The Step-by-Step Moscow Nightlife Guide 2018
You are probably looking for information about Moscow nightlife and can't find fresh and good info anywhere on the net. Lucky for you, your search is over because you found the best and only guide about Moscow nightlife you will ever need. Your mouth will be watering and you're probably going to check Skyscanner after reading my Step-by-Step Moscow Nightlife Guide 2018.
After 3 years in Moscow, I can safely say that no one knows the nightlife scene in Moscow as well as I do. Not trying to be arrogant here but that's simply the way it is. You’re not going to find anything as in-depth and up-to-date as this guide.
I’m covering everything that you need to know about Moscow nightlife in 2018:
Use the table of contents because this is a very long 6,000+ words guide!
After this guide you'll be fully prepared for some of the best nightlife that you've ever seen. Let's get ready to rumble...
Part 1: Where you should stay for nightlife in moscow
Before even starting to talk about the nightlife itself, we need to talk logistics. You're probably wondering where in this humongous city you should stay and where the nightlife is happening.
The first thing you need to know about Moscow is that there are no real quarters in the city that differ from each other. Everything happens in the center. This isn't like in London or New York, where you get to a different part of the city and it feels like an entirely new one. In Moscow everything looks more or less the same, it is very centralized.
Ideally you want to stay within the city's inner, first circle. You'll be a 15-20 minutes cab ride away from anything important. If you're within the first and the second circle, that is still perfectly fine. You will have to cab it to most attractions and to the nightlife clusters but that you will have to do either way at night. Anything outside of that will be a trade-off between shorter transportation and lower accomodation costs.
As far as nightlife goes, it isn't really important to live close to the clubs. At night there is no other way but cabbing it and at that point there's no big difference whether it takes 20 or 10 minutes. Below you find a crude map where I marked the nightlife clusters in Moscow.
Part 2: When you should and shouldn't hit the nightlife in moscow
Which days of the week are good for going out?
Even though Moscow is a massive city with millions of people, the nightlife unfortunately only really happens on Fridays and Saturdays.
There are two reasons for that.
First, Muscovites work long (but ineffective) hours. People get off work at 7-8PM and are happy to get home after that. You don’t have the typical pint or drink after work that you find in a lot of European countries and the US. Even restaurants are fairly quiet on weekdays.
Second, there are no “service industry nights” like you might have in New York for example. Probably cause there’s no service but I digress. Rather these people will simply party on weekends after their shift.
For you this means:
You absolutely must not miss Fridays and Saturdays; they’re infinitely better for nightlife. You can literally go 12 hours straight or even longer.
All other days you still can go out. It’s not like there aren’t people out at all. But you have to know where to go (I’ll cover you on that). You should expect WAY fewer people. And you won’t have a lot of options to choose from.
When do you go out on the weekend?
Moscow works according to the “Spanish timetable” on weekends. Which means that nightlife starts late and goes until the morning and beyond that.
The golden hour to start your night effectively is 11PM. If you’re having dinner in the city before, you can also start earlier. But don’t go to nightlife venues before 11PM because they'll be very empty and slow. The people out at that time are either eating or are going to leave early because they aren’t really out for partying. Spend about two hours at a good preparty venue. After that it is time to move to a more poppin’ venue.
The “real” clubs start working around midnight but fill up properly at around 1AM. Peak hours are from 1AM till 3AM. On good nights the clubs will be absolutely rammed with people (and attractive women). From 3AM to 5AM the party slowly tails off and the crowd disperses home or to one of the afterparty clubs.
So between 4AM and 5AM is the ideal time to make your move and switch to one of the afterparty clubs that work almost open end. They’ll be just as packed as the normal nightclubs before that and you can continue the party seamlessly. Congratulations, or maybe commiserations, if you really stay out until midday, which is easily possibe.
Where to party on weeknights?
For this question I'll simply non-chalantly forward you to my 7 day guide to Moscow nightlife, where I break all of that down.
Which days or times of the year are great for nightlife and which ones suck?
