Visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg

We just spent 5 days in Russia shopping for vintage finds and taking in the sights.  Here's our picks for where to shop and eat outside of the usual tourist destinations.

Moscow

Moscow is a huge metropolitan city and, there is a lot of art and hipster culture and many different neighborhoods to explore. We spent 3 days there and only scratched the surface of what the city has to offer.  Here's a few highlights:

Cafe Pushkin

Pushkin Cafe

The patisserie of famed Cafe Pushkin is like a pastel jewelry box with pale turquoise walls and chandeliers. Their speciality is the hot chocolate which is pure melted chocolate in a cup blended table side, but save room for the desserts too. The black currant macarons were the best I've ever had--the filling was so intense and moist.  Ordering a pot of tea is an event, a cart is rolled over and the tea sommelier provides an education in preparing a perfect cup of tea from smelling the leaves, to getting the water to the right temperature and oxidizing it with a high-speed swirl that leaves a pocket to drop the tea into. And, the great thing is that it's open 24 hours so you can get your sugar fix any time the mood strikes.

Address: Tverskoy Boulevard, 26

Pinch Restaurant

In the upscale Patriarch's Pond neighborhood, Pinch restaurant prepares fresh California-style cuisine. My favorite was the farm-raised chicken with quinoa and fresh spinach. You can watch your food being prepared in the open kitchen and during the summer the windows open so you can sit on the sidewalk and watch the well-heeled passerby's.

Address: Bol'shoy Palashevskiy Pereulok, 2

Katya Dobryakova

Katya Dobryakova Store

Across the street from Pinch restaurant is the Moscow outpost of Russian fashion designer Katya Dobryakova who also has a shop in NYC. Her fun, graphic designs grace everything from t-shirts, and denim jackets to bags and dresses.

Address: Bol'shoy Palashevskiy Pereulok, 1/14 с 1

Sofio Gongli

INDEXFlat

This boutique is located in the back of a residential complex not far from busy Arbat Street and carries an amazing selection of unique pieces and up and coming designers that is a must visit. I purchased a hand knit sweater from Georgian artist Sofio Gongli, but there were so many tempting pieces.  The great news is that they ship internationally so you don't even have to visit Moscow to shop!  Follow them on instagram @indexflat.

Address: Starokonyushennyy Pereulok, 41 стр. 3

Izmailovsky Market

 

This weekend flea market takes place on the grounds of a giant replica Tsar's castle which reminded me of Disneyland.  At the entrance are vendors selling the typical tourist souvenirs like Matryoshka dolls and faux fur hats,, but continue through those stalls to the back of the market and upstairs on the second floor of the wooden castes where you can find true antiques and locals laying out blankets to sell old clothes and knick knacks.  The setting is worth a visit alone just for the fantastical element. We found more interesting vintage wares here than at the Levsha market and it's closer to the city center (about 20 minutes by subway).  Stay tuned for some amazing embroidered Ukranian dresses we brought back!

Address: Parkovaya Street, 3, 24

Levsha Flea Market

Levsha Flea Market Moscow

About 30 km north of Moscow, this weekend flea market is one of the oldest in Moscow.  It's a trek to get up there (about an hour by taxi or public transport), but this is definitely an authentic flea market not a tourist destination.  At the entrance to the Levsha market are more established sellers selling antiques, but as you branch out from there are a lot of stands selling low-quality second hand clothing that's not super interesting. We managed to find a couple things--a few vintage Russian scarves and old lacquer box, but don't have high expectations about what you can find there it's definitely more of an overall experience.

Address: Novoskhodnenskoye Hwy., 166, Moscow 141400

Flocon Design Loft

North of the city center, but easily accessible by metro, the Flocon Design Loft is a large collection of warehouses that have been converted into stores and restaurants.  Many of the shops focus on US brands, but there are a few like Laser B. selling Russian streetwear.  The site itself is cool to see and lots of good spots for instagram selfies. There's a vegan cafe which sells raw treats and kombucha. There's also an output of the Russian bookstore Respublica here where you can pick up some interesting souvenirs like Moscow canvas totes with cool designs.

Getting Around

Moscow has a great subway system and that's a great way to get around the city if you don't mind doing some walking.  The subway stations themselves are interesting to see and they are very clean and safe.  Alternatively, you can install the Yandex taxi app (Uber and Yandex merged) and go by car.  There's also scooter and bike rentals for the more adventurous.

The easiest way to get from Moscow to St. Petersburg is by train. The high-speed train puts you there in just 4 hours. You can purchase tickets online at www.rzd.ru. For economy seats it's best to purchase well in advance, but you can find last minute seats available in business class or first class.

Where to Stay

There are lots of options in Moscow and if money is no object the Four Seasons or historic Hotel National are located right across from the Kremlin and Red Square in the city center.  However, for a mid-range option that offers high-design at a reasonable price we recommend PR Myasnitsky Boutique Hotel. It's about a 20 minute walk from here to Red Square. The hotel is located in a lively neighborhood filled with bars and cafes and the hotel itself features exquisite loft-style rooms and friendly staff.

St. Petersburg

Much smaller in scale that Moscow it is easier to walk everywhere in St. Petersburg and there is beauty everywhere you turn.  Just touring the Hermitage museum alone could take several days, but outside of the must-do tourist sites, there is also a vibrant food and art scene in St. Petersburg that is worth exploring.  Here are some of our top picks.

Golitsyn Loft

Golitsyn Loft

This former factory building houses so many different cafes, restaurants and shops you could easily get lost in here for an afternoon. Things tend to get going late, but if you are up early the Doris Day cafe is a great place to start your day with a pastry and coffee.  Several of the cafes have terraces overlooking the canal which is a great place to spend an afternoon.

Check out Ziferburg an anti-cafe  where you pay for time spent, rather than product.  There are a couple vintage shops, a ceramic studio and more.  This was one of my highlights of St. Petersburg.

Address: Fontanka river embankment, 20

GATE31

Founded in St. Petersburg in 2015, this modern clothing brand carries beautiful high-quality minimalist clothing at a reasonable price point.  You can find branches of GATE31 in both St. Petersburg and Moscow.  

Address: Bolshoy Prospekt, 86 

CoCoCo Restaurant

kokoko restaurant

This restaurant  is a must do for inventive takes on Russian classics.  The ingredients are fresh and high-quality. The desserts were amazing, so definitely save room.  I had the "piggy bank" which came with chocolate coins to be inserted before breaking open the white chocolate exterior to reveal the strawberry mousse inside.

Address: Voznesensky Ave, 6

Gostroli

This neighborhood restaurant has a nice outdoor patio and serves great classic comfort food.  The nicoise salad was fantastic.

Address: Ulitsa Pestelya, 7, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191028

Where to Stay

There are plenty of options close to the city center, but we highly recommend DOM Boutique Hotel that is located on a quiet street along the river. It's a 5 minute walk to Golitsyn Loft from here and about 15-20 minute walk to the main tourist destinations. We love the aesthetics and design of this hotel from the all-black lobby to our room which was a pink jewel box.

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