Visit the film location: Moscow

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Old 19-Dec-2011
Smile Visit the film location: Moscow

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When it comes to the world's most intriguing capital cities, Moscow is definitely up there among the destinations whose mere mention conjures up an impenetrable aura of a place shrouded in history and mystery - largely because, for so long hidden behind the Iron Curtain, Moscow became synonymous with secrets and spies and snow. And although the temperature dips below freezing in the winter months, with the visitors' breath coming in white bursts in the rapidly cooling air, as a winter-wonderland escape it's a fascinating city to lose yourself in, even if just for a long weekend.
The history-hunter's finger won't ever be far from the camera button, as cathedrals, theatres, estates and ornate government buildings loom imposingly above you in every expansive square and wide avenue. And a trip to the Russian capital also gives you the chance to check out all those world-famous attractions you've only ever seen in the movies, such as the colourful onion-shaped domes of St Basil's Cathedral, the classical columns of the Bolshoi Theatre and the ancient architectural curios in and around Red Square.
Excess all areas
Home to more billionaires than anywhere else in the world, the most expensive nightclubs (and the most exclusive of all is called, what else? The Most), and the priciest cups of coffee - with even a trip to McDonald's leaving you heftily out of pocket - if you're a luxe-lover, then Moscow will be like a home from home for you. As in the UAE, eating out is a national pastime, and plenty of restaurants have adopted a 24-hour approach to dining. But if you really want to immerse yourself in Russian culture, then you need to try the cuisines upon which the region was built. For a taste of Siberia - the Yakutia region, to be exact - head to Alrosa, where the fish soup with milk and vodka is a must-try for adventurous foodies.
For hearty eats that'll warm you up from the inside out as the temperatures plummet, the Georgian dumplings at Chito-Ra come filled with meat and served up in a piping hot broth; whilst over at Ekspeditsiya - where Putin's been known to dine - you'll eat with a full-on faux mountain river flowing beneath your feet; and if you book early, you can nab a seat at the booth inside the Mi-6 helicopter that resides inside the restaurant.
For a glimpse into the very decadent Moscow clubbing scene, head to Fabrique for its multiple bars and dance floors, or have your mind blown at the design-heavy Imperia Lounge, which boasts acrobats and jaw-dropping futuristic interiors. Finally, for incredible caviar, try Pushkin Café on Tverskoy Boulevard, where it's served up with rich, heavy breads, light pancakes, salmon and sour cream.
Moscow like the movies
As home to some of the most incredible and famous architectural feats in the world, no trip to Moscow is complete without a checklist of places to visit. But, lest you become overwhelmed with options, we've narrowed it down to the classics.
Starting off in Red Square is a must, as it's considered the true heart of the sprawling city. Here you'll find the world-famous GUM department store, St Basil's Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral and Lenin's Mausoleum. St Basil's is the ultimate Moscow photo op. With its Byzantine-influenced domes and layered design, the Cathedral, which was built on the order of Ivan the Terrible back in 1555, boasts vaulted ceilings covered in murals and incredible artworks that are well worth spending the day perusing. Lenin's Mausoleum is another attraction that's straight out of the history books, and as it's open for just three hours each day - from 10am-1pm - the queues to see the revolutionary's embalmed body are lengthy, so hit the line-up early. The Bolshoi Theatre, dating back to 1825 is a classical structure that's home to the most famous ballet company in the world, and is the place to catch a performance of Gisele, as well as an opera, with shows running every evening. And for an attraction that's as Russian as wearing a big fur hat, the Kremlin is another must, boasting four palaces, just as many cathedrals and skyline-dominating towers.
With the site upon which the Kremlin sits having been inhabited since the second century BC, the place has seen coronations, bloodshed, revolution, celebration and war in spades, and visitors will marvel at the beautiful Spasskaya Tower, topped by a star, which denotes the most prestigious entrance to the Kremlin. Inside, the Armoury Palace is where you'll find a sparkling collection of priceless Fabergé eggs and artifacts once belonging to the country's former tsars and tsarinas, and be sure to visit the Ivan The Great Bell Tower, The Arsenal, and the Tsar Cannon and Tsar Bell, which - fact fans! - were never fired, nor rung.
Bohemian style
If investigating the amazing art scene is on your agenda, there are plenty of galleries, museums and off-the-beaten-track art spaces to visit, as well as relaxed cafés and bars, attracting a bohemian crowd. The Pushkin Fines Arts Museum is de rigueur and is Moscow's premier foreign-arts museum.
Here you can wander among Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Renaissance works in the Museum of Private Collections and Gallery of European & American Art of the 19th and 20th centuries - including works by Botticelli, Veronese and Rembrandt. Head to Arbat Street, traditionally the heart of Bohemian counter-culture in the hedonistic city, which stretches from ploshchad Arbatskaya to ploshchad Smolenskaya. Pushkin lived on the street - with Anna Karenina said to have been inspired by his eldest daughter, Maria - and Tolstoy resided nearby on Kaloshin Lane. Peruse the stores and galleries in this pedestrianised area, before stopping for lunch at a café serving up cuisines from around the world. And for a super-hip coffee stop, try Coffee Bean on Tverskaya - one of the coolest cafés in the city, all high ceilings, gorgeous interiors and huge windows through which to watch the world go by.

Trip notes

Get in an estate
For a stunning example of one of Russia's famous summer residences, head to the Kuskovo Estate. This imperial-inspired palace, built in the early 18th century, is home to gardens landscaped in the English and French styles and a stunning tapestry room, original bedchambers, orangery, grotto and a dancing hall laid out with the Sèvres porcelain given by Napoleon to Tsar Alexander I.
Get thee to a nunnery
The Novodevichy Convent, dating back to the 16th century is home to frescoes and carved icons, and is also the final resting place of some of the country's most notable writers, noble families and royal relatives.

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