Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo airports are both outrageous for the time and cost of getting into the centre of the city. But both have minibuses travelling to near the end of the metro (Domodedovskaya or Rechnoi Vokzal on the green line) for 50 roubles. From there, you can catch the metro anywhere for 13 roubles. Domodedovo also has a train like the Heathrow Express, but it only goes every hour and costs 120 roubles, but then you need either the metro or a taxi from Paveletskaya.
A taxi from both airports will cost around 1300 roubles, but can take from 90 minutes to three hours, depending upon traffic.
Visit the large forest parks within MKAD, which is the equivalent of the M25. The parks give an experience of the real Russians and counteract the sensationalist drivel about Moscow that most people outside Russia read in their newspapers.
In Sokolniki (metro Sokolniki) on Sunday afternoons, you can see pensioners dancing outside. Here you can buy shashleeks (kebabs) and drink beer all at a reasonable price and realise that most Russians are neither oligarchs, mafiosi or poverty stricken.
The best park in my view is Bitsevsky Park. This is a large forested area at least 10 km by 4 km in the southern part of the city. It is easy to get lost amidst the trees and the ravines, but you’ll eventually emerge at the bottom of a downhill ski run, a cross county skiing area, or by a spring where Russians are collecting spring water. You’ll see ordinary Russians playing chess and volleyball or relaxing with a barbeque or picnic.
There are many more parks in Moscow. A tourist who has no time to explore at least one will miss an opportunity to get behind the headlines and see reality.
Bitsevsky Park’s size means it is accessible from a few metro stations. Bitsevsky Park metro is the closest, but it is also possible to see the horse-riding centre (metro Chertanovka). The ski slope is at metro Konkovo. Skis can be hired there
Exactly what it says on the tin, but don't expect the user-friendly version popular in the west - no colourful boards for kids and no guessing games.
Neat rows of cabinets filled with all crystals and hidden metallic formations possible. None of the descriptions make sense even if your Russian is fluent. But it is endlessly fascinating just to watch the hidden lives of stones and cavities. In the summers there are table tennis courts for rent nearby.
Leninsky prospect 18; www.fmm.ru
Don`t miss Moscow’s nightlife. Fabrique is a well-known club, though not many people can get there - the face control is quite strict (I believe with foreigners it`s better).
House music is the soundtrack of choice, there’s a rather big dancefloor and a veranda on the first floor. Prices are reasonable and there’s beautiful Russian girls and stylish guys.
Fabrique always features famous DJs, check on their website.
Also worth a look are Propaganda, Real McCoy and Club XIII.
Kosmodamianskaya nab., 2; nearest metro: Novokyzneckaia; Tel 953 65 76; www.fabrique.ru
Tolstoy spent his winters here in the later part of his life, and the feel of the house is less like a museum, more like you're having a look round while the family have popped out.
It's quite a large wooden house in the suburbs and there's plenty to see if you're an admirer of Russia's most famous novelist. My favourite is his bicycle, which he only learned to ride in his 80s, and there's also a photo of him riding it down the street outside. A must visit for me.
Ulitsa Lva Tolstovo; nearest metro: Park Kultury
If you are planning to use the metro in Moscow, make sure you have a map in Cyrillic as well as English. Obviously the station signs are not in English and if your map doesn't have a Cyrillic translation it's possible to get hopelessly lost underground. Not fun. Or funny.
Until you get back to the UK.
Russia is famous for its winter, so why not enjoy it? Ice-skating is the best way of doing this, there are numerous places around Moscow where you can take part.
I recommend Le Futur, which comes complete with orange ice and a clubbing soundtrack from Megapolis FM. And, of course, there's also skating at Gorky Park.
Le Futur ice-skating rink: Petrovskaya str, 26
Soviet Era hotel on the corner of Red Square - for about £75 per night you get a renovated double room with the Kremlin/St. Basil’s right outside your window. Best to book through an agency such as www.moscow-hotels.net/, as prices shoot up if you book at the hotel itself.
The hotel is clean and quiet with excellent beds and showers. The staff are notoriously unfriendly, but efficient and English speaking.
There’s a large selection of restaurants and cafes in the hotel but they’re outrageously expensive. The hotel breakfast is interesting rather than good.
Rossiya Hotel, 6 Ulitsa Varvarka, Moscow; nearest
metro: Kitay-Gorod; www.moscow-hotels.net/rossiya-hotel/
A gigantic Soviet ‘Expo' from 1937, featuring more than 80 pavilions, lavishly constructed in the distinctive style of Stalinist neo-classicism. You can walk around the enormous site or take a ride on the monorail. Highlights include a 1960s space rocket, a triumphal arch topped with statues and the gilded Friendship of Nations fountain.
