SIGHTS in Moscow:
Those who come in the summer will ask themselves right at the entrance what the wild birds will do during the winter period. Before you start knitting shawls for them, be assured: The pond doesn't freeze in the winter because it is heated by a compressor. Also the wild cats don't get cold - they have their own fur and if temperatures go below zero, the white tigers, panthers and lions have a protected indoor area at their disposal as well. The spectacled (or Andean) bear is used to the cold. It comes from the Andes but is almost extinct there and so seldom that he is the main attraction of the zoo. The dolphins are also drawing visitors galore, staging up to eight shows per day and enthralling kids with their performances. Also the beluga whale has to work hard for his money, performing numerous jumps for visitors. Ticket sales start one hour prior to the show. But there are smaller animals as well. If you don't dare to go close to the whale you can also watch a wide variety of spiders, bugs and butterflies at the Insecttopia. Got an itch yet? Go to the zoo!
Can you take a joke? If so, Nikulin Circus is the right place for you. There, not the lions but the clowns are the stars. Yuri Nikulin was one of the most famous Russian clowns and for a long time the number-one joke producer of the circus of the same name. If you want to train your risible muscles you've found the right spot. Never before have you seen so many gimmicks, so much white make-up and so many huge shoes. But not only the clowns make a good show, also the tightrope walks set your pulse racing. What acrobats show us here has to be trained many years - and only from watching them one gets dizzy. And once the lions are out in the ring one wonders whether the big cats are as tame as they look. But let's get back to the clowns: Those who make it to this circus are really good and really funny. So come by and have fun. You won't regret it.
Moscow's most creative workshop accommodates all those that make art and fashion or want to learn making both. The Winzavod is definitely a place to be. In the past the red factory produced wine but now the visitors get intoxicated on the art shows. The Winzavod houses four renowned galleries, after all. Where once the glasses were refilled, you can experience Russian art today. Photos, videos, installations, multimedia, performances and sculptures invite you to a discovery tour. The site of 20,000 square metres offers ample space for any type of art. The galleries introduce young artists; a photographer's studio, an artist's studio, an advertising agency, an avant-garde boutique, a bookstore and an art café make the offer complete. And if you have seen enough artworks you should make a detour to Cara & Co: Here, shopaholics' cravings are satisfied by Ksubi, Tim Van Streenbergen and Paco Rabanne. And then we recommend a magazine, a CD, a perfumed candle and an espresso at the Café - you won't be disappointed: Furniture from Napoleon's era meet illumination from the forties in industrial ambience - you can't be more stylish. You simply can't.
STAY in Moscow:
Ararat Park Hyatt
Let's talk business: The Ararat Park Hyatt is the dream hotel for all those big on business. The location alone makes top managers' hearts leap. The hotel is located in the centre of the business district, close to the Kremlin and the Parliament. The clientele is thus defined, the rooms accordingly furnished with large desks. Apart from them, there's nothing that will distract you from your job. The rooms are large but dominated in office colours: brown and beige. Only the bathrooms are slightly more impressive. Some boast Italian marble, all of them Blaise-Mautin toiletries. There's underfloor heating and there are walk-in showers. Who wants to work at a desk then? Three telephones get you back to reality - time to turn on the W-Lan and to take a look at the morning paper. If that's a shock for you, you can hold a meeting with colleagues at your own living room, or stage an emergency meeting at the conference room. And if all of you are once again working round the clock, I recommend the Presidential Suite. 227 square metres offer ample space for you and your staff. Whoever still has energy left works out at the hotel-owned fitness centre or relaxes over Armenian specialties at the hotel's restaurant. Have fun with your job! Double room from approx. 615 euros per night.
If you step into the hotel you wonder whether the rooms were furnished during the fitted-carpet era. Or is this en vogue again? You can't tell from the furniture as it is classical and of finest design, as new as stripped from the plastic cover only recently. And there are modern warm shades, there's underfloor heating in the marble baths and there are Bulgari amenities wherever you look. Being in line with tradition and therefore authentic is always en vogue, after all. But the hotel features state-of-the-art technology as well: remote controls for the DVD players, the flat-screens and the curtains. If you feel disconnected now, you luckily have W-Lan available, but if you get too confused just ask your butler! He will help you press the right button or plan the perfect day at the spa for you: hot-stone massage at 10:00, fitness centre at 11:00, rain shower at noon and fresh calorie uptake at the Restaurant Caviarterra thereafter. And don't miss enjoying the view of the Kremlin on the terrace - you won't need a butler for it.
Cheap accommodation in Moscow? Well, there are not many options. You either reside in the centre at high prices, or you reside on the outskirts, which means one-hour travel to the sights and sleeping in the outdated ambience of Soviet times. We have found an alternative, something in between so to speak. The apartment New Arbat Pearl Suite is located close to the centre, it's newly furnished and rather cheap. Seen from outside the grey building offers nothing to get enthusiastic about but inside a surprise is waiting. The holiday apartment has everything you need: a washing machine, a fully equipped kitchen, bright and friendly furniture and a beautiful bath. But there is only one room, so forget about your friends and just come with your spouse. There's a supermarket just around the corner but if you feel like eating visit the district that comes next. The New Arbat Street is brimming with noble boutiques, casinos and pubs. One night at the apartment cost 149 Euros.
