Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008


Arkhangelskoye, the 18th-century estate 20 km (12 miles) west of Moscow, is sometimes referred to as Russia's Versailles and features jazz and classical-music concerts in summer. You should feel free to bring a picnic here or enjoy a decidedly so-so meal at the on-site café. Bear in mind that Arkhangelskoye is not about doing anything; it's about strolling, taking in the atmosphere, being very pensive and 18th-century. You can hire a car or arrange a tour through your hotel concierge; to go it alone, take the metro to the Tyshinskaya station, then take bus no. 549 to Arkhangelskoye, the last stop.


This is the most exclusive cluster of dachas and estates anywhere in the country. Every important Soviet and Russian leader has been coming here for at least a century. Putin lives in Ruyblyovke and, in fact, forces the cops to shut down traffic on one of Moscow's main arteries every morning as his motorcade races into the city. Like anywhere that's super-elitny, 98% of Ruyblyovke, which is situated a half-hour due west of the city, is about people-watching. Hire a car and go to Priychal ("pier"), the super-plush café nestled along the banks of the Moscow River and the No. 1 eatery in Ruyblyovke. Like every other exclusive and over-the-top place in post-Soviet Moscow, there is no easy way to call up Priychal. Ask your concierge or one of the beautiful girls at any of the overpriced boutiques in the city center. They'll know how to get there.

Sergiyev Posad

Russia's spiritual epicenter is 90 km (56 miles) or an hour by train from Yaroslavsky Rail Terminal in Moscow. For hundreds of years, pilgrims have been flocking to the little town outside Moscow to see the old monasteries and bell towers. You should, too. The interiors of the churches are filled with gorgeous artwork. Make sure to pick up one of the long, thin, honey-colored candles when you enter the church; you don't want to feel left out. When you return to the 21st century, check out one of the cafés just across the street from the monastery. You'll find lots of traditional, Russian fare, including some very very strong vodka.

Yasnaya Polyana

Leo Tolstoy's home is a few hours south of Moscow. Like Sergiyev Posad, Yasnaya Polyana has been drawing the faithful for over 100 years. It's beautiful, sprawling, very Russian — very literary. The best time to go is Saturday or Sunday, when trains leave at 9 a.m. from Moscow's Kurskiy Train Station and go directly to the estate.