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Moscow Travel Guide

About Moscow

Despite the Soviet past, today’s Moscow is a dynamic, cutting-edge city – and the most populous in Europe. Well-heeled Muscovites flaunt their wealth by sipping Champagne with sushi at elite restaurants and shopping for designer labels at frighteningly expensive boutiques. Meanwhile, a growing middle-class has seen a proliferation of hip bars and trendy cultural centres.

While the Russian capital has striven to move on, recent tensions with the West have stirred up memories of the past. Moscow has previously led the way with protests against Vladimir Putin, but even with the tumbling ruble and economic sanctions, his popularity remains strong.

This doesn’t make Russia a no-go area, and Moscow – with its cosmopolitan, globe-trotting denizens – is not the formidable crucible often depicted. In summer, temperatures soar and the city’s vast parklands flourish. The historic Gorky Park received a complete makeover in 2012, installing free Wi-Fi and even a beach, while the Soviet behemoth that was the Rossiya Hotel has been demolished to make way for an ambitious central park.

Before that project comes to fruition, there is Red Square to marvel at, not least the mind-boggling St Basil’s Cathedral. Built by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century, its multi-coloured domes and acid-trip patterns seem to defy logic. Nearby is the 14th-century Kremlin and seat of the tsars.

Indeed architecture is one of the city’s main attractions, especially for aficionados of Soviet buildings. All too many have been destroyed to make way for gleaming 21st-century skyscrapers, but Stalin’s unmistakable Seven Sisters still stand tall against the modern towers.

The city is naturally keen to celebrate its great writers, composers and artists too. This sophisticated city boasts world-class institutions like the Bolshoi Theatre, the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

As for nightlife, the city is becoming increasingly hedonistic – whether jazz, rock or vodka is your thing, there are plenty of options. Even the culinary circuit has come on leaps and bounds, though an evening at one of the city’s growing stable of world-class restaurants requires considerable investment. This is, after all, a capital of oligarchs.

Key facts

Population:
11920000
Latitude:
55.752393
Longitude:
37.618218

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Golden Apple

A boutique hotel on a refreshingly human scale, the Golden Apple offers imaginative styling and a personal touch that many 5-star hotels lack. Behind the baroque facade, its minimalist rooms are cosy, and there's an onsite restaurant and an open-plan bar too. Staff speak excellent English and there's Wi-Fi access, a gym and a sauna.

Historical Hotel Sovietsky

In the 1950s, Joseph Stalin decreed that the famous Yar restaurant should be upgraded to a hotel and the Historical Hotel Sovietsky was born. It quickly became a showcase for the image of sophistication that the Soviet government wished to present to the world, and its 107 rooms still conjures up the nostalgia of this period in history.

Hotel Danilovsky

It's hard to imagine a more atmospheric place to stay than the 12-century precincts of the historic Danilovsky Monastery. Set amidst chapels and gardens, the hotel is a modern construction, but the rooms are comfortable and all have a view of the stately monastery buildings. There's a sauna and bar onsite too.

Hotel National

With perhaps the perfect Moscow location, overlooking the Kremlin, Hotel National offers a unique blend of history and luxury. Frescoed ceilings, Damask wallpaper, oil paintings and antique furniture all add to the classic Russian baroque experience. The best rooms afford splendid views of the Kremlin, and all have all the expected mod-cons, including Wi-Fi.

Swissôtel Krasnye Holmy

This eye-catching modernist hotel looms above the Moscow River. The most expensive rooms have sweeping views towards the Kremlin and the Seven Sisters, but they can be found from the hotel's rooftop bar too. There are 233 sleek rooms, all with flatscreen TVs and Wi-Fi access. There's also a spa, pool, gym and an organic restaurant.

Hotel Baltschug Kempinski

Facing the Kremlin across the Moskva River, the opulent Baltschug Kempinski is elegance incarnate. Rooms are lavish, with flowing drapes, piles of soft linen and every imaginable convenience, but it's the views of domes and spires across the river that steal the show. There's a plush restaurant with a view of St Basil's, plus a swish spa too.