In terms of seasons there are no big differences in Moscow. The parties are just as good in winter, you just have to dress warmer, unless you are a woman.
These dates should be better avoided for nightlife:
Good days and periods for nightlife are:
Part 3: Prices in Moscow Nightlife
Are there cover fees in the clubs?
Most Moscow nightclubs don’t charge cover fees, some do.
Gazgolder, Artel Bessonitsa and a few other electro & underground clubs charge between 1000 and 2000 Rubles ( 16-33$) cover, depending on the lineup and the time of night you show up.
Some clubs like Icon and Miks charge a deposit, which means you get to spend that money on drinks. Usually 3500 to 5000 Roubles (60-90$) but you get to split the money if you come with a group.
Most other clubs, even in the high-end segment, are free to enter and rely on their face control.
How expensive are drinks?
That very much depends on where you’re heading to. Cheap drinks in dive bars can be as little as 150 Rubles (2,50$). Cocktails in the most expensive clubs, however, will set you back 20$ and more. A good ballpark number is 750 Rubles (12,50$), which is approximately the cost of a Long Island Ice Tea in an above-average nightclub. Lighter drinks are less, high-end clubs will be more expensive.
How expensive are bottles?
Bottles are a terrific deal in Moscow and you’re simply throwing away money by not getting a table.
Vodka is the domestic drink of choice and stupidly cheap. You can get premium vodka even in top clubs for as little as 10,000 Rubles (150$) and I’ve never seen a price tag higher than 20,000 for a bottle of top class vodka.
Whiskey and other imported liquor is roughly double the price, again depending on the brand and the club. Champagne goes from 10,000 to 25,000 Rubles (150$ -4000$) for decent brands.
Anyone with experience of doing bottle service can already see where I’m going with this: you’re not getting this kind of value for money in other top tier cities like New York, London or Paris. Nevermind the fact that parties last longer and the girls are hotter. So be smart and and get yourself a table in one of Moscow’s top nightclubs.
How expensive is getting to the clubs and back?
Taxis too are laughably cheap in Moscow. Basic taxis are 5-10$ tops, business taxis about two to three times the price. You can find more detailed information in my taxi guide to Moscow.
What kind of budget do I need?
Moscow nightlife budget
The grand total is about 75-90$, which includes a full night of going out, having a solid amount of drinks and even accounts for the girls. To make things easier, just budget 100 bucks per night and you'll have fun. Yes, you can spend five times that much, and it'll be worth it, but this is the least amount you should have.
Part 4: How you need to dress for moscow nightlife
There's only one real rule in terms of dress code for Moscow nightlife:
Dress as well as you can.
You'll see very fast that in Moscow nightclubs most people dress pretty sharply. The better the club the more uptight the dress code is going to be. This goes for both men and women. Of course you don't want to come in a suit to an underground electro club. Your outfit must always match the type of venue that you are going to.
But as far as high-end and commercial clubs go, you can never be overdressed. A blazer and good shoes is the absolute minimum requirement in most clubs. For women: don't even think about not wearing high heels. That shit won't fly in Moscow.
I wrote an entire article on how to dress for Moscow nightlife where I break down everything you have to know to really nail it.
Part 5: What the nightlife in moscow is really like (with pictures)
How to get past face control in moscow nightclubs
Face control is Moscow's (in)famous system of the door guy giving (or refusing) you access to his elusive venue on that night. The city became really famous for having harsh face control during its wild nightlife times in the 1990s and 2000s. Without good contacts or important friends you wouldn't get in, no matter how rich you are.
Nowadays, face control in Moscow is much more lenient and it's possible to enter even the top clubs without being uber-rich or knowing the owner.
There are four basic rules that you have to follow that will get you into almost any Moscow nightclub:
I break down all the details of what you need to know, and the mistakes you must avoid, to get past face control in Moscow in my face control guide.
Moscow's most famous face control guy - Pasha Facecontrol
What the parties are like in moscow...