SHOPPING in Moscow:
TSUM. Tsentralnyi Universalnyi Magazin. Sounds old-fashioned, but it's not. You only find the best of the best in this department store near the Bolshoi Theatre. In this sense, it's a big competition for the dignified GUM at the Red Square. In contrast to the latter, the TSUM is not a stringing together of single stores but a department store in the whole with various areas. On a surface of 60,000 square metres more than 1,000 brands are presented in the building which was designed by the known architect Roman Klein. No matter if it's Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Roberto Cavalli, Dior or Jimmy Choo: all the big designer brands are to be found here, not surprising as shopping is the most popular leisure activity among Moscow ladies. If you're tired of clothes, shoes and fragrances you can have smaller plastic surgeries on the second floor. Or you buy some culinary treats in the 24-hour luxury supermarket on the ground floor. Or you have a drink in the Ice Vodka Kauffman Bar, the only ice bar in Moscow. Sa starowje!
Arbat & Tverskaja
If you come to Moscow for shopping you have to keep two names in mind: Arbat and Tverskaja. They're like a spell once spoken they you will be on the brink of bankruptcy. In the 19th century the Arbat was the district of the nobility. After the great fire in 1812 they built their villas and city houses here. It is Khrushchev's fault that this beautiful old district is not as magnificent any longer as it used to be. The latter had parts of it destroyed. Where in the past the villas were located, there is today the 70 metre-wide Nowyj Arabtk, a popular shopping street. Parallel to it you'll find the Arbat street, Moscow's first pedestrian zone with neat cafés and shops. During the summer you can sit outside and watch the souvenir sellers, musicians and street artists. Along the pedestrian zone beautiful old buildings line up - the residences of the newly rich in town. No wonder - not everybody can afford this expensive district. Here comes my suggestion: Stick to the street artists and keep away from the enticing shopwindows. Or don't give a damn and walk to the Red Square. There, the Tverskaja Uliza starts, where the concentration of sparkling facades will finally take away what's left of your willpower. And you will start a high-heel race with the Russian elite.
Hot Tipp: Come with an empty stomach. At the chocolate factory you will get enough sweet stuff to mess up your sugar levels for a lifetime. But never mind as a glance behind the scenes pays off in any case. German Ferdinand von Einem brought the chocolate to Russia in the 19th century. Then, he employed five people in his small pastry shop. Today the chocolate empire produces 60,000 tons of chocolate - no wonder that they feed you some on the tour. You will taste cherries and almonds, dark and milk chocolate, the legendary Mishka waffles with the bear on top and plenty of confectionary. Help yourself, please, you are in best company. Rumour has it that even Gorbachev loved the cult chocolate when he was still a child. And if you have survived the sugar shock you can order your own chocolate figure at the shop: a bowl of strawberries, a soccer ball or a business man bathing in money at best. The tour costs 16 Euros, a box of confectionary included in the price. Compared to the past this is a good bargain: In earlier times the noble chocolate cost as much as a cow.
EAT in Moscow:
The three girlfriends Anna Bichevskaya, Aliona Ermakova and Liya Mur select 20 guests once a week to put on their guest list. Chosen from a pool of members of the closed Facebook group Stay Hungry. Also the cook who devises the culinary aspect of the evening in a grand, yet modern apartment is carefully selected: a food blogger, a friend or Elena Zaeva, an amateur cook who brilliantly prevailed against a professional cook on a Russian cooking show. Apart from a delicious dinner Bichevskaya, Ermakova and Mur - founder of iknow-travel, PR consultant at icon-Food and owner of a catering company - especially bet on the social aspect of the event: counteracting the solitude of the metropolis, introducing friends to friends, having nice conversations and afterwards adding friends on Facebook that you actually know in real life.
Moscow is nouveau riche. And catering to the tastes of the well-to-do, modern gourmet restaurants are mushrooming. They often ignore ancient chic and set new standards with modern design. The White Café serves as example: With warm shades, noble fabrics and the design of style icon Anna Muravina it gets you in the right mood for a Fête Blanche. Moscow has long since stopped to be old-fashioned which is proven by this noble restaurant. Together with international flair guests are offered an international cuisine that leaves nothing to be desired. Those who have a craving for Asian food get sushi, those with a craving for Italian food get Carpaccio and those who have a craving for Russian food get dough buns as well. When in the end dessert is served, the business partners are full - and top managers return happily to their offices with a signed business deal in their pockets.
The Pushkin is as elegant as amber and as old as Moscow itself. If you come here you eat at a museum. High ceilings, pillars and carved wood provide the basis for an exquisite meal but there's more to it than that. The restaurant is packed with antiques that are well worth to take a closer look at. What's that? A 19th-century coffee pot? And that? A 19th-century bronze clock? And that over there? A ship cannon dating back to the Swedish War in 1806. And that's still only the beginning: At the Victorian Library you can browse through 18th-century first editions; the cellar once was a chemist's lab, and at the fireside lounge crystal chandeliers compete with golden wall decorations as far as their sparkle is concerned. Hungry already? The menu is of course made up of traditional ancient Moscow cuisine but there are French and Italian influences as well, surprising guests with Foie Gras and Tiramisu. Honey, however, reigns supreme here: A variety of 20 types of honey make it hard to choose. But those who manage to taste all of them through Champaign Breakfast can take them home.