Moscow is fancy and renowned for over-the-top opulence. Despite the stereotype, locals (known as Muscovites) are amazingly friendly. The warmth of residents will make your sight-seeing memories all the more pleasant; get used to people holding doors open for you and offering to assist with carrying your bags.
While like any city it has foods from all over the world, it’s simply not possible to visit Moscow without indulging in Russian cuisine. Russian foods like borscht (a type of soup) and blini (pancakes made with buckwheat) may unfortunately have a reputation as being a bit bland, but the reality could not be further from the truth. Incredibly flavourful (and filling), they can make a meal entirely by themselves. Fortunately, too, they’re easy to find, being one of the most popular meal choices even today – and so many restaurants serving them also means you can try them no matter what your budget is, as even small, hole-in-the-wall cafes and restaurants will have them on the menu.
For something a bit higher end, pop into White Rabbit; a hip and happening hangout favoured by the elite. It’s not uncommon to spot a few Russian and international celebrities at the funky, fusion-inspired eatery. Don’t forget to take a peek outside, too: the views of landmarks like the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour are as savoury as the food.
Also quintessentially Russian is a visit to a bathhouse, known as a banya. Known for their health benefits, it may sound strange to visit a sauna and steam room and be hit with branches – but that’s exactly what people do here, and have been doing for years!
There are many choices for banyas, but Sanduny is the oldest and most famous. It quickly becomes apparent when visiting: the sprawling complex looks like a palace, with gargantuan halls, marble stairways, and frescos and other fine art all around.
Aside from its architecture, Moscow is known for its culture, too. Even if you’re not a fan, the chance to take in a ballet or opera at the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre is a must-do. Just make sure to dress accordingly for this highest of high culture experience.
Going to one of the city’s circuses or gliding about (or at least trying not to fall!) at one of the many ice skating rinks are also fine cultural activities in Moscow. And like the city itself, odds are you’ll be very pleasantly surprised by what you experience.