The capital city of Russia was off limits for so many years that many people are surprised to find that it’s not only accessible; it’s actually an incredible city to visit. It’s one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world and filled with remarkable architecture including the tallest freestanding structure in Europe (Ostankino Tower), the tallest skyscraper in Europe (Mercury City Tower) and the largest number of billionaires in the world. It’s also the world’s ninth most expensive city and filled with decadent things to do if you have a huge pile of cash burning a hole in your wallet.
Where to Eat
Restaurant Turandot - Ornate and opulent, the baroque design was the vision of Andrei Dellos and easily weighs in as the most luxurious restaurant in Moscow. The $50 million restaurant seats 500 and has a staff of 600 on hand to keep diners happy. A glance at the menu might lull you into thinking your meal will be cheap, but each dish must be ordered separately and those small amounts add up quickly. Throw in some wine and you’ll quickly meet your ‘spurge budget” for the evening.
Restaurant Mario - If you’re hoping to spot some of those Moscow billionaires, start by hanging around this place. Count the number of pricey vehicles parked out front to get an idea of how many diners will have a subtle presence of security guards around them – not that it’s dangerous, you just need to make it clear that you’re rich and important. The elite come here for a reason though; the food is delicious. Your first bite of pasta will completely erase from your mind the fact that you’ve just spent $60 on a plate of spaghetti.
Where to Shop
A.Savin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons
Tretyakovsky Proezd – Just walking into this area feels as though you’ve stepped into a fantasy. The shopping street is entered through a medieval-style archway that blends with the rest of the architecture from the Middle Ages. There’s nothing “middle” about shopping on this street that’s known as one of the most expensive in the world and you can walk out of here wearing fashion that costs more than the net worth of some countries. Armani, Prada, Gucci, Baccarat – nearly every ultra-high-end fashion retailer is here along with Tiffany’s, Tod’s and of course, Ferrari.
GUM – Pronounced “goom”, this is a mammoth department store that is more like a mall in function. It’s so typically Russian that it’s on most visitors’ sight list, but GUM is also a convenient stop for picking up that Cartier bracelet you forgot to bring and a Burberry trench coat to keep out the Moscow chill. The nearby TsUM is just as large and just as full of delightfully pricy stores because you certainly wouldn’t want to head to the ballet underdressed.
What to do
The Bolshoi Theatre has a range of ticket prices and the best seats can easily run you $200 each. Even those in the cheap seats, however, must adhere to the dress code and will be turned back if attired too casually. Since most people view a night at the ballet as a chance to dress up, visitors in a jacket or cocktail dress will likely feel underdressed, especially next to the men wearing tuxedos.
Where to Stay
The Ritz-Carlton Moscow – Conveniently located on Red Square, the five star hotel is luxury from the minute you start up the gothic, iron staircase until you leave your marbled bathroom with heated floors and a view of the city. Get the most out of your stay by choosing the Ritz-Carlton Suite overlooking the city and with a grand piano in the living room. Stretch out in the Jacuzzi before dining in at your private table and don’t forget to leave your shoes out to be shined.
Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow – Also in the center of the city, Ararat has a more modern feel and a cleaner look. The suites are a bit smaller than those at the Ritz-Carlton but are warmly decorated with natural oak and leather. The room is fully wired for internet and everything is state-of-the-art. The rooms are delightful, but what you really want to do is head for the spa and prepare to be pampered. Sign up for the four hour Morocco Tour that includes flowers, candles, a visit to the Roman bath, sea salt peeling, a mud bath and an all-over body rub with shea butter. Could there be any better way to end your visit to Moscow?