Red Square, Moscow

In many ways, I’m convinced that Moscow is the perfect place to be: it possesses an ancient and romantic beauty akin to Paris, with its pastel-coloured buildings, breathtaking, golden-domed Orthodox churches snuggled in every street corner, huge parks with shimmering ponds, and quaint pavilions. But go out into the city’s heart and you’ll find London’s or New York’s dynamism, energy, and rapid life rhythm – say hello to skyscrapers, business women striding in Louboutins to their next meeting, or undergraduate students popping into the Lenin Library. Moscow is the city of writers and oligarchs, reuniting intellect and business.

Russia isn’t Russia without its traditional wintry blizzards and  frigid temperatures. Sounds daunting? Winter is also the best time of the year – who doesn’t want to see the Red Square lit up in the evening and go ice skating in its center, pretending to be Tolstoy’s princess Kitty? Not to mention the magical atmosphere as Russians get excited for preparations for the New Year followed by the Orthodox Russian Christmas.

TO STAY

CENTRAL: OCHAROVANNY STRANNIK The Ocharovanny Strannik hostel is located amidst a very scenic part of Moscow, around the beautiful Chistye Prudy and near the Mayakovsky Museum. It’s located near several central metro stations as well, making the city easily accessible. Prices start at around 800 rubles (around 16 euros / £13) per night ADDRESS: Pechatnikov Lane, 26, Moscow 107045, Russia, +7 495 255 0015

Tsaritsyno, Moscow

TO DO

TSARITSYNO Catherine the Great’s palace might seem like the ultimate tourist area, but surprisingly few Russians themselves actually know about this Russian Versailles. Indeed, the Russian empress’s palaces in Saint Petersburg generally (and unfairly) steal the limelight. The palace is surrounded by magnificent grounds, comprising of huge parks and a river, and is particularly beautiful in summer. The chapel is also breathtaking, especially if you arrive during one of the morning services (generally around 10-11 a.m.). ADDRESS: Dolskaya Ulitsa, 1, Moscow 15569, Russia,  Tsaritsino Metro: Tsaritsyno

Ilya Glazunov Museum, Moscow

ILYA GLAZUNOV MUSEUM Again, this museum might seem like a tourist trap. But perhaps the reason it is overlooked is because it’s set between the very famous Alexander Garden and the extremely popular Christ the Savior Cathedral. The inside of the museum is even more beautiful than the outside, and looks like an eighteenth century palace. Expect a wonderful and intriguing collection of modern art and contemporary novel illustrations from famous Russian literature scenes. ADDRESS: Volkhonka st. 13, Moscow, Russia Metro: Kropotkinskaya

CHISTYE PRUDY (THE CLEAN PONDS) Tired of wondering along the endless, busy Moscow streets? Chistye Prudy is the perfect place for a quiet and scenic retreat. Additionally, there are many little boutiques and shops surrounding the park, and the Mayakovsky Museum is only a ten minute walk away. ADDRESS: Chistye Prudy, Russia, Russia Metro: Chistye Prudy

 

Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow

TO EAT/DRINK 

VOGUE CAFÉ Luxurious but affordable and located right near the famous and huge TsUM shopping centre, Vogue Café is the ideal place for a quick bite. Prices are around 700 rubles per dish, but just be sure to stay away from any kind of pudding which involves berries – we guarantee you’ll be disappointed! ADDRESS: ulitsa Kuznetskiy Most, 7/9, Moscow 107031, Russia, +7 495 552 44 52

FRESH For vegetarians and healthy eaters, this restaurant is a must. Located on the fashionable Bolshaya Dmitrovka street, it offers a selection of delicious and healthy salads, soups, veggie juices, and burgers. ADDRESS: Dmitrovka B. St, House 11, Moscow, Russia, +7 965 278 90 89

DRINK YOUR SEOUL This Korean restaurant/ bar is a hidden gem where you can expect to find the locals. Tucked away underneath the restaurant Crabs Are Coming, you’ll be able to enjoy Korean classics and Korean inspired drinks. Its always busy and open until late so make sure to get there early to avoid disappointment!

