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Things to do in Moscow

Bathe in the Moscow River

Don't be taken aback if any of Moscow's public pools insist on a spravka, or doctor's certificate, before they let you take to the water - it's not personal; everyone has to show one. Instead, take a dip in the Moscow River at Serebryany Bor, a popular beach spot 20km (12 miles) north of the city.

Enjoy a show at the Moscow Art Theatre

Confusingly, the city has two art theatres. Head to the city's preeminent space, Chekhova Moscow Art Theatre (tel: +7 495 629 8760; www.mxat.ru), named in honour of Anton Chekov, who premiered many works here. The American studio sometimes stages English-language performances of Russian classics, with seats a fraction of the price expected of such a world-renowned theatre.

Glide through Gorky Park

You can't escape the cold in the freezing winter months, so do as the Muscovites do and get your skates on. Follow the frozen paths of Gorky Park (www.park-gorkogo.com) through trees, around paths and under bridges. Multi-coloured LED lights beneath the ice will guide your way and food stalls are always ready with refreshments.

Indulge and immerse in a beautiful banya

For a truly authentic Russian experience, consider immersing yourself in a genuine banya (sauna) at one of Moscow's many bathhouses. The baths at Sanduny (tel: +7 495 782 1808; www.sanduny.ru) are considered to be some of the best in the country and can't be beaten for their opulent surrounds.

Wander the words Dostoyevsky with a literature tour

Although the History of Russian Literature Tour (www.viator.com) sounds as heavy as a thick Tolstoy tome, don’t let the title put you off. Lively and insightful, this walking tour brings to life the Moscow of Turgenev, Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, and it may just inspire you to finally finish War and Peace.

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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.

Izmailovo (Gamma-Delta)

Constructed to accommodate visitors to the 1980 Olympics, the concrete towers of the Izmailovo boast a staggering 8,000 rooms. Institutional in atmosphere, and located far out in the northern suburbs, the hotel is handy for the enormous Izmaylovo Market and has decent city centre links. There are several onsite restaurants and in-room Wi-Fi is available too.

Peking Hotel

Built in 1956 as a little sister to Stalin's Seven Sister skyscrapers, and intended as post-war headquarters for the secret police, Moscow's Peking Hotel is a heritage hotel with a small 'h', in a good location just northwest of the centre. Although slightly old-fashioned, its 130 rooms are comfortable enough, with satellite TV and en-suite bathrooms.