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The best catamarans for ocean sailing/crossing

Sep 25, 2020

less than a min

The best catamarans for ocean sailing/crossing

The best catamarans for ocean crossing have to embody a few key features in order to be safe for anyone on board, including guests and crew members. Most catamarans do perform quite well in open waters and are regarded as safe vessels to be offshore. This is especially true with large catamarans with big hulls.

In addition, many catamarans have sailed through horrific weather and have managed not to capsize due to their great roll inertia. What basically happens to a catamaran in a rough sea is the boat just surfs sideways when a big wave hits.

Not to worry however as in most cases, weather forecasts will determine whether a catamaran can go offshore on that specific day or not. In addition, the highest risks are when catamarans sail on a north- south axis between seasons. That said, there are a few catamarans that do perform better when crossing oceans than others.

Typically, cruising catamarans are divided into two categories:

  • Charter Catamarans
  • High-Performance Cruising Catamarans

Charter catamarans have fixed keels, shorter bows, forward masts, heavier displacement, high-windage flybridges, and low-aspect rudders. These boats are mainly chartered to guests and are not designed for ocean crossing rather than sailing close to shore and enjoying views in a touristic way.

High-performance cruising catamarans , on the other hand, have deeper rudders, less displacement, efficient daggerboards, a small weight and large sail plans. They are able to go at a 50-degree TWA to windward in all weather conditions, and can even outsail keelboats. In addition, when a storm hits, all that is needed is for the catamaran to sail at a higher speed and maintain balance and lower loads.

These features make them some of the best catamarans for ocean sailing.

Which is the best catamaran for ocean sailing

After getting a quick glance of what makes a multihull a good fit for offshore sailing, let’s get to the good part: which one is the best catamaran for ocean cruising ?

Technically, there are thousands of options to choose from when it comes to catamarans. So today we are going to present our choice based on the criteria mentioned above.

One of the best catamarans for ocean sailing in 2020 is The Privilege 435 . This is a long-distance, light weight cruiser produced in the Gold Coast area of La Rochelle. The Privilege 435 is a heavy-displacement multihull that has been around for almost 30 years. This is a luxurious well-built yacht with a decent proportion that allows it to cross oceans safely. It has a 23ft 2in beam, 43ft 1in LOA, as well as good proportion with a low-slung superstructure which is perfect for low wind resistance. In addition, the Privilege 435 is equipped with 4 cabins and 4 showers and costs about $300,000 to $350,000. The ample interior makes for a comfortable vessel to withstand long- distance trips.

While this catamaran sits on the high-end of the spectrum when it comes to yachts, there are many other more affordable options to choose from, if you are looking to sail offshore on a long-distance trip. Use TheBoatDB with a free account to compare other catamarans to the Privilege435 and figure out which one is the best fit for you to ocean cruise. You can even browse through TheBoatDB database to get some more options on the table. Last but not least, make sure to take into account the route and predicted weather conditions before embarking on your adventure.

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2022 Boat of the Year: Best Multihull

  • By Dave Reed
  • December 17, 2021

Sailing World Magazine’s annual Boat of the Year tests are conducted in Annapolis, Maryland, following the US Sailboat Show. With independent judges exhaustively inspecting the boats on land and putting them through their paces on the water, this year’s fleet of new performance-sailing boats spanned from small dinghies to high-tech bluewater catamarans. Here’s the best of the best from our 2022 Boat of the Year nominees »

Life, like sailing, is all about balance, says Phil Berman, who, as a teenage Hobie class champion, wrote the authoritative book on catamaran racing. That was way back in the 1980s, but for our Boat of the Year tests, he’s on board the tropical-sunset-wrapped Balance 482 performance catamaran. This South African-built 48-footer is a sabbatical cruiser for sure, but it’s just the sort of cruiser a competitive sailor like Berman would just as well take across a starting line and go for the hardware.

His story may sound familiar, but it’s also the story of this boat. He started a multihull brokerage long ago, and after surveying and selling so many boats, he came to the inevitable conclusion: “I said, ‘You know, I think I can design a better production catamaran, one that isn’t designed for the charter trade, but one that’s going to be a boat that’s as comfortable to sail as it is on anchor.”

That’s the equilibrium Berman strives to achieve in all of his boats, and it is this lens through which our judges evaluated Hull No. 1 of the Balance 482 in Annapolis. “This is a boat that’s fun to sail, but has space to live and is robust enough to sail in the Southern Ocean,” he tells the judges, “and easily sailed singlehanded, if required.”

And with that said, he draws the judges’ attention to the boat’s helm station—the one and only—to starboard. Here, he shows them how he has full command of the engine throttles, and sail trim controls and halyards led through banks of low-profile clutches to three powered winches. Every line—literally every line—leads to this workspace, with the tails disappearing neatly into line boxes. From this vantage point at the helm, he can also see everything forward and above without having to look through a dodger or crazed vinyl. Such protection from the elements, Berman says, isn’t necessary. When the wind and water in your face get to be too much, you can simply disengage the plunger lock on the pedestal and pivot your helm downward into the salon, where there’s a bank of instruments at the ready and great visibility through the boat’s gigantic thick-glass windows.

Balance 482

The Versa Helm, which Berman says he invented and others have adopted, places the inside steering station in the aft cockpit, unlike many other catamaran designs that have the inside helm forward, next to a door that leads to a mast pit and cockpit. With the helm station located aft instead, the Balance’s salon can better utilize the space to fit an expansive galley, a roomy nav station desk, and a convertible queen-size berth when the dinette table is lowered. With dual 48-volt alternators, rigid solar panels on the roof, and all the low-draw galley appliances you could ever possibly need, this is a boat where you could certainly keep the fuel tanks light for racing and disappear off the grid for a while when you’re done banging around the buoys.

“The open layout in the salon is a nice change from what we normally see,” Greg Stewart says. “The up-down steering system actually worked really well, and it was an interesting place to steer a catamaran like this—it was something we’d never done on any of the other cats we’ve sailed. Because you don’t have all the friction of a second helm, the steering was amazingly light and responsive.”

At roughly 26,000 pounds (the stated weight with the cruise-package equipment), the judges deemed the light-ship displacement was about right for a boat of its length and purpose. Cored vinylester hulls and composite cabinetry throughout the interior help keep the weight down while allowing for storage compartments that practically run stem to stern in both hulls. “We’re not doing our laminate schedules on the thin edge of survival,” Berman tells the judges. “We’re building a boat that’s robust and capable of sailing in the Southern Ocean.”

Balance 482

The philosophy of the 482, he adds, is that a couple (“typically in their 50s and 60s”) would be capable of taking the boat on extended cruises or daysailing it with ease. For the latter purpose, the 82 percent working jib is self-tacking, and the 964-square-foot mainsail is set on a bridle instead of a transom-mounted traveler. “Rather than dealing with a traveler, you set the bridal stoppers for the wind you have,” Berman says, “and with that, you can short-tack all day long.”

The 482’s ability to tack efficiently and track well upwind is mainly due to the deep, high-profile carbon daggerboards, Stewart says. “The foil profiles are good, and the boards are plenty deep.”

The judges sail-tested the boat with the working jib in 6 to 10 knots of breeze, and Chuck Allen felt it was a bit underpowered, but Stewart said a few more knots of breeze would have made it come alive. Even with the small jib, the boat was matching wind speeds, he adds, and sailing at decent angles upwind. When they rolled out the screecher—no surprise—the fun meter shot up instantly.

Furling spinnakers, of course, require careful handling to ensure a proper roll, and on the Balance, there’s good working space on the foredeck to snake and stow these sails. Berman points to the raised aluminum longeron as a key feature; it eliminates a tripping hazard on the forward trampoline and provides a wide and firm runway to access headsail tack fittings.

Approximately 35,000 man-hours go into making the Balance as strikingly good-looking on the outside as it is inside, and squeezed into 25 feet of beam are sophisticated systems that are all easily accessible for maintenance, from the steering quadrant, to the engines and alternators, to the watermaker and the meticulous electric panel.

“The interior is what really struck me as being really, really well done,” Dave Powlison says. “It fits into the luxury category, with the beautiful wood laminate and all the high-quality systems. The hull lines too were perfectly clean without any bump-outs [for the steps down into the hulls], and that also makes it a lot quieter.”

