Rostov Veliky a wonderful atmosphere to experience.
Two hours east of Moscow is another historic Russian city that is very much on the regional tourist trail.
It makes for a great day trip from the capital because Vladimir dates back to the 12th century and is full of Russian history and culture.
This was one of the first Russian capitals and it still contains many beautiful medieval buildings that are hundreds of years old.
The small town of Suzdal is just a few kilometres north of the city of Vladimir.
The town is part of a fantastic UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses the historic sites from both Suzdal and Vladimir.
The town was founded in medieval times and also acted for a time as an early capital for Russian kingdoms in the region.
Klin is a fairly unassuming town to the north-west of Moscow, but it’s worth visiting to see one particular sight, the house of Tchaikovsky.
The famous 19th-century composer spent his final days here and wrote his very last piece of work in the house in Klin. It is now a museum dedicated to his life and work.
It’s a grand estate and an interesting insight into pre-Soviet, Russian culture.
A short trip past the Moscow suburbs will bring you to another famous estate, the house of renowned Russian writer and playwright Anton Checkov.
By the town of Checkov, which was renamed in his honour, the museum of Melikova will take you on a journey through his life and indeed, what the lives of many of his contemporary fellow Russians would have been like too.
14. Gorki Leninskie
On the southern edge of Moscow is Gorki Leniniskie.
This grand estate was once the realm of Russian nobles, but after the Russian Revolution it was personally taken over by Vladimir Lenin who turned it into his own home.
He spent much of his last years here, and after his death, the estate became a shrine to his life and legacy.
Today it still remains an interesting museum, and is still in many ways a shrine to communism.
15. Losiny Ostrov National Park
Losiny Ostrov National Park is a huge area of protected land that is found right on the edge of Moscow and is even surrounded on several sides by suburbs of the city.
It’s unusual to find such a large national park so close to a capital and it’s easy to spend the day exploring this veritable wilderness of beautiful scenery and plentiful wildlife.