Moscow has something for everyone – whether you want to spend the night in a Bohemian art café or be in a nostalgia-rich beer club, says Aarti Kapur Singh
Moscow is a city held by its denizens as being limitless. That can also be said about the nightlife here.Whether you are a jazz aficionado, a hardcore clubber, or just a plain old alcoholic, Moscow has an amazing array of nightlife options and a scene for. A night out in Moscow can be rather dizzying. All the ‘rules’ of going out in other cities don’t seem to apply in Moscow. But giving into it, and letting yourself be swept along by all the excitement, can be a very exhilarating experience in itself.
Since the nightlife is so diverse, it is hard to arrive at generalisations. But even then there are some things that if a traveller becomes familiar with, nightlife in the bustling city will be a breeze.
Firstly, a bar or nightclub in Moscow is rarely just that. Nearly every drinking venue in Moscow doubles up as an eatery too and some also multi-task as a bowling alley, snooker room, casino and even a bookshop. This is probably so because Moscow is such a vast metropolis, and getting around in cabs so expensive, that owners want to provide their customers with a ‘one-stop-shop’ for nightlife entertainment – rather than send them out into the, often bitter, cold night for a bite to eat!These multi-purpose venues often charge a cover, but rather it’s best to choose your spot for the night and stick with it. Moscow’s nightlife is also highly-charged. From the newly rich flashing their cash in seriously expensive and snazzy clubs to the more humble citizens in downright seedy bars, everyone seems to be slaking their thirst as only Muscovites know how. Clubs tend to be on the pricey side – and full of people admiring themselves. Some of the more recent additions have melded great international music with the less sophisticated pop fare for which the city used to be known. Moscow’s bouncers are famous for exercising what’s known as ‘face control’, a rigorous screening of people trying to get into their clubs. The best advice to get past would be to dress up a little more than usual. Many travellers are slightly disconcerted by the extent to which lap-dancing clubs are considered acceptable. A number of mainstream clubs that you’d never have thought to be strip joints even offer private suites for those with the money and the inclination.There are some places that one should definitely not miss.
Put on your dancing shoes
Thanks to its big summer terrace with a picturesque view of the Moscow River, Gipsy remains one of the most popular party locations. A big indoor dance floor with a bar in the middle, disco balls hanging from the ceiling and walls upholstered in fake cheetah skins help sustain the party atmosphere. The Gipsy’s public is rather pleasant and includes plenty of gorgeous girls. Some of the city’s best techno jams take place here on Fridays, while Saturdays are reserved for mash-up and alco-dance music. During the day, Gipsy transforms into a good restaurant, which we highly recommend visiting in summer for lunch on the terrace.
Solyanka is widely believed to be Moscow’s central nightclub. Once called a “hipster stronghold”, Solyanka is located in an antique mansion in the centre of Moscow. To enter the club, one has to climb up a marble spiral staircase leading to the first floor.The dance floor is the last of the rooms and also the most spacious. Parties are held from Thursday to Saturday (and sometimes on Sundays, too) and the music ranges from techno and house to funk and hip-hop. The club also hosts interesting guest performances on a weekly basis. Special mention should be given to the Love Boat party run by famous fashion blogger Vitaly Kozak.
During the day, Solyanka transforms into a trendy and quite affordable restaurant and the Thai curries are particularly good.Part restaurant and part club, Solyanka also has its own designer accessories shop and a fashion magazine on site. Spread across the second floor of an old mansion, parties here have the feel of a giant house party, albeit one where your friends are all unusually stylish and good-looking and don’t give a damn about jumping all over the furniture.
Sit Back & Relax
Muscovites are not always on some sort of hyperactivity trip. Some of them like to have laid back evenings as well and you can give them company at several places.
Darling I’ll Call You Later
The Darling I’ll Call You Later chain consists of three Moscow bars that combine rock-n-roll, delicious beer at $6 and a home-like atmosphere. Here you can enjoy a tasty breakfast or lunch while watching a cinema masterpiece or a music show.
In the evening, major sports events are broadcast and football tables are installed for those willing to play. On Fridays and Saturdays, the bars throw parties, where famous TV presenters, editors-in-chief of glamour magazines and next-door music fans can all spin the turntables. A typical lunch here costs $20.
Kamchatka is a city centre pub in a prime location right in front of the city’s most luxurious department store, TSUM (the local version of London’s Selfridges or Milan’s Rinoscente).This two-storey bar, meticulously decorated in Soviet-style, is a must-see for any foreigner interested in the drinking and eating habits of Communist Russia: Kamchatka’s menu complements its interior quite harmoniously. The 1980s and 1990s Soviet pop songs are played non-stop and the prices are quite affordable. The house speciality beer is called Kamchatka.
The Hungry Duck
No guide to Moscow’s nightlife is complete without paying lip service at least to its most notorious venue. The Hungry Duck has seen some very raucous action in its time, and although it might not be quite the no-holds-barred haven of hedonism it once was, there’s still plenty of life in the old bird yet.At the peak of its popularity, “the Duck”, as it was known, was an icon of Moscow hedonism until it was closed in 1999 after complaints from members of the Russian State Duma. The bar was reopened in 2012.The bar was known for it’s uninhibited sexual and sometimes violent atmosphere. Its “Ladies Night” is especially notorious, with male strippers entertaining a packed bar filled with women paying almost no entrance fee and consuming free drinks.
Now that you are all sorted, get set to say dobryyvecher Moscow!