Have you ever thought of going to Moscow? It’s home to the most billionaires, the busiest subway system in europe, and a culture all it’s own. Here is my account of our trip to Moscow over President’s Day weekend. Feel free to contact any of us here at Magical Mystery Tours for more information on how you can experience a similar adventure!
While we had a slight change to our original itinerary, Delta was quite accommodating and got us into Moscow just two hours late. After arriving at 1:30pm, we navigated our way onto the Aeroexpress train (35 minute trip to Belorussky Metro Station) and eventually to our hotel, just 3 more stops on the metro.
The stations were packed, and though it took us one accidental trip to figure it out, they were quite easy to follow. Upon arriving to the Hotel National we quickly realized we had made an excellent choice. With courteous bellmen and a superb concierge, the oldest hotel in Moscow certainly delivered what it had promised. The old world decor, architectural charm and location right across from the Kremlin was rivalled.
After checking in and freshening up, we were off to find a late lunch.
Winding down streets to the northeast of Red Square we found Kolchuga, a cozy basement restaurant decorated for the hunting lovers. Here we energize with fresh salads, veal dumplings and an extraordinarily overprice bottle of french wine. Lesson learned — always inquire about the price before agreeing with the waiter.
With our stomachs full, we wandered around the Kremlin taking in St. Basil’s, the illuminated high end shops lining the square, and an ice rink full of adults and children alike enjoying a Saturday night out. After hearing that we would have to wait to skate, we thought better to head back and get ready for an evening out.
Carrying our restaurant book with us at all times turned out to be genius. Thanks to prior research, we had quite a variety of great places listed and mapped out. The first night was for vodka though, something local and authentic. Walking just 15 minutes from the hotel we found Kvartira 44, a somewhat hidden, family-owned restaurant with cheap drinks and friendly service. It had eclectic decor, a cozy feel, and its 12 tables were full with 20s an 30s catching up over a cigarette and vodka. After trying to look like we could actually read the menu in russian at the door, we quickly ordered our first two shots of vodka, chasing it with herring just as the locals do. While the herring didn’t really do it for us, the vodka did. We enjoyed our second round with a delicious order of potato pancakes. At 90 roubles a shot, we left the restaurant with a bill of about $10.
A shot of vodka with herring to chase it
On day 2, brunch was our first stop. Taking another 20 minute walk we found that our intended destination was closed. But not to worry, in the same block we found a french cafe, Paul, with great coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and french toast to satisfy all.
Heading back down we commented on the European feel to the street we were walking on. A wide street lined with commercial buildings, all seemed to have a mobile phone store or bank with neon signs on the ground floor. The sidewalks were clean and the statues were frequent.
After taking a few pictures of St. Basil’s cathedral, we headed back to get ready for the ballet. Arriving an hour before the performance, we were escorted into the Kremlin state theater to see Swan Lake. The show was absolutely superb — something we will remember forever. The costumes were beautiful and the audience was captivated. From young children to those in their 70s, one could not help but notice how much pride the Russians take in their ballets. By the visible enthusiasm and appreciation it was as if everyone in the audience was a relative of one of the dancers. With overwhelming applause and a rush to the stage following the show, their love of ballet was obvious.
The crowd rushing the stage at the end of Swan Lake
At that point my body was running on empty. After a 9 hour flight with a 9 hour time change, a power nap was greatly needed. Just one hour and 45 minutes later, we were ready for ice skating. After layering up we headed 50 yards from our hotel to one of the top 5 outdoor ice skating rinks in the world (Conde Nast). 750 roubles (admission and skate rental) was a steal for view like this. To the north you had the high end shops all lit up, to the east you had St. Basil’s, to the south you had the Kremlin. Can it get any better? This was the energy boost we needed, and it was definitely one of the top highlights of the trip. After 30 minutes or so, we got off the rink, bought a Russian doll and headed back to get ready for dinner.
Cafe Pushkin is a famous restaurant in Moscow and another pre-planned destination. With 8pm reservations made for us by the hotel, we took the 20 minute walk to Tverskoy Blvd. With a pre-revolution feel, the restaurant did not disappoint. Formal service and tables filled with well-dressed Russians, we knew this was a special occasion. Starting off the night with a Russian mule was the first of many great orders to come.
Course 1: Olivier Salad
Course 2: Classic Russian pie (one filled with mushroom, one with cabbage)
Course 3: “Brosche” soup (roasted beet soup with XX and sour cream)
Course 4: Duck breast with apple confit and foie gras ravioli
Feeling beyond satisfied, we left Cafe Pushkin knowing it was worth every rouble. The night was not over yet though. The only way to spend your last night in Moscow is with a view overlooking the Kremlin. This is exactly what we did at the super trendy, but still classic, O2 Lounge at the top of the Ritz-Carlton. Relaxing in egg chairs and looking out at the Moscow skyline while sipping on a white russian was the perfect end to an unbelievable 48 hours.