Sleep: Moscow

It might have a reputation as a hugely expensive destination, but Moscow's sumptuous sights are matched by an affordable range of hotels and hostels that enable you to gorge on history-laden culture, iconic architecture and finger-licking blinis.

By Daniel Allen
Published 1 Apr 2016, 09:00 BST, Updated 7 Jul 2021, 12:14 BST
Park Hyatt
Park Hyatt.

Tverskoy District

No other structures scream 'Russia!' to overseas visitors like the Tverskoy District's trio of iconic landmarks — the Kremlin, Red Square and St Basil's Cathedral. With its old architecture and new commerce, Tverskoy is all about sightseeing, shopping and high-end dining — 20-plus theatres also make it one of Moscow's cultural hubs. Venues range from the old-school Bolshoi Theatre to the Teatr.doc drama company in all its edgy glory.

Best for local sights: Peter 1 Hotel
Peter 1 boasts a location just down from the Park Hyatt (see right) on Neglinnaya. Opened in 2006, it's housed in a reconstructed late 19th-century neoclassical mansion. The hotel is less than five minutes from the Museum of Modern Art, sits opposite Verkhopetrovsky Monastery and is close to the Gulag Museum and Sandunovsky Baths.
Rooms: Doubles from £140, B&B.

Local hideaway: Petrovka Loft
Don't expect a amarble foyer, but for budget travellers, it's perfect. Set in a former Soviet apartment building close to the Gulag Museum, this superior hostel has four floors and no lift, and (spotless) communal showers, but the 10-minute walk to Red Square makes it a little gem.
Rooms: Doubles from £16, room only.

We recommend: Park Hyatt
Located right in the heart of Moscow, the Ararat Park Hyatt is just a few minutes' walk from the Kremlin and Saint Basil's Cathedral, and is a stone's throw from the Bolshoi Theatre, Parliament House, Moscow's central business district, and luxury shopping malls TsUM and GUM.

New York-based architect Tony Chi has endowed the Ararat with some of the most sumptuous accommodation in Moscow. Rooms here are crafted with luxury details and a hint of Asian flair. Red and black lacquered boxes for remote controls and utensils, Blaise Mautin toiletries and Murano glass artwork are all touches the discerning guest will appreciate.

Culture vultures should make a beeline for the Gregorian chapel, in what would be room 932. Decked out in white marble, its icon of the Virgin Mary still sees many locals come here to light candles and offer prayers.
Rooms: Doubles from £227, room only.

Zamoskvorechye District

The Zamoskvorechye ('beyond the Moskva River') District is a diverting mix of old and new. Steeped in tsarist history, it retains the veneer of old-school Stalinist glamour, with imposing facades and stately embankments. Despite the visual drama, most of the area is fairly quiet, providing an oasis of tranquillity in the heart of the capital. Highlights include the Tretyakov Gallery and stunning Novokuznetskaya metro station.

We recommend: Baltschug Kempinski
Situated in a building that once housed the studios of some of Russia's most famous artists, the Baltschug Kempinski offers unrivalled landmark views. With its classical 1898 facade, the hotel was the city's first five-star accommodation.

Following a 20th anniversary redesign in 2012, the new interiors provide a sophisticated ambience, and many rooms offer magnificent panoramas. The hotel's chief concierge — 'the Lady in Red' — never seems to leave her desk and is the fount of all city-wide knowledge.

The Kempinski's Baltschug Grill is one of the best places in Moscow to eat steak, while the Cafe Kranzler is perfect for coffee and pastries.
Rooms: Doubles from £179, room only.

Best for young couples: Crossroads Hotel
This comfortable and surprisingly stylish hotel sits on the embankment of the Moskva River, with many rooms offering great views of the water, waterfront and nearby city. The hotel's young complement of staff are friendly and most speak some English. The Paveletskaya metro station is a 15-minute walk away, giving easy access to nearby attractions such as Red Square, the Kremlin and Bolshoi Theatre.

If you're in the mood for pelmeni (dumplings) or pizza, the local area boasts numerous cafes, with the hotel offering a handy food delivery service. Espresso machines in the rooms are also a nice little touch, especially on dark winter mornings.
Rooms: Doubles from £40, B&B.

Best for value: Hotel Ibis Moscow Centre Bakhrushina
This cheerful, new and very reasonably-priced three-star hotel is located in the centre of Moscow, a five-minute walk from Paveletskaya metro station (convenient for Domodedovo Airport). Rooms are modern, stylish and well-appointed, and while it's more functional than exciting, it's well worth a stay. The Bakhrushina is part of an Accor complex, which also includes a four-star hotel and four-star 'aparthotel' — all services and amenities are shared.

The Bakhrushina is located in the centre of historical Zamskvorechye, close to shops, restaurants and nightlife. It's well worth checking the hotel website for advanced booking discounts.
Rooms: Doubles from £93, room only.