Allen agrees: “The whole boat is really clean, everywhere I looked. And I thought, for the boat we saw, it would be a lot more than $1.3 million. It hits its stated purpose, and for me, the value is what put this one to top of my list. The balance that [Berman] talks about—good sailing and good livability—definitely makes this one a winner.”

  • More: balance , Boat of the Year , Boat of the Year 2022 , Sailboats
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Best Cruising Catamarans

  • By Cruising World Editors
  • Updated: July 1, 2021


Cruising catamarans have been around for decades, but early models—often plywood and fiberglass vessels built by their owners from plans and kits, kept the boats on the fringes of mainstream sailing. That all changed, though, as big roomy cats were discovered by sailors who went off to charter in the Caribbean, where the multihulls proved their worth as comfortable liveaboard and party boats.

Today’s bluewater catamarans roam the globe, carrying families to exotic destinations across the Pacific and beyond. Just as with their monohull cousins, there is no best catamaran. Instead there is a wide variety of designs, ranging from small catamarans that offer the ease of maintenance a couple might enjoy to performance catamarans capable of easily knocking off 250-mile days. Today, the best catamaran brands offer a range of size models and layouts that can be optimized for an owner sailing with family and friends, or for the charter market, where there’s a demand for four, five and even six cabins worth of accommodations.

The most prolific catamaran manufacturers are in France and South Africa where yards include both large-run production builders and niche companies building fewer than 10 boats a year.

The best cruising catamarans offer good load-carrying ability and respectable performance. As with any sailboat , a modern catamaran’s design is a result of compromises. Daggerboards or keels? Galley up or galley down? Spacious owner’s cabin or extra bunks? There are lots of options to choose from—and that’s what makes looking at these sailboats fun!

Here, then is an eclectic A to Z list of some of the best catamarans that have helped shaped the evolution of how we live and sail on two hulls.

Antares 44i

Antares 44i catamaran

Now built in Argentina as a full-fledged, bluewater catamaran and cruiser that can be safely operated by a shorthanded couple or family crew, the Antares 44i features a fully covered cockpit with a quartet of big, standard solar panels recessed within the hardtop, one example of a yacht capable of long-range passagemaking.

Atlantic 42

Atlantic 42 Catamaran

Almost 30 years ago, yacht designer Chris White revolutionized catamaran design with the first in his series of Atlantic cats, the primary feature of which was the innovative mid-ship sailing cockpit forward of the main cabin. The smallest in the Atlantic line, the 42 remains White’s most popular design ever.

Bahia 46 catamaran

Fountaine-Pajot has built so many outstanding cruising catamarans that it’s difficult to narrow down any single boat, but we’ve always been fans of the good-looking, well-thought-out Bahia 46. At 46 feet, the boat is large enough for offshore forays and has plenty of volume; with its simple but powerful sail plan, it’s also an excellent performer.

Catana 471 catamarans

Beginning around 1996, the French builder Catana was one of the first companies to manufacture fully found cruising cats for private ownership, and this Christophe Barreau design, which enjoyed a nearly 10-year production run from 1997-2006, was emblematic of this first generation of safe, fun, long-legged offshore voyagers.

Click here to see more cats from Catana.

Catana 50 catamaran

When it comes to speed, light boats are fast ones. And if you wish to save weight, that means exotic modern materials like carbon. Catana now infuses the laminates of their entire production line with carbon fiber, and for this list, we’ve chosen the Catana 50 Carbon, one of the zippiest cats now crossing oceans.

Click here to read about a couple’s charter aboard a Catana 50.

Gemini 105M

Gemini 105M catamaran

Pioneering catamaran sailor, builder and designer Tony Smith launched the first of his 33-foot Gemini 105M’s (10.5 meters = 33′) in 1993, and soon after found a ready and willing stream of sailors enamored of the boat’s compact size, affordable price tag, and such innovations as the nifty lifting rudder and transom steps.

Click here to read about the Gemini Legacy 35.

Gunboat 62 catamaran

Built between 2000-2005, the Gunboat 62 firmly established the Gunboat brand: go-anywhere cats that applied race-boat technology to a world-cruising platform. Hull no. 1, Tribe, was built for company founder Peter Johnstone, who then spent a year-and-a-half cruising with his family, smiling all the way.

Kronos 45 catamaran

French builder Henri Wauquiez is best known for his long career building monohulls, but the Kronos 45 cat, which he launched in 1992, was ahead of her time. Classic lines, the aft “targa bar” over the cockpit, the louvered coach roof windows, even the distinctive stripes on her hull: the Kronos 45 remains timeless.

Lagoon 380 catamaran

No roundup of cruising cats would be complete without several Lagoon entries, and the best of that impressive bunch might well be the Lagoon 380. Originally launched in 1999, and revered for its combination of quality, volume and performance, with over 740 boats built the 380 is still going strong.

Lagoon 440 catamaran

Launched five years after the breakthrough 380, the Lagoon 440 was an evolutionary design that featured a raised flybridge helm station, a unique “gullwing” configuration below the bridge deck, expanded windows in the hull and much more. With 400 boats built in a 6-year production run, the 440 was an unqualified success.

Lagoon 620 catamaran

How big can a production cat, still operable by a short-handed crew, really be? The builders at Lagoon discovered that 62-feet hit a sweet spot in the marketplace, and have sold over 70 boats since its introduction in 2010. The centerpiece of this design is the sensational steering station atop the flybridge, with expansive views of the sea and sky.

Click here to see more cats from Lagoon.

Leopard 40 catamaran

With an unmatched pedigree – designed by premier multihull naval architects Gino Morelli and Pete Melvin, built by the prestigious Robertson & Caine boatyard in South Africa, and commissioned by chartering giant The Moorings – the Leopard 40 was, perhaps unsurprisingly, Cruising World ’s Import Boat of the Year in 2005.

Louisiane 37

Louisiane 37 catamaran

Based on the famous French racing cat Charente-Maritime, the Louisiane 37, designed by Joubert/Nivelt and launched by builder Fountaine-Pajot in 1983, was a light, fast liveaboard cruiser with full accommodations that represented a radical departure from the hefty British cats that preceded it.

Maine Cat 30

Maine Cat 30 catamaran

One of the more versatile and clever cats ever created, the central feature of the cool Maine Cat 30 is the open bridge deck/living room sandwiched between the hulls and canopied by a rigid, permanent hard top (the comfortable accommodations/ staterooms are stationed in the hulls). Ideal for a winter in the Bahamas but with the ability to sail offshore, it’s a boat for all seasons and reasons.

Manta 42 catamaran

Built in Florida and beloved by the owners of the over 120 boats built during the company’s existence from 1993 to 2009, the Manta Catamarans range included 38-, 40- and 44-foot cats. For this exercise, however, we’re heralding the original Manta 42, which won the Best Value Overall prize in CW’s 2001 Boat of the Year contest.

Moorings 4800/Leopard 48

Leopard 48 catamaran

Another Leopard/Moorings collaboration built by the wizards at Robertson & Caine (though this boat was designed by fellow South African Alex Simonis), the Leopard 48 was another CW Boat of the Year winner with all the contemporary bells and whistles: forward cockpit, flybridge helm station and solid hardtop dodger, just to name a few.

Click here to read more about the Leopard 48, and click here to see more images.

Nautitech 441

Nautitech 441 catmaran

The Best Multihull Under 45 Feet: So said the CW judging panel in the 2013 Boat of the Year competition, regarding the Nautitech 441. But what makes this versatile platform so intriguing are the different helm set-ups. The 441 employs a single wheel, to starboard, ideal for solo sailors, while the 442 has a pair of helm stations aft.

Click here to see more Nautitech Catamarans.

Outremer 5X


A state-of-the-art all-oceans cat that exemplifies how far multihull design has come, the 59-foot Outremer 5X was a winner on both sides of the Atlantic, taking top honors in the European Boat of the Year competition in 2013, and following up as the Best Full-Size Multihull in CW ’s contest a year later.

Click here to see more cats from Outremer.

