A couple of months ago my brother won the lottery. Well, the lottery of life. Somehow he managed to persuade one of the kindest, most thoughtful and friendly girls I have ever met to be his wife. I get to share in my brother’s spoils too – I get a lovely sister-in-law. As an additional bonus Marina is from Moscow, a city that I adore.
Marina shows that Moscovites are not just about high heels, diamonds and fur (although I did see her sporting all three over the week we hung out). Moscow is not all bling bling like many expect it to be. It’s a city of romance, culture, elegance and food from every corner of the world.
Here Marina shares her perfect Sunday in her home city:
Brunch like a local
On Sundays I’ll generally have breakfast at home in the suburbs, as traffic can be an issue. Besides, I’m the best blini chef in the world, according to my husband. Brunch is a really big thing here in Moscow though, so if I’m already downtown I’ll check out some of the places around Patriach Ponds district.
A blini a day keeps the doctor at bay
I love cooking healthy Russian food and I guess I’m a bit obsessive about wellbeing. If I don’t feel right, I’ll go to see a doctor immediately and while you do have to pay for all medical treatment, it’s generally not expensive and the service is excellent. Blood tests can be done 24/7, with the results available the next day. If my husband’s in town, I’ll book him in for dental care as the practitioners are so good here.
Lunch – a feast for the eyes
For a light lunch, I like a rooftop restaurant called Sixty, with its fabulous views of the city. It’s really fun and has been popular for years, so booking is essential. If I’ve got foreign visitors in town I’ll take them to Café Pushkin. It’s easily the best place for Russian specialities and the interiors are so majestic.
Shopping, spas and Shiskin
In the afternoon if I’m feeling lazy I’ll hang out with friends at a little Thai spa called Thai Rai. Otherwise I like to go to the Tretyakovskiy Gallery to look at works by my favorite artists such as Aivazovskiy, Kuindzhi and Shishkin.
For shopping, I try to avoid browsing and go for specific items by good brands. I’ll head straight to TsUM. It’s easily the best department store in the city and apparently the biggest fashion store in the whole of eastern Europe. While I know exactly what I want in terms of clothing, I hear it offers a really good VIP shopping and stylist service. I’m a big fan of Russian brand Bosco which features a lot of simple, casual and really well made clothing.
If I’ve got foreign friends in town I’ll take them to the world famous GUM department store on Red Square. The architecture is just so beautiful and while it’s a little touristy, the café terrace is a fun place for people watching.
Vodka – happy water for fun people
It’s a common misconception that we Russians just drink vodka all day long in our fur coats. In fact, I think most Muscovites don’t fit the stereotype. Of course I do drink vodka occasionally, and I like Russian Standard Gold, Russian Standard Platinum or Beluga Nobel, but always neat, never with ice or cola.
Dinner and dancing
For dinner one of my favorite hang outs is a modern Italian restaurant called Osteria Bianca. The vibe is elegant but casual, and the pizza, desserts and wine are excellent. My husband and I are also fans of Torro Grill which serve the best beef burgers in town. I don’t go to bars so much nowadays, but when I do, Time Out Rooftop Bar is fun.
When my parents come to visit from Siberia they’ll stay with my aunt and uncle in the more tranquil countryside Vnukova district as they have a big house there. Otherwise we might book a hotel on Bolshaya Nikitskaya street, which is the best area for sightseeing and getting to Red Square.
In terms of hotels, all the big names are around this area. The Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and InterContinental are the best I reckon. However there are lots of smaller, independent hotels which are really lovely. I’d really recommend doing some research as there are so many little gems hidden across the city.
Welcome to my city
While all of my friends here are Russian, most of them have foreign partners so I live a very diverse life. Forget jokes about the former Soviet Union, Moscow is a beautiful, cosmopolitan and very friendly city.
There is just one big down side however, the traffic. However, if you’re ambitious, if you’re keen to discover something new every day and if you’re looking for a varied life, then welcome to my city!
Top tip for a newbie expat in Moscow
Don’t wear Jimmy Choo boots in winter. They will not survive the road salt.
What not to say to a local
Perhaps it’s best not to get into Caucasus politics with a stranger but generally very little is off limits. To be honest, Moscow is not like lots of people think; I actually think the majority of people here are very open minded.