It may have one of the most rich and turbulent histories of any capital city, but these days the experience of going out in Moscow is inseparable from one rather chilling phrase: ‘face control’. Or rather, ‘feis kontrol’.
Exclusivity is as prized as financial extravagance, and clubs, bars and even some restaurants (many of which now rival the gastro scene in Paris and New York) operate extremely lookist door policies.
But the world’s most expensive city, with its 60 or so billionaires and countless designer boutiques, also nurtures an exciting underground art and music scene in disused factories and warehouses, 63 sporting stadiums with cut-price tickets, and a cheap metro system as spectacular as some of its palaces.
Things also get cheaper if you haggle, and you can spend a cheap day simply soaking up the Soviet history in Red Square with a fur hat and a bottle of vodka. But then it can also be fun living like an oligarch for a weekend.
5 PLACES TO VISIT
The gravitational centre of Russian tourism and historic centre of both military parades and executions, this vast ceremonial square is home to Lenin’s embalmed body, Ivan the Terrible’s St Basil Cathedral, Moscow’s oldest department store, GUM, and lots of buildings shaped like psychedelic onions.
The seat of Moscow’s political power and a helluva lot of intrigue, this walled network of palaces, cathedrals and offices dates back to the 15th century and will take a day to ‘do’ properly. Attractions include the Armoury, Patriarch’s Palace and Cathedral of the Assumption, where many of the Tsars picked up their suitably over the top crowns.
1,200 hectares of forested park (once Peter the Great’s hunting ground) in the middle of the city, featuring a cheap boating lake and a huge open market where you can pick up hand-painted memorabilia and Russian antiques.
Built in 1967 and still the third tallest building in the world despite several serious fires, this TV tower is 540 metres high with an elevator-serviced observation deck from which you can see the whole city. Unsurprisingly, it’s a real status gig for base jumpers.
Moscow’s own meatpacking district is the site of the hippest fashion shows, art launches and celeb-attended ‘happenings’. A former wine factory, its seven industrial buildings now host the edgiest graffiti, photographic and installation art – and a cutting edge café serving cutting edge smoked duck breast.
5 FAMOUS MUSCOVITES
Sergey Mikhavlovich Brin
The Russian-American computer scientist and co-founder of Google was born in Moscow.
Moscow-born tennis star and daughter of a Russian wrestling champ, now better known for those bikini shoots.
Alexander Ikhaylovich Ovechkin
Ice hockey star and National Hockey League player, formerly of HC Dynamo Moscow.
The piano-playing quirk-pop singer was born in Moscow before emigrating to the Bronx.
The literary giant was recently commemorated with a new metro station in his name – though the opening stalled over fears the Crime and Punishment mural in particular might provoke suicide attempts…
5 BIGGEST BANDS
Their name means ‘Time Machine’ and you’d need one of those to catch them in their 60s, Beatles-inspired heyday, though they’re still gigging 40 years on.
80s new wave band so beloved in Moscow that frontman Viktor Tsoy, who died in a car crash in 1990, is still commemorated with a graffiti wall in ul Arbat.
Young female pop duo who found instant internationsl fame in the late 90s by making a lesbian video for their debut single, All The Things She Said.
Moscow-based singer who was billed second only to headliners Pet Shop Boys at Moscow’s 2005 Live8 concert.
Hypnotic and psych-folk stoked act who describe themselves as ‘post modern translators of the ancient Christian Armenian folk music'. Rolling Stone like them, anyway.
5 BEST CLUBS
The Most (6/3 Kuznetsky Most Ulitsa)
Moscow’s most exclusive club (dress up as Roman Abramovich after a billion roubles’ worth of plastic surgery to get in) boasts glass floors, crimson walls and a bridge over the dance floor.
Chupurinbar (Kuznetsky Most 6/3)
Multi-coloured tap water in the toilets is just one of the features of this boutique/bar created by couture deisgner Igor Chapurin, where you can listen to heavy house, gawp at supermodels and… shop.
Krysha Mira (2/3 Tarasa Shevchenko Embankment)
This rooftop club in a former factory is the place to dance until sunrise (it’s busiest around 5pm), with spectacular views, electronic music and an arty crowd.
Garage (Brodnikov Pereulok 8)
An antidote to the glamour elsewhere (there’s a car boot above the door for one thing), this basement joint attracts genuine music fans with its mashups and R 'n' B nights.
Solyanka (Ulitsa Solyanka 11/6)
One of Moscow’s hippest live music venues, attracting a young and easy-going scenester crowd.
HOW TO SPEND…
Grab a blini at one of the street stands. These thin buckwheat pancakes come stuffed with everything from meat and fish to sour cream or chocolate (flavour combining not advised).
For around €32 an hour you can hire a private room at the Sanduny Baths (Neglinnaya ul 14), the oldest banya in Moscow with an air of gothic decadence. Steam naked at temperatures reaching 60 degrees centigrade, and buy twigs to beat yourself with on the way in.
Dine at Moscow’s most expensive restaurant, Turandot (26/5 Tverskoy Bulvar Phone), where the Muscovite appetite for sushi finds luxurious satisfaction and a three-course meal for two will set you back around €200 without booze – which is nothing compared to the $50million the owners spent creating the 18th century-style interior. Spend the rest at the on-site jewellery boutique where you could spunk 1 million euro on a single piece.
- The Croxalls: Born to do Battle
- Red Bull Crashed Ice Champion up for the Fight
- Best of Red Bull Crashed Ice Valkenburg