Meshchansky District

More relaxed than many of Moscow's other districts, Meshchansky covers a large swathe of the centre and is dominated by pre-revolutionary residential buildings in their uniform yellow. The district's busiest thoroughfare is Ulitsa Maroseyka, home to cafes, restaurants and upmarket boutiques. Other attractions include the Dome Cinema, MGU Botanical Garden and quirky Durov Animal Theatre. Chistoprudny Boulevard is great for leisurely walks.

We recommend: Savoy Moscow
Housed in an elegant Russian neoclassical building on picturesque Ulitsa Rozhdestvenka, the Savoy Moscow originally opened in 1913 and was a centre of Moscow literary life before the October Revolution in 1917. Today it's one of Moscow's most opulent hotels, particularly noteworthy for its small size and traditional approach to luxury. Through the years it has hosted such celebrated greats as Isadora Duncan, Luciano Pavarotti and Richard Gere.

Surrounded by exclusive boutiques and restaurants in the heart of Meshchansky District, the Savoy is a short walk from both the Bolshoi Theatre and Red Square, while Lubyanka and Kuznetskiy Most metro stations are close by.

But the Savoy Hotel's pièce de résistance is the Savoy Restaurant. One of Moscow's most elegant and famous dining rooms, it boasts a truly palatial rococo interior designed to mirror the elegance of Versailles, with its enormous chandeliers and frescoes, and a menu featuring Russian and European haute cuisine. After admiring the marble fountain with its shimmering goldfish, order a classic dish cooked in the restaurant's authentic Russian stove.
Rooms: Doubles from £104, room only.

Best for value: Godunov Hotel
Just down the road from the Bolshoi Theatre, this mid-range hotel is a good option for those seeking comfort without major expense. Served in the hotel cafe, the Godunov's excellent daily breakfast offers diners a range of tasty, traditional Russian options such as creamy kasha (porridge) and blini (pancakes) with butter and jam. After a hard day of sightseeing the Sandunovsky Baths are the perfect place to experience the joys of the Russian banya (sauna).
Rooms: Doubles from £63-73, room only.

Best for singletons: Hostel White Rabbit
A bargain basement option for those on a shoestring (beds from around £5 a night), the Hostel White Rabbit is not to be confused with the more upmarket restaurant of the same name. About 400m from Moscow's Olympic Stadium, it's well placed for the main landmark attractions and its well-equipped communal kitchen is a great place to mingle with a cosmopolitan crowd.
Rooms: Doubles from £20, room only.

Arbat District

One of Moscow's most famous neighbourhoods, the Arbat District is packed with world-class art museums and smaller, artist-dedicated galleries, not to mention the elaborate Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. A cobblestoned precinct lined with gift shops and cafes, and typically packed with portrait artists, poets and musicians marks the Old Arbat area beloved by many Muscovites. New Arbat is more modern, with glitzy shopping malls and myriad eateries.

We recommend: Savoy Moscow
Opened in early 2010, the Lotte Hotel Moscow is one of the Russian capital's most luxurious hotels and is the first European hotel from the Lotte chain, a South Korean hotel brand. Winning rave reviews, it has quickly risen to challenge its more established five-star competitors.

Situated at the junction of Ulitsa Novy Arbat and the Garden Ring, the Lotte Hotel Moscow is a couple of miles from the Kremlin, and a short walk from Ulitsa Arbat, a historic street with numerous visitor attractions, including souvenir stalls and street performers.

Rooms at the Lotte boast all the mod cons you'd expect, including high-tech Japanese-style toilets that double up as an IQ test with their programmable cleaning and heated seats. Tall ceilings and neutral colour palettes impart a soothing spaciousness, a feeling reinforced by the internal courtyard with its abundant greenery. The basket of succulent welcome fruit is a great touch, especially in the depths of winter.

Perhaps the best feature of the Lotte is its staff. Superbly trained and boasting faultless English, they offer genuinely outstanding service (friendly smiles all round) that contrasts starkly with that found in some other Moscow hotels.
Rooms: Doubles from £212, B&B.

Best for breakfast: Mercure Arbat Moscow
It's difficult to find quality mid-range stays in Moscow, so the recently opened Mercure Arbat represents a real step forward. This elegant four-star hotel is located in the centre of the Arbat District, a two-minute walk from Smolenskaya metro station. Serving French-Russian cuisine, the Mercure's La Promenade restaurant has received plaudits for its top notch food and service. Offering everything from smoked salmon and caviar to croissants, breakfast here is fantastic.
Rooms: Doubles from £55-140, room only.

Best for singletons: Privet Hostel
Claiming to be the biggest hostel in the centre
of Moscow, Privet is located in a former family house near Kurskaya metro station. Beds are comfortable, while the shared bathrooms are modern and well-maintained. Almost uniquely for a Moscow hostel, the Privet also has a cafe and bar, both of which are great for meeting fellow travellers. The bumper bag of unexpected amenities are rounded off nicely with a free gym and big screen movie theatre.
Rooms: Doubles from £28, room only.

Published in the April 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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