What is Moscow like in winter?
In this article, I share first-hand experience of Moscow (and Russia!) in winter – complete with photos and some recommendations.
Weather

First thing first, weather is the most important aspect to make you travel comfortable. On average, one should expect the snow to set in by the end of November – beginning of December, and freezing temperatures to be consistently below 0C (36F) from then on until end of March. Moscow is situated in the European part of Russia (as opposed to Siberia where average temperatures are much colder), and usually the winter temperature ranges between -5C to -15C, but occasionally it can ether drop down to -25C or hit a thaw up to +5C above freezing. It entirely depends on your luck, but the rule of thumb is – be ready with warm clothes that we usually wear (and pack, if you travel to Russia) in layers.

Another important thing to expect is the amount of daylight – around the Winter Solstice the days in Moscow are very short, it gets light around 9am and it gets dark around 4pm, the sun hangs out there low, so if the sky is overcast it feels like dusk outside. However, throughout the holiday season decorations are lit up round the clock, and the city turns on the architectural lights at 4pm, so all in all it is very scenic and beautiful in streets and squares.
View of the Kremlin from the Soaring Bridge in the Zaryadye Park
The city infrastructure

Moscow is located only 10 degrees Northern latitude away from the Arctic circle, winter here usually lasts 5-6 months, so all the city infrastructure is set up to cope with cold and snow. Planes land and take off, traffic flows, and snow falls do not disrupt everyday activities because the city has a fleet of snow ploughs constantly working on the streets clearing the snow away. All the public transportation and even infrastructure such as outdoor ATMs and ticket machines are designed to work in -30C, not to mention the famous Moscow metro located deep underground where it is always warm. Hotels, restaurants, museums, and homes have very good heating systems, and the problem usually is that it's too warm inside – and here we come back to the issue of putting together a smart set of clothes, that is, wearing layers (like a shirt, sweater, vest, cardigan, scarf, down jacket or coat with a hood, etc.) that you put on when you step outside, and gradually take off when you are inside.

Even the Radisson boat fleet has its own icebreaker, and taking a cruise along the frozen river past the snow drifted sights and locations is quite an experience.
A truck taking away the snow near the Moscow Kremlin walls after a massive snowfall
Museum and theatre scene

Winter is considered a low tourist season in Moscow, so museums are least crowded in winter apart from the Russian bank holidays period (January 1st-10th). If you love history and art and enjoy exploring museums in quiet and without rush, visiting Moscow during low season would be a good idea. All restaurants, theatres and museums have a coat check facility, so you never have to drag your winter clothes with you, and you can enjoy your activities with comfort. The Bolshoi Theatre performances are in full swing (winter is considered "a theatre season"), and a selection of good seats is usually available.
Christmas decorations in front of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow
Walking outside

If you plan to visit Moscow in winter for leisure and tourist attractions such as the Kremlin or Red Square, be prepared to spend some time outside. Wearing warm clothes and well insulated shoes or boots is essential, hat, hood and scarf or pashmina help you to protect your face from the cold wind if it happens to be windy. However, walking activities in central Moscow or any of its famous parks can be easily planned in such a way as to toggle staying inside (such as GUM mall in Red Square or cathedrals in the Kremlin) and walking outside in the cold. Getting a cup of hot tea or berry infusion or even a bowl of hot soup at a café also helps. All in all, planning smart and being prepared will make your winter experience enjoyable irrespective of the weather outside.
Skating rink in Red Square in front of the GUM historical mall.
December 20, 2021

Text author: Julia Schelkunova
Photography: Julia Schelkunova
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