Lucie Wolner - 2010-12-13
From Moscow’s Red Square to the popular Red October quarter, here is the perfect itinerary for spending your Christmas holidays... in January!
Moscow under its white winter cloak is a fairyland: a perfect destination for enjoying the Christmas holidays... after Christmas. According to the Orthodox tradition and its Julian calendar, Ded Moroz, Grandfather Frost (the Russian Father Christmas), and Snegurochka the Snow Maiden visit the city on 7 January rather than on 25 December. Likewise, New Year’s Day is celebrated on 13 January. But already in December, the festive holiday mood is in full swing, with fir trees and ice skating a-plenty. And while the season is cold, Muscovites believe that their icy weather (when dry) is far more enjoyable than the cold damp winters of the UK. Night falls early in the afternoon and one can discern strange urban animals dressed in furs and chapkas appearing out of the frosty twilight.
Red Square Forever
After visiting the Kremlin, you’ve got to lose yourself in the GUM, a majestic shopping complex where all of the most luxurious brands are sold. Along the alleys, babushkas hawk cosy, warm shawls and traditional woollen scarves. Don’t forget to buy one to take home! A hot cocoa at the Bosco Bar, a tad kitsch with its orange decor, will warm you up while giving onto a gorgeous view of the Red Square. And when topped with a snowy white crown, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the star attraction of Red Square, looks more than ever like a Disney fantasy come true.
Red October, the New Soho
Located on the other bank of the river, opposite Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Red October is the up-and-coming district, Moscow’s new Soho. This former chocolate factory built of red brick now houses a plethora of bars and restaurants amidst photo and art galleries. Don’t miss the Lumiere Brothers Centre of Photography, dedicated to Russian and Soviet-era photographers. Have lunch at the Art Academia bar-restaurant before stopping to buy Red October chocolates from a tiny shop. The very elegant Russian Street is a lovely boutique featuring the creations of Russian designers, from little-known to world-famous.
A Culinary Journey Back in Time
It may look like it’s three hundred years old, but Café Pushkin has only been around for a decade. Have a seat and treat yourself to the city’s best espresso or a gorgeous beef stroganoff. Or perhaps you would prefer the other side, where marvellous cakes are served in a posh salon de thé. Right next door and even more extravagant, Turandot - the latest folly signed Andrei Dellos, a business tycoon who owns all three establishments - is a restaurant with an 18C decor featuring golden monkeys, rock gardens and Chinoiseries in honour of Puccini’s opera. Extraordinary.
Shopping à la Russe
The Globus Gourmet, located under the TSUM department store, is an affordable gourmet grocery open 24 hours a day. Among other delicacies, they sell smoked salmon, caviar, Russian pastries and even cookbooks.
Party by day, party by night
Designer Denis Simachev has created a club above his boutique, the Shop&Bar Denis Simachev. You can buy a tee-shirt sporting Putin’s portrait in a flowered frame or a CCCR tracksuit. Simachev likes to play with Soviet symbolism and with turntables - he’s also a DJ. He often invites fellow DJs to his bar which is frequented by a very fashionable crowd. You might start your evening there and then move on to the Imperia Lounge, a nightspot whose doors open most easily to underdressed nymphs in foot-high heels (whatever the weather) and self-assured, blasé gents. Café Gallery, a restaurant and lounge animated by a DJ, is the ideal spot for a nightcap.
Apart from the Red October quarter, the city is seeing many of its industrial buildings being converted into cultural centres. The old Winzavod distillery is now home to Moscow’s best art galleries, and The Garage, opened by Roman Abramovich’s partner Dasha Zhukova, has become THE place for contemporary art.
A visa is required to visit Russia. To apply for your visa in the UK, consult this site: http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/
Flights on regular airlines begin at £150 return from London and average around £ 260.
Where to stay
Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya
One of the city’s seven sky-scrapers, this hotel built under Stalin in the form of a tiered cake has been a Hilton since 2008. It has replaced the Hotel Leningradskaya, which used to be famous for its omnipresent, state-of-the-art covert listening devices, or bugs. The bugs have disappeared, but the place is teeming with history and the architecture is truly smashing. Rooms from € 85/ £ 71.50.
GUM, Red Square, 3. Tel: +7 (495) 788 43 43.www.gum.ru Lumiere Brothers Photo Gallery, Marsh Embankment, 3. Tel: +7 (495) 228 98 78. www.lumiere.ru/ Art Academy, 6 Bersenevskaya Nab., Bldg. 6. Tel: +7 (495) 771 74 46. www.academiya.ru/ Moscow Confectionary Factory Red October, 6 Bersenevskaya Nab., Tel: +7 (095) 230 07 33. www.konfetki.ru/
Russian Street Bersenevskaya embankment 8, str.1. Tel: +7 (495) 771 06 14. www.russian-street.ru/
Kuznetsky Most is a shopping street with the most prestigious boutiques and a small painted wood café. A cabin in the city where shoppers can warm up amidst DJ sets.
Globus Gourmet, Petrovka 2. Tel: +7 (495) 518 96 61.
Imperia Lounge, Mantulinskya Ul. 5/1, str. 7. Tel: +7 (985) 211 52 11.
Café Pushkin, Tverskoy Bulvar, 26s. Tel: +7 (495) 739 00 33. http://www.cafe-pushkin.ru/
Pâtisserie Pushkin, Tverskoy Bulvar, 26A.Tel: +7 (495) 229 55 90.
Winzavod, 4 Syromyatnicheskiy Lane, 1, Blvd. 6. Tel: +7 (495) 917 46 46. www.winzavod.com Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture, 19A Ulitsa Obraztsova. Tel: +7 (495) 645 05 20. www.garageccc.com