WHAT TO SEE & DO IN MOSCOW
Below, GUM on Red Square
Tagansky Nuclear Command Post
Strategically built in 1951 under a school no less. Down, down, down you go all 22 flights to emerge into 7000m2 of subterranea. It’s an expensive tour but essential for any die hard fans. So this is where it was all going to happen were the West to be nuked and it pretty much comes down to one killer button. A mesmerisingly, disturbingly beautiful film of nuclear tests, explosions and the like offers a different perspective from the behind the iron curtain. The usual website now displays many pictures of ladies with no clothes on so you’ll have to hunt this one out yourself – at least it’ll be a visual feast.
5th Kotelnicheskii side-street, 11, Metro: Tagansky
1906 art nouveau villa.
Malaya Nikitskaya ul 6/2, Metro: Pushkinskaya
Yeliseyevsky food emporium will blow you away. There are clearly cheaper places to shop but you can pass some quality time marvelling at their range of uber vodkas and caviar. And if you suddenly need a fix of a specific imported food item this is where you’re most likely to find it.
14 Tverskaja Ulitsa, Metro: Tverskaya or Pushkinskaya
You’re obviously not going to end up in Moscow and fail to get yourself here.
A little way out of the centre this is megaplex of a market for all your tourist tat: curious paintings, army surplus, odd ceramics, and of course – matryoshkas. You can get quite cool unpainted naked ones (which I have seen on sale for a small fortune in various Margiela stores – coo think of that mark-up!)
The best banya in town. Shell out for all the essential accessories and get busy with your birch twigs. They can be a bit twitchy around tats on show (yes, you’ve probably come across the Russian Criminal Tattoo book, that’s why. And you’ll have it all out on show so there’s no hiding). The men’s section is a heck of a lot better than the women’s but there you go. Male peacocks are better too, some things just aren’t fair. Do it properly, don’t be a wuss and whatever you do – don’t put your feet down in the banya if you don’t want them to fuse to the furnace like floor. Follow protocols.
Neglinnaya ul 14, Metro: Kuznetsky Most
Red Arrow Express
If you are doubling up with a trip to St Petersburg hop on the Red Arrow train. The only way to travel, this is the epitome of glamourous travel with spotless fold-down beds in the cabins and a guard on each carriage. It’s around £100 each way.
The Seven Sisters
Keep your eyes peeled for Stalin’s ‘Seven Sisters’ stunners dotted around the ring roads.
The metro network itself is just sublime – the Proleteriats’ Palace. Extensive, deep, efficient, frequent and breathtakingly beautiful. There’s a style for every taste.
Metro: All of them!
There are a few old factory complexes around the city which have been converted into galleries, art and design centres or studios for creative start-ups. Lots of regular mini festivals on the go right across art, film and and even Russian Manga which entertained us this last visit. Winzavod can be found to the South East of the city, close to the similar ArtPlay and Flacon complexes – though each one has their own ambience and agenda. Winzavod was first on the scene and has a few bars, restaurants and no shortage of galleries and cool shops like Cara&Co. A cavernous basement plays hosts to lots of one-off exhibitions and events. If you take the shortcut from the metro you’ll encounter the city’s most spectacular down and outs – a rather Hieronymus Bosch tableau, if you like to romanticise these things.
4th Syromyatnicheskiy Lane, Metro: Kurskaya
On the island, near the Strelka Institute and cafe. It’s a cultural clash of cultures here with a mix of decent dining, trashy-glam clubs on one side and studios on the other. It’s slightly locked down to visitors as it’s full of working studios, but sometimes they have great open events so have a potter about.
Bersenievskaya Naberezhnaya, Metro: Kropotkinskaya
This major state gallery opposite Gorky Park can swallow up a few hours. You can walk along to the statue park – which isn’t quite as good as you think it might be.
The 60s state press and broadcast building.
Tverskoy bul’var 10-12, Metro: Tverskaya
Folly like pavilions from the elysian days of the USSR. A right royal twisty-turny history with far too many iterations of brief. The architect was sent down for a few years for delivering a park of underwhelming architectural merit. I wish we could still do that. The focal building now houses a curious rag-tag mix of stalls reminiscent of Kensington Market, Russian style. It feels like such a fallen angel. In all, It’s a cracking day out coupled with the Cosmonaut Museum next door.
Does what it says on the tin, but all in Russian unfortunately.
ul Petrovka 16, Metro: Chekovskaya
Shchusev State Museum of Architecture
The building defines austerity and overwhelms any exhibition it hosts.