Partying in Moscow is at the same time really similar and totally different from other cities. It really depends on what type of club you go to but the city has something to offer for everyone.
I'll give you a quick overview of what you can expect in terms of the crowd, the vibe, the music and what the parties are like.
... in High-End Clubs
Their main clientele consists of:
- Elite and those with money. Think: men aged 35 and older but also groups of men who might have some not so legal business going on. Those are the people that drive the expensive cars that are parked outside.
- Those who want a piece of them. Think: young, beautiful women, who are looking to get a beneficial deal out of these guests.
- Expats or tourists that come with a big bankroll and have money to burn. You will be able to recognize them by their distinct lack of Russian and the girls around them, who are milking them for drinks.
Overall, you'll find that most men in these clubs are at least 30 and most women are not older than 25. Money is not an issue here and a lot of the guests can spend as much money as they please.
The music is mostly pop music and lots of Russian pop as well. Some Moscow nightclubs in these category do play domestic or international house, At a lot of clubs you'll also see live performances by domestic pop stars and these nights are usually quite popular with the locals.
The people frequenting these places are often your typical “see and be seen” crowd. Which means the atmosphere will be a bit stiff in the beginning but it becomes looser as the night wears on. Everyone starts losing their attitude and inhibitions and party harder the later it gets. Still, you should not expect the kind of atmosphere that you have at summer destinations or places like Vegas. Partying is not necessarily the main priority at posh Moscow nightclubs..
Table culture is quite pronounced at posh clubs, since all of them have a kitchen as well. Guests come often in groups to make it rain and start their night with food and drinks. Hence, nightclubs of this type are mostly packed with a lot of tables and are not your stereotypical mega clubs where people go to dance.
... in Mainstream Party Clubs
The crowd at party clubs is on average younger than in the high-end clubs. Make no mistake though, they are still well-frequented and plenty of these youngsters have money to burn even if it is not their own but daddy’s.
These mainstream venues are better known to people who are visiting the city. The foreigners in here will be tourists or students that want a taste of Moscow nightlife. You cannot really compare them to the businessmen and well-situated expats that go to the high-end Moscow nightclubs.
On the whole the crowd in party clubs will feel more "accessible" and down to earth. However, if you are over 30 you might feel a bit old in some of them.
The music is commercial, top 40 chart hits, mashups and sometimes Russian music but less than at more upscale venues. Very little house and electro. If you're into mainstream music you should definitely hit up these spots. But keep in mind that the DJs might not be the best. Poor taste is not restricted to upscale Moscow clubs only.
A younger crowd means somewhat less attitudes and a better and more energetic atmosphere right from the start. These nightclubs are high-energy places and you should be aware of that if you're going. That means less tables and more people actually dancing and partying. Most of the Moscow nightclubs that fit this description involve plenty of drinking and hooking up. Hence, tourists like to go there a lot. Prices don't vary that much compared to top Moscow clubs and the better party clubs will be only slightly cheaper than some upscale spots.
Restaurant Preparty Clubs
The first thing you need to know is that these venues are more like restaurants with a little dance floor and a bar integrated in them. As such, they're very well-suited to starting your night, hence why I call them preparty clubs.
The crowds are mixed, depending on the venue and on what the people came for. Some come for dinner and leave when the actual party starts shortly before midnight. Others get a table and sit together, eat and dance all night long but not as wild as you'd do in a normal nightclub. Others, like me, come for a bit in the beginning of the night and then bounce to another venue. Overall these places aren't expensive but they draw an older crowd that is more likely to be in their twenties and thirties.
The music depends on the venue you pick, some do house music, others techno, others pop and commercial music.
I mentioned the atmosphere being a bit slower compared to "real" clubs. Unless you plan to dine, don't even bother showing up before 11PM. There won't be a real party going on yet but more likely a concert. Only after that the real "club part" of the evening starts. By 3AM or so people mostly start leaving. Every night is different though and sometimes you don't even have to move from there and can instead party the entire night at the preparty venue.
