I love trying to get a more authentic perspective on new places, I’ve always been the embarrassing tourist with a big camera and an even bigger map, who asks for directions to something like the Louvre while standing right next to it. I’ve now come to terms with my inner tourist, yet I was still mortified at being mistaken for a tourist when I moved back to Moscow, my hometown, after eight years of living abroad. So I took it upon myself to find that local Moscow, the fun, fascinating and often overlooked Moscow, and here’s what I found:
The Artsy Things
Winzavod is an art haven. My friend and I stumbled upon this winery-turned-art-center a couple of years ago when it wasn’t quite as popular as it is now. We fell in love with the exhibition halls named after the wines that were once made in them, the quirky and unusual exhibitions themselves, the graffiti wall that changes every so often, the hammock type benches in the courtyard, the relaxed atmosphere and the little café with the best lemonade in town. Whether you’re looking for a chilled afternoon people watching, or want to immerse yourself in art and culture, Winzavod is the perfect place.
The Foody Things
Squat Café is a misleading name; the food is great but the atmosphere is the real highlight. For the fellow picky eaters out there, Squat Café’s “puzzle menu” is the perfect solution – you pick exactly what ingredients you want in each of your dishes, essentially creating your own meal. While this does leave room for disaster, everything I’ve had there so far has been incredible, and for a really good price as well. The food isn’t the only wonderful thing about the café; the eclectic design definitely sealed the deal for me. From the “library” room lined with bookcases and plush chairs to the summer verandah covered in rather… raunchy comic book pictures, each room is a surprise and makes sure the café never gets old. It is, of course, also conveniently located in the centre of the city, which makes it the perfect break from crowds of tourists and sightseeing.
The Getting Around Issue
The Moscow Metro is my favorite mode of public transport, so I’m going to tell you now, forget buses and taxis – take the metro. If you want to get a taste of the real Moscow, go down into the beautiful, museum-like stations at rush hour. As you’re pushing your way through the crowd, dodging angry old ladies and avoiding the most painful of metro perils – the stiletto heels, don’t forget to stop, look up and around and admire the bronze statues, the frescoes and the stained-glass windows. The Moscow Metro is a work of art.
The Outdoorsy Things
Gorky Park is the perfect remedy for too many museums and an overdose of exhaust fumes. They’ve just recently renovated it, banished the sketchy looking rides, bought lots of giant bean bags and hammock type chairs and made ice cream readily available at every tree, bush and corner. What I love most about this park is that it manages to cater to all seasons – from Moscow’s stuffy, sweltering summers, to the ridiculous, freezing winters. There’s always something going on: from free art classes to festivals and an open-air cinema in the summer, to the biggest ice skating rink in the winter, complete with music, lights and mulled wine. With free entry and cheap-but-good food available everywhere throughout the park, it’s a prime spot for people watching and a relaxing afternoon.