5/25 Vozdvizhenka str, Metro: Arbatskaya
Museum of Soviet Arcade Games
Yes. It’s real. Collect your cup of kopeks and fill this space with the sound of blips and whirs from the days of yore.
Baumanskaya st., 11
State Polytechnic Museum
Showcasing floor upon floor of Soviet achievements across science and technology. The collection is brimming with old comms equipment, the odd bit of medical apparatus and Soviet takes on western consumer tech products such as the ghetto blaster and synthesiser. Way too much to list; highly recommended.
3/4 Novaya Square, Metro: Lubyanka
Space race appreciators will flock to the awesome titanium obelisk marking the entrance to the museum. What it lacks in english language translation is makes up for in visual matter. An excursion to Star City outside of Moscow would be out of this world but is a mission akin to reaching the moon itself.
RESTAURANTS & CAFES IN MOSCOW
Dining in Moscow rocks – a veritable cornucopia of obscure fantasy restaurants. It’s buckets of fun hunting them out: you’ll find the best grub in the ethnic restaurants – the Caucasian and ‘Stan restaurants – all those fantastic smoked out dishes. You’ll find a Moldovan restaurant underneath the embassy (don’t forget your passport); a top kosher joint through the security scanners on the roof of a synagogue. I was over the moon last night to learn of a Chechen joint but it was misinformation, it was Czech. Quelle disappointment! But there’s nothing like hanging out by the kiosks in a louche fashion with a bit of Moscow style street food. Or you want babushkas feeding hares? Want to wind back in time and dine in a faked up palace like royalty? Eat at base camp Everest? They’ve got it allllll going on. But unlike London where you wouldn’t entertain the idea of eating in a club or the Rainforest Café or any other theme restaurant for that matter, you can expct food of a certain standard in Mockba. And plenty of them are 24hr opening! Which may explain the brief kipping on plates, plats du jour and fellow diner’s laps.
Sadly I have to break the sad news that vin is very expensive here. So you’ll have to get your vodka or beer head on, or just take it on the chin. You’re looking at about £25-30 just for table wine. I thought there might be some cheaper Georgian or Crimean stuff which is all drinkable but they’re all foreign and at the mercy of import duties too.
Meant to be very good food (nothing whatsoever for veggies). Lovely terrace under the trees, good central spot behind Pushkinskaya.
Palashevsky P. 7, Metro: Pushkinksya
It would be criminal not to include it; it would be equally criminal to eat here – it’s fantastically off-the-scale expensive. But if you meet an oil-igarch on a dark night and he offers to take you – bite his hand off. Or go for drinks which are pretty much on a par with London expensive-ish prices. Worth noting that the people watching is lifited – the entire perimeter of the restaurant is lined with uber exclusive private dining rooms. So no ear wigging either, not that you’d understand much anyway.
Tverskoy Boulevard, д. 26/5, Metro: Pushkinskaya
Noah’s Ark – Armenian
A smart, rather lavish place in Kitai Gorod (translates as China Town but it isn’t one). Great shashliks and veggie dishes.
9, M.Ivanovsky Lane, Metro: Kitai Gorod
Shinok – Ukrainian (N.B. May have closed??)
So to Shinok, located on an upper floor of a slicked up warehouse. I admit this won’t be for everybody, certainly not the PETA and RSPCA brigade. And despite being a rather strict veggie I appear to be able to park all that at the door and embrace this plasticised rural idyll with enormous gusto. The prevailing theme here is of a rustic Ukrainian dacha replete with a babushka doing a spot of knitting here and there and tending to real farmyard animals – cows, donkeys, chickens. The restaurant is laid out in a ring with all the tables looking onto a courtyard in the middle brimming with this grotesquely compelling fiesta of flora and fauna.
The best beasts are the hares. The sheer size of them verges on intimidating – or maybe I’ve just seen Watership Down one too many times. Let’s hope this one isn’t like the General and terrorises the cast (or props?) It’s a little like the biosphere what with the peacock, the Amhurst Cross Golden Pheasant Hybrid (yes it was identified!), all plucked out to come into this artificial environment to make the best of things. Chicken versus cow, all animals ARE equal in here.
The food is good and just about affordable. I’ve been here when it’s deathly quiet and totally rammed so despite it’s size you should book. You don’t want to be disappointed! There are plenty of other hangouts in this warehouse so you can put your navigation tools away and just rattle around in one place all evening. Bazaar Bar has just opened here and will gladly suck up the rest of your roubles if you’ve got any change left over from Shinok.