St. Francis 50

St. Francis 50

The flagship of the proud St. Francis line – built in South Africa since 1990 to designs by local legends Lavranos Marine Design – the St. Francis 50 is another “luxury cat” that shares much in common with an earlier 48-foot sister-ship, but packs even more payload into its roomier lines.

Click here to read more about the St. Francis 50

Seawind 1000

Seawind 1000 catamaran

Founded by Aussie surfer and sailor Richard Ward in 1982, the 33-foot Seawind 1000 is easily the most popular cruising cat ever built in Australia (the company has since moved its manufacturing and management operations to Vietnam). Roomy and airy, these cats dot the coastline of eastern Oz.

Seawind 1160

1160 catamaran

If the Seawind 1000 was a minimalist approach to cruising cats, the 38-foot Seawind 1160 is the flip side of the coin, a full-fledged long-range voyager. Among the reasons it was named CW ’s Most Innovative boat for 2007 is the unique “tri-folding” door that stashes overhead to open up the saloon and cockpit into a spacious living area.

Click here to read more about the Seawind 1160.

Sunsail 384

Sunsail 384 catamaran

Every sailboat is a compromise, and in the case of the Sunsail 384 (also sold privately as the Leopard 38) that’s a good thing, because designers Morrelli & Melvin and builder Robertson and Caine got the balance just right with this relatively small catamaran. With four cabins, the 384 can carry the same size bareboat charter crowd as her larger siblings, but does so with a decided bounce in her step. Named CW’s Import Boat of the Year in 2010, you can gauge the success of the design by the grins on the crew as they barrel down Sir Francis Drake channel in the British Virgin Islands.

Victoria 67

Victoria 67 catamaran

The French design office of Berret Racoupeau drafted the lines of Fountaine-Pajot’s new flagship, introduced in 2013, a magnificent world-girdling voyaging catamaran. Like other giant cats launched in recent years, the boat features a sensational upper deck with all sail controls, helm and lounging stations.

Click here to see more images of the Victoria 67.

Wharram Tanaroa

Wharram catamaran

No list of influential multihulls would be complete without the work of James Wharram, and while Tangaroa wasn’t a production cat by any means, it showcases the British designer’s respect for ancient Polynesian craft. Wharram sailed this 23-foot-6-inch “double-hulled canoe” across the Atlantic in the 1950s, and sold countless plans for similar boats for decades afterwards.

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Catamaran sailing across the Atlantic: Why multihulls are taking over the ARC

  • Elaine Bunting
  • July 2, 2020

Multihulls are making their mark on tradewinds sailing. Elaine Bunting reports from the 2019 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers


A catamaran on the ARC rally reefed for an approaching squall, as seen from Jeanneau 64 Layla. Photo: Paul Laurie/Point Photography

Something big has happened in ocean sailing. It could be the tipping point in the 34-year history of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers , when multihulls move from minority element to ruling party.

When a cruising catamaran sailed by four people in their sixties can beat a larger one-design round-the-world racer with a crew of 15, and many even bigger, you realise something has changed – maybe for good.

Just after midnight on 7 December 2019, Régis Guillemot, his partner Véronique, and two friends fizzed across the finish line in St Lucia in Guillemot’s 55ft cruising catamaran, Hallucine . It had taken them just 11 days and 16 hours.


Celebrations as the four crew of Hallucine , a Marsaudon TS5 catamaran, crosses the finish line at Rodney Bay, St Lucia. Photo: Tim Wright / PhotoAction

“Our boat is very quick, very simple and fast, and we are optimised for light weight,” explains the quietly spoken French sailor. His other half just laughs. “For him, there is full speed ahead, or nothing!”

Hallucine had sailed from Gran Canaria at an average of 12.5 knots, while the crew did Pilates on the aft deck each day, baked bread and shot GoPro videos.

Around 10 hours later came Sisi , a VO65 from the Austrian Ocean Race Project crewed by 12 Slovenian charter sailors and three professionals.

What a different experience: faster sailing but a course of long gybes, on a diet of freeze-dried food, no showers and hot-bunking in the round-the-world racer’s dark carbon recesses.

Astern of them both was top French solo sailor Jean-Pierre Dick’s The Kid , a 54ft carbon composite canting keel yacht designed as a performance cruising interpretation of IMOCA 60 principles.

Article continues below…


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Hallucine would also have beaten Ulisse , Patrizio Bertelli’s 105ft Frers superyacht , had it not diverted to another island on the final approach following a crew injury.

In the ARC+ rally, too, the route that goes via a pitstop in the Cape Verde Islands, the first to arrive in St Lucia was also a multihull, the Neel 47 trimaran Minimole .

Cruising multihulls numbers have been growing quickly. Of the 280-strong fleet in 2019, 60 were multis. But the most telling statistic is that they make up 50% of all the new boats.


The crew of Neel 47 trimaran Minimole celebrate arrival in St Lucia 12 days after leaving Mindelo, Cape Verde. Photo: Tim Wright / PhotoAction

The crossing times are incontrovertible evidence that performance cruising multihulls and cruising catamarans designed foremost for spacious living can, if sailed well, be faster downwind than a monohull with a longer LOA.

Of course, what makes the ideal yacht for an upwind passage (for example, the return crossing to Europe) is quite a different matter, but more and more cruisers are planning only a one-way voyage and intend to ship their boats back, or are planning to sail onwards into the Pacific along the tradewinds route. This is a trend that is only going to continue.

Fast, light, simple

In one way, the line honours winner’s story is exceptional. For many years skipper Régis Guillemot ran a charter business in Martinique.


Hallucine ’s anti-capsize system: Two cam cleats flip up to release genoa and spinnaker sheets if settings are exceeded

He is also an experienced racer, cousin of the French round the world sailor Marc Guillemot, and a three-times Route du Rhum competitor.

His Marsaudon TS5 is a lightweight cruiser with a carbon mast and deck, It displaces just 8.6 tonnes, and Guillemot keeps it light.

“It’s not too complicated,” he says. “We have a small 27lt per hour watermaker, solar panels, no generator and we don’t carry too much fuel or water. We set off with only 30lt of water per side, plus emergency water in bottles, and made water every day.

“I want to go fast. We can be sailing at 17 knots and sitting there comfortably having our coffee. And in the Caribbean the size [of the boat] is no problem: there’s more space, it’s cooler and less rolly in anchorages.”

And although the boat is light, it does carry scuba gear and a kitesurfer that they plan to use in the Caribbean and as they make their way across the South Pacific next year.

Guillemot ran single watches and sailed almost all the way with a full main and heavy A2 spinnaker. “We took it down at Pigeon Island after 11 days just to tack to the finish,” he says. They were able to gybe through 145-150° and were making 17-20 knots – “usually 17-18 knots steady”– as soon as they reached the tradewinds.


The kill cord in Hallucine ‘s saloon

In the few squalls they encountered, the wind never topped 17 knots apparent and they felt comfortable enough to keep the full main up and soak down by 10° until a squall passed. To help make sure they never pressed the boat so hard they risked capsize, Guillemot has an automatic sheet release system similar to those used on the huge Ultime trimarans.

Made by ACR, this monitors pitch and heel angle and is set to release the main and spinnaker sheet from a panel of cam cleats once certain settings are reached, and also set off an audible alarm. There is also a kill cord in the saloon. It’s a very simple system.

The yacht’s autopilot can, he says, handle speeds up to 24 knots, but for the last five days the crew hand steered all day. The boat is steered from the aft quarters with tillers, and the video above shows some of the speeds they were enjoying.


The ACR unit senses pitch and heel angle

But although Hallucine ’s crossing was super-fast, another Marsaudon catamaran provided a second benchmark. Fifth over the line was a TS42, Elektra , a 42ft smaller sister from the same French builders, which made the crossing in just under 13 days. They, too, left bigger boats astern – 10 hours behind her was a Swan 80.

Elektra ’s crew had sometimes reefed during the night and may represent a more typical example of sensible catamaran cruising because, as even Régis Guillemot admits: “They are like sportscars – when they go, they go,” he says. “There’s a limit and if you don’t know what you are doing, you can quickly go into the red zone.”

