For your interest we have kept the basic chapters of out of print Russia and the Baltics book available online. Please note that the information is from 1998 and therefore only good for general ideas on travel there. Printer-friendly version.
Moscow encapsulates all that's good and all that's bad about Russia. Like the country, its vast size threatens to overwhelm you and swallow you up. You feel small under the press of its weighty buildings, starchy food, and pollution. Among the sprawling tenement buildings and Stalin Gothic skyscrapers one can still find brilliant golden domes and reminders of Czarist days. But the Soviet penchant for gigantism forces the visitor to search out these glimpses of Russia's past like flowers in a field of tall grass.
Moscow lacks the beauty of St. Petersburg, but makes up for it in intensity. Some days Moscow will leave you mentally and physically exhausted, wondering why you decided to go there and when the plane is leaving. Other days, though, you almost like it.
The city is huge. Rides around the center can take an hour. And the contradictions that pervade its society take you on an emotional roller coaster. Russians will bump, shove, and yell at you in a bakery line, and then smile and offer you everything they have in their kitchen when you dine at their apartments. The cramped and crumbling apartments constructed by Brezhnev make the simplest church seem incredibly beautiful. A clean-up campaign has left the city virtually free of litter, yet it's hard to find a trash can. Moscow's stunning young men and women dress in the latest Italian fashion while pensioners and government workers struggle to get by. The nouveau riche streak around in mud-splattered Mercedes and BMWs, while young mothers stand alongside babushki selling everything from dried fish to a used pair of boots. The private sector is providing an increasing number of entry- and mid-level jobs, but for many Russians life is still a game of survival.
During these times of awkward steps towards a market economy, the rules seem to change every day. Russophiles are evenly split between those who prefer Moscow and those who would choose nowhere else but St. Petersburg. Regardless of how or whether it charms you, Moscow is an exciting city to visit.
Planning Your Time
Plan on at least two days in Moscow. For a good visit, try this schedule:
10:00 - Arrive in Red Square by Metro, see St. Basil's, visit Lenin, and wander through the GUM department store.
13:00 - Grab a quick lunch inside GUM or at Kombi's.
14:00 - Depending on the weather and your interests, head to the Izmailovskii Park flea market, Tretyakov Gallery, Novodevichi cemetery and convent, or any random metro neighborhood (explained under Sights).
18:00 - Return to the center for dinner at Patio Pizza.
10:00 - Tour the Kremlin.
11:30 - Walk along Volkhonka past the Pushkin Museum and Church of Christ the Savior, then cut up along the Boulevard Ring to the Arbat. Break for lunch at the Georgian restaurant on the Arbat.
15:00 - Stroll down the Arbat and then return to the center along the almost-parallel Novii Arbat.
18:00 - Walk or take the subway up Ulitsa Tverskaya to Mayakovskaya Metro station for dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.
Moscow is enormous and daunting to the uninitiated. The city is organized in concentric circles. The outer ring road marks the city limits while most of the important sights are contained within the inner Garden Ring or the innermost Boulevard Ring. At the bull's-eye are the Kremlin and Red Square. The Moscow River cuts an arc through the center of the city, with its peak touching the Kremlin.
Tourist Information: There's no central tourist office. One way to get acquainted with the city is on one of Intourist's efficient, reasonably priced, half-day tours which leave daily at 14:30 from the tall Hotel Intourist on Tverskaya, near the Kremlin ($10). If your tour includes Moscow University, you'll get a great panoramic view of the city. Marlis Travel offers city walking tours ($15 for three hours, Kronshtadtsky 43a, tel. 453-4368).
Visa Support: If IRO Travel has provided you with visa support, drop by to register (Komsomolskii Prospekt 13, tel. 234-6555, visa support tel. 234-6553, fax 234-6556, email: firstname.lastname@example.org). The cheapest invitation, for a 25-day tourist visa, costs $40. A one-year multi-entry visa invitation costs $325. Contact IRO from anywhere in the world by fax or email with your full name, citizenship, passport number, birthdate, and city where you plan to apply for the visa. They ask for prepayment by credit card and you can pay by fax. Though IRO Travel is affiliated with Travellers Guest House, it provides visa support regardless of where you intend to stay.