Afterparty clubs aren't exactly known for attracting sophisticated crowds in most cities. In Moscow that isn't too different. A lot of people that you'll meet in these clubs will either be high on something or really drunk. Often they switched from another club before that but some actually just go straight away to the afterparty clubs. In Moscow you have plenty of different afterparty clubs, so whether you like it posh or underground, you'll find the right crowd for yourself.
In terms of music you get only electro, house and tech house. Past 5AM that's the only thing on offer.
Despite, or maybe because of, everyone being so fucked up, you can have a helluva good time in afterparty clubs. Just mark the next day as lost. The atmosphere depends really on the club you go to but all have that "afterparty drugster vibe" to them. Unsurprising when you consider that you can stay until midday there.
Hip & Electro Clubs
You'll find a very mixed crowd in underground-ish spots, both regarding age and social class. Most of them are going to be in their 20s or early 30s and "alternative" and/or very fond of electronic music. These venues are very much the polar opposite of upscale nightclubs. Consequently, people who are going there do not want anything to do with the "elitist money crowd" that is so widespread in Moscow. However, some of them are indeed targeting a sort of "yuppie crowd" that is part of the upper middle class itself.
Music is, of course, electro of all sorts, international and domestic. If you're a fan of electronic music, you should definitely hit up a few of these clubs.
There are three common features that you’ll find in all underground clubs:
- A chill atmosphere. Unlike in upscale nightclubs, there are no attitudes there and no one is trying to show off. It can still feel a bit closed off and difficult to become a part of in the beginning because it is its own scene. Typically, however, the atmosphere is going to be friendlier and more approachable than in elitist clubs.
- Very few tables. Just as in Western Europe and the US, people come to dance, enjoy the music, relax and get fucked up. The energy is typical of electro/underground clubs and rather relaxed and friendly, instead of wild and crazy.
- Drugs are a part of the scene. You won’t see it in the open because of restrictive laws but as always, drugs are a part of this scene. In contrast to more liberal countries that also means no weed being openly consumed.
Cheap Clubs & Dive Bars
No model-looking women, no older businessmen, hipsters, yuppies or any of the sort of crowd you'll find in the other environments. These clubs or bars are frequented by "real” Russians. That usually means students and other young people that don’t have a lot of money and are not part of the upper class in Moscow. Often they won't even be from Moscow but from the suburbs and a long metro or train ride away from the center.
Music is very mixed, some spots play Russian music, others commercial or rock or even all three together.
If you are looking for places with high energy and cheap booze then these bars (most of them are bars rather than clubs) are right for you. You won't have to worry about dealing with face control or attitudes here. You will not have to deal with face control or attitudes here.
The atmosphere is very loose and people drink a lot, so you'll automatically make new friends and acquaintances. Prices are low, which is good for your wallet but might be bad for your liver.
The downside of these spots is that they attract plenty of lower-class people. That is not a bad thing in itself but especially a foreigner that doesn't speak Russian can attract some unwanted attention. Some of the places have a notorious reputation and you should be generally careful at them.
Part 6: all you need to know about girls in moscow nightlife
Are girls in Moscow really that hot?
Usually I don’t answer stupid questions but I’ll make an exception here.
Yes, they are hot. Very hot actually.
If you’re from a country where, on average, the girls are not that attractive (=almost all countries except for five or so exceptions) you’ll be wowed by how hot Russian women are. Especially in nightlife when they put on tight dresses, high heels and nice make-up. So far I hadn’t had people come to Moscow and leave in disappointment.
Even in basic clubs you can always find at least a few cute to attractive girls. In high-end clubs there’s an absolute abundance of attractive women.
How do they look like?
I think pictures can say more than a thousand words so here you go...
Is it easy to get laid in moscow?
Of course we’re strictly speaking of consensual, non-transactional sex here. If you want something else, you should probably read my Ultimate Moscow Strip Club Guide.