The crossing times of these big multis is a clear sign of an evolution in performance and speed. “I think you can’t necessarily judge all boats by Hallucine ’s performance, but what is interesting is how they are holding pace with larger monohulls,” says World Cruising Club (WCC) communications director Jeremy Wyatt.


View from aloft on Pierre Caouette’s and Lisa McKerracher’s Outremer 5X Biotrek

“A 55ft Bali was holding up with an X-61, which is a fast monohull, and if you pick out comparable elapsed times and distances sailed you can see that a Lagoon 42 is going the same speed as a 46ft Bavaria and significantly faster than a Discovery 55, if you’re sailing them well and getting the best out of them.

“Multihulls are more expensive to buy, more expensive to run and you have to remember that if the beam is over 8m you could be restricting yourself as to where in the world you can be lifted out.

“But for tradewinds sailing there’s a strong argument that they are the right choice and the ability to live your life without any sense of camping is the biggest win-win

“But,” he adds, “go on a performance sailing course first, would be my advice.”

South til the butter melts

Kevin Horne and his partner, Diane, are steadfast monohull sailors. The Australian skipper has a distinguished background in offshore racing with the well-known Aussie yacht Wild Thing , and was sailing in a crew with several professionals including round the world Clipper Race winner Wendy Tuck .

He bought his Jeanneau 51 Wild Spirit in 2018 and had been cruising in the Mediterranean , but is now sailing his way back home.


The crew of Wild Spirit (L-R): Kevin Horne, Diane Rogers and Russell Finch

Horne was taking part in the ARC+ rally – he liked the idea of a stop on the way across and was hugely enthusiastic about the visit to Cape Verde.

He too had an uncomplicated sailplan in action for the crossing: full main and asymmetric, and between Mindelo and St Lucia made “one gybe to the north and one down” to go as deep downwind as possible. They had daily runs of 160-180 miles, with one day over 200, hand-steered “80-85% of the time”.

“The boat was outstanding,” he says. “Our water tanks and fuel tanks were full at the start and we had two weeks of food, so a lot of weight, but the boat helmed beautifully and tracked along. We took the tender and outboard off, and the anchor and chain were stowed over the keel to centralise weight. The boat was stunning and it really was brochure sailing.”


Seas in the wake of Yolo , Gottfried Boehringer’s Oyster 625

This was a year for heading south until the butter melts, avoiding light winds along the rhumb line by following the classic route south towards Cape Verde where early tradewinds begin and turning right for St Lucia.

This is typical a VMG running course, and those yachts such as the VO65 that were running down hot angles had to sail many hundreds more miles that cost them dearly.

Sisi , the VO65, for example, logged 3,950 miles (one of the highest I’ve heard of in years of ARC coverage). For added context, Bouwe Bekking was also sailing a VO65 in the RORC Transatlantic Race between Lanzarote to Grenada, and he too reported sailing around 4,000 miles.


Fast, wet downwind sailing on the VO65 Sisi . Photo: Austrian Ocean Race Project / Michael Muck Kremtz

Yachts able to sail deeper downwind at angles up to 170° are much better set up for this route. The old racing adage that ‘the shortest distance is invariably the fastest’ holds true on the transatlantic.

The southerly route adds around 300 miles compared to the rhumb line distance of 2,700 miles. That can be made back if avoiding light winds on the direct route, but reaching machines with no angles to play are not going to break any records.

This year the trades began gently and built steadily until yachts were seeing 20-25 knots and positively barrelling down westwards.


Exhausted crew at the stern of the VO65 Sisi . The crossing was a full-on racing exercise, and hard, intensive work. Photo: Austrian Ocean Race Project / Michael Muck Kremtz

A common complaint was that life on board was very rolly. Many crews found the motion of building seas and fast sailing an unpleasant surprise, making daily tasks and sleeping quite hard work.

These conditions put boats under strain, and cause breakages. “But it’s really what we would expect, given the strength of the wind,” comments WCC’s Wyatt. “Wear and tear on steering cables, broken goosenecks… That is par for the course.”

Two crews reported bone fractures on board: one person broke an arm during a gybe that went wrong. This was likely because of the strong tradewinds, which made boats roll more.


Szabi Mohai and his Hydrovane

Szabi Mohai, sailing on a Dutch entry, a Bavaria 49 named Wilson , entered the finish at Rodney Bay steering gingerly with an emergency tiller. The boat’s rudder blade had broken four days earlier.

“It was the middle of the night and very dark when we had a crash and heard a loud bang, and when we looked back we could see [the remains of] the blade in the water.”

The boat momentarily came to a halt; Mohai realised they had hit something. The collision left only a little of the foam filling around the web structure from the stock and they were unable to steer with it.

Happily, Mohai has a Hydrovane, which operates with its own rudder blade and is equipped with a stub handle for a tiller, so the crew was able to use this to control the boat. “That really was our best friend,” he says.

The crew had also broken the bowsprit in rough weather at the start of the rally, when the bow buried in a wave and a fitting holding the anchor failed.

The anchor shot up and sheared off the aluminium prodder. The crew lashed the remaining part back in place with a cat’s cradle of lines, as shown below.


Repairs to his broken bowsprit

A few boats had encounters with so-called ‘ghost’ fishing nets. One yacht had part of a net entangled on the keel. Another reported passing a very large ghost net that they estimated to be around 50m x 20m in size.

Some of the crews we spoke to were disappointed they had seen very little marine life. Yet others photographed pods of dolphins, reported catching mahi mahi or seeing longtails, so perhaps these sightings were more common on boats where people were handsteering or on yachts without large biminis and sprayhoods?

At least three crews from the ARC+ reported nighttime encounters with other yachts that were unlit. These were not rally boats and did not appear on AIS.


Dolphins play at the bow of Jeanneau 64 Layla . Photo: Paul Laurie / Point Photography

With lower energy LED nav lights available and modern solar panels able to provide a steady supply of energy, it is hard to understand or excuse.

While the inexorable rise of the cruising catamaran is a very visible trend in bluewater sailing, it is not the only sea change. Another fast-growing movement is the business of vlogging.

Dozens of ARC crews, at least, are dabbling in video diaries and mini documentaries for a wider audience and a handful have followings large enough to monetise through YouTube and provide useful income.

Canadian sailor Lisa McKerracher, who is living on board their new Outremer 5X Biotrek with her partner Pierre Caouette and their labradoodle dog Tiller, is new to the game and began making video diaries for family to follow.

She is seeing an increasing following for her insights into the boat and life on board (the channel is called Biotrek-sailing ). Access to fast 4G/LTE wifi in Europe and through most of the Caribbean islands, and Wi-Fi in most cafes and restaurants has changed how people share their experiences and is giving a huge new audience with less or no sailing experience an enticing glimpse into what life on board entails.


Ross Applebey (centre) and crew of Scarlet Oyster celebrate Ross’s fourth racing division win, the third consecutively. Photo: Clare Pengelly / World Cruising

In reality, life on passage is testing. Says skipper Szabi Mohai, “there is something happening every day” – by which he means something to fix or add to the jobs list.

But it is a very different pace than on land, and with an Atlantic crossing comes the satisfaction of knowing that, with every mile covered, the hard part is receding.

First published in the February 2020 edition of Yachting World.


What Size Catamaran To Sail Around The World

What Size Catamaran To Sail Around The World | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

Catamarans are generally longer than monohulls, but their accommodations and handling vary widely between sizes.

The best size catamaran to sail around the world is 45 to 50 feet. The smallest catamaran with space for long-term provisions and a cabin is around 30 feet in length, and a 55 to 60-foot catamaran is the largest that can be accommodated at most marinas.

In this article, we'll go over the different sizes of catamarans and how they handle in the open ocean. Additionally, we'll cover each size category and the best sizes for traveling the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

We sourced the information used in this article from marine design guides and the consensus of experienced catamaran sailors.

Table of contents

‍ What Sizes Are Catamarans?

Catamarans come in all shapes and sizes, but the smallest models don't have the accommodations required to sail around the world. Most catamarans under 30 feet in length don't have a cabin at all, which is a stark difference that they have with monohulls.

Small monohull sailboats often have cabins, as there's plenty of room below on a wide single-hulled sailboat. Monohulls can be as small as 16 to 18 feet and still have a cabin, but catamarans must be much larger to have suitable accommodations.