ADDRESS: Nikitskaya St, Мoscow, Russia, +7 499 340 11 85

UILLIAMS  This cozy cafe offers simple but delicious salads and small bites such as the duck breast salad or crab bruschetta.  Located in the heart of Moscow, it’s the perfect place to stop for a quick bite and a cup of sea buckthorn tea.

ADDRESS: Malaya Bronnaya St, 20-A, Moscow 123104, Russia, +7 495 650 64 62

MARIVANNA This traditional Russian restaurant can be found all over the world with locations including London and New York, but no where does it like Moscow. The interior is very traditional and lavish with classic Russian dishes including Olivier salad, Pelmeni and Borscht. This is the go to place for Russian cuisine and excellent quality.

ADDRESS: Piridonyeskiy Pereulok, 10a, Moscow, Russia, +7 495 650 65 00

MENDELEEV BAR  This speakeasy bar is hidden inside noodle bar Lucky Noodles where you can expect to find a bouncer standing in front of luxurious velvet curtains. The mixologists specialise in Absinthe cocktails, but don’t let that alarm you. Let them know what type of alcohol you like or the taste you like and they’ll be able to create something you’ve never had before.

ADDRESS: Ulitsa Petrovskiye Linii, 1, Moscow 111395, Russia, +7 495 625 33 85

TO SHOP

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES  As odd as this sounds, every Russian Orthodox Church provides beautiful and low-priced jewellery, including real silver rings with amethysts or aquamarines starting at around 200 rubles (4 euros / £3.30). The churches with the nicest jewellery are the ones within the Tretyakovskaya area ADDRESS: Pyatnitskaya St. 26, Building 1, Moscow, Russia, 119017, Russia Metro: Tretyakovskaya

KIRA PLASTININA This Russian brand, led by the 21 year-old designer of the same name, offers lots of original and neon-coloured clothes, which are fun, chic, and mostly inexpensive. Look out for the dresses especially – they’re usually at good prices and are regularly on sale. ADDRESS: Varshavskoe shosse, 1 bld. 6, WPlaza-2, 4 floor, Moscow 117105, Russia, +7 495 725 22 75

INCITY Another young Russian brand, InCity sells wardrobe basics like little black dresses or well-cut jackets at affordable prices – during sales (generally held after Christmas) the clothes become downright cheap! ADDRESS: Bibirevskaya St, 10, Moscow 127549, Russia

 

GUM Shopping Centre, Moscow

GUM/TSUM  These malls are anything but your regular, everyday shopping centres. They’re basically monuments themselves, each with their own history – Stalin briefly exposed his wife’s body within GUM a few days after her suicide in 1932. Now both shopping malls are works of art in themselves – beautiful, high glass ceilings with rows of shops aligned one after the other. While everything within the malls can probably only be afforded by an oligarch’s wife, it is an absolute must-see. Bonus: inside GUM there are several lovely cafés which aren’t (too) expensive! ADDRESS: GUM: Red Square, 3, Moscow 109012, Russia, TsUM: Petrovka St, 2, Moscow 107031, Russia

TO PACK

If you want to conform to the mass of the stylish Russian women, a huge furry coat, a colourful headscarf, and sky-high heels will do the trick. If you’re looking to be warm, especially in the midst of the -30 Fahrenheit degree Russian winter, several warm layers are (surprisingly) all that’s actually needed.

 

GETTING THERE

The best way to get around Moscow is definitely by foot – there will always be something to discover and something to see as you wander around. The Metro does not only resemble a Soviet version of Versailles but is also very cheap – only 40 rubles (1 euro /.50p) a ride. Make sure you take advantage of it!

 

Words and photos by Léa Carresse, @LCarresse  and Natalie Brewer

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