Moscow, Russia is sometimes skipped by visitors focused on the European charm of St. Petersburg. But that would be a mistake. Even if you only have a couple of days, don’t miss the vibrant blend of the old and new in Russia’s cosmopolitan capital, home to nearly 12 million. Here are my tips for a weekend in Moscow, ideally timed to coincide with one of the performances I mention.
1. Go underground with a Moscow Metro tour
The Moscow Metro is one of the most efficient and beautiful undergrounds in the world, even though its oldest line dates back to 1935. Many of these “palaces of the people” merged art deco with socialist themes, and are individually decorated with realistic bronze statues, painstakingly restored mosaics, chandeliers, marble, and stained glass. While it’s inexpensive to buy a metro ticket and tour it yourself, I recommend a tour, for example with Happy Moscow Tours, to learn more about the history of the particularly noteworthy stations.
2. Be pampered at the Four Seasons Moscow
The Four Seasons Moscow opened just last year in 2014 in the historic Hotel Moskva, right by Red Square. In addition to its perfect central location, the hotel’s entry-level Premier Rooms are the largest in Moscow, some with balconies. Rooms and suites afford lovely views of Manezhnaya Square, Alexandrovsky Gardens, or Red Square. Service is superb–better, in fact, than in most other European luxury hotels.
Breakfast is a treat, with fresh squeezed juices, a plethora of fresh fruits, champagne, caviar with accompaniments, cold cuts, dim sum, Russian syrniki (farmer’s cheese pancakes), yogurts, cereals, and house made pastries.
Don’t miss the spa, with its gorgeous swimming pool, which is flooded with natural light from the glass atrium above, and even offers underwater music. Add in the jacuzzi whirlpool, Finnish sauna, steam room, radiant heat relaxation chairs and experience showers, and you could easily indulge in a half day of spa treatments and relaxation.
3. Savor Georgian cuisine at Cafe Khachapuri
Georgian food has long been loved by Russians, even in Soviet times, and Cafe Khachapuri is the perfect convivial place to enjoy it. The namesake khachapuri is served in several variations; I recommend trying the Adjarian, which is a yeast bread with Georgian sulguni cheese in the middle, to which an egg is added right after it emerges from the oven. Mix the egg with the hot cheese, so that it cooks, then tear off pieces of the bread to dunk in the center.
Other musts from the menu include pkhali (vegetable pate with ground walnuts); grilled kebabs with spicy adjika chili paste; khinkhali (savory dumplings); and of course Georgian wine to wash everything down. During our visit, there was live piano music, including several Scott Joplin tunes, adding to the festive atmosphere.
4. Get Your jazz fix at the Hermitage Garden Jazz Festival
Hidden away in a residential area of central Moscow, the Hermitage Garden serves as a lovely green venue for the annual Hermitage Garden Jazz Festival, usually held in mid-August. Past performers at the festival have include international jazz musicians such as saxophonists Craig Handy, Karlheinz Miklin and George Garzone, pianists Larry Willis and Artur Dutkiewicz, trombonist Mario Vavti, Brazilian jazz singer and guitarist Filo Machado, as well as many Russian jazz greats.
5. Be transported by the legendary Bolshoi Ballet
An evening at the Bolshoi Ballet is magical, whether taking in a well-known classic such as Swan Lake or Giselle, or a less known but nevertheless enchanting ballet. And if staying at the Four Seasons Moscow, the Bolshoi Theater is just a 5 minute walk away.
Hilary Stockton is the CEO at TravelSort.
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