“A friend texted while I was there to say: “Be careful. Moscow is bad for your soul.” He’s wrong. It’s not bad for your soul, but I bet it could be very bad for your marriage, your bank balance and your gentleman’s area”, Jeremy Clarkson writes about the capital of Russia.
Moscow loves money and wants every tourist to spend it with both hands. Beware – you'll be forced to buy expensive matreshkas in Arbat street and luxury staff in GUM (“Russian Harrods”), and than try even more expensive borsch in a fancy restaurant (tourists only). It can be a pretty nice plan however it hardly gives you a sense of “real Russia”. Act like a local – and you'll see a brand new Moscow, city of endless nights, secret places and crazy people.
The situation with national food restaurants in Moscow has been terrible in the past two years, but now it's changing. However we still prefer to eat traditional food at home. In the city centre you'll find several English pubs, dozens of sushi and pizza restaurants and almost no Russian food. We'd rather meet in a French cafe “Jean Jacques” (“Жан-Жак”) than go for caviar pancakes. There are several cheap Russian food chains – Yolki Palki, MUMU and Teremok, but we go there only if unexpected hunger catches us somewhere in the street or we are invited by people from cities far away from Moscow.
Moscovites don't really like a famous Cafe Pushkin either. It's posh, expensive and full of tourists. If you want something glamorous, rich and Russian (but tasty and atmospheric), you'd better try Alexandr Rappoport's Dr.Zhivago in the heart of the city.
In summertime you definitely should eat in one of the Moscow's terrace cafes and bars like Time Out and Strelka.
... And don't regret sushi, it's a part of our culture now.
Moscow never sleeps, say the locals. In the middle of the night you can cut your hair, or buy a bike at the Sportmaster store, or wash your car. And of course you can have a perfect night out. Russians are considered to be the best drinkers in the world and we try to keep the name of the World's drinking capital.
If you want to dance and drink in the relaxed atmosphere, сhoose the area near Krasny Oktyabr (Red October), former chocolate factory turned into a huge business centre with clubs, bars and art galleries.
Do Russians drink vodka? Yes, we do. But an image of a drunk Russian who can drink a bottle is nothing more than a stereotype. Moscovites from middle and upper-middle class would rather drink a glass whiskey or a cocktail, than a shot of vodka.
...But if you still want to drink vodka with a Russian, remember not to sip. Never. Ever.
Most of the Moscovites love to spend time out of town. We are so tired of Moscow, its buzz and crowds of people that survive in a traffic jam every Friday to get to our dachas. Yes, most of us have a summer cottage (dacha) or – at least – friends or relatives that own one. Ridiculously, dacha is not a place where you can relax. Once you buy it you start to build, plant, clean, gather, etc, etc. But the fun you can get covers all the the inconveniences of living far from town. Russian baths, shashlik (kebab), drunk-swimming in the river – you can have it all. So if you are invited to spend a weekend at a friends' dacha, don't refuse.
If you want to unwind, go to one of the famous Moscow's parks. They are not as green as London's famous parks or as big as New York's Central Park. But they still have an atmosphere.
Gorky park is the capital's central park. A couple of years ago it was renovated and now it has a free wi-fi zone, lots of space for sport and recreation and even its own beach. The Garage museum is also located there – and it's a good place to visit after The Tretyakov gallery and The Pushkin museum.
Tsaritsyno park preserves a unique palace of Catherine the Great and other magnificent points of interest, and Kolomenskoye is famous for the Ascension church (1532, also known as The White Column), which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Say no to stereotypes
It is said that Moscow is a very dangerous place. True, like any other big city. It is said that Moscovites are rude and unfriendly. No, some of us are just a bit shy not to speek good English.
It is said that Russian policemen can stop you in the metro and ask for documents. Yes, they can, but believe, they are more interested in illegal immigrants than tourists. It is said it's very cold in Moscow. Yes, we have colder winters than in Europe, but hot summers – +25 – + 35 degrees.
Open your mind and you will fall in love with Moscow – enigmatic and majestic Russia's capital.