After visiting Moscow, I can certainly say that Moscow Metro is one of the most, if not the most beautiful metro in the world. Opened in 1935 with an 11 km long line and only 13 stations, it became the first underground system in the Soviet Union. Today, it has more 200 stations spread in a route of over 300km.
Built during the Soviet times as "the people's palace", originally its aim was promoting the communist ideals. While the tsars had constructed palaces just for their own enjoyment, Stalin constructed each station as an underground palace that each citizen and worker could enjoy.
Today, 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow's metro can be considered an underground museum. Stations have an exquisite decoration, ranging from precious metals to semi-precious stones. Check out some of the best stations that you can't miss during your stay in Moscow!
Our Moscow Metro Tour started from Arbatskaya station, located right in the heart of Moscow and just at the beginning of Arbat Street, one of the main shopping streets of the Russian capital.
Built in 1935, Arbatskaya was one of the first stations ever constructed in Moscow. Designed by L. Teplitskiy, walls are decorated with pillars made of pink marble, and the elaborate ceiling is decorated with ornaments and chandeliers made of bronze.
After an attack by the Germans in the 1940s, the station was reconstructed deeper underground and the entrance to the station was reinforced with metal doors that could be shut completely in order to use the station as a shelter in case of a nuclear attack. Thankfully, that was never the case, but the station had to be used in multiple occasion as a bunker when the city was bombed by the Nazis. Hundreds of people would be brought to this station until it was safe to go back to the surface, and for this reason, it has the second largest platform in Moscow: 250m wide.
This protective mechanism is still fully operational up until today, and apparently, tests are carried out regularly.
The station is 41m deep, and even though this might seem a lot, it's not the deepest that we found in Moscow: Park Pobedy holds that honour at 84m deep. When going down this station, you won't be able to see the end of the escalators!
In fact, you will find Russia's deepest underground not in Moscow but in St. Petersburg, with some stations reaching the 97m in depth.
If you stay in line 3 for one more stop direction east, you will arrive at Ploshchad Revolyutsii, one of the best well-known stations in Moscow. Named after Revolution Square located just above, this location is located right at the entrance of the Red Square.
The station was inaugurated in 1938 by Stalin himself, and it was designed by Alexey Dushkin with yellow and red marble arches. The lower part is made of black Armenian marble, and each arch leading to the platforms is flanked by a pair of bronze sculptures that represent different peoples of the Soviet Union. You will find farmers, workers or soldiers in an exaltation of the communist values and principles. There's a total of 76 sculptures in the station.
Many of these statues have become lucky charms, being the most popular the statue of a guard with a dog. There's a belief among Moscow students that rubbing the dog's nose will help them pass their exams, if possible without too much effort. However, not only students rub this dog for luck, you will be able to spot commuters doing the same as they rush across the station.
The second statue that you'll notice that everyone rubs is the statue of a female farmer with a rooster and a hen. Apparently, rubbing the rooster will bring you money. I gave it a try myself, just in case it works!
Another stop towards the east, you will reach the intersection between line 3 and Moscow's circle line, the most spectacular of all the 13 lines.
Kurskaya station, constructed in 1950, won the prestigious Stalin Prize thanks to its beautiful design.
Constructed in a Stalinist style, the centre of the station has a large open space with four columns that form an arbour All the walls are made of koyelga marble, while floors are laid with grey and red granite. Hanging from the ceiling are eight conical chandeliers to light up the interior.
Kurskaya station, just like all stations on the circle line, was constructed as a reminder of the greatness and the power of the Soviet Union. Decorated with quotes from the Anthem of the Soviet Union that you can still read today, the interior also used to have a statue of Stalin that was removed back in the 60s.
If you stay in the circle line in an anticlockwise direction for another stop, you will arrive to my personal favourite. Komsomolskaya will probably be the most impressive station that you'll see in Moscow, mainly due to its lush decoration. Located right below Komsomolskaya Square, it's not only the biggest station in Moscow, but also one of its main hubs, serving three different railway terminals: Leningradksy (for trains going to St. Petersburg), Yaroslavsky (for trains going to the Russian Far East and the beginning of the Trans Siberian route), and Kazansky (for trains going to the south of Russia).
