48 Hours In Moscow: Day 1
Start the day in a suitably ornate atmosphere at Café Pushkin, the closest a 21st-century visitor can get to taking tea at the Winter Palace.
With its 200-year-old harps, leather-bound books and golden grandfather clocks, the wood-panelled room is Tolstoy chic, right down to the drooping moustaches of the waiters who take your order for prostokvasha, a traditional probiotic milk drink, or caviar and blinis.
Take a pretty 15-minute taxi ride across the river to the biggest expanse of green space in the city, Gorky Park, which has been transformed from Soviet utilitarian to hipster chic in the past few years.
Enter through the monumental triumphal arch supported by a forest of columns and wander around the tulip gardens and old-fashioned amusements parks within, or explore the trendy cafes and boutiques that line the park.If the weather is warm, rent a pedal boat and paddle around the lake.
Visit the Gorky Park Museum, which tells an upbeat tale of 20th-century Russia and the remarkable story of Betty Glan, the young woman from Kiev who turned Gorky Park into the cultural heart of Soviet Moscow.
Most importantly, get up to the rooftop observation deck, below which Moscow is laid out like a carpet embroidered with the Moscow River, the Moscow Kremlin, Red Square and Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
All that walking is bound to have made you hungry, so stock up on snacks from the nearby Tsvetnoy Central Market, which has stalls selling freshly baked black bread, rich cheese and cherries from Georgia.
Shopping here is a high-fashion affair, as this is where the Tatler crowd buys groceries—hence the scrum at the caviar stall. Want a seated lunch? Try Gorynych restaurant, which serves the best borscht in the city.
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Russian society figures don’t get much glitzier than gallerist Dasha Zhukova, the ex-wife of billionaire Roman Abramovich and best friend of American writer Derek Blasberg and model Karlie Kloss.
She founded the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in what was one of the Soviet era’s most popular restaurants, which Rem Koolhaas redesigned for its new purpose.
Today, its rooftop bar and summer parties have become one of the main staples of Moscow nightlife, not to mention its ground-breaking exhibitions. Don’t miss Juergen Teller’s show in June.
A mixture between a hammam and a sauna, a Russian banya is part warming one’s freezing toes in hot, scented water and part vaguely terrifying exfoliation scrub.
Sanduny is a quick walk from Garage and is the most luxurious banya in the city, with 18th-century marble floors and ornate, arched golden ceilings. Ask your concierge to book you a private pool and sauna for two hours to relax like a tsar.
After a hotel pit stop, get to an early evening ballet or opera at the Bolshoi Theatre decked out in your finery. Home to an extravagant gold and scarlet interior and some of the world’s most talented performers, the Bolshoi is a spectacle like no other.
It can be difficult to get tickets, but a good concierge can usually manage.
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Russia has three restaurants in the San Pellegrino Taste Guide, and White Rabbit is ranked the highest.
Translating Russian classics from the past into moreish modern cuisine, it serves extravaganzas like bird cherry dough with morel sauce, and veal tongue with turnip crisps. Take your Who’s Who in Russia along, as this glass-domed spot is a favourite with the oligarch set, who like to eat the recipes of their youth in sumptuous surroundings.
Jump in a taxi and wind past the skyscrapers known as the Seven Sisters to Hermitage Garden, where Moscow’s creative crowd gathers to drink, smoke and flirt under the stars in the summer months.
Packed with the city’s most influential photographers, writers and artists, it’s the ideal mingling spot for culture vultures.
If heading to bed isn’t an option, then take another taxi to Voda or Delicatessen, two secret bars with only 20 seats a piece and some of the best vodka cocktails in the city.
Be warned: you’ll need a driver in the know as they aren’t identified by signs on the street.
This is the first part in a three-part "48 Hours In Moscow" series on hongkongtatler.com. Stay tuned for more.
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