Consumerism not communism: The capital of the bygone Soviet Union is now one of the most expensive cities on earth, where the moneyed upper classes gather in exclusive bars, clubs and department stores - and at their own millionaire fairs.
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Pure luxury: GUM, delicatessen shops and Millionaire Fair
GUM luxury mall
Moscow’s most up-market shopping mall is also the largest in the country. It first opened in Tsarist Russia, was closed in the wake of the October Revolution of 1917, but later reopened with a secret department where the Soviet élite could purchase much-coveted Western commodities that were otherwise all but unobtainable anywhere in the country. Today, shoppers will find around 200 luxury stores at GUM, some of them incredibly high-priced, and some less exclusive ones on the third level, too.
GUM: Krasnaya Ploshchad 3 (Red Square), Tel.: +7-495/788 43 43, www.gum.ru/en/. Opening times: 10am-10pm.
The magnificent art nouveau interior of the spacious sales area alone exudes luxury and opulence. Yelisseyevsky is an old established delicatessen that sells the finest specialty foods in Moscow (as well as more everyday, albeit often overpriced foods). This gourmet temple first opened in 1901, was quickly nationalized in the wake of the Bolshevik coup - and has today been restored to its former glory.
Yelisseyevsky: Tverskaya uliza 14, Tel.: +7-495/650 46 43, eliseevskiy.ru/eng/ (Russian and English)
Racing cars and racehorses, up-market villas and exquisite watches, jewels, yachts and jets. Cheap bargains are hardly on the cards at the Millionaire Fair in Moscow. But there’s no shortage of buyers; after all, Moscow is home to tens of thousands of millionaires and dozens of billionaires, in terms of US dollars. Luckily, there’s no need to be a millionaire to take a peek at the exclusive goods on show at the fair because 30 euros will gain anyone admission.
Artists, theatre and a breathtaking view
In contrast to the Millionaire Fair, looking costs nothing at Winzavod, the former winery! The industrial buildings around Kursk Station are rapidly becoming a first-rate art center, and those in the know are already likening it to New York’s Chelsea district. Winzavod does also offer visitors the opportunity to spend lavishly, though, since it has already attracted some of Russia’s biggest gallery names, including Aidan, M&J Guelman and XL.
Winzavod: 4th Syromyatnichesky pereulok 1, Building 6, +7-495/917 46 46, www.winzavod.com. Opening times: daily 11am-9pm, galleries daily except Mon, roughly 12 noon through 8pm.
Yet another exclusive - and at the same time relatively affordable - experience can be had at the legendary Bolshoi Theater. Ballet tickets cost roughly as much as they do in western European and North America, the theater and opera tickets here are actually cheaper. The theater is currently undergoing renovation (and probably at least through 2011) so that performances take place on the Novaya Scena (new stage) in an adjoining building.
Bolshoi Theater: Teatralnaya Ploshchad 1, +7-495/250 73 17, www.bolshoi.ru/en/.
City Space Bar & Lounge
Even if this bar on the 34th floor of Swissôtel Krasnye Holmy is allegedly one of the best in the world, cocktails and long drinks soon fade into the background given the breathtaking panoramic view of magnificent Moscow spread out at your feet as you sip. A stylish way to end a luxurious day!
City Space Bar & Lounge in Swissôtel Krasnye Holmy: Kosmodamianskaya nab. 52, Tel.: +7-495/221 53 57, www.swissotel.com (Swissôtel website). Opening times: daily 5pm-3am.
Pictures: Corbis (3), getty images (2), PR (2)