Guest article by Sam of The Hammock Hombre
Moscow is one of those places that beckons to you relentlessly until you book your ticket. Russia’s capital city is incredible in so many ways. The architecture is one aspect, with captivatingly opulent 15th century cathedrals and political stories represented through statues of battle heroes. Red Square and the Kremlin are two of the most iconic landmarks in the city and recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Centres.
The city is an artistic cornucopia, and even the vaulted metro systems are Instagram-worthy to say the least; constructed with ornate columns and glittering chandeliers, a day spent simply riding the metro would be a day well spent in Moscow. Those who love to be wowed on the visual front may also appreciate the city’s many museums, with their impressive imperial collections.
Aside from astounding architecture and artistic abundance, Moscow has entertainment options aplenty. It is a playground for the affluent, so it is perhaps no surprise that this city is where you’ll find the best nightlife in Russia; expect a lively party scene where everyone from fashionistas to local socialites congregate to let their hair down… apparently even Putin likes to party here! Luxury shopping is another of Moscow’s draws and there are world-class restaurants to keep you satiated during your trip.
What to do in Moscow
Visit Red Square and the Kremlin
Red Square is the city square that stretches across 45 square miles, and incidentally bares little resemblance to its name. Situated around its perimeters are the GUM shopping arcade, Kazan Cathedral and the State Historical Museum. On the southern perimeter is the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral, with its colourful asymmetric domes, and along the entire western perimeter you can find the Kremlin wall.
The Kremlin was once the royal citadel, and today it’s Putin’s official residence. Inside the Kremlin walls you can find a marvels such as Ivan the Great Bell Tower, the world’s richest museum. There is also Assumption Cathedral, the coronation place of Russian tsars, and the Tsar-Bell, which is the biggest bell in the world. You’ll see the world’s second-largest collection of Faberge Eggs, the Russian Diamond Fund and the Crown of the Russian Empire kept in The Armoury.
Splash out Muscovite style at TsUM
Luxury store TsUM is a six-story historical building in Gothic Revival style. Situated on Petrovka Street at Theatre Square in the Tverskoy District, this store is a must-visit for any self-respecting fashionista in Moscow.
Made famous by both the imagination and style of its creative director Natasha Goldenberg, TsUM is the place to hunt down unique designer items by the likes of Calvin Klein and other international designers, as well as covetable pieces by local designers like Vika Gazinskaya. While here, don’t forget to explore Goldenberg’s NGxTsUM zone for a taste of her personal (and extremely enviable) style.
Indulge in luxurious pamper treatments at the Ritz-Carlton Spa
You may have heard of ESPA, and perhaps you’ve been fortunate enough to experience it. Either way, the Ritz-Carlton Moscow is home to the finest spa in the city. Treatments are an alluring mixture of European, Eastern and Ayurvedic methods so the chances are you haven’t experienced any quite like these. If you don’t have much time, it’s no problem: the Spa offers a selection of half-hour treatments so you need not miss out.
The Energy Balancing ritual with volcanic stones is worth indulging in; you’ll love the massage and the fragrant ESPA aromatherapy oils. Here stress and tension are replaced with reinvigoration and relaxation. There is also a fitness centre with state-of-the-art equipment, a heated swimming pool, and the obligatory sauna. There’s also an ice fountain and a crystal steam room with a difference.
Take a backstage tour of Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre
There is nothing like a behind-the-scenes tour to ignite the imagination. Since 1941 this world-famous theatre has been regarded as Russia’s finest. Taking a backstage tour will surely give otherwise elusive insights and experiences and over a four-hour period you’ll be privy to areas usually hidden from the crowds, as well as an overview of the whole theatre, its interesting history and traditions. The tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off too.
Peruse the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
Contemporary art lovers should make a beeline for the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art for some of the most fascinating creations in Moscow. The gallery space, designed by Dasha Zhukova’s Rem Koolhaas, is comparable to London’s Tate Modern. It features intriguing exhibitions all year round, as well as seminars, talks, lectures, and workshops. One more of the museums draws is the delicious fresh-produce café which has a range of tasty eats on offer.
Where to eat in Moscow
Café Pushkin is the dining room of a nobleman’s house, and it is filled with eye-catching antiques, as well a library of over 3,000 volumes from the 18th century to the 20th century. The service is formal yet remarkable, and the menu is filled with Russian and French delights that will make a lasting impression. If you are you a caviar fan, this is the place for you. One of the best things about it is that it is open around the clock, so no matter when your caviar craving kicks in, Café Pushkin is waiting to satiate it.
Excellent cuisine and wonderful works of art are a combination nobody in their right mind would complain about, and Bolshoi are using this fact to their advantage with exceptional results. While you dine on the Russian dishes with French influences, you can cast your eyes over an array of modern pieces of art and carefully crafted sculptures… this makes for a fascinating environment and truly relaxed atmosphere in which service is second to none. As if those aspects weren’t enough on their own, the restaurant puts on live jazz performances.
The décor is impressive in itself; the huge white hall doubles up as an art gallery and is also dotted with stylish Ralph Lauren furniture. Those with a sweet tooth with love Bolshoi for its exquisite desserts – the Russian honey cake in particular.
Where to stay in Moscow
Ararat Park Hyatt
Ararat Park Hyatt is a real treat. This classy 5 star hotel is ideally situated a few minutes walk from Lenin’s Mausoleum and Red Square. They have a beautiful roof terrace for your enjoyment during the summer months, from which the views are stunning. During the cold of winter, you’ll find their steam room particularly welcoming.
The neo-classic exterior belies a modern and stylish interior and the rooms are exceptionally comfortable, decorated in a contemporary style and equipped with modern technology. Inside you can unwind at the Quantum Health Club & Spa, and take a dip in the 15-metre pool. When you’re hungry, Cafe Ararat is waiting to serve you delicious dishes from the Soviet era.
Barvikha Hotel & Spa
This 5 star luxury resort hotel is the creation of the legendary architect Antonio Citterio, and consists of 65 plush rooms and suites that you won’t want to leave in a hurry. Another hotel and spa combination (and a world-class spa, in fact), it takes pampering seriously… and what luxury trip would be complete without spa access on tap? Barvikha Hotel also has a fantastic gourmet restaurant on the premises, so that’s at least one night of eating in style guaranteed.
Sam Ross runs the blog The Hammock Hombre – a travel blog focused around the digital nomad lifestyle. Over the past 3 years, he’s travelled to every continent, so writes on a broad range of countries, cities and destinations.