American Embassy: Novinskii bulvar 19/23, tel. 252-2451. Metro: Barrikadnaya.
News: The excellent English-language Moscow Times, which comes out Tuesday through Saturday, will keep you up to date on events in the capital and elsewhere in Russia. It's free at many stores, restaurants, and hotels.
Bookstores: The most convenient is Zwemmers, which has a modest stock of art books and fiction shipped in from England (Monday-Saturday 10:00-19:00, Kuznetskii Most station, tel. 928-2021). Less accessibly, a few tiny one-room bookstores have opened around 1st Novokuznetskaya pereulok 5, between Paveletskaya and Novokuznetskaya Metro stations.
Every neighborhood, often every block, sometimes every store has its own currency exchange desk, usually run by a bank. Little offices even the exchange shacks inside shops give better rates than desks in major hotels. Most banks now change traveler's checks (a commission of 3 percent on traveler's checks is a good deal here), but it's even better to bring cash and an ATM card with a pin number. ATMs are easy to find.
The Moscow branch of American Express is a little out of the way and you should try to do your banking elsewhere, but it does provide the usual menu of services. If you lose your card or checks and have to go to American Express, exit the Mayakovskaya Metro station and cross the street to the tower with the blue clock on it, then walk about 3 blocks along the Ring (Monday-Friday 9:00-19:00, Saturday 9:00-14:00, ulitsa Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya 21a, tel. 755-9000).
Telephones and Mail
For local calls you can use almost any public pay phone. They have been converted to take small brown plastic tokens sold at Metro entrances for 30 cents. Many pay phones are out of order. Lift the receiver, listen for the dial tone, dial, and wait for an answer before you put in your token.
You can do it all, from mailing a postcard to placing a call, at the Central Telegraph Office (ulitsa Tverskaya 7, Metro: Okhotnii Ryad). For long-distance calls within the former U.S.S.R., go to the little room to the left in the vestibule (daily 7:00-22:00). Pay first, then you can call. Rates have risen dramatically (about $1 per minute to St. Petersburg). You can also use a private phone or go to any local post office.
The post office hall is on the right as you enter the Central Telegraph Office (windows open daily 8:00-21:30, lunch break daily 14:00-15:00). If you want to send a postcard, go to the window in the back left corner of the hall to buy stamps, then put your card in one of the boxes in the vestibule. It will take anywhere from a week to two months. A better bet for value and speed is Global Sprint Fax. Go to window #13 on the left-hand side. You leave your document; they scan it and it's computer-sent; they notify you by phone if it fails to go through. One page to the U.S. or Western Europe costs about $2.50.
Getting Around Moscow
Get used to the Metro. The stops (identifiable by a glowing red M) are never much more than a ten-minute walk away inside the Garden Ring road. If you don't see one, just ask any passerby, "Gdye stantsiya Metro?" and you will likely be answered by, "Vot," and an outstretched arm pointing the way.
Tokens for the Metro (currently 30 cents apiece) are available from windows inside each station entrance. The latest price should be posted near the ticket window. Go to the window, hold up the requisite number of fingers and say the number of tokens you want. For trams and buses you need to buy tickets which the drivers sell in strips of ten. They're also sold in and around Metro ticket windows.
To flag down a taxi, stand by the side of the street with your hand out. Either a taxi or private car will stop to pick you up. (You're free to accept or decline.) A ride within the center of town should not cost more than the local equivalent of $6, and rides out to the suburbs shouldn't be more than $10. Pay in local currency (rather than dollars).
Sights: The Very Center
* * * Red Square - Any tour of Moscow should begin on Red Square in front of St. Basil's Cathedral. Surrounded on one side by the Kremlin walls and Lenin's Mausoleum and on the other by GUM, the largest department store in the country, you'll rightly feel at the administrative heart of a grand empire. It's even better at night when the square is empty, St. Basil's is illuminated, and red stars glow atop the Kremlin.
