Classified as having a humid continental climate, Moscow, capital of Russia, is the most northerly (56°N) “megacity” on the globe. The city is known for its climatic extremes, experiencing long, cold winters, usually blanketed with snow, and relatively short, hot summers, when heatwaves are possible in the warmest months (July and August).
To illustrate the diversity it is interesting to note that the highest temperature ever recorded in Moscow was 38.2 °C (100.8 °F) on July 29, 2010, and the lowest −42.2 °C (−44.0 °F) in January 1940.
Summers run from May to October, and the rest of the year can be categorized as experiencing wintry weather, with most of the precipitation falling as snow.
Summer in Moscow is unexpectedly warm, with high humidity during the height of the season (June, July and August). The snow begins to thaw in April/May and highs during the peak summer period range between 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F), with a steep increase in temperature from mid-April to May. In recent years the city has experienced extreme heatwaves for a week or more between May and September.
By October summer is over, and temperatures plummet, with frosts at night. January and February are the most bitterly cold months of Moscow in winter, when the temperature very rarely registers beyond freezing. The winter chill is compounded by the fact that Moscow’s situation in the northern latitudes mean that there is little daylight during the mid-winter months.
When it comes to precipitation, Moscow experiences precipitation all year round, but the wettest months are during the winter, when it snows relentlessly. Moscow is generally blanketed in thick snow for around four months of the year.
When is the best time to go to Moscow?
Moscow’s main tourist season is the height of summer, in July and August, but the weather in the city is also very pleasant in the shoulder seasons of spring (May and June) and early autumn (September and October). Intrepid travellers may enjoy a winter season in Moscow, when the snow is thick and the city is picturesque and full of indoor festive events.
What to pack for a holiday in Moscow
Russia is conservative, so wear dark colours; jeans and long sleeved shirts are typical local attire and smart-casual or formal wear is preferable to casual clothing. It's reputation as an ice cube in winter is well deserved, so scarves, gloves, hats and sturdy boots (soft rubber soles) with good grip are essential for navigating the icy streets of the capital. Bring many layers for winter, including thermals, warm jerseys, and a thick waterproof coat– and, oddly enough, swimwear for local wintertime rituals of hot pool bathing, steam rooms and saunas.
Use lighter layers with a pair of jeans in the summer and don't be afraid to dress-up, as Moscow is a very fashionable city. Be sure to have comfortable walking shoes for exploring in the day, before going out at night; and have something smart because formal attire is required at some restaurants and events.
Weather in Moscow in January
Average temperature in Moscow in January: -10.5°C, 13°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in January: 85%
Average precipitation in Moscow in January: 31mm, 1.2in
Note: Moscow is below freezing in January, but this does not deter locals from turning out to enjoy New Year celebrations at the start of the month. The city is blanketed in thick, firm snow and conditions are icy. There is plenty of ice-skating to be enjoyed, as long as you are wearing your thermal underwear.
Weather in Moscow in February
Average temperature in Moscow in February: -10°C, 14°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in February: 82%
Average precipitation in Moscow in February: 28mm, 1.1in
Note: There can be bitterly cold winds sweeping across the streets of Moscow in February, adding to the wind chill and below-freezing weather conditions. Snow is endemic, and only the most intrepid travellers take on the city in mid-winter.
Weather in Moscow in March
Average temperature in Moscow in March: -5°C, 24°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in March: 77%
Average precipitation in Moscow in March: 33mm, 1.3in
Note: While further south in Europe, spring creeps in, Moscow remains snowbound and extremely cold. Thick coats and waterproof boots are essential for holidays in Moscow in March.
Weather in Moscow in April
Average temperature in Moscow in April: 5°C, 40°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in April: 71%
Average precipitation in Moscow in April: 35mm, 1.4in
Note: The thaw should set in in Moscow in mid to late April, with the possibility of very cold rain showers as the snow turns to slush. It is still extremely cold, but spirits are warmed by the Orthodox Easter celebrations and Moscow Fashion Week.
Weather in Moscow in May
Average temperature in Moscow in May: 12°C, 53°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in May: 64%
Average precipitation in Moscow in May: 52mm, 2in
Note: Mornings and evenings are still wintry in Moscow in May, but by midday the advent of spring is obvious as temperatures rise. This is a popular month for cultural tourists who come to enjoy the White Nights Festival of music and drama, which extends into June.
Weather in Moscow in June
Average temperature in Moscow in June: 16°C, 61°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in June: 66%
Average precipitation in Moscow in June: 67mm, 2.6in
Note: Finally, in June in Moscow, you can leave your winter coat at home, but come prepared for rain showers and chilly nights. The Russian capital is gearing up for the summer tourist season, but if you come early in June you will enjoy balmy weather and less crowding of major attractions.
Weather in Moscow in July
Average temperature in Moscow in July: 19°C, 65°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in July: 69%
Average precipitation in Moscow in July: 74mm, 2.9in
Note: Moscow is warm in July, but prone to unexpected showers of rain, so bring a brolly. The official start of summer is marked by Ivan Kupala Day, a festival which honours John the Baptist, on July 7. Heat waves had been experienced during July in the past, so be prepared for a few uncomfortably hot days.
Weather in Moscow in August
Average temperature in Moscow in August: 16.5°C, 62°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in August: 74%
Average precipitation in Moscow in August: 74mm, 2.9in
Note: Temperatures remain constantly warm in Moscow in August, but be prepared for unexpected rain showers. Although temperatures are generally mild there is the threat of an unpleasant heatwave during the month. Cool off at one of the ice-cream stands that pervade the city at this time.
Weather in Moscow in September
Average temperature in Moscow in September: 11°C, 52°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in September: 79%
Average precipitation in Moscow in September: 58mm, 2.3in
Note: Temperatures begin to drop off in Moscow in September, as the brief summer comes to an end, although there is still the chance of an “Indian summer” heatwave. Generally, though, you will need a warm jacket and sweater for sightseeing.
Weather in Moscow in October
Average temperature in Moscow in October: 5°C, 40°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in October: 82%
Average precipitation in Moscow in October: 51mm, 2in
Note: Temperatures fall off sharply in Moscow during October, and by the end of the month the weather is wintry and frosty, with rain turning to snow. The city’s brief summer respite is over, and freezing conditions set in, particularly at night.
Weather in Moscow in November
Average temperature in Moscow in November: -3°C, 28°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in November: 85%
Average precipitation in Moscow in November: 36mm, 1.4in
Note: The weather in Moscow in November is frigid, with snow flurries setting down the early layers of the winter white blanket.
Weather in Moscow in December
Average temperature in Moscow in December:-7.5°C, 19°F
Relative humidity in Moscow in December: 86%
Average precipitation in Moscow in December: 36mm, 1,4in
Note: The big freeze in Moscow has arrived for December in Moscow, but there is plenty to see and do for brave ice travellers, from ice-skating to ice-sculpture, and snowman parades.