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When in Moscow...

If you ever find yourself in Moscow for just one day, and if you happen to have a couple of kids with you as well, you might feel intimidated by the enormousness of the Russian capital and just decide to chill out, aka hang out at the hotel. However, as we found out, you don’t have to do it at all. You can still have lots of fun and – get that! – you can even take a peek at most of Moscow’s impressive sights and not feel horribly tired afterwards.

So if you are going to Moscow, or if you simply would like to find out what’s new up there, jump on board the plane with us and let’s fly!

Once landed, please DO NOT hire a taxi from guys who come up to you straight after you go through the Customs. It might seem like a no-brainer to you, but these guys look much more legit than they did, say, ten years ago. They are dressed in crisp white shirts and wear formal name tags, they carry neat yellow folders with taxi prices listed on letter-head stationary, they are clean-shaven and they smell nice. They will, however, rip you off shamelessly and make you wonder, “How much did I just spend on this cab?” But alas, it will be too late, because you have already paid for it and all you have to do is live with this shame for the rest of your life. The taxi from Domodedovo Airport to Novotel Hotel in the new Moscow Business Center cost us… attention - $186 US dollars. You must be thinking right now that I am not that bright. Come to think of it, you are probably right. Buy I figured that if you are like me:

- a Russian, hence firmly believing that nobody can fool me in my own country;

- a Russian who has been living abroad for quite a while, hence feeling somewhat displaced when you actually do come back to Russia;

- have your entire family with you, which makes you scatter-brained anyway – intensified tenfold when in a hectic airport environment;

- without a cell phone that works in Russia and without your usual lightning-speed addictive connection to the world-wide web;

- feeling completely frazzled by the recent changes in ruble-to-dollar rate – and yes, the prices are quoted in rubles…

… then you might want to remember this story forever and not let this happen to you!

So here we were, heading towards our chic hotel in the new Moscow-City, in the taxi that cost us more than a night at that gorgeous hotel. My husband Chris kept shooting me mortifying glares from the back seat, I was doing and re-doing frantic math in my flushed mind, and an entirely new and sun-kissed Moscow was zooming behind the window glass. We swore to each other that we would never tell anybody about it, so I decided to share the story with the whole world – just to make sure that it happens to as few people as possible.

So, if you speak Russian, click here and see the list of the taxis you can take (the list also includes phone numbers). If you don’t speak Russian, head over to the large Information Desk in the center of the lobby and ask them to call you a cab. For your reference, the transfer service from any of the airports to the city should cost you from 20 to 40 USD max, not more. It would also be helpful to have a cell phone that you can use in Russia. I bought one of these small and cheap basic phones and a local SIM card, and everything from then on was a breeze.

Stay at Novotel Hotel in Moscow-City

There’s lots to see and do in Moscow, and some may disagree with me on our choice of accommodation. But we were there for just one day, and we figured we’d check out the newborn Moscow-City – with its daring skyscrapers reaching towards the clouds and boldly glittering in the sunshine.

It is more of a business hotel, but our kids loved it, too. Plus, it’s just a five-minute walk away from the gorgeous AfiMall City mall with over 350 shops, 50 cafes and a really cool movie theater. Conveniently, the new Delovoy Tsentr metro station is also just a five-minute walk from the hotel – and believe me, if you are going to check out Moscow, you’ll have to use the subway. You can find the most updated map of the Moscow subway right here.

On our first night in the Russian capital, we walked over to the mall and had a super-nice dinner out on the balcony and gawked at the orange sherbet of the sun setting above the glittering glass ceiling of the mall.

Afterwards, exhausted and still suffering from plane-legs (a feeling as if the ground is swaying under your feet as a result of four flights in a row, including a Transatlantic one), we strolled to our stylish room and promptly fell asleep in oh-so-sweet comfort of the Novotel beds.

Check out Gorky Park

Jump on the subway and check out the renovated Gorky Park. My British-American husband loves it and compares it to Hyde Park in London. To me, it’s a perfect combination of old Russia and new Russia – you can remember the good old days of our childhood and enjoy a corn on the cob sold in the plush-green alleys of the park or chill out in fun and hip lounge chairs by the pond. You can let your kids run around at the colorful playground and take in the serene scenery of the shimmering lake with young artists working hard on capturing this precious moment. Or you can close your eyes and feel the fresh summer wind play with your hair.

Walk out onto the embankment – straight from the Gorky Park – and get on the Radisson boat cruise down Moscow River. We did not plan on it, it just randomly happened for us – but it was the best course of events in our scenario. We boarded the 4:30 pm cruise, which lasted 1,5 hours, cost us 650 rubles for an adult (just over $10 at the current exchange rate; 450 rubles for a child, and free for kids under 5) and made it possible for us to see a lot of the main Moscow sights. Well, you can see for yourselves – all these pictures were taken from the boat.

You are also welcome to enjoy a beautiful lunch or dinner, when on board, which makes the experience delicious and truly unforgettable. You can find the full cruise schedule here, and the maps of the routes here.

And finally – do make a stop at the Red Square to watch the sunset. After a long day out in the Gorky Park and on the Moscow River, we almost did not go there – but looking back on it, I am really happy we did. Moscow is absolutely stunning with its main architectural sights enveloped in the translucent veil of the setting sun, with the multicolored candy domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral flashing on the horizon, and the chatter of tired, but happy shoppers enjoying their steaming cappuccinos in the GUM sidewalk cafes.

This is how our one-day Moscow adventure came to an end. If you would like to see more of the magnificent Russian capital, check out this cool modern timelapse video. It's one of my husband's favorites and I dig it, too.

After our short visit to Moscow (which was just the necessary stop-over – but we made the best of it!), we hopped on board of the Sapsan high-speed train to check out the Northern capital of Russia, St. Petersburg. Stay tuned – more on that in my future posts!



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