2 Ulitsa 1905, Metro: Ulitsa 1905
‘Cafe with no easily translatable name into English’
Perfect trad little bar and cafe bang slap opposite the Moscow Conservatory. The proprietor in the portrait has stuck around for a few more years and will do her best to fulfil your requirements despite the language barrier. And you can get firmly back on budget here to try and redeem yourself. Look for the sign below to properly identify it.
B Nikitskaya, Metro: Arbatskaya
Granny-chic restaurant near Patriarch’s Ponds – but def not 1940s prices. Cats pottering about. Russian classics. They now have outposts in NY, LA and London so that gives you an indication of what you’re in for in: ex-pats and tourists! But you know, Moscow tourists aren’t quite as conspicuous as those in more well trodden cities.
Spiridon’evskiy Pereulok, 10. Metro: Tverskaya
‘The still unnamed Kosher place at the top of the Bolshaya Bronnaya synagogue’
Slightly under the radar restaurant, firmly one you’d not stumble across. Mixed up menu of Israeli dishes with the odd Russian one thrown in for good measure. It used to feel rather obscure going through the security scanners to a restaurant but this less of an anomaly these days what with top security installed in many Russian theatres and Indian hotels. Sigh, needs must.
There’s a particular kind of dated-luxe interior in Moscow that crops up time and time again. And despite being on the roof it has no windows to speak of which is a bit of a waste but redeems itself by offering up some quality people watching against the backdrop of low murmuring as deals are cut over lunch. Very reasonable prices – I guess because it’s very much a community restaurant.
Look for the flash cars clustered round the corner of the road, cast your eye over to the modern synagogue, strip off for the security check and go up to the top floor in the lift. You have arrived at your destination.
Bolshaya Bronnaya, Metro: Pushkinskaya or Tverskaya
Hitrye Ludi (Clever People)
We caught Hitrye in its first month – though it already felt well and truly bedded in at Winzavod. Relaxed, no frills cooking, warm and amenable service. This is likely to become an old favourite of many in no time.
Find it in the first building on the right in the Winzavod art complex, 4th Syromyatnicheskiy Lane, Metro: Kurskaya
Casa Mare: obscure and little known restaurant No. 0046
Navigate your way through the Moldovan embassy to find this deeply discreet restaurant – yes, Moldova that breakaway Eastern European state. Go armed with your passport, they’re a bit hot and cold on security. But the food won’t be if you like rustic meaty/cheese dishes served up in a rather quaint and cosy basement. Cheap booze.
Kuznetskii Most 18, Metro: Kuznetskii Most
Strelka Bar & Restaurant
Linked to the Strelka Institute for design and architecture – a kind of think tank for urbanisation. This cafe is the lynchpin or go-between between the thinkers, the do-ers and the public. Strelka has a madly proactive programme of events especially over the summer. It’s on a great spot on the Moscow River, overlooking the new/old cathedral (dynamited by Stalin, turned into the largest open air pool in the world then rebuilt in the 90s). Everybody seems to really rate the food and the Sunday vibe at this urban island spot.
14 Bersenevskaya Embankment, Metro: Kropotkinskaya
Khinkali are Georgian dumplings, and good they are too. People go crazy for these blighters filled with meat, cabbage or mushrooms. This is a very fine Georgian restaurant with a decent sized terrace at the front near Old Arbat. You’ll find a particularly helpful map in Russian below. (I honestly don’t know how I manage to find anything in Moscow half the time. Ah but I know how I remember places – essential scrawl on each and every card, which is only marginally more legible than cyrillic!)
No secret here, this has to be the most famously convincing faux joint in town. The queen bee of the theme restaurant clan: it is but a few years old masquerading as muchos older. Dine with the sound of tinkling ivories drifting across the salon and even a harp if you luck out. There is a long bar if you’d sooner just soak up the forged atmosphere of this XIX’th Century space.
26a Tverskoy Blvd, Metro: Tverskaya
BARS & CLUBS IN MOSCOW
It’s all about the zig-zagging when it comes to Moscow bars so act like a swan – lots of dives and lots of swish! It’s not a particularly laid back city so get your glad rags on and join the Muscovites at play. You’ll soon discover the dark art of feis kontrol on the door whereby the elitny are protected from the grisly proles with a firm nyet.
It is time to pay homage to a fabulous blog from the halcyon days of clubbing in Moscow. It’s now suspended in time – maybe the raw materials just aren’t available any more – but you can peruse some quality sights here: https://moscowdoesntbelieveintears.blogspot.co.uk The name incidentally, is drawn from a famous 1970s Russian film. But oh boy do those words ring true in contemporary Mockba life…
I pride myself on delivering against any brief – but on this particular night the company requested a beery dive bar. Herorically off brief we fell into Turandot. I do believe this mini-Versailles is still the most lavish fit out in town. Perhaps there aren’t enough of the rare breed oligarchs to go round because we had the run of the place.
