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A Moscow travel guide – Tsarist opulence, Soviet secrets, Orthodox mystique and ‘New Russian’ excess

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A Moscow city break means a weekend of extremes, with Orthodox domes jostling Stalinist skyscrapers, and chaotic markets cheek by jowl with designer malls. Book a Moscow hotel and unravel its Cold War secrets or lose yourself in its high-octane nightlife and multicultural cuisine.

City of culture

The Bolshoi Theatre is under scaffolding until 2013, but its soloists continue to enchant on its next-door New Stage. Theatre fans head to the Art Nouveau MKhAT theatre in central Kuznetsky Most, home of many Chekhov premieres, or catch future classical stars at the Conservatoire. Art buffs will love the Old Masters and Impressionists of the Pushkin Museum, housed in four pre-revolutionary mansions on Volkhonka Ulitsa, or the ultra-modern art at Garage, a former bus garage.

Moscow on the cheap

See one of the world’s most expensive cities without an oligarch’s budget. The bustling Moscow metro is a work of Soviet art, with bronzes at Ploshad Revolutsii and grand propagandist mosaics at Komsomolskaya. Take in Lenin’s avant-garde Mausoleum before heading past the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral to Soviet shopping paradise Generalny Universalny Magazin, or GUM. Snatch a taste of Russian high life for the price of a cup of tea in the Art Nouveau splendour of the Metropol Hotel

Luxury Moscow

Shopaholics indulge at out-of-town Crocus City Mall in Rublyevka, or rub shoulders with the beautiful people in downtown Stoleshnikov Pereulok. The leafy lanes of Patriarch’s Ponds are packed with boutiques, galleries and decadent coffee shops. Catch Moscow’s gilded youth at play at Soho Rooms or The Most or soap up with the ‘elitny’ at the Sandunovsky steam baths. 

Secret sights

Even the best-known sights have their secrets. For a taste of former Soviet glory visit the communist heroes immortalised in the Art Muzeon Sculpture Park, or visit the graves of Brezhnev and Yeltsin in the Novodevichy Cemetery. KGB headquarters the Lubyanka was the scene of untold cruelty. Those with strong stomachs can stop for breakfast at Lubyansky restaurant – the former KGB canteen. South of the Moscow river, the underground tunnels of the Tagansky Protected Command Point mark the height of Cold War neurosis.