I am a Moscow-based journalist, who has spent time in Russia’s capital on and off for the last five years. A permanent resident of the city since April 2010, I had my first taste of Moscow life when I came here as a student in 2002. I spent time in St Petersburg and Voronezh before falling in love with the capital for its eclectic skyline, eccentric local characters and hectic pace.
Russia’s capital can be an intimidating place to be, but to me it has always felt like home. A little bureaucracy seems a small price to pay for the sensation of coming across beautiful brightly coloured churches in the centre, or the Bolshoi theatre lit up at night. Not to mention ice skating on Red Square in the early evening on a snowy winter’s day, with the bright lights of the GUM department store clashing with St Basil’s Cathedral, which in turn seems out of place a stone’s throw from Lenin’s tomb. I decided to come back to Moscow in 2010 partly to see more of the country, but more often than not the lure of the capital proves too much and I find myself whiling away the weekend hours on the riverbank or in the city centre, drinking with friends and discovering new parts of my favourite city.
I currently work for Russian news agency RIA Novosti and regularly contribute to the Irish Times. Before moving to Moscow I worked in Warsaw, Poland, for three years, writing for publications such as Estates News and Poland Monthly as well as freelancing for Running in Heels. I have covered issues ranging from travel, breaking political news, real estate, the artistic community and Russian Fashion Week.
Where I always grab a beer: Didu (metro: Chysty Prudy/Turgenyevskaya; Myasnitskaya street, 24, стр. 1; +7 (495) 624-13-20; www.cafe-didu.ru) is a laid back but stylish bar with a good location. During the day and in the early evening it’s a great place for a relaxed drink and a bite to eat. Later in the evening it’s a good pre-club option. Each table is kitted out with packets of plasticine and customers’ creations adorn the walls. If you’re really lucky your visit may even coincide with live turtle racing.
My favourite dining spot: Vostochnaya Komnata (metro Smolenskaya; Smolensky Passage, Smolenskaya Square 3; +7 (495) 937 84 23) offers decent indian food in a cosy atmosphere. Shisha and belly dancers make the atmosphere more of a place to meet friends than go on an intimate date.
Best place for people watching: Kamegersky Pereulok. Running off Tverskaya and packed with outdoor tables in the summer, one of Moscow’s few pedestrianised streets is a great place to people watch. Service can be atrocious in some of the cafes lining the street, but if you go for Akademia (Metro: Teatralnaya; Kamergersky Pereulok 2/1; +7 (495) 692-96-49; http://www.academiya.ru/eng-index.php) or Pain Quotidien (metro: Teatralnaya; Kamergersky Pereulok 5/6; +7 (495) 937 77 42; http://lpq.ru/en) your coffee should arrive relatively quickly.
Where to be seen: Moscow is the home of face control, an unfathomable and erratic way of deciding who gets into its more expensive clubs. While this can be annoying if you’re trying to go out with a larger group of people, if you relish the challenge of being chosen by skinheads in black leather jackets as one of the lucky few allowed to go in, Rai should satisfy you. (metro: Kropotkinskaya; Bolotnaya Embankment 9; +7 (495) 364 01 01; www.raiclub.ru).
Most breathtaking view: Sparrow Hills is one of the highest points in central Moscow. From Kosygina street there is a great view of arguably the most impressive of Stalin’s seven sister skyscrapers, Moscow State University. In the opposite direction there is a viewing platform that looks out over woodland immediately below, the Moscow river and some of the city’s major landmarks, including more Stalin-era skyscrapers, the Luzhniki stadium, the Russian Academy of Sciences and Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
My favourite stroll: Pushkinskaya Naberezhnaya runs along the Moscow river in the South of the city. The walk from Gorky Park to the end of Nieskuchny Sad is a the perfect place to gather your thoughts in the winter when the place is quite empty, or soak up the atmosphere in the summer when dance classes and open air concerts break out on the river bank.
The best spot for peace and quiet: The Botanical Gardens in the North of the city are a nice place to get away from it all. Try taking the metro to Botanichesky Sad and strolling through the woods until you get to the All Russian Exhibition Centre (VDNKh). By the time you hit VDNKh - one of Moscow’s more bizarre crumbling Communist throwbacks - you should be ready for its exotic animals, markets and strange fair rides.
Where I’d go on a date: Kvartira 44 (http://kv44.ru) is a laid back café with two locations (metro: Okhotny Ryad; Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street 22/2; +7 (495) 691 7503 and metro: Polyanka; Malaya Yakimanka 24/8; +7 499 2388 234) in central Moscow. With live piano music or recorded vintage jazz playing in the background, the menu is nice without being pretentious. The cosy interior and relaxed atmosphere make Kvartira a great place for getting to know someone better.
Don’t leave without... seeing Red Square. Whether you are travelling in the summer and the square is full of people out for a stroll, or your trip is in the winter, when snow turns the place into a scene from a fairytale, Red Square is the heart of Moscow.
My expert information
Moscow is the biggest city in Europe. A thronging, vibrant place, it veers from high culture to hedonistic excess, to monolithic concrete architecture. Whether you despise it or adore it, very few people remain unmoved by the place. Whether that is due to romantic evenings at the ballet, wild parties that last for days, or philosophical encounters with locals, Moscow is a city not to be missed.Read more...