Every creative person, and perhaps most every person, has once dreamed of having some kind of talisman or lucky charm they could use to receive an inspirational boost, allowing fresh, original ideas and waves of creativity to wash over them. Perhaps such fountains of inspiration really exist, and I’m one such lucky person who has found hers! These art “clusters” in Moscow have become my personal Mecca — these are multi-use spaces where shopping, dining, co-working, and creating live and thrive in harmony, in one of the most dynamic cities in the world. Having visited each once, I fell in love with them forever.

Hlebozavod no. 9

Address: Novodmitrovskaya Ulitsa 1, metro: Dmitrovskaya  (5-min walk), open 24 hours

The first time I came here was for a fashion shoot. My friend, a clothing designer, just sent the location to my phone and I, half asleep, found myself at Novodmitrovskaya on a rainy summer morning. Wow. I went into the gate without yet understanding how these spaces trigger your creative process like a key in an ignition.

Before me stood a giant red constructivist style building with a factory chimney (the name literally means “bread factory”), some kind of silver cylindrical apparatuses that looked like oversized barrels, and bizarre geometric graffiti — everything around me harkened back to the early Soviet era of the NEP (New Economic Policy) and the avant-garde. Feeling like this place was indeed a time machine, I came back to Hlebozavod again and again.

Inspiration comes in many forms here, from the vinyl turntable store On Kai and accompanying record store Stoprobot, to the authentic Asian cuisine cafes Supermarket Asia and TamEm, the Brazilian restaurant Lars with its large grill and excellent wine selection, and Bar Rumochnaya 9, where concerts are held and you can simply have fun. There’s so much here — even ukuleles, comics and levitating plant stores!

What is it? I wondered and searched for information about this place. This is an Art Cluster — a group of special spaces in Moscow housed in former factories. Today, they hold exhibitions, lectures and markets, and life is in full swing day and night. This is a place for people like me, and you. I had to learn more about them, which led me down the rabbit hole to visit all such clusters across the city…

Flacon Design Factory

Address: Bolshaya Novodmitrovskaya 36, metro stop: Dmitrovskaya (5-min walk), open 24 hours

Flacon is a festival that never ends. There are indie brand sales, artists strolling everywhere, musicians, bright street art, and charismatic architecture. Here, everyone can be themselves.

Here you can dine at the Georgian bistro YUG, the Chinese restaurant Silver Panda, eat grilled meat at Adam’s Ribs or vegetarian cuisine at Vkus & Cvet cafe, buy unusual clothes at Husky, VSESTILNO and Laser B, drink coffee at Pravda Coffee, and shop for souvenirs to Kawaii Factory and Respublica.

I especially like this place on warm summer nights, when everything comes to life in the colors of neon lights, the summer parties at Amsterdam and Iskra bars are filled with laughter, and the walking and dancing go on until the morning.

Aviator

Address: Olkhovskaya Ulitsa 14, metro stops: Baumanskaya, Krasnoselskaya (10-min walk), open 24 hours

There is something wild and alien in this space, with its incredible aviation-themed graffiti, homemade benches, vandal-like inscriptions, skate parties and punk concerts at night. There are two nightclubs here, Punk Fiction and Uspex, where concerts, festivals and other events are held.

And, on weekday mornings, it is so empty and quiet here that you feel like you’re in some kind of psychedelic desert.

Aviator can be called the center of the capital’s underground culture.

This is a place of protest and freedom, which makes it all the more intoxicating And, of course, it’s one of my favorite locations for a photoshoot. You can also have a good coffee here at West4 and buy funny vintage items at Kompot Petrovich.

There is even a hostel for guests, Rus Aviator.

Red October

Address: Beresnevskaya Naberezhnaya 6, metro stops: Kropotkinskaya, Tretyakovskaya (7-min walk), open 24 hours

This is a former chocolate factory in the very center of Moscow, in close proximity to the Kremlin, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Pushkin Museum and Gorky Park. It is especially beautiful at sunset, with the red bricks blazing in the sun. I walk along the cozy lanes with the relaxing rhythms of the lounge and the café’s laughter in my ears. When I sit down on soft ottomans, I almost start to melt like chocolate in the sun. Two long-haired guys who look like rock stars are having a photoshoot. I secretly take one shot for myself and move on.

There are many who walk here during the day — children, dogs, foreigners, and, of course, students. And there is everything you can imagine: the Lumiere Brothers Gallery, a Chocolate Museum, Moscow Point hotel, the restaurants Medusa, Magadan and Syrovarnya, and the cafes DoubleB, Urbancafe and Cofix. At night, it turns into one of the most fashionable places in Moscow, thanks to its famous clubs Gypsy and Live Stars.

