Uncover Hidden Treasures of Moscow
From Café Pushkin to another Kremlin which is not on Red Square
There are so many things to do and places to visit in Moscow. So, please, don’t limit yourself to what a normal guest usually sees in the capital of Russia, I mean, pop tourist attractions such as Red Square, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Moscow Kremlin Museums, Tretyakov Gallery and The Bolshoi Theatre. When all must-sees are crossed out from your list, you can breathe a sigh of relief, because now it’s the time for you to feel the real Moscow and add some remarkable details to the whole picture.
There’s alternative Moscow — gorgeous, luxurious, extravagant, mysterious, hip and elegant. We would suggest some attractive options to make your stay in Moscow unforgettable.
Stunning Café Pushkin
Want to feel like a nobleman of the 19th century and be treated properly? If you search for impeccable service, traditional Russian cuisine and outstanding interiors in Moscow, then it’s the right choice. This five-star restaurant works 24/7, so don’t worry about the time but it’s better to book your table in advance (the staff speaks good English).
What usually comes first to our foreign friend’s minds when they first hear the surname ‘Pushkin’, is not the image of famed Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, but rather General Pushkin from the 15th James Bond series The Living Daylights. That’s a pity because Pushkin is considered as a founder of the modern Russian language (his contribution to Russian culture is comparable to that of Shakespeare’s). To learn more about this outstanding personality and to see him face-to-face just come to Moscow Off the Beaten Path city walk.
But still, why Pushkin and not Tolstoy Café, for example? The answer is simple — it’s due to the neighborhood; just across the road, there is Pushkin Square with the cognominal monument and underground station. However, the story behind the creation of this Café is very captivating.
It’s a baroque mansion of the 19th century built by a retired nobleman who was at the service of Empress Catherine the Great. The second owner of this house was a German aristocrat who had financial troubles and was almost bankrupt. What helped him to survive was the idea of opening a pharmacy in the same building. Later, on the ground floor, appeared a small café where clients were served different beverages (tea, coffee, hot chocolate) while waiting for their medicines to be ready. In the same period, a library was installed on the upper and mezzanine floors. The collection consists of more than three thousand books including works of Alexander Pushkin, of course.
Now it’s time to add some romantic spirit to our story. In the 1960s a renowned French chansonnier Gilbert Bécaud performed in the USSR. His local guide inspired him to write a song about his impressions of Moscow called ‘Nathalie’. Here are its main lines: “We are walking around Moscow, visiting Red Square, and you are telling me learned things about Lenin and the Revolution, but I’m thinking, ‘I wish we were at Café Pushkin, looking at the snow outside the windows. We’d drink hot chocolate, and talk about something completely different…’”. The song became a hit not only in France but worldwide and the first thing that foreigners would ask after their arrival to Moscow back at the time was: “Where is Café Pushkin?”. As we already know, it existed only in the poetic mind of Bécaud. Only in 1999, the café opened its doors to the public making the wish of all foreigners come true. By the way, the chansonnier himself was singing (guess, which song) at the opening ceremony.
*Among the most famous people who visited Pushkin Café were Halle Berry, Luc Besson, Cher, Steven Seagal, Will Smith, and others.
One More Kremlin? Seriously?
Unlike its older brother, Izmailovsky Kremlin is less known among foreigners. It’s located far from the city center but it’s definitely worth visiting. Why in the past our ancestors were obsessed by building kremlins (there is one in Tula, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Astrakhan, Tobolsk, etc.)? Simply because they wanted to protect their towns from frequent raids (kremlin means fortress or citadel). Izmailovsky Kremlin is an exception from the rule; built-in 2007, it doesn’t serve for protection but for the cultural development. Today it looks like a typical European marketplace inside. You can find here everything from traditional souvenirs to retro objects from the Soviet past. There are also three cool museums on its territory: vodka museum, bread museum, and folk art museum.
Not long ago, in 2017, Izmailovsky Kremlin established collaboration with Flacon-X and now it hosts Vernissage, one of the modern art-clusters in Moscow. Here you can find vintage clothes, utensils, furniture, one of the best regular flea-market at weekends, cozy cafés and more.
Eager to know more about life in the USSR, Cold War, Joseph Stalin and other important figures of Russian history? This is the place to step back into the past and feel the real Soviet atmosphere. “Bunker – 42” is a real bomb shelter and former strategic object right in the center of Moscow. It opened its doors after the command center was transferred in a safer place and now functions as a museum. Pay a visit to this special historical monument and let your imagination run wild.
Dear reader, thanks for your interest and time and stay tuned for more cool stories and useful tips in our blog!
by Maria Daianova, Moscow tour guide