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Expensive and notoriously unfriendly, the hardened heart of the Russian Federation is an intimidating prospect for the traveller.


10:00 But look carefully between the ugly grey buildings and civilian frowns and you’ll find colourful bars, unexpected elegance and even the odd (if infrequent) sunny disposition. First, check in at Pushkin Hostel, a five-minute walk from Red Square. Here, you can bag a dorm bed for £16pn.

11:00 Head straight into the centre of the action at Red Square (Krasnaya pl). At the southern end is photogenic icon St Basil’s Cathedral.

Commissioned in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible, its colourful domes are said to represent the flame of a bonfire rising into the sky. Be sure to revisit in the evening to see how the colours become more vivid and snag that atmospheric nighttime snap. 

11:30 Another essential stop at Red Square is Lenin’s Tomb (Revolyutsii pl; admission free). Queue up at the northwestern corner to file past the revolutionary’s embalmed body, displayed in a glass case. 

12:30 Now duck into Gum, a glam department store that sports a grand 19th-century facade. Window-shop at its 1000 fancy stores (well, maybe not all of them), then recharge your batteries just around the corner at Bar 1920 , where you can fill up on sandwiches and pasta dishes for under a fiver.

14:30 In most cities you have to work hard to find underground art galleries, but in Moscow you can just buya ticket for the metro and take yourself on a tour of its halls.

The extravagant architecture includes acres of marble and sparkling chandeliers, making it the most sumptuous subway system you’re ever likely to see. Elektrozavodskaya, Kievskaya and Komsomolskaya are most impressive.

17:00 Head back towards Red Square and the Kremlin to find the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on the riverbank.

Once upon a time, this gold-domed cathedral was famous for commemorating Russia’s victory over Napoleon, but has gained new notoriety for being where punk band Pussy Riot performed the anti-Putin prayer that landed them in jail.

It’s been a hard day’s sightseeing. Now sit down and relax with the Moscow hipsters at Kv44, an old-apartment-turned-cheap-bistro where the decor sets you in Soviet-era Moscow and their awesome aubergine cream soup comes in a hollowed-out hunk of bread.

20:00 Start (and possibly end) your night at The Real McCoy, a 24-hour ‘bootlegger’s bar’. It’s the kind of dive that’s custom-made for a disgraceful evening. Try their pint-sized cocktails at about £7 a pop.



Discover Moscow in 48 hours: From exploring the Red Square to traditional bathhouses and the Bolshoi Theatre
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