International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Russia’s capital is experiencing a burst of creative energy. Former factories are now galleries, while wine and sushi bars bring variety to the dining scene. Even history is being examined in new ways as museums broach subjects long ignored.
Kremlin means citadel, and the first wall around Moscow was built in the 1150s. It later became the headquarters of the Russian Church, but the walls, towers and three cathedrals you see today were commissioned by Ivan the Great in the 15th century (00 7 495 202 3776; kreml.ru; Alexandrovsky Garden; 9.30am-4pm, Fri-Wed; £6).
Vladimir Lenin's embalmed body lies in a mausoleum on Red Square, where a queue of pilgrims wait to see the waxy figure. The burial places of Stalin, Brezhnev and other heavy-hitters can be found along the Kremlin wall (00 7 495 623 5527; Red Square; 10am- 1pm, closed Mon and Fri; free).
Nothing short of spectacular, the State Tretyakov Gallery holds the world's best collection of Russian icons, as well as a collection of other pre-revolutionary Russian art (00 7 495 951 1362; tretyakov gallery.ru; 10 Lavrushinsky Lane; 10am-5.30pm Tue-Sun; £5).
The Art Muzeon Sculpture Park is home to a collection of Soviet statues - Brezhnev, Stalin and Lenin - put out to pasture when they were taken down post-1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. They've been joined by modern art (00 7 499 238 3396; ul Krymsky val 10; 9am-9pm; £2).
The oldest and most luxurious banya (public bath) in the city is the Sanduny Baths. The Gothic Room has rich woodcarving and the shower room has a Roman feel to it (00 7 495 628 4633; sanduny.ru; Neglinnaya ul 14; 8am-10pm; £13).
Eat and drink
The queue often runs out the door at Volkonsky Keyser , as loyal patrons wait their turn for the city's best fresh-baked breads, pastries and pies. Try the fruit-filled croissant and olive bread. Pastry in tow, head next door for a coffee (00 7 495 699 4620; Bolshaya Sadovaya ul 2/46; lunch; pastries £4-£9).
Suliko is cited as the city's most authentic Georgian restaurant. The menu features Caucasian dishes, such as khachapuri (cheesy bread) topped with an egg. The interior evokes the countryside, with hanging vines (00 7 495 238 2888; ul Bolshaya Polyanka 42/2; mains £5-£12).
On the top floor of the Nautilus shopping centre sits the tiny Loft Café with its small terrace. Innovative, modern dishes fuse the best of Russian cuisine with Western and Asian influences, like grilled salmon with spinach, pine nuts and caviar (00 7 495 933 7713; Nikolskaya ul 25; lunch and dinner; mains from £21).
Café Pushkin offers a blend of Russian and French cuisines, such as dumplings stuffed with salmon. The 19th-century building has a richly decorated library and a rooftop café (00 7 495 739 0033; cafe-pushkin.ru; Tverskoy bul 26a; lunch and dinner; mains £8-£25).
The chefs at Red Square 1 are real historians, successfully recreating dishes enjoyed in the days of yore, complete with old-fashioned ingredients such as sturgeon and serpent grass (00 7 495 692 1196; redsquare.ru; State History Museum, Krasnaya pl 1; lunch and dinner; mains £20-£30).
Yellow Blue Bus is all about the love (Ya lyublyu vas means 'I love you' in Russian). It's a fun hostel-cum-hotel, though the informal atmosphere may be a bit lackadaisical for some. The spacious private rooms are in a separate flat nearby and are kitted out with plush purple furniture and oriental rugs (00 7 495 250 1364; 4-ya Tverskaya- Yamskaya ul 5, apt 8; from £20).
The Danilovskaya Hotel is in the grounds of the 12th-century monastery of the same name. The setting includes 18th-century churches and well-maintained gardens. The five-storey hotel was built so that most of the rooms have a view of the grounds (00 7 495 954 0503; danilovsky.ru; 5 Bul Starodanilovsky per; from £115).
Located two metro stops from Red Square, the Ozerkovskaya Hotel offers (relative) value for money. The 27 rooms are simply decorated, but parquet floors and queen-sized beds put it above the other standard post-Soviet accommodation (00 7 495 959 2327; cctr.ru; Ozerkovskaya nab 50; from £145).
Assambleya Nikitskaya Hotel offers a superb location, reasonable prices (for Moscow) and Russian charm. While the rooms are newly renovated, it preserves an old-fashioned atmosphere, with heavy drapes and linens (00 7 495 933 5001; assambleya-hotels.ru; Bolshaya Nikitskaya ul 12; from £165).
A classical edifice fronts the street, but the interior of the Golden Apple is sleek. Rooms are minimalist in style - subdued whites and greys punctuated by designer furniture and lights. Heated bathroom floors and down-filled duvets add luxury (00 7 495 980 7000; goldenapple.ru; ul Malaya Dmitrovka 11; from £225).