The smallest catamarans are about 12 to 15 feet long. These are small recreational craft used primarily for racing, and they aren't designed for the open ocean. Larger catamarans in the 20-foot range can (and have) been used on the ocean, but they're usually classified as day boats.

Catamarans become practical for longer excursions once they hit about 30 feet in length. A boat of this size is large enough for a cabin and can usually accommodate between two and four people comfortably. Catamarans commonly stretch beyond 50 feet, which is where they're the most useful and comfortable.

Smallest Catamaran to Sail Around the World

So, what's the smallest catamaran you could use to sail around the world? In theory, any catamaran can sail long distances—but you need one that's large enough for shelter and storing provisions. Generally speaking, 30 feet is the bottom limit for an ocean-crossing catamaran.

Let's take the ME Cat 30 (Maine Cat) as an example. This small and nimble 30-foot catamaran makes use of its limited space and provides comfortable accommodations for a few adults. The ME Cat 30 is a split design that houses the basic accommodations in either hull, with an open seating area between them.

Inside the ME Cat 30, there's barely enough room for all the living spaces. It features a head and a large bed in one hull and a galley and a smaller berth in the other. With that, all the useful cabin space is filled—and this is considered a very good design for the size. As you can see, the best catamarans for sailing across the world are usually much larger.

Typical Ocean Crossing Catamaran Size

Based on what we discussed above, a 30-foot cruising catamaran is really pushing the limits on size. However, it doesn't take a whole lot more length to make a catamaran exponentially more comfortable and suitable for long journeys.

The typical ocean-crossing catamaran is usually about 40 to 45 feet long. With the addition of 10 feet in length, designers can fit an enormous amount of additional accommodations in the hulls.

This is because adding a little extra length allows designers and boatbuilders to widen each hull significantly, which makes room for luxuries like private bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, and entirely separate dining and cooking spaces.

Cruising Catamaran Floor Plans

A 40-foot to 50-foot catamaran usually comes with a mirrored floor plan. The traditional catamaran has an identical layout in each hull. That means if one hull has a private berth in the bow and a shower and a toilet in the stern, the other hull will have the exact same layout except opposite.

This is usually because spaces like the galley and sitting area are kept in the center console, where there's much more space to move around. Spaces that are used at night or only occasionally are kept in the narrow hulls, as this has proven to be a more comfortable layout for crews.

Storage is usually kept deep in the hulls as well, as there's extra space to work with when the only other design purpose is for sleeping in bathing. Catamarans in this size range can also have separate hull layouts, but the mirrored design is by far the most common.

Best Catamaran Size for Pacific Ocean Cruising

Catamarans are very versatile craft, but some function better in the Pacific Ocean than others. One of the main considerations when choosing a catamaran for Pacific Travel is that the Pacific usually has greater distances between ports and stopping points.

This is especially true on the US West Coast, where there are only a handful of ports and safe anchorages. The best Pacific cruising catamaran size is between 45 and 50 feet in length, as you're likely to need more space to store provisions for extended cruising.

If you're starting in San Francisco or Seattle, even a 'short' trip along the coastline could mean you'll pass hundreds of miles of steep rocky cliffs and no stopping points insight. When crossing the Pacific, you may travel thousands of miles before you encounter a port or island with any infrastructure at all, let alone stocks of provisions and a full-service marina.

The Pacific is a huge ocean, and the last thing you want to do is run out of food or fuel a thousand miles from your destination. Larger boats store more supplies, and they also give you more breathing room when you're surrounded by empty blue water for months on end.

Best Catamaran Size for Atlantic Ocean Cruising

The Atlantic Ocean is smaller than the Pacific Ocean, and the coastlines of many countries that border it tend to be well-developed. This makes it easier to get away with owning a smaller boat, as you don't need to store as many supplies, and your voyages will be shorter.

Another factor to consider is that not all marinas on the Atlantic can accommodate extremely large catamarans, or it may be prohibitively expensive to dock a 55-foot or 60-foot double-wide vessel. That's why the ideal size for an Atlantic-crossing catamaran is between 40 feet and 50 feet. Today, 45 feet seems to be average.

The boat of this size will fit in at most marinas in developed countries around the Atlantic, and its draft is shallow enough for island hopping and exploring the coral reefs that the Atlantic Islands are known for. Additionally, 40 to 50-foot catamarans are usually just as seaworthy as the larger boats, and they're less expensive to maintain.

Unlike the US West Coast, where ports are few and far between, the Atlantic in the Gulf of Mexico is littered with marinas and safe anchorages. You can travel for weeks along the coastline of the United States and parts of South America and never be further than a hundred miles from a full-service marina.

There are also hundreds of islands, tourist destinations, and service locations that reduce your need for large stores of provisions aboard your catamaran. This gives you a lot more flexibility in choosing a size and a floor plan, as your needs are different than that of a Pacific sailor.

Best Catamaran Size for World Cruising

If you're planning to go on a world tour or a circumnavigation, you're going to need a catamaran that's large enough to fit your crew and your provisions comfortably.

You'll also need a boat that is small enough to be serviced and accommodated in most locations but also seaworthy enough to whether anything you're likely to encounter out of the water.

For most people, the sweet spot seems to be around 45 to 50 feet in length. A 50-foot catamaran is more than large enough to store enough provisions for many months of sailing. It's also roomy enough to house two to six people comfortably for many weeks at a time.

Catamarans between 40 and 50 feet in length are also extremely seaworthy and have been known to make circumnavigation frequently. You're almost guaranteed to find a 50-foot catamaran in almost any remote anchorage in the world where sailors are known to frequent.

Also, almost any marina can accommodate a 50-foot catamaran, and most boatyards can perform at least basic repairs on a boat of this size. Most marinas have fee schedules for boats based on size, and the cutoff for large boats is usually 60 feet. This keeps you in the 'medium' boat category, which can save you thousands.

How to Choose a Catamaran Size

Choosing the right size catamaran can be challenging, but there are a few things you can do to narrow it down. First, examine how you plan to use the vessel. You can travel the oceans in a catamaran between 30 and 40 feet long, so if you have a small crew, you may want to consider a compact model.

Larger catamarans can sleep eight or more people comfortably. This is large enough for most people, though some charter captains may need additional room. A 40 to 45-foot catamaran is usually large enough for a small family, though a 50-footer would be more comfortable, especially if there are kids running around.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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Best Sized Catamaran for Ocean Sailing and Liveaboard?

best catamaran ocean crossing

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Buying a boat is a tricky thing, but once you start figuring out what you’re going to use it for things begin to become more apparent. I’m assuming you’re here because you are interested in knowing how small of a sailing catamaran you can get while balancing factors such as price, length, and space. If so, you have come to the right place!

The perfect sized catamaran for ocean sailing (including around the world sailing) is around 40ft; it is small enough to be sailed by one person but big enough to provide safety and speed. Of course, there are many variables to consider, and below we will discuss many of them.

Before we can decide which one is perfect for our needs, we need to look at all ends of the spectrum: the smallest, biggest, cheapest, and most expensive.

Table of Contents

What is The Smallest Sized Catamaran for Ocean Sailing?

The size of the smallest suitable catamaran that can safely, and somewhat comfortably, cross big oceans is according to consensus in the sailing community, around 30ft. It is possible with less, but a smaller boat has some real downsides, which I will discuss below .

best catamaran ocean crossing

Anything smaller than 30ft is starting to become too much of a tradeoff. When it comes to dealing with huge waves and strong winds, size is an issue. Too small of a catamaran and every wave appears as a mountain.

It also has a significant effect on the crew; if the boat is never at rest always pitching and yawing it really takes its toll on the team, this will sooner or later impair the crew’s ability to make the right decisions, something that is a must in a situation of crisis.

One of the most significant issues with small catamarans  is the low bridge deck clearance; most catamarans make some noise when sailing upwind. These loud noises are due to waves coming towards the boat only to get projected with high speed and force straight into the deck’s underside.

This makes for massive noise and vibration, something that isn’t dangerous but adds to the crew’s fatigue while also making for a horrible trip. There are really only two things that you can do to prevent bridge deck slamming, either you get a big boat with a high bridge deck clearance (more on that here) or you sail downwind.