I can’t answer this question with a simple yes or no. Yes, it is kind of easy to get laid in Moscow because:
On the other hand you should be prepared for a lot of pain as well, financial and literal. It’s not all that easy to get laid in Moscow because:
In a nutshell, Moscow is a city that favors those who already have a lot. If you can spend freely, speak Russian and know what to do with women, you can absolutely crush it. Bonus points for being attractive, then you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store.
Which clubs are the best for getting girls in Moscow?
I wrote a complete guide on where to hook up with girls in Moscow, so you'll find all the information there.
Part 7: the best moscow nightclubs in 2018 (the only list you can really trust)
There are a lot of lists out there but there's only one list that you really need and that is this one. Because Moscow nightlife is too big and too broad to just throw 10 clubs out there, I am doing something much better for you. I'm giving you the best nightclubs for everyone's taste. So whether you're into heels or sneakers, these are the best Moscow nightclubs in 2018.
The Best High-End clubs in Moscow
Duran Bar is your best Moscow nightclub on the weekend if you want a combination of a high-end venue with house music.
The best feature of Duran Bar is its spacious three-part layout: it combines having a bar area, a dancefloor and a terrace all in one venue. Most Moscow nightclubs of this kind have a similar type of layout but Duran Bar pulls it off just a bit better. That, and the fact that you have a mix of Russian-style parties and regular house music, makes Duran Bar an excellent choice for a night out "Moscow style".
The legendary Soho Rooms is back, just in time for the World Cup 2018. After a year-long break for renovation, Moscow's favorite club for people with too much money to spend opened with a slightly different three-storey layout. If you pass the still strict face control, make your way up to the top floor. There, a pool (yes, what the actual fuck) and a generous bar that is populated with many hot Russian women are waiting for your entertainment.
For the best real posh Moscow party with good commercial music Soho Rooms is exactly what you were looking for.
Oblaka is still right up there when it comes to a poppin' bottles in Moscow with a lot of posh and bling around you. The quintessential difference to some of the other clubs is that you'll hear mostly Russian pop. That, coupled with the fact that the rich and beautiful don't even bother to wait until the weekend comes around (Thursday is the best day) make Oblaka unique.
The rest you'll see at the other clubs too: expensive cars in front of it and a restaurant layout inside. A lot of people will be busier streaming the party for their Instagram than actually lighting it up but that's what makes it a real Moscow nightclub.
The best Mainstream Clubs for partying in Moscow
Secret Room is kind of the new hot shit in Moscow nightlife. It's not really high-end but not a regular mainstream club either.
If you make it past the harsh face control, you'll enter the fairly small and table-heavy venue. Nevertheless, it's poppin' off several nights a week. Here, you have a good chance of seeing more or less well-known Russian stars and Instagram starlets. Even international stars find their way to this club on occasion. The music leans heavily towards Rap and Hip Hop and it is the standout nightclub to visit in Moscow at the moment.
Icon is definitely right up there when it comes to the most popular Moscow nightclubs. Even though it is one of the biggest, it's pretty much always packed.
You'll never go wrong if you decide to go to Icon for partying. The club has a great set-up for a wild night out: a big stage, generous dancefloors and tables on several floors. It also boasts lavish, well-choreographed shows with go-go dancers and light shows. From time to time popular Russian pop stars perform in Icon and on these days it's even more packed than usual.
Icon has lost a bit of its swag in 2018. It has drifted away from being a "high-end mainstream" club to a very lax door policy nowadays. Still, dress well and you'll have no issue in getting in and standing out in a good way.
Gipsy is maybe the most popular Moscow nightclub. The interior is without a doubt one of its kind in Moscow: palm trees, a very spacious dancefloor and even miniature swimming pools (that you don't actually swim in). You'll struggle to find a weekend when Gipsy does not pack a solid party crowd.
But what makes this venue really unique is the retractable roof that allows for open air parties in summer. Gipsy club is not exactly a well-kept secret, which means that almost all foreigners and tourists know and visit it.