* * Lenin's Mausoleum - Though there is no longer any ceremonial changing of the guard in front of the mausoleum, you can go inside for free and decide for yourself whether Lenin is wax or flesh (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10:00-13:00). Large bags and cameras must be checked in the cloakroom on the side of the maroon-colored, closed Historical Museum. There's talk of burying Lenin in the family plot in St. Petersburg in '98.
* St. Basil's Cathedral - Red Square's top ornament is St. Basil's Cathedral. Now more of a plain museum with some old icons and a barren maze of rooms than a living church, its exterior is far more interesting than its interior. Even so, after you've given the outside a 360-degree marvel, consider peeking inside.
* * GUM - Once the best-stocked department store in the Soviet Union, it's now Russia's classiest mall (daily 8:00-21:00). Since 1992, hard-currency stores such as Benetton, Galeries Lafayette, and Samsonite have taken over more and more space in GUM. There are three corridors; enter at either end. Climb up to the top floor at either end of the building where there are no stores and treat yourself to a spectacular view and an amazing vantage point for photographing Russians as they go about their shopping unawares. The natural light from the skylights is especially pretty on bright days. There's a fast-food chicken restaurant and a stand-up pizza joint inside.
* * * The Kremlin - A must-see, the Kremlin is a walled enclosure containing Russia's top government offices, as well as several beautiful Orthodox churches. The entrance is through Alexandrovskii Sad (Alexander's Garden); from Red Square, walk north past the mausoleum out of the square, go left into the garden and past the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and you'll come to the white Kremlin entrance tower, across from the Alexandrovskii Sad Metro exit. Ticket booths are beside the tower. You have to check your bags at the little office under the stairs (20 cents).
The Kremlin is open Friday through Wednesday from 10:00 to 17:00 (ticket office closes from 13:00-14:00 and at 16:45; closed Thursday and during frequent official functions). Entry to the Kremlin grounds costs only 30 cents, and lets you walk around the grounds, scan the Moscow River from the park along the south wall, pat the huge cannon and broken bell, and admire the church-domes, towers, and congress buildings. Entrance to the four churches costs $6 per church (students half-price). You don't have to see all four churches, and you can pay at the church door after you ve peered inside and decided. Getting into the Armory costs $14 (students half-price).
On summer mornings, watch for newlywed brides and grooms who come to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier back in Alexandrovskii Sad.
Sights: Downtown Moscow
Most of the following sights are on three streets that radiate from Red Square: Volkhonka, the Arbat, and Tverskaya.
* * The Arbat - Once a prestigious address for Russia's eminent writers, this pedestrian street not only retains some of its original grandeur but also has the city's best concentration of kitschy tourist shops and (in summer) outdoor cafes. McDonald's graces its far end.
You can walk to the Arbat from the Kremlin entrance, going past the Lenin Library down ulitsa Vozdvizhenka, or along the Boulevard Ring from Kropotkinskaya Metro and the Church of Christ the Savior. The closest Metro is the Arbatskaya station on the light blue line, directly across from the beginning of the Arbat go through the underground passage full of middle-aged women selling puppies and kittens while artists offer to sketch you. The Arbatskaya station on the dark blue line is also convenient: exit, turn left, and walk through the crowds for about 250 meters. The Smolenskaya station on the dark blue line is at the Arbat's outer end.
Novii Arbat, just north of and nearly parallel to the Arbat, was built in the 1960s, and the huge apartment buildings that line it like so many open books were intended as a showpiece of Soviet success. It's now one of Moscow's most important modern shopping streets. If you want to see the White House, the scene of the October 1993 shelling which finished the standoff between Boris Yeltsin and his hard-line foes in the Russian parliament, you can continue all the way down the Novii Arbat to the river. (Taking the Metro to Krasnopresnenskaya on the Ring line or Smolenskaya on the light blue line will get you part of the way.)
* Pushkin Museum - The museum is less remarkable for its standing collections (roomfuls of paintings by Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Picasso) than for its temporary shows, such as the Trojan Gold ($8, students $4, Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-18:00). The Pushkin Museum and Church of Christ the Savior (below) are within a couple blocks of each other (and Red Square) on Ulitsa Volkhonka, which runs away from the Kremlin from the southern end of Alexandrovskii Sad and the southwest corner of the Kremlin itself.
