Welcome to my place ... Moscow
Irish lawyer Hannah McCarthy on the joys of Gorky Park, Georgian bread and going underground
Hannah McCarthy in Moscow
Hannah McCarthy is a 27-year-old lawyer based in Moscow. She grew up in Dublin and lived in the US and the UK before moving to Moscow
Where is the first place you bring people when they visit Moscow?
The first thing people usually want to see when they arrive in Moscow is Red Square. I would often take them across the river and along by the Kremlin, which, depending on the time of day and year can be thronged with tourists or completely empty. Red Square is enclosed by the famous St Basil’s Cathedral, the Historical Museum of Russia, the Kremlin and Gum, a high-end department store and Moscow’s equivalent of Harrods. After walking around the square I would usually take people to have a coffee in the Bosco Cafe in Gum, or to have some of the store’s famous ice-cream – Russians are obsessed with ice-cream, and there are ice-cream carts all over the city.
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost (much) money, are ...
Take the metro. Moscow has some of the most beautiful metro stations in the world. They were originally intended to showcase Soviet design and serve as palaces for the people. This has resulted in some impressive public spaces and artwork. The trains are very regular and always clean – a welcome change from the underground and subway in London and New York.
Whether you visit Moscow in the winter or the summer, Gorky Park is a great place to go to. In winter the park is home to the largest ice-skating rink in Europe – the ice-skating route winds around paths and has little bars and cafes dotted along it. There are speakers playing music and lights in all the trees, so there is a real buzz at night-time. During the summer, there are plenty of Muscovites dancing, rollerblading or skateboarding, and lots of nice cafes and restaurants. I recommend the cafe 8oz for a relaxed coffee, looking on to one of the pond’s in Gorky Park; while Pho, right by the river, is great for watching people salsa dancing in the evenings or boats cruising along the river.
A morning or evening swim in the outdoor pool at the Chaika sports complex is also a great thing to do while visiting Moscow. The pool was built in the 1950s and is an excellent example of Soviet design for community spaces. You will find groups of people of all ages getting their daily exercise there. If you are visiting Moscow during the winter, swimming in an open-air pool may be a less appetising prospect – although ice swimming during February (when temperatures drop to about minus 25 degrees) is a tradition of the Orthodox Church in Russia.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a sense of Moscow?
The interior of restaurant and wine bar Kvartira 44 is designed to look like the inside of a pre-Soviet-era apartment. The restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere, good food and often has a piano or jazz band playing during the week and is definitely worth a visit after a day of site-seeing in Moscow. And a visit to a good Georgian restaurant like Visota 5642 is also always worthwhile during a visit to Moscow. Make sure to try Khachapuri, the delicious, traditional Georgian bread, which often includes eggs or cheese and is one of the best features of eating out in Moscow and the Caucasus in general.
On the more expensive end of the restaurant spectrum is the famous White Rabbit restaurant, which provides a good sense of high-end Moscovite taste and fashion. The restaurant is located on the roof of a skyscraper, so it has excellent views of the city, and it is well worth making a reservation so that you can watch the sunset while enjoying your dinner.
Where is the best place to get a sense of Moscow’s place in history?
A cruise down the river in Moscow, which takes you past the Kremlin, the Cathedral of Our Saviour, and as far as the Soviet-era Moscow State University campus, is a great way to see the variety of architecture in Moscow. When you get off at the Moscow State University campus, you will find a beautiful view of the city. If you visit Moscow during the Victory Day celebrations in May, there is a big fireworks display, and there will be crowds of people watching the sky from the campus.
What should visitors save room for in their suitcase after a visit to Moscow?
Unfortunately, Khachapuri would not last very long in a suitcase; otherwise I would recommend buying tea. Contrary to popular belief, Russians are not huge drinkers, and you will often find people drinking tea in bars and restaurants at night time. My favourite tea is made from Seabuckthorn berries and is delicious and fruity – definitely a change from milky cups of Barry’s.
If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live overseas, please email your answers to the five questions above to firstname.lastname@example.org, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We would love to hear from you