Moscow on a budget
A growing number of cheaper hotels and hostels mean that adventurous travelers can access this incredible city, whatever their budget. There are a large number of hostels dotted around the Moscow suburbs, with dormitory beds from as little as 400R. Of course, there are often drawbacks to this style of accommodation: conditions can be grim, locations inconvenient and staff may speak only Russian and/or be impossibly grumpy. But there are happy exceptions all over the city. Here are some places that fellow wanderers have recommended.
The self-styled “biggest and best-known” hostel in Moscow is Godzillas which has been open since 2005. They have dorm rooms from around 900R (or less if you can get one of their limited “discount beds”) or double rooms from 2500R. English-owned, American-run, big, central, with free wi-fi and towels, a multilingual staff and a branch in the picturesque town of Suzdal, this is a top choice.
Another very centrally located place is the Day ‘n’ Night Hostel which describes itself as “five minutes’ walk or two minutes’ run” from the Kremlin. Spaces in a six-bed dorm start from 800R or you can get a twin room for 2400R. The hostel’s managers have thought hard about arriving in Moscow as a foreigner and the English language version of their website has detailed instructions (and even a video) about how to reach the hostel from Lubyanka metro station. The area immediately around the hostel is handy for cheap bars and restaurants and gems like the Mayakovsky museum, where a Soviet apartment block has been turned into a huge, surreal installation charting the revolutionary life and early death of the poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky.
The funky new Fabrika hostel and “art space” has opened in the old Red October chocolate factory, just across the river from the Christ the Savior Cathedral and over the canal from the Muzeon sculpture garden. They have everything from dorm beds for 550R up to en-suite doubles for 3000R, all in one of Moscow’s trendiest areas, full of riverside clubs and galleries. If you are an artist and give them one of your paintings, you can sleep there for free.
The only internationally-branded budget hotel in central Moscow is the newly-built Ibis near Paveletsky station where the airport express arrives from Domodedovo. Rooms from 3500R/night with discount rates in summer could be an attractive option for those who want a step up from the hostel scene without breaking the bank.
Many cheaper hotels are a little out of the centre. This does not have to be a disadvantage. They are usually close to Moscow’s cheap, efficient metro, which is always a boon for budget travelers, and the areas where these hotels are located are quite interesting in themselves.
In Sherstone’s “Number 1 Hostel” you can get a bed in a dormitory for 650R. The Sherstone, which claims to be “the oldest surviving hostel in Moscow”, has private rooms from 2200R. They now run a couple of hostels, one of which is in the Sokol area of Moscow, near the experimental Soviet “artists’ village”, full of log cabins and maple trees. The original “Sherstone Hotel” is in Petrovsko-Razumovskaya, not far from the Timiryazevsky forest. Sherstone also do homestays, where you can live with a Russian family in their flat, an appealing arrangement for anyone wanting to improve their Russian and experience real life in the capital.
The three-star Yunost Hotel has basic single or double rooms with a bathroom from 3200R. The surrounding Luzhniki area of Moscow is another place that is well-connected (from Sportivnaya metro it’s just ten minutes into town), but also has some great nearby sights in its own right. Novodevichy convent and cemetery, Sparrow Hills market with cheap souvenirs and a nice green hike through the stadium grounds, along the Moscow River and up to the viewpoint.
Izmailovo Gamma-Delta hotel, built for the Moscow Olympics, claims to be the largest hotel in Europe with thousands of rooms. It has ensuite singles/doubles from 3700/3800 (less at weekends) and – like many places – free wifi comes as standard. Very close to metro Partizanskaya, where trains speed to Ploschad Revolutsii in minutes, it is also next door to Moscow’s biggest and cheapest souvenir market where you can buy everything from fur hats and antique silver to painted trays and matryoshka dolls. The outdoor barbecues serving tasty shashlyk for 300R and are among the best in the city and there is a museum of vodka upstairs in the colorful “kremlin”.
The Golden Wheat-sheaf hotel dates from the elaborate 1950s refurbishment of Moscow’s fabulous VDNKh exhibition grounds. En-suite double rooms start from 3000R and rooms with four beds for the same price if you’re happy to use shared bathrooms. Close by and even cheaper, the Hotel VVTs has double rooms from 1800R (with shared bathroom). If you don’t speak any Russian, it could be trickier, but it has flexible accommodation, where you can pay per bed (500R in a 6-bedded dorm) or per room.
Both these hotels are close to VDNKh metro station so you can be in the heart of the old city in ten minutes, but you also have one of Moscow’s top budget tips on you doorstep: the breath-taking VDNKh (now VVTs) park, first opened in the 1930s as an agricultural show. Here you can see Soviet architecture at its most extravagant: gold fountains, mosaics and murals, socialist realist sculptures or wreaths of ceramic fruit. Sample cognac, dried fruit or a good business lunch in the Armenian Pavilion or watch a primitive IMAX projection of a journey on the Trans-Siberian express in Pavilion 74. The VVTs website has an interactive map to help you navigate round this two-kilometer wonderland. This is the kind of place that makes Moscow such an exciting destination: it’s so big, you could spend weeks exploring it, it’s unlike anything you will find anywhere else in the world, it is full of surprises and – best of all – it’s free.