* * Church of Christ the Savior - Originally built here in the 19th century, the church was torn down under Stalin, and a monstrous Palace of Soviets with a towering statue of Lenin was planned. When the ground proved too soft, the site was turned into a public swimming pool, demolished in 1994-95. Until the church opens, a temporary exhibit allows you to watch its reconstruction, see plans and a scale model, and learn about the history of the site (free, Monday-Friday 10:00-18:00, weekends 10:00-16:00). Across the street is the Boulevard Ring along which it's a ten- to 15-minute walk to the Arbat and the Kropotkinskaya Metro station.
* * Ulitsa Tverskaya - This is Moscow's most prestigious street. Don't miss the walk south down Tverskaya from Mayakovskaya or Pushkinskaya Metro stops to the Kremlin. You'll pass the Tchaikovskii concert hall, the original Moscow McDonald's and many more upscale restaurants, the city hall and mounted statue of Yuri Dolgoruki (founder of Moscow), the Central Telegraph Office, the Intourist Hotel, and finally the National Hotel at the corner across from the Kremlin.
* Tretyakov Gallery - To get to the Tretyakov Gallery, which has the world's best collection of Russian icons and a selection of 18th- and 19th-century art (especially portraiture), take the orange line Metro to Tretyakovskaya (don't go out through the connected Novokuznetskaya station, which will leave you several blocks away). Turn left at the top of the stairs, cross the street, and walk down the brick road about 100 meters to the large red-and-white building on the right ($8, students half-price, Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-20:00, ticket windows close at 18:30, closed Monday).
Sights: Outer Moscow
* * Izmailovskii Park weekend flea market - This is the place to buy your souvenirs. Most often you are dealing with the original artists, and bargaining is a must. Pick up a 13-piece matryoshka doll, beautifully hand-carved chess sets, Russian medals, scarves, and patchwork quilts. To get to the market, take the dark blue Metro line four stops northeast of the Ring line to Izmailovskii Park — it's the station with a third track in the middle. Exit, turn left, and walk past the huge hotel toward the stadium and smokestacks in the distance. Notice the Intourist propaganda posters on the right along the way. (Open only on weekends and holidays, from morning till evening.)
* All-Russian Exhibition Center (V.D.N.Kh.) - Once the Exhibit of the People's Economic Achievements, this center was a temple to the proletariat. Built in the 1930s, its 72 Neoclassical pavilions glorify Pig Husbandry, Standardization, Atomic Energy, and other giddy arts. Today it's hard to believe V.D.N.Kh. was ever anything but a mall waiting to happen. Electronics is the name of the game, and every single structure has been transformed into a rabbit-hutch of cut-rate consumerism. Fascinating. V.D.N.Kh. is located on Prospekt Mira opposite the Kosmos Hotel (concessions open 10:00-18:00, near Metro: V.D.N.Kh./BDHX).
* * Any random Metro station - To get a real feel for Russian life, try taking the Metro to any of the stations outside Moscow's Ring line. You can pick one at random, but here are some recommendations. For true Soviet residential bleakness it is hard to beat Yasenevo or Konkovo, south on the orange line. If you prefer your bleakness dirty and industrial, head to the southeast, Moscow's most polluted region: Volgogradskii Prospekt and Tekstilshchiki on the pink line. A more desirable neighborhood surrounds the Krylatskoe station at the end of the light blue line in the west of Moscow. Here the prevailing west winds are still unpolluted by the city's factories, and the 18-story tower blocks were built only recently. In another well-regarded neighborhood, around Sokol to the north on the green line, you can see Stalin-era buildings from the forties and fifties. In each case, check out the stores that Russians shop in as they walk from the Metro exit to their apartments after work each day.
Enjoy the Metro on your way. The most beautiful station is Mayakovskaya on the green line (don't miss the ceiling mosaics). Ploshchad Revolyutsii has arresting socialist-realist statues. The grandest stations are on the Ring line and the dark blue line.