Khokhlovka Art Neighborhood

Khokhlovskiy Ln. 7-9, metro stop: Kitay-gorod. 

There is a special quarter in the very center of Moscow, a space naturally formed by a few generations of Moscow’s Bohemians living here. The air feels saturated with artistic energy and authenticity, especially as it protects its vintage aesthetic in contrast to the rows of Porsches and Maseratis that characterize the city center. Here you can find the boutique of Russian designers HHLVK, the LEGACY vintage store, the Blanc cafe surrounded by greenery, the Red Brick cafe and hotel, and the Hyperion bookstore, where you can buy souvenirs and postcards. 

There are always people sitting, talking, laughing, eating and walking everywhere. There is a grand piano and leather armchairs in the courtyard under trees decorated with ribbons, and mirrors hang on the walls of the houses. Many people here know each other. This place is mostly known in creative circles. I myself learned about it at work, when I needed to pick up clothes for shooting from the boutique. And this parallel world immediately became a part of my life.

ArtPlay

Address: Nizhnaya Syromyatnicheskaya 10, metro stops: Chkalovskaya, Kurskaya (7-min walk), opening hours 10:00am–23:00pm

Have you watched The Fifth Element? This space immerses me in a completely different atmosphere. Add some flying cars, and I’m a real-life Milla Jovovich with a multi-passport in my hands! 

A huge yellow staircase is attached directly to the building. Nearby, there is a house that looks like crumpled paper. The number 25, as tall as several people, hangs on an incredibly red wall. All of this triggers in me an accelerated thought process and the feeling that I am capable of turning this world upside down. And, most importantly, this place completely distorts my sense of my own size. I raise my head and see a huge David. I climb up the labyrinths of stairs and people are scattered below, like in a cartoon where tiny people run around frantically in the squares you’ve drawn on the page. Everything here changes with lightning speed, your sense of time all but lost.

Here you can buy cool items at the Kirill Karavaev store and jewelry at the Saharok store, dine at Cafe Gauguin, taste lovely fish dishes at Rybnoe Mesto, and drink good wine at Bokalnya YouWine.

You can drink coffee at Bitter Drop or on the balcony of Surf Coffee overlooking the Yauza. They sometimes hold concerts here. And, for lovers of Asian food and burgers, go to Silver Panda and Burger First.

Arma

Address: Nizhniy Susalniy Pereulok 5, metro stop: Kurskaya (3-min walk), open 24 hours.

When I came here for the first time, it was overcast and deserted. There was something dark and medieval in this atmosphere. I wandered completely alone among the huge cylindrical gasometers of dark red brick and flower beds along perfectly paved paths. A man who came out to talk on the phone while I was shooting the buildings looked at me curiously. The gloomy, austere grandeur of the gasometers combined with the bars, a restaurant and boutiques is very distinctive.

The centerpiece is Wolf’s Brewery, a craft brewery with a bar where you can taste different styles of beer and 38 varieties of fruit ales. You can also buy interesting pop-art clothes at Beauty In Look, dine at Silver Panda or the Prime Star cafe, go to the Killfish bar’s party, and drink good coffee at Cofix.

Winzavod (wine factory)

Address: Moscow, 4th Syromyatnicheskiy Pereulok 1/8, bldg.6, metro stops: Kurskaya, Chkalovskaya (5-min walk), opening hours 10:00am–23:00pm

“Art heals!” declares the inscription on the gate that I entered through — the aesthetics here are in the air. The vastness, the sounds of jazz mixed with foreign speech; everything is drawn out and unhurried, as befits art lovers. A man comes out of the gallery, everything about his appearance saying Bohemian chic, greeting and hugging his friends — a similarly unusually dressed lady with her companion. It seems that in this place the people themselves are the art objects. 

Fascinated by this artistic magic, I moved on. There are several art galleries here, including XL, Ovcharenko, POP / OFF / ART, and others. Various exhibitions are constantly held here. There is an art school, dance studio, and even a school of collectors and experts. And, in between walking through the galleries, shooting against the backdrop of graffiti, or studying, you can sit in the Zurzum or Hitrye Ludi cafes, go to the Cosmotheca for rare niche cosmetics and perfumes, and stop by the funny souvenir shop.

“Now, you are healthy!”

It’s getting dark and I have to go home.

“Now you are healthy!” says the inscription on the exit.

And I set off on a cool Moscow evening with a clear desire to come back here again.

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