Moscow is a city of extremes – it is a place where shivering homeless babushkas sell dried mushrooms next to gold-plated Maybachs and a city in which the only limits are those on your credit card.
This is why it should come as no surprise that going out falls into two very different categories. On the one hand, there are litres of beer and vodka to be drunk in dingy bars for the price of a cabbage pirog. On the other hand, the Russian capital is filled with über-exclusive VIP-only bars and clubs which are reserved for the rich, famous and beautiful.
Are you curious what the top 1% live like in Moscow and where you can drink on a budget once you’ve spent all your money feigning riches? So was I, darling.Unfortunately, mingling with the crème de la crème of Russian society is not always easy. There are a few things you need to know before you attempt to infiltrate the ranks of Moscow’s banker-and-supermodel crowd.
Luckily, I know the tricks that will help you spend your cash in one of their caviar-filled, vodka-fueled hotspots. Click “read more” to have a look at the clubbing guide, which will enable you to dip your toes in the VIP waters and perhaps even catch a fish or two.
1) Dress to impress. Nothing impresses a Muscovite bouncer like a girl in a pair of killer heels, who spent three hours on her smokey eyes alone. And by killer heels I mean heels so high they become a lethal weapon when combined with a few shots of Beluga. Men do not have to look quite as stylish, but they certainly have to make an effort as well. Understated elegance might get you places in the rest of the world, but in Moscow more is more, so be as opulent as you wish.
2) Women have it harder. In most place I’ve ever visited, it is far easier for a girl to get into a club. Upscale clubs in London often waive entry fees for girls to attract men with dreamlike visions of bodycon-clad goddesses. But in Moscow, there never seems to be a shortage of beautiful women and so you really have to step up your game if you want the bouncers to give you licence to party like a rockstar.
3) No big groups. I don’t quite understand what it is about big groups that scares the muscular face-control men, but from my experience there is little to no chance of you getting in if you arrive with a big crowd of friends. Separate into couples (one guy and two girls works well too!) before the bouncer notices you and only regroup once you are all safely inside.
4) English, please. Waving a foreign passport in a bouncer’s used to work miracles in the 90s – an American among the comrades? How refreshing. Nowadays, it isn’t half as impressive, but it might still help get you places, you exotic bird-of-paradise, so use it to your advantage.
5) Free entry, expensive drinks. Although the life of a Muscovite VIP is notoriously expensive, entry to most clubs is either very low or completely free. Of course, getting in is not an easy task, but for those who do it is good news. Unfortunately, whatever you save on the entrance fee will be negated by the exorbitant alcohol prices. My recommendation is to always predrink to make sure you don’t spend a fortune on glorified vodka lemonades. If you’re a real baller, you can reserve a table, but these usually run from 10,000 roubles upward and do not guarantee entry, so beware.
6) Don’t be drunk. When predrinking, be careful no to overdo it. This goes without saying, but make sure you are not so hammered you cannot stand – the bouncers will send you home faster than you can say “vodka”. The club wants to make money, so they have no interest in clubgoers who got filled their alcohol quota elsewhere.
7) Exude joy. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, you are required to bring the party to your club of choice. It’s easy to look bitter after battling the Russian cold for 40 minutes, dressed in nothing but a party dress, but the minute you start looking down, bouncers will take notice. If you just can’t bring yourself to smile, try an arrogant smirk – no one likes an asshole, but in Moscow they might just mistake you for a stuck-up millionaire.
8) Be fashionably early. Yes, I meant to write “early”. In Muscovite clubs, the fun doesn’t really start till way past midnight – but that also means less competition before then. First come, first served, y’all.
9) Don’t argue. Most of the knuckleheads at the door are very stubborn, so you’re extremely unlikely to change their mind if they’ve decided to turn you away. If you’re dead set on getting into a particular club, you can try going back to the end of the queue and trying again – often their verdict can change in a matter of minutes.
10) Get home safely. Russian clubs are usually open till the break of dawn – I often find myself leaving at around 7am, too late to even watch the sun rising over the Moskva river. At that time, the metro is already open so you can easily use public transport to get to your warm bed. If you opt for a taxi, do not choose the ones which are parked right outside the exit – they will charge you double or even triple if you don’t speak Russian.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, you’re set to hit the ground running. These are some of my favourite spots to party in Moscow:
- Rolling Stone (Bolotnaya naberezhnaya 3 – metro Polyanka or Kropotkinskaya)
The district in which this club is located – Krasny Oktyabr (Красный Октябрь) – used to be the home of a famous Russian factory specialising in candy production. Chocolates and succulent biscuits have now been replaced by something much sweeter – eye candy. Rolling Stone is filled with stylish partygoers and many expats. It has a great rock’n’roll playlist – my friend says the same songs are repeated up to three times per night, but drunk people have a poor short term memory, so who cares?
- Gipsy (Bolotnaya naberezhnaya 3/4 – metro Polyanka or Kropotkinskaya)
Gipsy is located just around the corner from Rolling Stone, so if their repetitive playlist starts to wear you down, you should go here. I absolutely adore the decor, which marries surfer chic and glitzy boho in a way few places can. The music is trendier than in the two previous clubs, which is probably a good thing – I love partying to the soundtrack of the YMCA and the Backstreet Boys, but most partygoers don’t share my obsession with kitsch. The club has a beautiful open rooftop – complete with a sprawling bar and a pool – which is great for showing off your moves like Jagger.
- Jagger (Rodchelskaya 15 – metro Ulitsa 1905 goda)
Speaking of Jagger – one of my favourite nightclubs in Moscow even uses his name as its own. This place is fairly new and up-and-coming, so you should be ready to queue for a long time. I think it’s worth the wait – inside you can rock to a great mix of contemporary top 40 and infamous oldies, and the interior design balances on a similar line with graffiti and luxurious leather sofas. Beware though – if you hate crowded places, I would not recommend coming here.
And that is it from me today, darling! Should you find yourself in Moscow this spring, drop me a line & I’ll be happy to buy you a drink of your choice. As long as your drink of choice is tap water, that is. Don’t judge me, I’m a poor student.