* Novodevichi Cemetery and Convent - The walled convent, with its churches and graves, is one of the most peaceful places to escape to on a nice day in Moscow. Entrance to the grounds is usually free; if you want to see the museums inside you'll pay $5 (Wednesday-Monday 10:00-17:00, closed Tuesday and the first Monday of each month). The cemetery, adjacent to the convent but with a separate entrance, contains the graves of Chekhov, Gogol, Bulgakov, Mayakovsky, Eisenstein, Shostakovich, Scriabin, Khrushchev, Molotov, Gromyko, and Stalin's wife, among others.
It's one of the few major attractions in Moscow without a separate price for foreigners: entrance costs $2 for everyone (daily 10:00-18:00). Ask them for their English map ($2). To reach the complex, take the red line Metro two stops southeast of the Ring to Sportivnaya, go out the exit towards the center, turn right and walk about 4 blocks along ulitsa 10-letiya Oktyabrya, and you'll see the spires of the convent across the street to your left. The cemetery is past the convent to your left.
* Gorky Park - Perhaps the best reason to go is the view from atop the enormous rickety Ferris wheel in the center of the 300-acre park (daily 9:00-22:30). To get to the park, take the Metro to the Oktyabrskaya Ring line station, exit to the street through the right-hand doors, go left around the corner, and walk alongside the park's fence about 400 meters to the huge colonnaded entrance. Tickets are sold at the windows to the left and right for a few cents. Consider going back downtown on a riverboat, which you can catch at the terminal on the river side of the park.
* Sergiev Posad - Formerly called Zagorsk, this is a living medieval monastery 60 km outside of Moscow (Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-18:00, closed Monday). This world of onion domes and icons, one of the most beautiful churches in all Russia, is 90 minutes by local train from Moscow's Yaroslavskii Station (Metro: Komsomolskaya). Coming out of the Metro, go in the glassed-in building under the large "MOCKBA" sign and buy an eight-zone "obratny" (return) ticket from any of the ticket windows (about $3), then hop on any of the trains marked "Sergiev Posad" or "Aleksandrov," which leave every hour.
Classical Music or Ballet
Scout out posters and ask at your hotel or hostel for advice on music, opera, and ballet performances. In contrast to the cleaned-up situation in St. Petersburg, getting into the Bolshoi Ballet still usually requires paying scalpers these days (the going rate is about $20), but you can try at the ticket office across the square from the theater, next to the Teatralnaya Metro entrance, between 12:00 and 18:00. Opera and ballet in the Palace of Congresses, inside the Kremlin, is also an option; tickets are cheaper and scalpers usually don't bother with them. The ticket office (open 12:00-14:00 and 15:00-19:00) is kitty-corner from the Kremlin entrance, to the left if you stand with your back to the tower. Intourist agencies can also book tickets for $20 to $55.
From mid-September through mid-June, you can hear great classical concerts for pennies at the Tchaikovskii Concert Hall at Metro: Mayakovskaya, or in the two halls of the Tchaikovskii Conservatory about 3 blocks along Bolshaya Nikitskaya ulitsa from the Kremlin (on the left). Look in the Moscow Times for listings and stop by for tickets a day or so in advance. Most concerts and performances start at 19:00.
Sleeping in Moscow
(If calling from the U.S., dial 011-7-095, then the local number.)
Your options are still limited, but accommodations have improved in Moscow over the years. For a mid-range hotel, the Gamma-Delta is decent. Seriously consider the homestay organizations: White Nights and Host Family Association. Of the hostels, Heritage is far better (if you speak Russian or don't mind a language barrier) than Travellers Guest House (which is pricier, less comfortable, and in an ugly neighborhood, but does have English-speaking staff).
White Nights sets up hotels ($50-100 per room) and homestays (about $25 per person) in Moscow and St. Petersburg (website: www.concourse.net/bus/wnights/, email: email@example.com). If possible, contact the Russian office via email, but if you lack email access, call the Sacramento office (tel. & fax 916/979-9381). They provide visa support (and can also book Trans-Siberian tickets).