Tverskoy Boulevard, д. 26/5, Metro: Tverskaya
Now we’re talking – a long, sleek, dark bar. In this former light bulb factory you’ll be faced with a curtain wall of bottles ready to mix up some killer creative cocktails. It is a little out on a limb so commit to spending the night here – which is certainly no bad thing. The drink list reads well and tastes better – start with a honey & sorrel sharpener.
27 Bolshaya Pirogovskaya Ulitsa, bldg. 1, Metro: Sportivnaya, Frunzenskaya
The original loopy-bling bar. Has just tipped over the cool curve so you’ll be able to muscle in on the diminutive disco floor around the mosaic manga murals.
Stoleshnikov Per., 12 bldg 2, Metro: Kuznetsky Most
Although the restaurant outweighs the bar areas I suspect it might be a more rewarding experience to just enjoy a drink here. It’s a handsome place with lovely period features which are only mildly undermined by the dodgy Egyptian frescos.
18, Tverskoy blvd, Metro: Tverskaya
This old favourite takes some finding. A perfectly laid back bar bearing traces of its industrial past. Cheapish drinks and a great ambience; they have a couple of different rooms so you can pick and choose according to your mood.
A navigation tip – go into the courtyard, past the karaoke bar, second door on the left and up to the 2nd floor. Teatralniyi Proezd, 3, Metro: Lubyanka
The ultimate dive bar that always delivers. With four rooms they can simultaneously cater for those looking for a lost night and those looking for a quiet catch up; or just start at one end and work your way down over the course of an evening. This great den derives its name from the aeroplane wing in the main bar space.
25 Lyublyansky Proezd, Metro: Kitay Gorod
Totally OTT design and pricing but easy on the eye. Just go for drinks: do you really want to shell out £30 on a starter?
Kuznetsk Bridge Str, 6/3, Metro: Kuznetsky Most
O2 at the Ritz Carlton
It’s all about the top floor terrace with its sweeping panorama overlooking Red Square, the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral. You’re in a proper pennies-in-peril zone here so perhaps make it an allocated beer hangout – just stay off the Chablis! Being rather scrupulous about design I’m going to be mean and say it looks rather 90s and dated on the inside.
Tverskaya Street 3, Metro: Okhotnyy
For a pub in Moscow I rather rate this. The flags deaden any din to make this basement seem that bit more cosy. It’s an amenable ex-pat stronghold, which is great if you’re new in town. Btw, the chap who looks a little sub-par in the pic was just a little upset about his team losing. Ice hockey is the national sport in Russia, strange but true.
Tverskaya ul. 5/6 (entry from Nikitsky pereulok), Metro: Okhotny Ryad
AND A SMATTERING OF CLUBS
Located in ArtPlay, a converted factory creative complex, this new cool cats’ club is up in the eaves. Slightly iffy sound system but good for the latest electronica nevertheless. I gather it is a design studio by day and club by night – my how accommodating and enterprising!
10, Nizhnyaya Syromyatnicheskaya St, Metro: Kurskaya
A true gem of a club housed in an old villa with plenty of space to swing a cat and bust a few moves. Room after room with great drinks coming out of the cocktail bar and top music coming out the sound systems. Airy and well designed with a big courtyard out the back to hang out under the stars. Stylish, slightly older crowd.
Solyanka 11/6, bld. 1, Metro: Kitai Gorod
A reliable, thronging club of appealing proportions.
Per. Bolshoi Zlatustinsky 7, Metro: Lubyanka
Genre Crisis is a faintly studenty place with a sunken dancefloor. Good straight after work or at 3am. Find it up a brief alley off the main road.
Ul. Pokrovka 16/16, bldg.1, Metro: Chistye Prudy
The leading industrial club in town. It used to be based in a gas plant which was destroyed in a fire and has now moved a few industrial plants down. I saw the aftermath of the fire: rather curiously there was a plethora of glow sticks amongst the cinders that had survived the devastation in the way that roaches are reputed to be able to survive a nuclear outbreak.
17/5 Nijni Susalni Pereulok, Metro: Kurskaya
Alas I haven’t been because I couldn’t recruit a playmate – but would for the name alone. Doesn’t it look fun? There’s always next time.
Ul. Pokrovka, Metro: Kitai Gorod
AND A LITTLE MORE MOCKBA JOY