THE BEST WAY TO MOSOW
From LAX, nonstop service to Moscow is available on Aeroflot and connecting service (change of planes) is offered on KLM, Air France, Delta, Turkish, British, Swiss and Lufthansa. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $778, including taxes and fees.
U.S. citizens must have a Russian visa.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 7 (country code for Russia), 495/499 (Moscow area code) or 812 (St. Petersburg area code) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY
Swissotel Krasnye Holmy, 52 Kosmodamianskaya Embankment, Building 6, Moscow; (495) 787-9800, http://www.swissotel.com/hotels/moscow/. This five-star hotel in the heart of Moscow offers panoramic city views, an indoor pool and a popular, award-winning bar. Doubles start at $440.
Peking Hotel, 5 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., Moscow; (495) 650-0900, http://www.hotelpeking.ru/en/. Located on a major central intersection, this four-star hotel features the newly opened Time Out bar with panoramic views and the best cocktails in town. Doubles start at $409, but rates vary.
Hotel Astoria, 39 Bolshaya Morskaya, St. Petersburg; (812) 494-5757, http://www.thehotelastoria.com. The hotel overlooking St. Isaac's Square houses Davidov Restaurant with live piano music and the Rotonda Lounge with its chocolate fountain and Russian blintzes during tea time. Doubles start at $293.
WHERE TO EAT
Schisliva, 9 Volkhonka St., Building 1, Moscow; (499) 393 3961.Two-story restaurant offers modern Russian cuisine in a sleek, cozy setting. Entrees $11-$21.
Mari Vanna, 10A Spiridonievskiy Lane, Moscow; (495) 650-6500. The restaurant, which is decorated as a cozy 1960s apartment complete with popular Soviet cartoons in the "living room" and several pets that call it home, serves Russian home cooking. Entrees $13-$39.
Vatrushka, 5 Bolshaya Nikitskaya St., Moscow; (495) 530-5511. First-class Russian cuisine created by one of the country's top chefs is served in a historic brick mansion. Entrees $12-20.
Stolle, 11 Nevskiy Prospekt and 32 Vosstaniya St., St. Petersburg; (812) 314-7021 and (812) 327-8284, respectively, http://www.stolle.ru/. Bakery famous for savory and sweet pies to eat inside or take out. Pies from $8, smaller pies $1-$2.
Russkaya Charka, 92 Fontanka, St. Petersburg; (812) 495-5558. Decorated with folkloric Russian objects, the restaurant specializes in traditional Russian cuisine and homemade vodka infusions. Entrees $12-$31.
Time Out Bar, 5 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., Moscow; (495) 229-0180, http://www.hotelpeking.ru/en/restaurants/TimeOutBar. Atmospheric bar on top of Peking Hotel features stunning city views, unique cocktails and a snack menu. Open 6 p.m.-6 a.m. Cocktails $10-$15.
Russian Vodka Room No. 1, 4 Konnogvardeyiski Blvd., St. Petersburg; (812) 570-6420, http://www.vodkaroom.ru. Traditional and Soviet-era Russian dishes and more than 200 kinds of vodka. Most entrees $13-$32.
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WHAT TO SEE
Gorky Park, 9 Krymskiy Val St., Moscow; (495) 995-0020. Open 365 days a year.
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, 15 Volkhonka St., Moscow; (495) 637-1276, http://www.xxc.ru. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays and 1-5 p.m. Mondays.
Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, 12 Volkhonka St., Moscow; (495) 609-9520, http://www.arts-museum.ru/?lang=en. Admission $13.
Patriarch's Pond, Moscow. Open 365 days a year.
Arbatskaia Lavitsa, 27 Arbat St., Moscow; (495) 690-56-89. The store offers a wide and well-priced selection of Russian souvenirs. Open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
St. Petersburg River cruise, Nevskiy Prospekt and Fontanka River, St. Petersburg; (495) 225-6070, http://www.cck-ship.ru. The 1- to 1.5-hour canal cruise through the historical center of St. Petersburg is a great way to get a sense of the city. Boats leave throughout the day. Last tour starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $13.
Russian Museum, 4 Injenernaya St., St. Petersburg; (812) 595-42-48, http://www.rusmuseum.ru/eng/home/. Museum is closed Tuesdays; open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays; 1-9p.m. Thursdays. Admission $11 for adults, $5 for students and children 7-16.
Russian Vodka Museum, 4 Konnogvardeyski Blvd., St. Petersburg; (812) 570-6422, http://www.vodkamuseum.su/index.php?lang=en. Admission $5; with guided tour $10. Vodka sampling with three kinds and traditional Russian snacks $10.
Pushkin Apartment Museum, 12 Moyka River Embankment, St. Petersburg; (812) 571-38-01, http://www.museumpushkin.ru/eng/. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Mondays. Closed last Friday of the month. Admission $5.
Anna Akhmatova Museum, 53 Liteyniy Prospekt, St. Petersburg; (812) 579-7239, http://www.akhmatova.spb.ru. Closed Mondays. Open noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays-Sundays; noon-8 p.m. Wednesdays. Admission is $3, with audio guide $6.50.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times