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The Moscow Metro Museum of Art: 10 Must-See Stations
There are few times one can claim having been on the subway all afternoon and loving it, but the Moscow Metro provides just that opportunity. While many cities boast famous public transport systems—New York’s subway, London’s underground, San Salvador’s chicken buses—few warrant hours of exploration. Moscow is different: Take one ride on the Metro, and you’ll find out that this network of railways can be so much more than point A to B drudgery.
The Metro began operating in 1935 with just thirteen stations, covering less than seven miles, but it has since grown into the world’s third busiest transit system ( Tokyo is first ), spanning about 200 miles and offering over 180 stops along the way. The construction of the Metro began under Joseph Stalin’s command, and being one of the USSR’s most ambitious building projects, the iron-fisted leader instructed designers to create a place full of svet (radiance) and svetloe budushchee (a radiant future), a palace for the people and a tribute to the Mother nation.
Consequently, the Metro is among the most memorable attractions in Moscow. The stations provide a unique collection of public art, comparable to anything the city’s galleries have to offer and providing a sense of the Soviet era, which is absent from the State National History Museum. Even better, touring the Metro delivers palpable, experiential moments, which many of us don’t get standing in front of painting or a case of coins.
Though tours are available , discovering the Moscow Metro on your own provides a much more comprehensive, truer experience, something much less sterile than following a guide. What better place is there to see the “real” Moscow than on mass transit: A few hours will expose you to characters and caricatures you’ll be hard-pressed to find dining near the Bolshoi Theater. You become part of the attraction, hear it in the screech of the train, feel it as hurried commuters brush by: The Metro sucks you beneath the city and churns you into the mix.
With the recommendations of our born-and-bred Muscovite students, my wife Emma and I have just taken a self-guided tour of what some locals consider the top ten stations of the Moscow Metro. What most satisfied me about our Metro tour was the sense of adventure . I loved following our route on the maps of the wagon walls as we circled the city, plotting out the course to the subsequent stops; having the weird sensation of being underground for nearly four hours; and discovering the next cavern of treasures, playing Indiana Jones for the afternoon, piecing together fragments of Russia’s mysterious history. It’s the ultimate interactive museum.
Top Ten Stations (In order of appearance)
Kievskaya Station went public in March of 1937, the rails between it and Park Kultury Station being the first to cross the Moscow River. Kievskaya is full of mosaics depicting aristocratic scenes of Russian life, with great cameo appearances by Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. Each work has a Cyrillic title/explanation etched in the marble beneath it; however, if your Russian is rusty, you can just appreciate seeing familiar revolutionary dates like 1905 ( the Russian Revolution ) and 1917 ( the October Revolution ).
Mayakovskaya Station ranks in my top three most notable Metro stations. Mayakovskaya just feels right, done Art Deco but no sense of gaudiness or pretention. The arches are adorned with rounded chrome piping and create feeling of being in a jukebox, but the roof’s expansive mosaics of the sky are the real showstopper. Subjects cleverly range from looking up at a high jumper, workers atop a building, spires of Orthodox cathedrals, to nimble aircraft humming by, a fleet of prop planes spelling out CCCP in the bluest of skies.
Novoslobodskaya is the Metro’s unique stained glass station. Each column has its own distinctive panels of colorful glass, most of them with a floral theme, some of them capturing the odd sailor, musician, artist, gardener, or stenographer in action. The glass is framed in Art Deco metalwork, and there is the lovely aspect of discovering panels in the less frequented haunches of the hall (on the trackside, between the incoming staircases). Novosblod is, I’ve been told, the favorite amongst out-of-town visitors.
Komsomolskaya Station is one of palatial grandeur. It seems both magnificent and obligatory, like the presidential palace of a colonial city. The yellow ceiling has leafy, white concrete garland and a series of golden military mosaics accenting the tile mosaics of glorified Russian life. Switching lines here, the hallway has an Alice-in-Wonderland feel, impossibly long with decorative tile walls, culminating in a very old station left in a remarkable state of disrepair, offering a really tangible glimpse behind the palace walls.