Usually, fitting all the gear you need for a long trip on the boat is not an issue. But there might be a problem with balancing the ship once you have filled it with all that weight, having weight too far out on either the bow or the stern is a safety issue and can lead to unnecessary pitching and in a worst-case scenario make you dive right into a wave instead of staying on top of it.

Why is a Bigger Catamaran Better For Sailing Around The World?

best catamaran ocean crossing

Having a bigger boat offers a lot of advantages, some of them are;

Speed   is not only fun, but it is also something that adds to the safety of the trip. If you’re doing ten plus knots instead of just five, that means you will only need half of the time at sea, and if there is a storm on the way, you definitely want to get into safe harbor before it strikes.

It also means that you could “outrun” or at least out-steer a storm, so speed gives possibilities and therefore, safety.

Another  aspect of speed is how much fun  it is:

“Sailing my old 35ft monohull, it was always a slug, slow and steady wins the race they say, we won nothing but boredom, and when you realize that your speed is so slow that on an average jog you would easily outrun your boat, that sucks.” Gabo

But when you are  starting to surf waves  and semi-plane, it’s a whole different world; it’s exhilarating, and you go from thinking when is this horrible experience over to thinking, let this never end!

Getting a bigger boat also means  a lot more space , and that means more places to store all the fun stuff you want to bring, scuba gear, snorkels, surfing boards, and other fun stuff. Having a smaller boat might mean you won’t have space enough to fill up your dive tanks, so you miss out on many great opportunities.

Another aspect of space is  the problem with headroom  if you are a tall person and/or you want to bring tall friends onboard then having a saloon where you don’t have to hit your head on the ceiling is a significant factor, and to be honest small catamarans usually don’t have this. This is often not a big issue for short trips, but going on a cruise for multiple days, being comfortable is a big thing.

And speaking of bringing  friends along, a bigger boat equals more berths , the bigger ones (40+ft) have full-sized rooms with large beds that are so comfortable that not even grandma will complain, so if you don’t want her to stay for too long, you should probably get a smaller boat.

best catamaran ocean crossing

What Sized Catamaran is Too big For Ocean Sailing?

A too big of a catamaran is for most sailors anything longer than 45ft, more specifically a boat which is too expensive, something you can´t handle on your own and that has more space than you need .

This once a little more tricky, a general rule of thumb for many is that you should  be able to sail it on your own  because you might have to sooner or later.

Bigger boat means sails that are harder to raise and sometimes only possible with an electric winch and having too much electrical stuff are for many a big NO GO. for me it’s not a big deal, just make sure you are able to repair it if it breaks, just like any mechanical system.

A bigger boat means more sail area, which usually means more power, which means higher speeds and sometimes a bit more complicated to handle for a beginner. Make sure you try to get a boat that you are comfortable handling and know precisely how and when to reef.

best catamaran ocean crossing

Since catamarans don’t heel  ( more on that here ) they offer handling-feedback a little bit different, for example since they don’t have deep keels and don’t lean to their side they tend to almost “sit down “a little on their leeward side (the hull of the lee side of the boat).

This sensation can be a little bit awkward  at first but is something that the catamaran captain needs to get used to if he or she wants to understand how to properly reef and maintain the sails. If this is not correctly done the catamaran might be at  risk of capsizing .

For most people, anything over 45ft is just too much to handle short-handed.

Balancing Price and comforts

 *Exponentially higher costs since the amount of stuff you have to do usually exceeds the time you will have to fix it. Let’s use bottom paint as an example, you can do it yourself trying to save some money, but since the boat is soo big, you’ll end up spending a lot of work hours painting.

And every day spent hauled out is expensive (especially for such a big boat), so trying to do it yourself might even be more costly than hiring a few workers (since if you are the only one working on the ship it needs to be hauled out for a longer time).

best catamaran ocean crossing

Potential Income From a Bigger Boat

When it comes to  the potential income  I would argue that the bigger boat you have, the more money you can make, not only could you attract high-paying customers since now you are offering luxury yacht sailing instead of low-end stuff aimed at backpackers. This could be a massive resource of income.

I tried taking people out on my boat, but since it was quite small and not even close to what someone wanted to pay a lot of money for, it didn’t really generate much money.

If you find yourself staying at a marina for a longer time and having a couple of berths available,  you could AirBnB those to out to people in the area . This is a great way to make some extra income, and it’s also a great way to make some friends. I would definitely recommend this!

Bigger boats also mean the possibility to have a  larger paying crew,  instead of not being able to take a single crew person, on a 43ft you could have seven people both working and paying to stay at your boat. That’s a sweet deal and a lot of fun!

best catamaran ocean crossing

Bigger Boats = Higher Expenses

Size matters; nothing is more accurate in the boating world, but when it comes to the amount of expenses and the size of your pride.

Haul out and placing on stands when it’s time for your repair and maintenance should be thoroughly planned and executed. This is a good tip since you will most definitely pay by the length of your boat, and if you are sailing around in a  catamaran, be ready to pay a premium,  many times 25 – 50 percent more than the standard price per foot.

So before you take your boat out of the water, make sure you have a solid game plan that includes a rigid timeline of when the contractors should arrive, what the different phases of your maintenance will be, and then push hard to execute according to plan.

If you do it this way there is a lot of money to be saved, what you don’t want to happen is that you have four contractors ready to get to work, but you haven’t bought the paint or the gear needed for the repairs, so they are just sitting around and costing money.

best catamaran ocean crossing

The Best Sized Liveaboard Catamaran

Most ocean-capable catamarans are also more or less suited for living aboard. This means that the best-sized liveaboard catamaran should be around 40-45ft.

When it comes to long-term living on a catamaran, some things are more important than if we only do a single crossing; a liveaboard is about enjoying your house on the water.

In contrast, a catamaran made for hardcore sailing is more about speed and excitement.

best catamaran ocean crossing

Liveaboard-demands usually include a lot of space to store your stuff, wide hulls with large-sized berths, and for many getting a used charter boat is the right decision. Beware when buying an old charter boat that they are usually made for coastal waters, and not all are suited for offshore multiday sailing.

Living on a boat means you will spend a lot of time doing the usual stuff you would also be doing in an ordinary house, including cooking cleaning, and working.

Once you understand your needs there is a better chance you can find a boat that will suit your needs in the long run. Catamarans in the “cruising” category usually have a lot of space to store gear, this means that they have wider hulls.

Having wider hulls creates more drag and will hinder the boat from going as fast as a catamaran with narrow hulls ( Check out catamaran hull speed explained ).

But having these hulls will greatly improve your comfort since it allows for wider berths(beds) and a boat that is easier to move around in, this might sound like a small thing and you might think that it’s not a big deal. But…

After a couple of weeks sharing a few square feet, every time you bump into someone or something will be a little annoying so I cannot be frank enough when emphasizing how important internal space is when it comes to comfort but also staying good friends with your crew.

If you have an online job, or maybe just a job that you can do from your computer there might also be a need to have a desk or room that is relatively separate and quiet so you can get some work done.

best catamaran ocean crossing

Cruising, Liveaboard, and Ocean Crossing. Guidelines on How to Choose Your Catamaran!

To summarize this article I have put together a shortlist of guidelines that you can use when scouting for a suitable catamaran.

  • What is the smallest I   can go that still satisfies my needs?  This is a great question to ask yourself because, as you have seen above, the smaller you can go, the more money you can redirect into outfitting the boat in a way that you want.
  • In a situation where your the only one in “sailable” condition, will you be able to handle the vessel single-handed?  Out of a safety perspective, this is very important since you might have to do a man overboard maneuver on your own. This is also a question that only you can answer. If you have a lot of experience and are a very confident sailor, maybe you’ll be okay with a 45ft, but smaller is more appropriate for most people.
  • How big of a boat can you afford when including the cost of maintenance , repairs, haul out and all other stuff you have to put money into. Don’t forget BOAT really stands for Break Out Another Thousand.
  • When it really comes down to it, do you want speed or space ? You can’t have both, unless your filthy rich, then you can have both 🙂

Hope you find this useful! Take care!

