This spectacular museum is an essential destination for budding Russophiles and all visitors to Moscow.
For most Westerners, Russian art is something of a closed book up until the 20th century and the appearance of giants such as Kandinsky, Chagall and Malevich. The Tretyakov gives you the chance to discover the rich tradition from which these great artists sprang onto the world stage.
Often referred to as the Old Tretyakov to differentiate it from the annex next door, the gallery has 62 rooms and 100,000 works charting the development of Russian painting from the 10th to the end of the 19th Centruy.
Icons are an acquired taste - although the Tretyakov collection is impressive - and it's hard to get excited over the derivative, Italian-influenced portraits and landscapes of the 18th Century, but the rejection of the Imperial Academy's restrictive diktats and the attempt to create a national art for the people that gained momentum as the 19th century progressed produced some fascinating results. Fans of Russian literature can entertain themselves by seeing how the concerns and ideals of the great 19th century writers were reflected by the artists of the same period.
And it is not only the historical gallery on Lavrushkin Pereulok that makes up the "All Russian Museum Union of the Tretiakov Gallery" (to give it its full title), there's also the House of Artists on Krimskii Val, which houses the gallery's collection of 20th century art. It's a bit of a trek from the center, but well worth the effort to see the fine collection of early modern art - including Malevich's epoch-defining Black Square - to have a chuckle at the gross pomposity of the "masterpieces" of Socialist Realism, and to discover the sporadically fascinating works of the post-war Soviet avant garde.
Main gallery opening hours: Daily - 10:00 to 19:00, except Mondays.
Admission prices: For foreign citizens: Adults - 225 rubles, students and children - 130 rubles. For Russian and CIS citizens: Adults - 100 rubles, students and children - 50 rubles.
House of Artists opening hours: Daily from 10:00 - 20:00, except Mondays.
The English section provides a brief introduction to the gallery and not much else. The Russian section has a much more comprehensive, room-by-room guide, and is well worth looking at to get a taste of the Tretyakov.