Dostoevskaya is a tribute to the late, great hero of Russian literature . The station at first glance seems bare and unimpressive, a stark marble platform without a whiff of reassembled chips of tile. However, two columns have eerie stone inlay collages of scenes from Dostoevsky’s work, including The Idiot , The Brothers Karamazov , and Crime and Punishment. Then, standing at the center of the platform, the marble creates a kaleidoscope of reflections. At the entrance, there is a large, inlay portrait of the author.
Chkalovskaya does space Art Deco style (yet again). Chrome borders all. Passageways with curvy overhangs create the illusion of walking through the belly of a chic, new-age spacecraft. There are two (kos)mosaics, one at each end, with planetary subjects. Transferring here brings you above ground, where some rather elaborate metalwork is on display. By name similarity only, I’d expected Komsolskaya Station to deliver some kosmonaut décor; instead, it was Chkalovskaya that took us up to the space station.
Elektrozavodskaya is full of marble reliefs of workers, men and women, laboring through the different stages of industry. The superhuman figures are round with muscles, Hollywood fit, and seemingly undeterred by each Herculean task they respectively perform. The station is chocked with brass, from hammer and sickle light fixtures to beautiful, angular framework up the innards of the columns. The station’s art pieces are less clever or extravagant than others, but identifying the different stages of industry is entertaining.
Baumanskaya Station is the only stop that wasn’t suggested by the students. Pulling in, the network of statues was just too enticing: Out of half-circle depressions in the platform’s columns, the USSR’s proud and powerful labor force again flaunts its success. Pilots, blacksmiths, politicians, and artists have all congregated, posing amongst more Art Deco framing. At the far end, a massive Soviet flag dons the face of Lenin and banners for ’05, ’17, and ‘45. Standing in front of the flag, you can play with the echoing roof.
Ploshchad Revolutsii Station
Novokuznetskaya Station finishes off this tour, more or less, where it started: beautiful mosaics. This station recalls the skyward-facing pieces from Mayakovskaya (Station #2), only with a little larger pictures in a more cramped, very trafficked area. Due to a line of street lamps in the center of the platform, it has the atmosphere of a bustling market. The more inventive sky scenes include a man on a ladder, women picking fruit, and a tank-dozer being craned in. The station’s also has a handsome black-and-white stone mural.
Here is a map and a brief description of our route:
Start at (1)Kievskaya on the “ring line” (look for the squares at the bottom of the platform signs to help you navigate—the ring line is #5, brown line) and go north to Belorusskaya, make a quick switch to the Dark Green/#2 line, and go south one stop to (2)Mayakovskaya. Backtrack to the ring line—Brown/#5—and continue north, getting off at (3)Novosblodskaya and (4)Komsolskaya. At Komsolskaya Station, transfer to the Red/#1 line, go south for two stops to Chistye Prudy, and get on the Light Green/#10 line going north. Take a look at (5)Dostoevskaya Station on the northern segment of Light Green/#10 line then change directions and head south to (6)Chkalovskaya, which offers a transfer to the Dark Blue/#3 line, going west, away from the city center. Have a look (7)Elektroskaya Station before backtracking into the center of Moscow, stopping off at (8)Baumskaya, getting off the Dark Blue/#3 line at (9)Ploschad Revolyutsii. Change to the Dark Green/#2 line and go south one stop to see (10)Novokuznetskaya Station.
Check out our new Moscow Indie Travel Guide , book a flight to Moscow and read 10 Bars with Views Worth Blowing the Budget For
Jonathon Engels, formerly a patron saint of misadventure, has been stumbling his way across cultural borders since 2005 and is currently volunteering in the mountains outside of Antigua, Guatemala. For more of his work, visit his website and blog .