Owner of A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

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Travel Itinerary For One Week in Moscow: The Best of Moscow!

I just got back from one week in Moscow. And, as you might have already guessed, it was a mind-boggling experience. It was not my first trip to the Russian capital. But I hardly ever got enough time to explore this sprawling city. Visiting places for business rarely leaves enough time for sightseeing. I think that if you’ve got one week in Russia, you can also consider splitting your time between its largest cities (i.e. Saint Petersburg ) to get the most out of your trip. Seven days will let you see the majority of the main sights and go beyond just scratching the surface. In this post, I’m going to share with you my idea of the perfect travel itinerary for one week in Moscow.

Moscow is perhaps both the business and cultural hub of Russia. There is a lot more to see here than just the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Centuries-old churches with onion-shaped domes dotted around the city are in stark contrast with newly completed impressive skyscrapers of Moscow City dominating the skyline. I spent a lot of time thinking about my Moscow itinerary before I left. And this city lived up to all of my expectations.

7-day Moscow itinerary

Travel Itinerary For One Week in Moscow

Day 1 – red square and the kremlin.

Metro Station: Okhotny Ryad on Red Line.

No trip to Moscow would be complete without seeing its main attraction. The Red Square is just a stone’s throw away from several metro stations. It is home to some of the most impressive architectural masterpieces in the city. The first thing you’ll probably notice after entering it and passing vendors selling weird fur hats is the fairytale-like looking Saint Basil’s Cathedral. It was built to commemorate one of the major victories of Ivan the Terrible. I once spent 20 minutes gazing at it, trying to find the perfect angle to snap it. It was easier said than done because of the hordes of locals and tourists.

As you continue strolling around Red Square, there’s no way you can miss Gum. It was widely known as the main department store during the Soviet Era. Now this large (yet historic) shopping mall is filled with expensive boutiques, pricey eateries, etc. During my trip to Moscow, I was on a tight budget. So I only took a retro-style stroll in Gum to get a rare glimpse of a place where Soviet leaders used to grocery shop and buy their stuff. In case you want some modern shopping experience, head to the Okhotny Ryad Shopping Center with stores like New Yorker, Zara, and Adidas.

things to do in Moscow in one week

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To continue this Moscow itinerary, next you may want to go inside the Kremlin walls. This is the center of Russian political power and the president’s official residence. If you’re planning to pay Kremlin a visit do your best to visit Ivan the Great Bell Tower as well. Go there as early as possible to avoid crowds and get an incredible bird’s-eye view. There are a couple of museums that are available during designated visiting hours. Make sure to book your ticket online and avoid lines.

Day 2 – Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Tretyakov Gallery, and the Arbat Street

Metro Station: Kropotkinskaya on Red Line

As soon as you start creating a Moscow itinerary for your second day, you’ll discover that there are plenty of metro stations that are much closer to certain sites. Depending on your route, take a closer look at the metro map to pick the closest.

The white marble walls of Christ the Saviour Cathedral are awe-inspiring. As you approach this tallest Orthodox Christian church, you may notice the bronze sculptures, magnificent arches, and cupolas that were created to commemorate Russia’s victory against Napoleon.

travel itinerary for one week in Moscow

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Unfortunately, the current Cathedral is a replica, since original was blown to bits in 1931 by the Soviet government. The new cathedral basically follows the original design, but they have added some new elements such as marble high reliefs.

Home to some precious collection of artworks, in Tretyakov Gallery you can find more than 150,000 of works spanning centuries of artistic endeavor. Originally a privately owned gallery, it now has become one of the largest museums in Russia. The Gallery is often considered essential to visit. But I have encountered a lot of locals who have never been there.

Famous for its souvenirs, musicians, and theaters, Arbat street is among the few in Moscow that were turned into pedestrian zones. Arbat street is usually very busy with tourists and locals alike. My local friend once called it the oldest street in Moscow dating back to 1493. It is a kilometer long walking street filled with fancy gift shops, small cozy restaurants, lots of cute cafes, and street artists. It is closed to any vehicular traffic, so you can easily stroll it with kids.

Day 3 – Moscow River Boat Ride, Poklonnaya Hill Victory Park, the Moscow City

Metro Station: Kievskaya and Park Pobedy on Dark Blue Line / Vystavochnaya on Light Blue Line

Voyaging along the Moscow River is definitely one of the best ways to catch a glimpse of the city and see the attractions from a bit different perspective. Depending on your Moscow itinerary, travel budget and the time of the year, there are various types of boats available. In the summer there is no shortage of boats, and you’ll be spoiled for choice.

exploring Moscow

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If you find yourself in Moscow during the winter months, I’d recommend going with Radisson boat cruise. These are often more expensive (yet comfy). They offer refreshments like tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and, of course, alcoholic drinks. Prices may vary but mostly depend on your food and drink selection. Find their main pier near the opulent Ukraine hotel . The hotel is one of the “Seven Sisters”, so if you’re into the charm of Stalinist architecture don’t miss a chance to stay there.

The area near Poklonnaya Hill has the closest relation to the country’s recent past. The memorial complex was completed in the mid-1990s to commemorate the Victory and WW2 casualties. Also known as the Great Patriotic War Museum, activities here include indoor attractions while the grounds around host an open-air museum with old tanks and other vehicles used on the battlefield.

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The hallmark of the memorial complex and the first thing you see as you exit metro is the statue of Nike mounted to its column. This is a very impressive Obelisk with a statue of Saint George slaying the dragon at its base.

Maybe not as impressive as Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower , the skyscrapers of the Moscow City (otherwise known as Moscow International Business Center) are so drastically different from dull Soviet architecture. With 239 meters and 60 floors, the Empire Tower is the seventh highest building in the business district.

The observation deck occupies 56 floor from where you have some panoramic views of the city. I loved the view in the direction of Moscow State University and Luzhniki stadium as well to the other side with residential quarters. The entrance fee is pricey, but if you’re want to get a bird’s eye view, the skyscraper is one of the best places for doing just that.

Day 4 – VDNKh, Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument, The Ostankino TV Tower

Metro Station: VDNKh on Orange Line

VDNKh is one of my favorite attractions in Moscow. The weird abbreviation actually stands for Russian vystavka dostizheniy narodnogo khozyaystva (Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy). With more than 200 buildings and 30 pavilions on the grounds, VDNKh serves as an open-air museum. You can easily spend a full day here since the park occupies a very large area.

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First, there are pavilions that used to showcase different cultures the USSR was made of. Additionally, there is a number of shopping pavilions, as well as Moskvarium (an Oceanarium) that features a variety of marine species. VDNKh is a popular venue for events and fairs. There is always something going on, so I’d recommend checking their website if you want to see some particular exhibition.

A stone’s throw away from VDNKh there is a very distinctive 25-meters high monument. Originally built in 1937 for the world fair in Paris, the hulking figures of men and women holding a hammer and a sickle represent the Soviet idea of united workers and farmers. It doesn’t take much time to see the monument, but visiting it gives some idea of the Soviet Union’s grandiose aspirations.

I have a thing for tall buildings. So to continue my travel itinerary for one week in Moscow I decided to climb the fourth highest TV tower in the world. This iconic 540m tower is a fixture of the skyline. You can see it virtually from everywhere in Moscow, and this is where you can get the best panoramic views (yep, even better than Empire skyscraper).

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Parts of the floor are made of tempered glass, so it can be quite scary to exit the elevator. But trust me, as you start observing buildings and cars below, you won’t want to leave. There is only a limited number of tickets per day, so you may want to book online. Insider tip: the first tour is cheaper, you can save up to $10 if go there early.

Day 5 – A Tour To Moscow Manor Houses

Metro Station: Kolomenskoye, Tsaritsyno on Dark Green Line / Kuskovo on Purple Line

I love visiting the manor houses and palaces in Moscow. These opulent buildings were generally built to house Russian aristocratic families and monarchs. Houses tend to be rather grand affairs with impressive architecture. And, depending on the whims of the owners, some form of a landscaped garden.

