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HOLIDAYS: One city three ways.. MOSCOW.

MOSCOW is huge, historic, chaotic and exhilarating. It's also a yardstick for the massive political and social change that's swept through Russia since the fall of Communism. Nowhere are the contrasts more obvious than in this city, as TINA WALSH discovers...

BARGAIN BASEMENT

WHERE TO STAY: Cheap accommodation is fairly limited in Moscow but the Vostok Hotel, near the Botanical Gardens, about three miles north of the city centre, has 137 en-suite rooms with a phone, fridge and TV. There's also a bar and restaurant. Doubles from EUR60 (www.expedia.co.uk). Cost: EUR30

SIGHTSEEING: Red Square is the heart of Mother Russia. The vast square contains the Kremlin, Lenin's mausoleum, the iconic St Basil's Cathedral with its onion domes and the GUM department store, whose elegant Victorian- era arcades were once full of dowdy state produced goods but are now bursting with designer labels and coffee shops. Cost: Free

FOR KIDS: Once the Carnaby Street of Moscow, the cobbled Arbat was a haven for writers, artists and assorted bohemian types and is still a strong pull for tourists and locals. Children will love the buskers, street performers and souvenir shops. Cost: Free

SHOPPING: Ramstor and Sedmoy are two of Moscow's most popular supermarket chains, where you can buy everything from frozen food and clothing to quality Russian food and drink.

EATING OUT: Do as the locals do and grab yourself a cheap and cheerful blini (pancake) or deep-fried pelmeni (similar to ravioli) from one of the many street stalls or fast food outlets, where you eat standing up. Cost: EUR3

NIGHTLIFE: Club Che (10/2 Nikolskaya Ulitsa) has the feel of a steamy Cuban clip joint and is brimming with atmosphere. It's covered in Revolutionary-era graffiti, plays Latino-inspired music and serves great Tex-Mex food Cost: Entry free

COST PER DAY: Around EUR33

ON A BUDGET

WHERE TO STAY: The huge Izmailovo Gamma-Delta hotel complex (www.izmailovo.ru) contains everything you could possibly want, including a beauty parlour, health and fitness centre, coffee shops, an internet cafe, billiards and pool rooms, a bowling alley and a casino. Rooms are all ensuite, with doubles starting at around EUR120. Cost: EUR60

SIGHTSEEING: Moscow's Metro underground system is the most spectacular in the world and, even if you're not travelling, some of its 165-plus stations (especially on the Circle Line and at Ploshchad Revolyuutsii near Red Square) are well worth a visit. Cost: Free

FOR KIDS: Gorky Park on the south bank has to be the king of all parks. Opened in 1928 and set in 300 acres of parkland, it contains three funfairs, an enormous ferris wheel, two roller coasters, a water chute and an old Soviet space shuttle offering a cosmic experience. In winter the footpaths flood and freeze over, making a great ice-skating rink. A single ticket covering all rides around EUR12. Cost: EUR12

SHOPPING: The Izmaylovo Market in the park of the same name is one of Moscow's top attractions, where you'll find the famous "matryoshka" lacquered Russian dolls, wood carvings, arts and crafts, ceramics, quilts and animal skins.

EATING OUT: The Arbat has the highest concentration of restaurants in Moscow. Try the Russkoye Bistro, which serves fast food Russianstyle. Lunch should set you back no more than EUR15. Cost: EUR15

NIGHTLIFE: The Bolshoi Theatre (www.bolshoi.ru) is being renovated, but it is still open for ballet, opera and theatre performances. Tickets from EUR15. Cost: EUR15

COST PER DAY: Around EUR100

BREAK THE BANK

WHERE TO STAY: The Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow (www.moscow.park.hyatt.com) is in the middle of the city, minutes walk from Red Square and the Kremlin. Rooms are tastefully furnished with plush linens, walk-in showers with heated floors and high-class toiletries. Doubles from around EUR400. Cost (pp): around EUR200

SIGHTSEEING: Moscow is huge and can be daunting for the first-time visitor, so it is is worthwhile booking a guided city tour. Capital Tours (www.capitaltours.ru) offer a range of walking, bus and river tours from around EUR22. Cost: around EUR22

FOR KIDS: The Moscow State Circus (www.moscowstatecircus.com) puts on unforgettable shows featuring clowns, breathtaking trapeze and acrobatic stunts and performing animals. Although the animals are well looked after, if you don't agree with making tigers jump through burning hoops and bears ride bicycles, this may not be for you. Cost: From EUR30

SHOPPING: The vast GUM shopping complex in Red Square is renowned for its designer labels and you'll find everything from Estee Lauder to Armani and Dolce & Gabbana on sale. It's laid out in three parallel arcades and has a glass canopy roof that gives a lovely view of the stars on a winter's night.

EATING OUT: If money is no object, Vanil (1 Ostozhenka Ulitsa) serves the best French and Japanese fusion food in the city and attracts the likes of President Putin and Prince Albert of Monaco. Expect to pay around EUR60 for a main dish. Cost: EUR60-plus

NIGHTLIFE: If you really want to see how the other half lives, visit Club Leto (1/15 Yauzskaya Ulitsa). Set in a converted church, the open-air club features four bars, two dancefloors, historic religious icons and a podium sporting dancers in skimpy outfits. A table reservation will set you back at least EUR1,400 (drinks included). Cost: EUR1,400

COST PER DAY: Around EUR1,400
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Feb 4, 2007
Words:887
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