I'm part of the 9/2-9 St. Petersburg, Tallinn and Helsinki tour and am considering going on to Moscow by train when the tour ends. Is anyone else planning on visiting Moscow after the tour? I'm travelling solo and want to make the most of 2-3 days in the city (without "breaking the bank"). Any tips/insight would be appreciated.
Define "without breaking the bank" - as well as "making the most" of your trip :-)
If booked in advance, the train should be well under a hundred dollars one way. A decent centrally located hotel should run you about 60 to 90 dollars a night.
Out of all the attractions, Bolshoi is likely to be the most expensive (unless you go into "drive a tank" or "fly a jet" territory). If you want to see decent ballet but are unwilling to splurge on the Bolshoi, you could do Nemirovicha-Danchenko instead.
With three days, one day can be devoted exclusively to Red Square/Kremlin area plus a 2hr boat tour to give you an overview if the city. Where to go from there depends on your interests - what would you like to see and experience?
Depending on how logistics work better for you, you can either take an overnight train (very nice in the fancier ones like the Red Arrow), or an express Sapsan day train (also very nice).
Some of the highlights for me that aren't emphasized in guidebooks were the Worker and Collective Farm Girl statue (the scale of this is jaw-dropping; it's near the VDNKh metro) the Gorky House (great Art Nouveau), and just seeing the impressive metro stations (many on the number 5 ring line, but don't miss Mayakovskaya on line 2 and Ploshchad Revolutsii on line 3).
For a guidebook, get either Lonely Planet Moscow or Rough Guide Moscow - whichever one has the newer edition.
With last year's World Cup, both Moscow and SPB must have been pretty hard to keep up with for guidebook publishers.
I checked whatever is available for free from Rough Guides - and at least their Moscow section is quite hopelessly out of date (for instance, they refer to amusement park and Ferris wheel at VDNKh, which are long gone).
I've just downloaded InYourPocket free Moscow guide - and what I see so far seems to be up to date and quite well put together. It's not much of a guidebook, though - more of a list of things to see and do, and how to get there - but for everything else we have Wikipedia :-)
Recommended looking at the Garden Ring Hotel in Moscow. It’s close to the ring metro line. It is quiet with lovely rooms and a good breakfast. We loved having a relaxing place to come back to after long days of sightseeing. Many reasonable restaurants nearby, including some great Georgian restaurants. We found the metro easy to use and downloaded the meto map ahead of time and planning the routes and changes ahead of time. I would count how many stops on each line. We also were able to get last minute tickets discounted tickets to the Bolshoi by going to the ticket office and commuicating with an English-Russian language app on our phone. I imagine a single ticket would be even easier to get.
I'm on that tour as well (travelling solo) and intend to head to Moscow via the Sapsan for a few days. I've been in communication with the guides recommended in the Rick Steves FAQ, but also open to recommendations for hotel (and how best to book).