As I reached the platform, the first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful Baroque ceiling, painted in yellow and holding massive bronze chandeliers. The station is made up of a total of 68 octagonal columns constructed in white marble.
This station was designed to illustrate a historical speech given by Stalin in 1941.
If you look closely to the ceiling, you will notice 8 white friezes, each of them containing a representation of these historical events referenced by Stalin. During his speech, Stalin evoked the memories of the greatest military leaders and Russian figures of the past.
The central mosaic depicts Stalin himself giving the speech. However, the mosaic that you can see today was altered with the years and Stalin was replaced in order to give the Soviet leader a more neutral, less aggressive look.
Just on top of the columns flanking each mosaic on the ceiling, you can also see an additional mosaic on each side depicting weapons and armours used in the Soviet Union.
Two stations away, still on the circle line, you'll reach Novoslobodskaya. The main characteristic of this station, named after the Communist Youth League, is the stained glass panels depicting different professions of the Soviet times. The objective was to represent every citizen serving the State: from architects and engineers, to artists and musicians. Each panel is surrounded by a brass border and illuminated from the inside.
At the end of the platform is located the beautiful mosaic entitled "Peace Throught the World". Almost impossible to miss it!
It represents a happy mother holding a baby in her arms. The original design had the image of Stalin at the very top, symbolising his essential role maintaining the peace and unity of the Soviet Union. Under the orders of Khrushchev, the artist had to redo the mosaic and replace Stalin's face with white doves soaring into the sky.
The platforms are also filled with Soviet symbols. You'll easily spot the hammer and sickle ☭ or the communist five-pointed red star ★. A reminder of the past that was maintained even after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The next stop on the circle line is Belorusskaya station, named after the Belorussky rail station from where all trains towards Belarus and western Europe depart.
The station is dedicated to the people of Belorussia, a country that still shares very close ties with Russia. Even though Belarus declared its independence in 1990, both countries still have very close links, constituting a supranational Union State.
The whole interior is decorated with Belorussian motives and symbols. The ceiling will surely stand out, with its beautiful Florentine mosaics made of natural stone, instead of the usual painted glass.
You will also notice the Hoist ornament pattern, both on the ceiling and the floor. This is one of the most valued symbols in Belarus, displayed even on their national flag.
At the very end of the central hall you can also find a bust of Lenin, one of the very few busts left in Moscow's metro.
Taking the escalators up towards the entrance, you can enjoy the sculptural group "Belorussian Partisans", dedicated to the partisans of Belorussian background that fought the Nazis during World War II on the Soviet front.
Changing to line number 2 in direction to Moscow city centre, you'll arrive at Mayakovskaya. Named in honour of the Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovskly and designed in an Art Deco style, Mayakovskaya is one of the most elegant stations in Moscow.
The station is characterised by its white marble walls, and the thin columns made of pink rhodonite and arches polished in stainless steel. When the station was designed, it was the very first time that stainless steel was used in Moscow metro.
The two sets of thin colonnades give an impression of additional space, even though the platform is narrower than in other stations.
Mayakovskaya was used as a shelter in multiple occasions during World War II. In fact, even Stalin took residence here seeking protection from air raids. This station also held the anniversary celebrations of the October Revolution in 1941, when Stalin addressed an assembly of Soviet leaders and common citizens.
HOW TO VISIT
Moscow Metro will probably be the cheapest attraction that you can enjoy in the city. For only 50 rubles (less than €1), you can buy a token that will allow you to visit as many stations as you want. Once inside, you can transfer from one line to another with no time limitations.
However, be aware: pretty much all signs will only be written in Cyrillic, with very little English. You will only find some signs in English located on the floor of the stations, pointing where the exits are or the direction towards other lines. Everything else: signs on the walls, ceiling and inside the trains, will be exclusively in Russian.
If you prefer to take a guided visit, we booked the Moscow Metro Tour organised by the company Moscow Free Tour. In addition to a daily free walking tour to discover the main highlights of Moscow, this company also has a great variety of paid tours, including a Moscow Metro Tour every day at 2PM. Our guide was Marina and she was just brilliant, providing us with very interesting information of every station that we saw. Highly recommended!
All opinions are my own