Long Weekend in Moscow

Moscow, a place of contrasts and delights.

© GettyImages

Moscow, a place of contrasts and delights.

Moscow, a place of contrasts and delights.

© GettyImages

Friday

In his mausoleum on Red Square, Lenin lies on display, preserved forever - opposite, in the department store GUM, you find Prada and Gucci.

“Moscow," the Russian writer Victor Yerofeyev once said so aptly in an interview, "basically doesn't exist at all. Paris exists, London exists. Moscow, however, everyone creates in their own head." Anyone who sets foot in Moscow immediately knows what Yerofeyev is talking about. Moscow initially leaves most people perplexed.

But that is to the advantage of all those who prefer to discover places through local cuisine. The best way to find out just how many people live in the heart of this city is to let your stomach and palate be your tour guides. A great place to start is with lunch at the five-star restaurant Café Pushkin. Almost round the clock, you can dine like an early 19th century Russian aristocrat. The classics of Russian cuisine – blinis with black caviar, hearty borscht or the stuffed dumplings pelmeni – are served in Café Pushkin with a pre-Soviet slant. Vodka with the meal is all part of the experience here; the waiters like to recommend a fitting choice.

Moscow's culinary "New Wave"

Take a short digestive walk along Tverskoy Boulevard to Arbatskaya station, but don't get into a taxi: take the metro, which is a sight in itself. It goes towards Red Square. The Basilius Cathedral with its sugar bonnets is the landmark of the city. The fact that you can visit Lenin, preserved for all eternity, on your right and spend all your money in the GUM department store on your left, sums up Moscow's soul rather well.

In the evening, why not disappear into the rabbit hole of the celebrated chef Vladimir Muchin?He is considered a pioneer of the gastronomic new wave in Russia. His restaurant White Rabbit now ranks among the world's best – and you can enjoy a panoramic view of Moscow. The tasting menu is highly recommended – let the kitchen prove how well lardo goes with sea urchin and beetroot. Those who then make it to the ballet at the famous Bolshoi Theatre will later fall into bed, as a tourist should, with heavy legs, a full stomach and great excitement in anticipation of the next day. 

Saturday

The rustic Georgian restaurant Chito-Ra is the best in Moscow: aubergine with pomegranate and nuts or dumplings with lamb and oozing cheese.

During breakfast at Doctor Zhivago you quickly learn that kitsch in an aesthetic category in its own right in Russia. This café cum brasserie overlooking the Kremlin is as lavishly decorated as its amazing desserts. After breakfast, it's time for some shopping and walking.

If you don't get lost in the starters at the rustic Georgian Chito-Ra at lunchtime (a beginner's mistake), you will capitulate later with the hearty Chatschapuri. These are pastries filled with melting cheese that come with a fried egg on top. In Georgia it’s considered just a snack – everywhere else it’s rich enough to make you swear never to eat again – as the cheese strings ooze down your chin.

In the evening you should head to the Turandot, an extravagant restaurant. The interior is something to behold and musicians entertain while dressed in wigs and robes. Chef Chung Wai Chong provides pan-Asian and French cuisine on his top-quality menu. Not far from here, the cocktail bar Noor is an inviting stop for a nightcap in pleasant surroundings. 

 

 

Sunday

 Mari Vanna has an ultra-Russian vibe and a great selestion of caviar, boeuf stroganoff, pirogi and pelmeni.

The perfect Sunday morning starts with a late breakfast in the bar Strelka. When the weather is nice, you can sun-worship on the roof terrace overlooking the Moskva River. If it’s not, you can cosy up downstairs in the diner with Eggs Benedict and lemon waffles. The Gorki Park, opposite, is perfect for a long walk afterwards. A few years ago, the park underwent a massive make-over and has since become a green oasis of recreation without equal. You can spend hours here, playing petanque, going on pedaloes, ice skating, climbing on the high ropes course - or simply strolling among the trees and watching Muscovites at leisure in their favourite place.

In the heart of the park is the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. The building, designed by Rem Koolhaas, houses changing exhibitions of modern art and, in addition to the big names such as Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman, also shows smaller artists time and again. No less worth seeing are the Tretyakov galleries. The New Tretyakov Gallery is definitely worth a visit. In addition to Malevich and Kandinsky, works of Socialist Realism are also displayed here.

 

The nostalgic and relaxed restaurant Mari Vanna is the ideal spot to end the weekend in a cosy atmosphere. It is located right next to the Patriarch's Ponds, the city's historic artists' quarter. Here you dine as if you were at your Russian grandmother’s house, with a good selection of caviar, boeuf stroganoff, pirogi and pelmeni. And with a hot borscht in your stomach, it's easier to say Do svidánija: goodbye!