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Moscow Basics

Moscow

If you’re expecting to find an oppressed gray city still reeling from its communist past, think again. Post-perestroika Moscow has embraced capitalism and is now a gilded playground for oil-rich tycoons and their fur-clad girlfriends, who dine at lavish 500-seat restaurants, dance the night away at VIP nightclubs and ride around in armored cars.

But look beyond the opulence, and you’ll discover that the Russian capital is in the midst of a cultural revolution. Contemporary museums and galleries are popping up on practically every corner. Avant-garde chefs are using organic ingredients to reinvent the national cuisine. Forward-thinking designers are putting their stamp on the fashion world. And all around, landmark performance venues, like the legendary Bolshoi Theater, are reopening after major renovations.

While this new creativity inspires, the sense of history you get from simply strolling around the center captivates. Stand in the middle of Red Square and take a look around. The red brick walls of the Kremlin, the iconic onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, the steps to Lenin’s Tomb and other testaments of the country’s imperial legacy and soviet past are everywhere.

Those craving a taste of Cold War espionage can even take an underground tour of the 17 miles of tunneling that make up Stalin’s Bunker, or check out the miniature cameras and guns at the KGB Museum.

Indeed, modern-day Moscow is a city of contrasts: Orthodox churches vie for space with Stalinist skyscrapers now housing luxury hotels, where you’ll want to stay.

The best way to see it all is to drop off your bags and hop on the stately metro. With so much to take in, it’s no wonder that many of the capital’s clubs, restaurants, shops and salons are open 24 hours a day. Moscow’s more than 12 million inhabitants aren’t wasting any time.

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