During the early part of the 20th century though, many of Russia’s aristocratic families (including the family of the last emperor) ended up being killed or moving abroad . Their manor houses were nationalized. Some time later (after the fall of the USSR) these were open to the public. It means that today a great many of Moscow’s finest manor houses and palaces are open for touring.

one week Moscow itinerary

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There are 20 manor houses scattered throughout the city and more than 25 in the area around. But not all of them easily accessible and exploring them often takes a lot of time. I’d recommend focusing on three most popular estates in Moscow that are some 30-minute metro ride away from Kremlin.

Sandwiched between the Moscow River and the Andropov Avenue, Kolomenskoye is a UNESCO site that became a public park in the 1920’s. Once a former royal estate, now it is one of the most tranquil parks in the city with gorgeous views. The Ascension Church, The White Column, and the grounds are a truly grand place to visit.

You could easily spend a full day here, exploring a traditional Russian village (that is, in fact, a market), picnicking by the river, enjoying the Eastern Orthodox church architecture, hiking the grounds as well as and wandering the park and gardens with wildflower meadows, apple orchards, and birch and maple groves. The estate museum showcases Russian nature at its finest year-round.

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If my travel itinerary for one week in Moscow was a family tree, Tsaritsyno Park would probably be the crazy uncle that no-one talks about. It’s a large park in the south of the city of mind-boggling proportions, unbelievable in so many ways, and yet most travelers have never heard of it.

The palace was supposed to be a summer home for Empress Catherine the Great. But since the construction didn’t meet with her approval the palace was abandoned. Since the early 1990’s the palace, the pond, and the grounds have been undergoing renovations. The entire complex is now looking brighter and more elaborately decorated than at possibly any other time during its history. Like most parks in Moscow, you can visit Tsaritsyno free of charge, but there is a small fee if you want to visit the palace.

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Last, but by no means least on my Moscow itinerary is Kuskovo Park . This is definitely an off-the-beaten-path place. While it is not easily accessible, you will be rewarded with a lack of crowds. This 18th-century summer country house of the Sheremetev family was one of the first summer country estates of the Russian nobility. And when you visit you’ll quickly realize why locals love this park.

Like many other estates, Kuskovo has just been renovated. So there are lovely French formal garden, a grotto, and the Dutch house to explore. Make sure to plan your itinerary well because the estate is some way from a metro station.

Day 6 – Explore the Golden Ring

Creating the Moscow itinerary may keep you busy for days with the seemingly endless amount of things to do. Visiting the so-called Golden Ring is like stepping back in time. Golden Ring is a “theme route” devised by promotion-minded journalist and writer Yuri Bychkov.

Having started in Moscow the route will take you through a number of historical cities. It now includes Suzdal, Vladimir, Kostroma, Yaroslavl and Sergiev Posad. All these awe-inspiring towns have their own smaller kremlins and feature dramatic churches with onion-shaped domes, tranquil residential areas, and other architectural landmarks.

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I only visited two out of eight cities included on the route. It is a no-brainer that Sergiev Posad is the nearest and the easiest city to see on a day trip from Moscow. That being said, you can explore its main attractions in just one day. Located some 70 km north-east of the Russian capital, this tiny and overlooked town is home to Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, UNESCO Site.

things to do in Moscow in seven days

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Sergiev Posad is often described as being at the heart of Russian spiritual life. So it is uncommon to see the crowds of Russian pilgrims showing a deep reverence for their religion. If you’re traveling independently and using public transport, you can reach Sergiev Posad by bus (departs from VDNKh) or by suburban commuter train from Yaroslavskaya Railway Station (Bahnhof). It takes about one and a half hours to reach the town.

Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a great place to get a glimpse of filling and warming Russian lunch, specifically at the “ Gostevaya Izba ” restaurant. Try the duck breast, hearty potato and vegetables, and the awesome Napoleon cake.

Day 7 – Gorky Park, Izmailovo Kremlin, Patriarch’s Ponds

Metro Station: Park Kultury or Oktyabrskaya on Circle Line / Partizanskaya on Dark Blue Line / Pushkinskaya on Dark Green Line

Gorky Park is in the heart of Moscow. It offers many different types of outdoor activities, such as dancing, cycling, skateboarding, walking, jogging, and anything else you can do in a park. Named after Maxim Gorky, this sprawling and lovely park is where locals go on a picnic, relax and enjoy free yoga classes. It’s a popular place to bike around, and there is a Muzeon Art Park not far from here. A dynamic location with a younger vibe. There is also a pier, so you can take a cruise along the river too.

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The Kremlin in Izmailovo is by no means like the one you can find near the Red Square. Originally built for decorative purposes, it now features the Vernissage flea market and a number of frequent fairs, exhibitions, and conferences. Every weekend, there’s a giant flea market in Izmailovo, where dozens of stalls sell Soviet propaganda crap, Russian nesting dolls, vinyl records, jewelry and just about any object you can imagine. Go early in the morning if you want to beat the crowds.

All the Bulgakov’s fans should pay a visit to Patriarch’s Ponds (yup, that is plural). With a lovely small city park and the only one (!) pond in the middle, the location is where the opening scene of Bulgakov’s novel Master and Margarita was set. The novel is centered around a visit by Devil to the atheistic Soviet Union is considered by many critics to be one of the best novels of the 20th century. I spent great two hours strolling the nearby streets and having lunch in the hipster cafe.

Conclusion and Recommendations

To conclude, Moscow is a safe city to visit. I have never had a problem with getting around and most locals are really friendly once they know you’re a foreigner. Moscow has undergone some serious reconstruction over the last few years. So you can expect some places to be completely different. I hope my one week Moscow itinerary was helpful! If you have less time, say 4 days or 5 days, I would cut out day 6 and day 7. You could save the Golden Ring for a separate trip entirely as there’s lots to see!

What are your thoughts on this one week Moscow itinerary? Are you excited about your first time in the city? Let me know in the comments below!


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Ann Snook-Moreau

Moscow looks so beautiful and historic! Thanks for including public transit information for those of us who don’t like to rent cars.

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Yup, that is me 🙂 Rarely rent + stick to the metro = Full wallet!

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Mariella Blago

Looks like you had loads of fun! Well done. Also great value post for travel lovers.

Thanks, Mariella!

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I have always wanted to go to Russia, especially Moscow. These sights look absolutely beautiful to see and there is so much history there!

Agree! Moscow is a thousand-year-old city and there is definitely something for everyone.

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Tara Pittman

Those are amazing buildings. Looks like a place that would be amazing to visit.

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Adriana Lopez

Never been to Moscow or Russia but my family has. Many great spots and a lot of culture. Your itinerary sounds fantastic and covers a lot despite it is only a short period of time.

What was their favourite thing about Russia?

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Gladys Parker

I know very little about Moscow or Russia for the\at matter. I do know I would have to see the Red Square and all of its exquisite architectural masterpieces. Also the CATHEDRAL OF CHRIST THE SAVIOUR. Thanks for shedding some light on visiting Moscow.

Thanks for swinging by! The Red Square is a great starting point, but there way too many places and things to discover aside from it!

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Ruthy @ Percolate Kitchen

You are making me so jealous!! I’ve always wanted to see Russia.

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Moscow is in my bucket list, I don’t know when I can visit there, your post is really useful. As a culture rich place we need to spend at least week.

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Looks like you had a great trip! Thanks for all the great info! I’ve never been in to Russia, but this post makes me wanna go now!

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Wow this is amazing! Moscow is on my bucket list – such an amazing place to visit I can imagine! I can’t wait to go there one day!

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The building on the second picture looks familiar. I keep seeing that on TV.

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Reesa Lewandowski

What beautiful moments! I always wish I had the personality to travel more like this!

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Perfect itinerary for spending a week in Moscow! So many places to visit and it looks like you had a wonderful time. I would love to climb that tower. The views I am sure must have been amazing!

I was lucky enough to see the skyline of Moscow from this TV Tower and it is definitely mind-blowing.

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Chelsea Pearl

Moscow is definitely up there on my travel bucket list. So much history and iconic architecture!

Thumbs up! 🙂

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Blair Villanueva

OMG I dream to visit Moscow someday! Hope the visa processing would be okay (and become more affordable) so I could pursue my dream trip!

Yup, visa processing is the major downside! Agree! Time and the money consuming process…

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