Host Family Association, also arranges homestays in Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as the Baltic capitals ($30 for one person, $50 for two, or $60 single/$90 double with all meals, tel. & fax 7/812/275-1992 in St. Petersburg, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heritage Hostel, Moscow's newest hostel, is run by friendly Russian-speaking staff. They'll give you blank stares as you speak space-alien English, but they take you in like a lost child and mother you. Book through English-speaking AZ Tours (see below). Rooms are comfortable and some have fridges, TVs, and phones (dorm bed-$10, Sb-$35, D-$34, Db-$52, hostel members get $2 discount, breakfast-$2, visa registration-$3, rooms in the back overlook a park, Kosmonavtov ulitsa 2, near V.D.N.Kh., Metro: V.D.N.Kh., tel. 975-3501). Contact the hostel through AZ Tours, which provides visa support and registration (fax 975-3619, email: email@example.com). From the V.D.N.Kh. Metro stop, take the underpass to Cosmos Hotel.
The hostel is across the street, set off the road in the brick building with the "ABNA" sign on the roof. Izmailovo Gamma-Delta Hotel, part of the complex used to house athletes during the 1980 Olympics, is a clean and stress-free three-star hotel. The spacious rooms, with worn but comfortable furniture, have TVs, phones, and 24-hour hot water (Sb-$40, Db-$44, includes breakfast, ask for view room, Izmailovskoe shosse 71, Metro: Izmailovskii Park, next to park and flea market, five stops from Red Square, tel. 166-2236 or 166-4127, fax 166-7486; communication best by fax). The Intourist office in the lobby books city tours, sells ballet and concert tickets, and says they provide visa support services by fax (though the St. Petersburg International Hostel seems a surer bet for your visa support letter).
Travellers Guest House has been Moscow's main youth hostel for the past few years, although it's not as clean or well-run as the St. Petersburg hostel. It occupies two floors of a typical Soviet student dormitory, in which every two rooms share an entranceway and bathroom. A bed in a five-bed room costs $18, while a double costs $48 and a single goes for $36. The hot water goes off for a few weeks every summer. The clientele is heavily American and British. Reserve early (Bolshaya Pereyaslavskaya ulitsa 50, tenth floor, tel. 971-4059, fax 280-7686, email: firstname.lastname@example.org). It's in a ugly, step-over-the-syringe neighborhood about a 15-minute walk from Metro: Prospekt Mira. From the Metro stop, walk north about 3 blocks, turn right along the street with the four smokestacks in the distance, walk 1 block to the end of the street, turn left, and the guest house is in the tall white building on your right with red signs on the left side of the door. Take the elevator up to the tenth floor.
Travellers Guest House has an in-house student travel agency called STAR Travel, affiliated with Council Travel, which helps youths (under age 26) and full-time students (under age 32) with plane tickets and anyone who wants Trans-Siberian tickets (tel. 974-1781 or 974-1798, fax 280-7686, email: email@example.com).
Eating in Moscow
Many of Moscow's restaurants are expensive, but reasonable places exist and Russian fast food-places are popping up.
Moscow's a good place to try Georgian cuisine. It's an easy choice for vegetarians. Restoran Mziuri is more convenient (daily 12:00-24:00, in the basement of the Georgian Cultural Center at Arbat 42), and Guria is more popular (Komsomolskii prospekt 7/3, in the courtyard near the corner of ulitsa Timura Frunze, Metro: Park Kultury). In both cases it is advisable to go only for lunch when reservations are unnecessary. At neither should a full meal cost you more than $15.
The secret to ordering Georgian food is appetizers. A nice Georgian meal for three or four might consist of one each of the following: khachapuri (dough filled with cheese), a chopped vegetable dish such as pkhali (chopped cabbage), chicken satsivi (diced chicken in a spicy yellow sauce), baklazhan (eggplant), lobio (bean dish served either hot or cold), and plenty of lavash (bread). If you want soup, try kharcho, a spicy broth with lots of meat and onions. Main dishes are less special, usually just some kind of grilled or skewered meat. Tell them you don't eat meat, order two or three appetizers per person, and you ll cut down the size of the bill and still get the best dishes.
Russkii Bistro, one of about 20 newly opened Russian kitchens, serves Russian fast food: meat and vegetable pies, various main meals, tasty pastries, and intriguing beverages. Try kvas (a refreshing drink made from bread) or medovoucha (a fermented mead-like drink). No English spoken, but pointing is welcomed (Monday-Saturday 9:00-23:00, Sunday from 10:00, Tverskaya 19, next to the Pushkinskaya McDonald's).