Unfortunately it has lost some of its shine in the last few years and the crowds have become tamer and significantly younger. If you're under 25, this is probably the best club in Moscow for you.
Artel Bessonitsa is one of the best clubs for Ibiza-style house music, especially in summer. This club has the high-end touch of an Ibiza beach club but without the posh crowd of the high-end clubs in Moscow - it's somewhere in between.
Artel Bessonitsa brings in top acts that are regulars in Ibiza clubs almost on a weekly basis. The club is split in two parts with one part being inside and the other one an outside terrace. The headliners always play inside but I recommend the terrace because the real party is happening after 4AM when the sun rises.
In the Jagger Bar the party never stops. Don't come here for a quiet evening or one drink. It's not going to happen. But come here if you want a wild party night because Jagger has one of the most easy-going and fun vibes in Moscow.
Their wildly popular (and frankly very awesome) outside terrace is ideal if you would like to party outside all year long. It's been renovated in the last few months and opens in June 2018 just in time for the FIFA World Cup. The Jagger Bar has a great blend of a nightclub and bar atmosphere because it's wild and easy-going at the same time.
The best preparty places in moscow
Magadan should be your number one preparty venue if you like commercial music. It's super popular, full with hot women and generally pretty rowdy. It's also located in the new hot nightlife cluster around Hotel Ukraine at Kievskaya, so you don't even need to move far if you want to continue the party somewhere else.
Valenok is, like Magadan, a Novikov venue and super similar in terms of its layout and the clientele. It's also extremely table-heavy and restaurant-y but good for prepartying on weekends. The big difference to Magadan is that the music: Valenok is for you if you prefer house music over commerical and Russian pop. It also has a more accessible veranda and a (slightly) bigger dancefloor and better bar layout.
Community is a still fairly new venue but already crazy popular, especially with the Moscow's creative upper-class. It has easily the best layout out of all the venues with a proper dancefloor, a very generous bar and an outside smoking patio. Plus the whole club has a library theme, which gives it a cool and sophisticated touch (and draws the according crowd). Music is deep house and techno .
Leveldva is the tiny bar that is located on top of the popular Ugolek restaurant, which seems to be a part of it but is actually its own venue. It has a very cozy and smooth vibe with dimmed lights and big armchairs to lean back in (if you can get a reservation). On weekends they're dropping fine electronic music and it's very popular with the trendy and upscale crowd.
Strelka is one of the hotspots of the trendy, hip and creative people in Moscow. But it has a great outdoor terrace and a huge outdoor area to chill, talk and sip drinks and can as such attract people (like me) who aren't part of that scene. In summer definitely worth a visit.
The best afterparty clubs in moscow
Heaven is the renovated and new version of the famous Krysha Mira, one of Moscow's most famous and popular clubs a few years ago. It is happening only every second week and therefore guaranteed to be a complete blast every time.
This is the high-end afterparty option that has very tight face control. Once you're in though, you can bask in all the heavenly glory of amazing deep house music, partying on a (sort of) rooftop terrace with a view of the Moscow skyscrapers and of course the obligatory, coked up afterparty atmosphere.
Miks is the "mainstream" afterparty club, meaning plenty of people that are at commercial and high-end clubs beforehand will come here. Music is more tech house and people are going to be wasted, but then again, that'll be the case everywhere.
This place has the proper afterparty vibe in that it's dark inside and you'll totally lose track of what time it is. Like I mentioned in my guide on girls, your best option to get laid late in the night. You'll pay a small cover or a deposit in here.
Gazgolder is the "creative & trendy" afterparty club. Totally different venue and totally different vibe from the previous two, it's much more a Berlin style party, only at a much nicer venue, more beautiful people and much more expensive as well. This is one of the clubs that does cover fees (1000-2000RUB).
Especially nice in summer because they have two outdoor areas which, despite the whole place being pretty big, get absolutely packed with people. I've nver been past 10AM but as far as I've heard, the party goes on until the afternoon sometimes.