Photo credits: SergeyRod , all others courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission
Electrostal History and Art Museum
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The Most Beautiful Stations on the Moscow Metro
You might have heard that there are some beautiful metro stations in Moscow. Soviet decorations, chandeliers, mosaic painting and statues are common in many of the stations. The good news is that the Moscow Metro does not cost a lot of money and many of the most beautiful stations on the Moscow metro are on the same line, so you can almost get on and off at each station to visit these. Over the New Year holidays, I had a free afternoon and decided to visit some of these stations. Check out what I found below…..
The main stations that you will want to visit are on the Number 5 line, also known as the Circle Line. An advantage of this line is that you can get to it very easily and quickly no matter where you are in Moscow. The announcements on the metro are in Russian as well as English so you don’t need to worry if your Russian language skills are not good.
If, like me, you arrive in Moscow via train from Kyiv , then you will arrive at a metro station which many Muscovites believe to be the most beautiful of them all…..
Kievskaya metro station was opened in 1954 and features white marble walls which curve upwards and have with large mosaics surrounded by a gold trim in a very classical style. The mosaics depict life in Ukraine and was designed by a Ukrainian who wanted to display Ukraine’s influence and contribution to Soviet Russia.
Kievskaya, one of the most beautiful stations on the Moscow metro
Soviet era artwork between the arches
Mosaic with golden trim
People carrying flags is a common theme
Going into battle
If you look at a map of the metro , you will want to go in a clockwise direction on the circle line. So you will want to get on the train going in the Barrikadnaya direction and not Park Kultury. Stay on this line until you reach the 2nd station, Belorusskaya. This station was built in 1952 and like Kievskaya also features white marble pylons and a plaster ceiling.
The ceiling features 12 mosaics in an octagonal shape depicting Belarusian life, while the tiling on the floor is said to resemble a Belarusian quilt. One of the passageway exits of the station has a statue called ‘Belarusian Partisans’ of three men wearing long coats, holding guns and carrying a flag.”
Belorusskaya metro platform
Soviet artwork on the roof
The hammer and sickle features prominently in the metro artwork
Three men carrying guns, holding the flag…
To get to the next station, we need to change onto the green line (line 2) and go just one stop to the station of Mayakovskaya. This station has an art deco theme and, for some, resembles an elaborate ballroom. The columns are faced with stainless steel and pink rhodonite while the marble walls and ceiling have 34 mosaics with the theme “24-hour Soviet Sky. Apparently, Stalin resided here during the 2nd World War as the station was used as a command post for Moscow’s anti-aircraft regiment.
24-Hour Soviet Sky mosaic
It looks like planes flying over Red Square
It’s time to get back on the metro and return to Belorusskaya. At Belorusskaya, change to the circle line again and continue clockwise to the next station, Novoslobodskaya. With its 32 stained glass panels, this station reminds me of a church. The panels were designed by Latvian artists and are surrounded by a brass border.
The platform of Novoslobodskaya metro
Stained glass artwork
The golden trim around artwork is also very common
Back on the metro and again just one stop until our next station, Prospekt Mira. This station was originally called Botanichesky Sad after the nearby Botanical Gardens of the Moscow State University. The pylons are covered in white marble and decorated with floral bas-relief friezes. The ceiling is decorated with casts and several cylindrical chandeliers.
Prospekt Mira metro station
Notice the floral decoration
On the metro once more and once more we are going just one stop to the next station – Komsomolskaya. This station is famous for its its yellow ceiling. The chandeliers in this station are huge. The photos below do not do this station justice. For me, this station resembles a presidential palace. You hace to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it.
Because of it’s location, this is one of the busiest stations in the Moscow metro as it serves three of the main train stations in the city – Leningradsky, Yaroslavsky, and Kazansky so be prepared for a lot of people.