Kombi's is Moscow's closest thing to a Western sub shop, selling sandwiches for $3 to $5 and their trademark Oreo milkshakes for $1.75. They have an English menu. There are several locations in Moscow, all open daily from 10:00 to 22:00. One is very near Red Square at ulitsa Tverskaya 4, across the street from the Hotel Intourist near Metro: Okhotnii Ryad; another is at ulitsa Tverskaya 32, across the street from the exit of Metro: Mayakovskaya (go left at the top of the escalators); another is at Arbat 40.
Patio Pizza is a large pizza, pasta, and salad restaurant with trademark red-and-white-checked tablecloths and glassed-in terraces. It seems more a part of American suburbia than of Moscow. A good all-you-can-eat salad bar costs $8; whole pizzas start at $7; spaghetti and meatballs are $8; lasagna, tortellini, or Russian permini cost $11; and credit cards are accepted. One location is at ulitsa Volkhonka 13a, across the street from the Pushkin Museum; you can walk from the Kremlin, or take the Metro to Kropotkinskaya (go out the exit toward the center). The other Patio Pizza is in the terrace underneath the Hotel Intourist on ulitsa Tverskaya. (Both are open daily 12:00-24:00.)
Near the Mayakovskaya Metro station at the top end of ulitsa Tverskaya is a potpourri of good restaurants. Patio Pasta, related to Patio Pizza, is on the northwest corner of the square and serves up pasta dishes for $7 to $12 (daily 12:00-24:00, 1st Tverskaya-Yamskaya ulitsa 1). Tandoor, an Indian restaurant with vegetable entrees for $8 to $11, meat entrees for $14 to $19, and rice for $3, is on the southeast corner of the square (daily 12:00-23:00, ulitsa Tverskaya 30). Across the street is the American Bar & Grill, with salads and burgers from $6, and burritos for $10, as well as breakfast (open 24 hours, ulitsa Tverskaya 32). Next door is Kombi's (see above). For Kombi's, the American Bar & Grill, and Tandoor, go left at the top of the escalators if you're coming from the Metro.
Inside GUM are a few quick stand-up and fast-food restaurants, not worth a special trip but fine for sightseers who need a midday sandwich. For example Rostik's, on the second floor of GUM in the northeast corner, is a fast-food chicken restaurant where it costs $5 to gnaw on two pieces of roast chicken and a roll (daily 10:00-20:00; use the separate entrance on Sunday).
McDonald's golden arches attract Muscovites and foreigners alike with cleanliness, efficiency, relatively cheap prices, and predictably edible food. Moscow's oldest and biggest is at Metro: Pushkinskaya, directly across from the statue of Russia's beloved national poet, Aleksandr Pushkin. In the tradition of Soviet gigantism and American capitalism, Mickey D's boasts 27 cash registers, 1,500 employees with beaming smiles, seating for over 700, and nearly 40,000 customers a day (daily 8:00-24:00).
Farmer's market: Central Moscow's largest and best market is the Danilovskii Rynok. Take the Metro one stop south of the Ring on the gray line to Tulskaya. Exit toward the center and make your way across the busy intersection to the large circular building with the white, dome-like top.
Grocery stores: These are proliferating in Moscow, and it is no longer necessary to trek halfway across the city to find a decent selection of groceries. One of the best supermarkets in Moscow although it still uses the three-line system is the Torgovi Dom Novoarbatskii at Novii Arbat. From Metro: Arbatskaya, walk about three minutes down Novii Arbat, the street with the monstrous gray Soviet architecture that radiates from the same point as the Arbat pedestrian zone. It's on your left. The downstairs section has a particularly good selection of quality Russian products. Upstairs is a separate open-shelf section with imported goods only (Monday-Saturday 8:00-22:00, Sunday 9:00-21:00).
