To Russia, with love
January 7, 2009 3:06 PM   Subscribe

A 48-hour layover end of January.
My first time in Russia.

Your recommendations for a great hotel (not necessarily a hostel) near a major public transport line and near the attractions + your recommendations for what to see, where to eat, where to go out (more like russian ballet than russian roulette) and where to go shopping (where can I buy a russian fur hat for a non-touristy price).

In sum, what to do for my first time in Moscow, alone, for 48 hours in freezing January weather?
I'm so insanely excited!!
posted by ruelle to Travel & Transportation around Russian Federation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What is your budget? Moscow is very expensive. :(
posted by nitsuj at 3:11 PM on January 7, 2009

Response by poster: Well, I'm not on a low budget, but obviously neither can I afford a champagne and caviar 4 star hotel.
I was thinking of something along the lines of a bed and breakfast in Moscow (if that exists). Something comfy, central, not insanely expensive... am I dreaming?
posted by ruelle at 3:17 PM on January 7, 2009

It might help to give an idea of the maximum you want to spend per day.
posted by languagehat at 4:30 PM on January 7, 2009

I tried to buy a fur hat when I lived in Kiev. It took me well over an hour walking among the sellers, asking questions and comparing answers, before I found one who seemed to be both telling me the truth about the wares (in terms of durability and the like) and offering me a normal price. And that was with me speaking fluently. If you do speak Russian, you may have a chance: Ask anyone for a рынок одежды (forgive my spelling, I'm only really literate in Ukrainian), and be ready to demonstrate your extreme skepticism and tenacity. Otherwise, hmm ... make friends with an honest local really really fast.

The good news is that the Moscow metro will get you around clean and cheap from many parts of town.
posted by eritain at 4:31 PM on January 7, 2009

I stayed at the Baltschug Kepenski which was right across the river from St.Basil's, Red Square and the Kremlin and the GUM shopping mall. The hotel is definitely really expensive but they took care of sponsoring us for the Russian visa and it was centrally located to the attractions.

There were dudes selling Russian hats for 10€ in front of the Kremlin and there were several other spots where people were selling them along with the Matryoshka dolls and whatnot. I didn't look at the quality so much.

My hotel was within walking distance of a Metro station and I took a ride on it during rush hour. Insane, packed with people, and the trains launch like a rocket. I felt safe in the area around the hotel and on the subway cruising around by myself. But my employer had hired a car service for our actual getting around town.

It was seriously cold there when I was there in during the first week of February. We got a nice tour of the city arranged by my company's Moscow office, but damn it was cold outside. I'd love to go back in the late spring and be able to enjoy the outside. I had a lot of work to do there and not much play time. I'd love to do more exploring.
posted by birdherder at 4:34 PM on January 7, 2009

Best answer: You need the Moscow guide from In Your Pocket, which is updated seasonally. I used their guide to Riga, Latvia, when I was living there, and it blew all the rest of them out of the water. Because it's written by locals and expats alike and updated so often, there's heaps of good, current info that non-Muscovites might not be able to help you with, and they don't do paid endorsements (other than ads). I can't speak to the Moscow guide itself, having only used the publisher's guides to other cities, but if it's even remotely similar, you won't be disappointed.

It's coat-pocket-sized (A5-ish?) and cheap, too - won't be more than $3-4, but you can plan everything in advance on their website and bring it all along with the free PDF version.

They've also got an "instant" Moscow version, which sounds a bit more your speed. It's available at one of the tabs at the top of the linked page.
posted by mdonley at 5:01 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know what you like, but Moscow has some great museums. The Pushkin Museum (and its associated Museum of Private Collections) and the Tretyakovskaya Gallery are both fantastic art museums, the State Historical Museum is awesome for history stuff, there are pretty cool army museums (one has a display case filled with Nazi Iron Crosses).

As far as shopping is concerned, you might try the numerous large markets, which are like the Puces in Paris but with new merchandise (usually). They're also fairly cheap, but it's been a long time since I've been back. There's a big one at Gorbushka (Bagrationovskaya subway stop, you can ask someone at the hotel, everyone knows where it is); growing up, I used to go to the one by the VDNKh (ВДНХ) subway station and the one on Prospekt Mira by the Rizhskaya station. I don't know if they're still around, though.

Gorky Park, off the "Park Kultury" subway stop, was one of my favorite places to go as a kid, so if you like nice parks you should check it out. (It's got a Ferris wheel and stuff too). Can't imagine it'll be as fun in winter, but it might be worth it anyway. Also, it's a bit of a trip, but Kuskovo is a beautiful eighteenth-century estate on the outskirts of Moscow--it's a great antidote to the dirty and noisy city, and there's a cool ceramics museum there too.
posted by nasreddin at 5:09 PM on January 7, 2009

Moscow has some great markets. You can buy all sorts there - from clothes and veg to decommissioned cosmonaut gear. Talk to the concierge at your hotel to get directions and tips.
posted by Grrlscout at 5:37 PM on January 7, 2009

This is hopefully obvious, but make sure your visa situation is in order.
posted by kickingtheground at 6:46 PM on January 7, 2009

Best answer: We were there this summer. Few points:
* If you want to see Lenin's Mausoleum, make it a top priority and get in line your first day. Only open monrnings, and closes for lots of reasons, so we missed it.
* The Armory Museum is part of the Kremlin complex but has a completely different entrance and ticketing system. Tickets go on sale about four times a day for about two minutes. You have to find the ticket booth outside - it's to the right of the Kremlin entrance as you face it, in a park area - and queue. The 200 tickets for a slot go on sale and are sold very quickly so get in line early, although in theory it's first-come, first served. The Armory is great, though.
* The subway metro stations are fantastic. Take in a bunch of them.
* For tourist/Soviet memorabilia go to Arbat Ulitsa (Arbat Street).
* There's not much English. Learn the Cyrillic alphabet so you can phonetically spell stuff out - "ah, that says Kremlin!"
posted by alasdair at 7:11 AM on January 9, 2009

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