Moscow The Great
It’s the fabled capital of a fabled country. Moscow, shrouded in mystery, still remains enchanting as a world-class city. Newly moneyed, it’s teeming with luxury, glamour, and the high life. Here, we are a fly on a vodka glass as we take you to Red Square, St Basilia and experience an endless arsenal of chic private restaurants and a sensational nightlife.
White Russian. “To Russia With Love.” Molotov cocktail. Each icon comprises an intriguing part of the culture of Russia and in particular, Moscow—the other city that never sleeps. But why does this capital of one of the world’s greatest superpowers, with a population that has swelled to 12 million people, remain so compelling to its almost 50 billionaire residents and its visitors? For those fortunate enough, it’s a heck of a great city, despite its sometimes-harsh weather. When it’s gray and cold, it is very gray and gold. When it is sunny, the city seems to glitter as much during the day as it does at night with all its neon glory.
If you visit in the fall, bring a heavy coat and if you go in the spring or summer, light clothing is best to see this dynamic capital of the former UnitedSoviet Socialist Republic. I refer to its earlier incarnation because one can’t help still feel the mystique of the country’s numerous decades of bland—and often dangerous—oppression. For its booming economy and all those who are catalysts for it, perhaps danger is part of the attraction. For Americans, the lure is unquestionably its world-class sites.
Enjoying the city from the backseat of a dark, liveried sedan always proves best as there is no highway system in Moscow and all roads lead to the center, providing significant traffic issues during peak work hours. Finding a driver who can liaise passes for some of the city’s most desirable attractions or getting the tips through your hotel is Step One to navigating this maze of a city. One hotel where I stayed in particular, the MaMaison Pokrovka Suite Hotel, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World in the northern part of the city near the Garden District, provides a stylish retreat from the city’s lively center. With elegantly contemporary appointments, this brand new hotel offers room to spare for a stay anywhere from a long weekend, as I did, to several weeks for business. “We strive to live up to all of the characteristics, which a Small Luxury Hotel customer expects: attention to detail, warm and personal service and a feeling of comfort and connection with the surroundings that you simply cannot experience in a big box property,” shares JJ Doran, the hotel’s corporate director of sales & marketing.
The hotel’s main restaurant, Numbers, serves everything from breakfast to supper, and its bar turns into a quasi dance club for late night revelers. Its spa, the Algotherm, is a haven for rejuvenation experiences with private treatment rooms, a fitness center, swimming pool, sauna, steam room and solarium. A range of heavenly spa treatments is available, including thalassotherapy—a hydrotherapy procedure with sea or flower water. Yet, “heavenly” doesn’t even begin to describe the overall effect of MaMaison Pokrovka. “The name of the hotel—MaMaison or My House—reflects our desire to offer guests the cozy feeling of a luxurious private home,” says Fedor Filimonov, the hotel’s general manager.
You won’t need too much rejuvenation from the journey at the hotel unless it is from the exhaustion of constant sightseeing, because the new Singapore Airlines direct flight from Houston to Moscow will have you there in about nine hours. And, it seems you’ve already landed once you are entrenched in all the plane’s amenities, including hundreds of channels on a flat screen TV in the first and business class section, several meals throughout the flight, and service to which most airlines still aspire. It’s almost like making a quick trip to London or Paris for the weekend, yet going to Moscow offers a tad more of an exotic feel.
Motoring about the city—again with the right driver or tour guide—inspires boundless unique experiences for many days. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and the same goes for Moscow—go to Red Square first. View the historic majesty of the St Basil cathedral, day or night, cold or warm. It will take your breath away. Much bigger than in photos, St. Basil is surrounded by so many historical buildings, including Lenin’s Tomb in the square. Don’t be surprised to see wedding parties on the streets when traversing the square and the rest of the city. Marriages are a big business in Moscow, with entire wedding parties and their attendants promenading in public spaces 24/7.
At Red Square, beware of tourist traps outside the corridors. Save your energy for GUM, the Rodeo Drive-inspired mall of the city. Luxury to the Nth degree proves a way of life in this centuries-old Rococo structure. In the long and narrow strip, you can find any brand from Louis Vuitton to Hermès and beyond for the right, large amount of rubles—still the country’s main currency. In fact, with Moscow’s economy still booming from the last 10 years of progress, luxury is everywhere—on billboards, in train stations, on large ads on sides of buildings, and on extensive neon product lighting on just about every skyscraper and multi-floored office building. It feels a little like Las Vegas with the constant high-end marketing, and here, as in Vegas, people live big and rich.