Moscow is a grand city and a favourite playground of the rich and elite of Russia; grand architecture, historical monuments and an air of mystery make this the number one destination for those who want something a little different from their city break.
Watching the sun set over spectacular Red Square before sampling some of the decadent Russian nightlife is an absolute must, Moscow is evolving, embracing consumerism and unashamedly enticing in the new wealth of modern Russia, whilst paying homage to the history of this great nation.
Where to Stay
Moscow is filled with luxurious hotels which cater for the most discerning traveller, not least of these is The National, over 100 years old and built with grand opulence in mind, this hotel has an atmosphere that will transport you back to times gone by. The location overlooking the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral gives this grand hotel one of the most prestigious addresses in the city.
Moscow has a history of being a favourite destination for those wanting a different experience and as such has always been popular with students and backpackers, this has led to a well established tradition of budget accommodation which can vary widely in quality, but offers excellent value when compared to the prices of the luxury hotels.
The Izmailovo hotel is one of the best of the budget options and has an interesting history, the huge 7,500 room complex was purpose built to accommodate the athletes at the controversial 1980 Olympic games. Although outside the city, the transport links make this only a small price to pay for the clean comfort of this budget option.
Where to Eat
Russian food is not renowned for being extravagant and decadent, but here in Moscow it certainly can be, the blini (small pancake) served with caviar is a luxurious dish and perfectly defines Moscow as a city of grand culture. Slightly less extravagant is the tradition of peasant food, hearty stews and root vegetables are staples of the diet with Stroganov and Borscht (beetroot soup) being perfect examples of the regional cuisine.
Tsarskaya Okhoto is a traditional restaurant but not for the faint hearted with the animal skins used as all manner of decoration and the game heavy menu. Frequented by Russian presidents this restaurant has a certain charm modelled on the rural hunting lodges and is great for good hearty food.
For the best views in the city the only place to eat is Red Bar, sitting in the 27th floor of a skyscraper, the view over the city and river is truly amazing. The room is entirely red (with the exception of a white piano) and although serving small plates of tasty food the real reason to visit this restaurant is to sample one of the great drinks whilst watching the sun set over the city.
What to Do
Nobody can visit Moscow and not take the time to see historic Red Square, unbelievable almost garish architecture and red walls are unmistakeable, making this quite unlike anywhere else in the world. Surrounded by the Kremlin and Lenin’s tomb, the sense of history is apparent in every wall and building and only topped by the iconic St Basil’s cathedral, easily recognisable with its bright colours and magnificent domes.
Moscow is well known for its tradition of music and ballet and no ballet company is as well known as the Bolshoi Ballet. Remembered from the days when mysterious and highly skilled dancers from the city occasionally defected whilst touring outside Russia, this Ballet company prides itself on the dedication and ability of its principle performers. The Bolshoi Theatre has a program of events throughout the year and with its newly renovated interior is a perfect place to see these lithe dancers in action.
The luxurious side of Moscow should certainly not be ignored and with some of the worlds largest and most glittering nightclubs has now become a hive of night time activity. Glamorous shopping centres host stores such as Bulgari, Tiffany and Prada, giving a high end feel that is totally at odds with the poverty of Russia portrayed in popular culture.
When to Visit
Summers in Moscow can be warm and humid, this goes some way to compensate for the long cold winters, temperatures rarely rise above freezing from November to March.
However if you travel prepared for these biting conditions this can be the most beautiful time to see the city, giving you a glimpse of Moscow as seen through the eyes of classic literature.