We are often asked by travellers about “non-tourist” places and activities, used only by locals. We love to share this insider information, but it’s not enough just to know where to go. It is crucial to know why it is so popular with locals and what you are supposed to do there. Since we’ve been asked too many times, we decided to make a full article about it. Read it and turn a visit into an experience!
- Use public transport: it’s cheap and convenient.
Honestly, you won’t have any troubles using Uber either (apart from being stuck in Moscow traffic jams), but public transport is cheap and convenient in both capitals. We love taking a trolleybus ride when in Moscow, especially around the Garden Ring: you don’t have to go down in the subway and you take advantage of beautiful views outside. When in St Petersburg you can’t go wrong with a full ride along Nevsky Avenue: board at Alexander Nevsky Lavra and go all the way up to Palace square to contemplate all its beauties at your leisure.
When going on longer distances, take the subway: apart from being the fastest way of travelling, the vestibules are worth seeing as well. We even included a visit to Moscow subway into our Red Capital Tour, while you can read about St Petersburg metro in another post of ours. When using the subway in Moscow never stand on the left-hand side of the escalator, even when you’re going down: the pace of life here is furious, people run all the time up or down the left-hand side. When on the subway in St Petersburg, read your favourite book: you will look like a typical local.
As for the fee, a one-way ticket on all transport in Moscow is 55 RUR ($0.9) and 45 RUR and 40 RUR for St Petersburg subway and land transport respectively. It will be even cheaper if you purchase a transport card: “Troika” in Moscow and “Podorozhnik” in St Petersburg. Apart from giving you better rates on public transport (for instance, metro ride in St Petersburg with “Podorozhnik” will cost you only 36 RUR), it opens some convenient perks for travelers: with “Troika” card you may also pay for a ticket in Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow Zoo and AeroExpress trains, without having to wait at the ticket office line. You may get more details on official websites of Moscow and St Petersburg transport authorities.
We love taking a trolleybus ride when in Moscow, especially around the Garden Ring: you don’t have to go down in the subway and you take advantage of beautiful views outside. When in St Petersburg you can’t go wrong with a full ride along Nevsky Avenue.
Tip: try to avoid rush hours, as from 8 am to 11 am and from 4 pm to 7 pm, you will get no pleasure on the public transport. Transport cards can be bought and credited with a necessary amount of money at any subway station in both capitals.
- Dine out in Georgian or Asian cuisine restaurants
Although all of us do love traditional home-made dishes from our moms’ recipe book, we don’t usually go to Russian cuisine restaurants (in general). Only a tourist, a businessman trying to impress another businessman or a mafia member would go for an occasional dinner in a restaurant like Palkin or F. M. Dostoevsky (although, they are a very good option for a business lunch or a special occasion celebration). The dwellers of Russian capitals lost interest towards classy Russian style restaurant, which existed at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Maybe they seem to smell like flake-camphor fur coats for them, or they symbolise a posh long-passed epoch when dinner in a restaurant was a privilege of the top class of society.
Only a tourist, a businessman trying to impress another businessman, or mafia members would go for an occasional dinner in a classy Russian style restaurant, which holds an atmosphere of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Italian and French cuisine and wines set the standard and won the hearts of new Russians, as the most exquisite symbols of good taste and abundance. In the early 2000s, the wind of change brought an invasion of sushi followed by burger madness. Now the tastes changed again.
Craving for burgers might still be there (the style of restaurants changed from budget fast food to rustic masculine lofts on the outside and best crafted Angus beef on the inside), while the sushi trend turned into Pan Asian Cuisine trend. A new player also stepped out from a shadow of post-soviet lands: Georgian cuisine and kitchen of Caucasus republics.
A heavyweight restaurant holding Ginza Project contributed a lot in promoting Georgian dishes and wines as a gastronomic delight of contemporary Russia. Another trend is multinational cuisine restaurants and chefs’ cuisine: it doesn’t matter anymore where the dish comes from, it matters how it is served and interpreted. Luckily, this trend brought back to life many forgotten, but worth trying, Russian dishes like Beef Stroganoff or Pike perch cutlets.
Another trend is multinational cuisine restaurants and chefs’ cuisine: it doesn’t matter anymore where the dish comes from, it matters how it is served and interpreted.
Don’t get disappointed about the fact that you won’t be able to experience real Russian cuisine of the past: today, modern interpretation of standard Russian dishes are included in almost every menu. Moreover, local city dwellers are eating traditional Russian food every day during lunch. We will give you the best advice for lunch soon too.
- Mingle with hipsters at creative spaces
Creative spaces in both Moscow and St Petersburg grew in the 2010s, becoming contemporary meeting places of today’s pop-culture. Mainly they are occupying former factories and plants, but some of them (particularly in St Petersburg) have quite noble roots. We really think that every traveller, wishing to get closer to local lifestyle, should experience the atmosphere of these locales, as they became a trend of the decade. Here we made a whole post on Moscow ex-factories and the lofts of St Petersburg.
To be continued…