The yellow ceiling seems to go on forever
Yellow ceiling and artwork
One of the ceiling mosaics
When you are ready to leave Komsomolskaya metro station behind, then get back on the circle line and go one stop to Kurskaya and change to the blue line (line 3) and go to two stops to the Elektrozavodskaya station. This station gets it’s name from a nearby electric light bulb factory and has a somewhat industrial but also futuristic style, with 6 rows of circular lamps (there are 318 lamps in total). I think this is one of the most beautiful stations on the Moscow metro for how unique it is. The station was opened in 1944 after a delay because of the 2nd World War and features 12 marble bas-reliefs of the struggle on the home front during the war.
The Komsomolskaya metro station
The struggles of war at home
Hard at work
Building a tank
Even the station sign is elaborate
Back on the metro line 3 (but in the other direction), getting off at the 3rd stop – Ploschad Revolyutsii (Revolution Square). This is located underneath the square in Moscow of the same name and is a short walk from Red Square in the city centre. It is the perfect place to end a visit around Moscow’s metro. The station features red and yellow marble arches with a total of 76 sculptures in between each arch. The sculptures are supposed to represent the people of the Soviet Union and include soldiers, farmers, industrial workers, children etc… I noticed a lot of people touching the golden chicken in the photo below as well as the show of the woman. I am assuming that this is for good luck.
Touch the chicken for good luck
Sculpture of the people of the Soviet Union
Woman reading a book – touch the shoe for good luck
Parent and child
These are some of what I think are the most beautiful stations on the Moscow metro. Which ones are your favourite? Would you add any to this list?
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Kievskaya definitely caught me off guard. Didn’t know Moscow metro stations were THIS extravagant! Mayakovskaya is gorgeous too with the marble walls and mosaics. I might just need to book a flight over to admire all of these!
Do it! Kievskaya was my first introduction to the Moscow metro as I got an overnight train from Kyiv.
You know, in the States, all we ever hear is bad stuff about Russia. It’s nice to see other (and lovely!) dimensions of such a controversial place.
It’s the same in the UK which is why I prefer going to see somewhere and making up my own mind. It’s all ‘politics and bullshit’ as I say
I went to Moscow about 13years for Christmas and went to train stations, so I can see these amazing mosaics and chandeliers. I agree with you that are beautiful Stations for sure and I could of wandered around for days. I think Kievskaya is definitely my favourite out of them all and I even have some similar pictures as you.
I imagine Moscow would have been a little different 13 years ago but these stations have probably always looked beautiful
Food and Footprints
You chose some great stations for this write up! Beautiful details in these stations and would love to visit them sometime. Particularly like the Komsomolskaya station with that yellow ceiling!
Thank you very much. Komsomolskaya seems to be a lot of peoples favourite stations too
Wow! Without the text I would have thought them to be some museum or gallery.
I know exactly what you mean!
Wow, it is just stunning! How does anyone get to work with so much to look at. I’m surprised at the very bourgeois-looking Komsomolskaya station. I would have thought it was all too Tzarist looking, but then I haven’t been to Russia yet lol. This has just made me want to go more!
Wow, that’s a lot of artwork. I wonder how old some of these pieces are?
Generally most of the stations are from 1940-1960 approximately. The later stations are more functional than style.
My mother-in-law was in Moscow fifty years ago and still raves about the metro stations. So far, I could not imagine much. But now! The pictures are great and I think it’s almost a pity that this splendor is underground. But for every user of the Metro can enjoy a free trip to the world of art. Susanne
True. It is like having a free trip to an art museum/gallery. I hope that you can one day visit Moscow and see for yourself.
Oh wow, I would never have known that these were metro stations. The ceilings remind me of how you need to look up sometimes, even in the commuter rush!
It is true about life in general, we just go from A to B looking directly in front of us instead of around us
Wow, I would have never guessed that these were stations. The decor is so pretty and not one I’m used to seeing at metro stations. Love the ceiling at The Komsomolskaya metro station.
They certainly don’t look like metro stations. The ceiling there is one of my favourites too!
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