You can also take in the iconic monument to space exploration, a spectacular shard of metal topped with a B-movie space ship, which is just outside the park at the metro station.
Nearest metro: VDNKh
Tucked away among swathes of the bizarre Stalinist zoo, the NCCA is the hub of contemporary art in Moscow. It has an exhibition hall showcasing Russian and international art. Talks and recitals take place in the auditorium space upstairs and there is a nice bookshop.
There’s a resource centre too, so you can find out what's going on in the busy contemporary art scene across the city.
13 Zoologicheskaya Street, 123242; www.english.ncca.ru/;
nearest metro: Barraakadnaya and Krsnopresmenskaya
A very nice, small cafe, with tasty, cheap food, original and fresh cocktails. It’s the best place to look in and have a snack at lunchtime or before going on to a club.
Not many people know about it, although I have seen Russian pop stars hanging out there.
Solianskii proezd, 4/1 921-1201; nearest metro: Kitai-gorod;
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 8am-9pm, Friday 24 hours, Saturday-Sunday: 8pm-8am
This is the main gallery of international art in Moscow and, while not quite on the scale of the Hermitage in St Petersburg, it still possesses an impressive collection. The surprise here is that there is so much Impressionist art. The main players are all present – there’s an entire gallery of Gaugins – and you begin to wonder how they all ended up here. The official line is that Impressionism became popular in Russia before anywhere else, but one can’t help recalling speculation of where WW2 plunder may have ended up. Whatever the truth, you could while away many an hour in here.
Ulitsa Volkhonka. Nearest Metro: Kropotkinskaya
This small town is home to one of the most important religious sites of the Orthodox church, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. It lies about 70 kilometres north of Moscow and can be visited by joining one of the expeditions organized by local tour companies. The monastery is quite large and impressive from the outside, but its main interest for the tourist are some beautiful and atmospheric interiors. The town is also the birthplace of the Matryoshka doll, which you’ll find being sold in large quantities on stalls outside the monastery, and is also home to a toy museum.
45 miles (70 kilometres) north of Moscow on the Yaroslavl road.
Newly re-built (completed in 1997) after Stalin blew up the original in the thirties to make way for an open-air swimming pool. It's been faithfully re-constructed inside and out, and is a fantastic place to witness an Orthodox service taking place - the accoustics and the decor are fantastic. There's airport style security at the entrance and you're not allowed to photograph. By way of compensation, though, you can ascend to an observation platform for great views of the city.
Ulitsa Volkhonka. Nearest Metro: Kropotkinskaya
A gallery of national art which is just that - you'll find only Russian art here. It ranges from religious icon painting over the centuries to Russian artists reflecting their own attempts at some of the genres that are familiar to European art. It's a major gallery that holds something of interest for most tastes in painting and sculpture, but don't expect any Tate Modern style installations.
Lavrushinsky pereulok. Nearest Metro: Tretyakovskaya
Built in the 16th century as a fortified monastery, this is one of the most beautiful sights in Moscow. The buildings are set in tranquil gardens and next to a small lake which affords some of the best views from its far bank. It's rumoured that the nuns prevented Napoleon from blowing the convent up by extinguishing the fuses with their bare hands. Adjacent is the cemetery which boasts the tombs of Kruschev, Chekhov and Gogol among other famous names.
Novodevichiy Prospekt, nearest Metro Sportivnaya.
Classic Stalinist monster hotel now full of down-at-heel central Asian businessmen and various others who don't have a Moscow work permit. £28 per night for a tatty suite is pretty unbeatable in terms of prices, and comes with a breakfast that will take you right back to the grey days of the USSR. Surreal place.
The Golden Apple Boutique Hotel is the first boutique hotel in Russia. The hotel's image is based on the unique twist of modern interiors and distinctive design within the space of classical historical building. Two guests elevators make a way to the guests floors; each of the floors has a different colour, making all together a composition of a bright rainbow against a grey background creating a fresh modern feel. The hotel does not use any artificial materials. All the hotel areas are dressed into the natural wood, marble and slides. Refreshing decor of the lobby is complemented by the designer furnishings of Casina and Cappellini. The contemporary, elegant and comfortable interiors make it individual and unique. And they have WIFI Access!
11 Malaya Dmitrovka Street, Moscow 103006, Russia
Travel around town on the underground. It's cheap, the stations are dotted all over the place and, most importantly, many of the stations are spectacular monuments to the slave labour that built them. Marvel at the chandeliers, the enormous statues, the weird Stalinist architecture and the murals of happy workers.
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