FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Moscow On The Move

Jul 1, 2006
2006 / June-July 2006

The idea of a perfect day off in Moscow would have been ludicrous just a few years ago. Grim and foreboding then, Moscow today is much brighter. There’s a building boom, among other improvements fueled by oil, which has morphed Moscow into a compelling capital with a plethora of mind-blowing and sometimes unexpected options. The mood in this new hot spot is incredibly festive. You feel the presence of money in the streets.

The Kremlin is still on everyone’s must-see list, yet much of it remains closed to the public. Instead of a general tour, opt for a specialized tour of its palace apartments, home to Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin. The cost of this prized insider tour, subject to last-minute changes in Putin’s schedule, is a whopping $600 to $700. Other options include a tour of the Kremlin’s diamond vault or Stalin’s underground bunker.

The famed Bolshoi Theatre remains closed for renovations until January 2008. In its stead, arrange a tour of the New Theater, the Bolshoi’s temporary home during renovations. Tours of the rehearsal and costume rooms are especially interesting on the day of a performance.

Art enthusiasts may want to contact Tour Designs, Inc. (tel 800 432 8687, ) to arrange a studio tour and perhaps view private art collections. The tour company that works mainly through travel agents can make little-known adventures like these happen. Specialty tours should be arranged at least three weeks prior to travel. Keep in mind that booking early also helps secure the best guides — essential when touring Moscow.

A visit to the Old Tretyakov Gallery (12 Lavrushinksy Pereulok, tel 7 095 951 1362) should be high on lists of visitors interested in icons and Russian art. The New Tretyakov Picture Gallery (10 Krymsky Val, tel 7 095 238 1378) on the Moscow River is known for its 20th century Russian paintings by Kandinsky and Chagall. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (12 Ulitsa Volkhonka, tel 7 095 203 7412) features the work of renowned French Impressionists.

A tour of the impressive Christ the Savior Cathedral will leave you wondering at the impressive engineering feat required to build it. The cathedral was rebuilt in only four years after Stalin ordered the original destroyed — and replaced with a swimming pool — in 1931. Be sure to note the extraordinary mosaics. On a clear day, the view from its bell towers is spectacular.

Take a walk along Tverskaya Street (Moscow’s equivalent of New York City’s Fifth Avenue) from the National Hotel to Pushkin Square and you’ll notice that Hermes bags seem to outnumber people. Stop in Tsum, the high-end department store where even on the snowiest day when temperatures hover below zero, women will be scooping up next year’s summer wardrobe like it’s about to melt.

If your stay spans a weekend, ask your concierge to direct you to the Jewelry Mart at the New Tretyakov Gallery Exposition Center. Although the market does not run every weekend, if you’re timing is right it’s a great place to shop for beautiful designs at reasonable prices. Caviar lovers will want to bring home their share of the delicacy (maximum 200 grams per person and you will be searched at the airport). Your concierge will be able to point you in the direction of a good fish market for that purchase.

In this food-obsessed city, where new restaurants sprout like cabbages, Café Pushkin (26A Tverskoi Blvd.) is a standout. Noted for traditional cuisine, fans agree it is Russia’s best restaurant. Opt for the more casual atmosphere downstairs. 1 Red Square inside the State Historical Museum at 1 Red Square is another good choice. Oblomov (2 1905 Goda St.) is the place to go for old-style Russian cooking. Try to reserve one of their smaller rooms. The current “in” places for fashionable locals are Gallery (27 Petrovka) and Barashka (20/1 Ul. Petrovka). Both are products of Moscow dining guru Arkady Novikov who owns dozens of restaurants throughout the city.

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