From Russia, With Glitz and Glamour

The new Moscow blends history and vibrant modernity

By: By Carole Dixon


Getting There: 
Two international airports — Domodedovo or Sheremetevo-2 — serve Moscow. American Airlines recently launched nonstop flights from Chicago O’Hare International using Boeing 777 aircraft and serving Domodedovo.

What to Do:
If subways are too pedestrian for some clients, this contemporary art museum is worth visiting for a look into the booming modern art scene. 

Old Arbat
Moscow’s most famous pedestrian street offers traditional souvenirs including fur hats, religious icons and matryoshka dolls. You’ll find it just west of The Kremlin.

Where to Eat:
Always ask your concierge to reserve a table for you or put you on the guest list. Dress up and hope the doorman is in a good mood.

Cafe Pushkin 

27 Ulitsa Petrovka

Ulitsa Baltschug Dom 5
The decor at this new, $50 million, Versailles-style restaurant is over the top and the waitstaff dress in period costume, complete with white wigs and harps.
26 Tverskaya Blvd., Bldg. 5

Where to Stay:
Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow
A Park King room rate starts at $862. 

The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow
Double room rates start from $1,240; suites start at $5,000. 

When to Go:
Moscow winters are tough but can be adventurous if your clients are prepared for a solid snow pack and temperatures as low as 14 degrees. Winters last from November to March. Summertime — the busiest tourist season — begins in May and lasts through September, bringing warmer climes, lots of rain showers and high levels of humidity. Because of the humidity, early summer and early fall are often favored by visitors.

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The elevator of The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow whisked me up to the dramatic, glass-domed top floor with such velocity, I almost forgot about my jet lag. Apart from the vertigo, this was the ideal introduction to the capital city.

A view of Red Square from The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow  // (c) The Ritz-Carlton
A view of Red Square from The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow 

Moscow is perfect for a seasoned European traveler. Be warned: The entry visa includes a complicated application that asks for your life history; bring a resume for backup. Clients may find Moscow expensive and over-the-top, but there is nothing else like it for its history, culture, nightlife, food, fashion and art.

Clearly, this is no longer an impoverished, downtrodden city hiding behind old dictators and ideals. There’s still an air of espionage and intrigue, but now it seems adventurous. It was exciting to see a city on the cusp of such change and optimism. Moscow, it seems, is trying to shed its haunted history and is embracing its newly minted materialism.

The imperial Ritz-Carlton is the most glamorous, albeit expensive, hotel in the city, and you can’t top its location, views or services. For business clients, there is a well-appointed club floor and an ESPA spa. One-bedroom suites are large and sumptuous, with lots of gold-hued fabrics, oversized marble bathrooms, flat screen televisions, Wi-Fi and city views.

The property is decorated in grand splendor and boasts a prime location. Just across the street are Red Square, The Kremlin and the State Armory, home to the Romanov’s Faberge eggs. Colorful St. Basil’s Cathedral is set farther back. Lenin Mausoleum, Pushkin Museum and Bolshoi Theatre are also minutes away on foot.

While strolling, I took in a true Moscovite experience — a metro excursion. Subways — coined "the people’s palaces" because of the plentiful marble, mosaics, sculptures and chandeliers — were built under Stalin and are a sweeping display of Soviet architecture and design.

For a taste of la cuisine vitale, try The Ritz-Carlton’s Jeroboam by Heinz Winkler, a three-Michelin-starred chef. For a more traditional experience, head to Caviarterra, which also offers vodka tastings. I sipped a crystal-clear brand that was almost as smooth as water — the Beluga Gold Line — which costs $85 per bottle.

The hotel’s O2 Lounge is modern and hip, with red and gold egg-shaped chairs and white leather modular seating leading out onto the deck near the illuminated dance floor. Well-dressed Moscovites of all ages start the night here before heading to the clubs.

At midnight, we decided to party like locals and headed to Galereya, followed by GQ, where we observed beautiful model types dancing in the bar.

If you stay out till dawn, it’s a tradition to end up at the classic, 19th-century, three-story Cafe Pushkin for blinis (pancakes). Another option is The Ritz’ czar’s breakfast, complete with a Beluga caviar and Cristal spread.

While Moscow may have more bling and decadence than The Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, the new Russia is all about globalization, freedom and quality of life.