In Moscow, grand boulevards and massive buildings that seem to stretch for miles are the norm, but some of the city’s most impressive sites are actually found below the streets, in the underground metro system used that transports millions of residents each day.
Moscow’s metro system is one of the busiest in the world and, at 190 miles (305kms) long with 185 stations, it’s also one of the largest. The stations aren’t just transit hubs – they’re a sort of free public art exhibit, and one that tells the history of the city in their design and decoration. The stations were designed so lavishly in the hopes that their beauty would inspire workers on their way to dreary jobs under Soviet rule. These ornate stations eventually became known as “the palaces of the people” for their extravagant architecture. Later, new stations were designed in a slightly more understated way, their appearance reflecting a more austere time in the city’s history.
Some of the most beautiful stations include Novoslobodskaya, with its 32 colored glass panels and mosaics; Prospekt Mira, decorated in marble, granite, and chandeliers; Ploshchad Revolyutsii, an homage to Soviet heroes represented by 76 bronze sculptures; Kievskaya, which celebrates the Ukrainian people with beautiful murals framed by gold-leaf borders; the subdued Mayakovskaya station, with massive overhead lights and large mosaics; and the undisputed crown jewel, Komsomolskaya station with its marble columns, yellow ceilings with white trim, and gold mosaics.
A single ride on the Moscow metro costs just 28 rubles (about 85 cents) so you could easily and cheaply spend an afternoon riding from station to station to see each one on your own. However, a guided tour will help you focus your exploration and provide you with more information as to what makes each station special. Many of the design elements aren’t just pretty; they often symbolize certain aspects of Russian culture or pay tribute to important historical figures and events.