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.