Transportation Connections: Moscow
Foreigners in Moscow normally buy train tickets at one of the four offices of the Moscow Central Railway Agency. You can visit whichever office is most convenient; I prefer the Krasnoprudnaya ulitsa office at Metro: Komsomolskaya. The following offices are open daily 8:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 19:00:
Moscow's Railway Offices
Krasnoprudnaya ulitsa 1, on the first floor of the brown nine-floor apartment building next to Yaroslavskii Vokzal at Metro: Komsomolskaya. Windows 10 and 11 are for foreigners buying tickets to destinations within the ex-Soviet Union. Windows 4 through 7 are for tickets to foreign countries such as Poland and Finland. Window 3 is for information, and window 2 is the administrator (the office boss).
Leningradskii prospekt 1, behind Belorusskii Vokzal (station). Metro: Belorusskaya. You can reach it by crossing the bridge across the tracks to the yellow-and-white building; go in the farthest entrance.
Mozhaiskii Val 4/6, near Metro: Kievskaya.
Malii Kharitonevskii pereulok 6/11 (the head, but least convenient, office). From Metro:Turgenevskaya, go northeast on ulitsa Myasnitskaya; take second right on Malii Kharitonevskii.
Foreigners are usually not permitted to buy tickets from the regular windows at the stations that most Russians use, and foreigners pay a higher price for train tickets than do Russians. Bring your passport, visa, or some other form of ID when you buy tickets so that the clerks can copy your name onto your ticket. It's usually possible to get round-trip tickets to St. Petersburg, but you can't count on it.
Train Ticket Exceptions
Another way to get Tallinn or St. Petersburg tickets: The Intourist windows 19 and 20 (24 hours daily, on the second floor of Leningradskii Vokzal at Metro: Komsomolskaya sell tickets to Tallinn and St. Petersburg for trains leaving the same day or the next day only. Their prices are slightly higher than at the Central Railway Agency. Go in the main hall of the station, up the stairs in the far right corner of the hall, through the door on your right, and then to the left.
Same-day or next-day tickets to Helsinki: These are available only at windows 33 through 36 in a small special office on the second floor of Leningradskii Vokzal, on the left as you walk into the station's main hall (daily 8:00-13:00, 14:00-20:00). It's slightly cheaper to go by train to St. Petersburg and then on to Helsinki. If you must take the train direct to Helsinki, it's more convenient to buy tickets in advance from one of the four Central Railway Agency offices.
|Trains to:||Leave from:||Nearest Metro:|
|Warsaw and Vilnius||Belorusskii Vokzal||Belorusskaya|
|Tallinn and St. Petersburg||Leningradskii Vokzal||Komsomolskaya|
|Trains Departing Moscow|
|#||To||Leaves||Arrives||2nd class||1st class|
|*Prices vary according to train, speed, and day of the week. Generally, the lower the number, the more expensive (and nicer) the train.|
Connections between the Airport and Downtown: A taxi to or from Moscow's Sheremetyevo-2 Airport will run you at least $30 and possibly $50. If you can carry your luggage, the alternative is a bus-Metro combination which costs pennies. Bus #551, and a faster Express bus on the same route, run between Sheremetyevo and Metro: Rechnoi Vokzal, the northern terminus of the green Metro line. The Express bus fare is just under $1, and bus #551 just requires Moscow bus tickets. The bus stop at Sheremetyevo-2 is a short walk out from the terminal, near the parking lot, past the taxi-Mafia gauntlet. The trip to Rechnoi Vokzal can take up to 45 minutes, a half-hour if you catch the express. Allow at least another 45 minutes on the Metro. These buses also service the domestic Sheremetyevo-1 terminal on the other side of the runways; don't get off here.
For booking and reconfirmation: British Airways, Krasnopresnenskaya naberezhnaya 12, #1905, use entrance #3, tel. 258-2492; Delta, Krasnopresnenskaya naberezhnaya 12 #1102a, use entrance #3, tel. 258-1288; Finnair, Kuznetskii Most 3, tel. 292-1758; LOT, Korovii val 7, tel. 238-0003 or 238-0313; Lufthansa, Olympic Penta Hotel, Olympiiskii Prospekt 18/1, tel. 975-2501; Malev, Povarskaya 21, tel. 202-8416; SAS, Kuznetskii Most 3, tel. 925-4747.