Historic Center of Moscow
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Historic center of Moscow is some of the less known Moscow sights. I've already written a page about it, but I think I merely scratched the surface. You see, apart from the well-known parks and museum estates, you can simply walk around the center of Moscow because it has no less to show you.
Believe me when I say it's a lot of fun to slowly walk around Moscow's old, curvy streets. The keyword here is "slowly", because hurrying will ruin all the experience. Haste makes waste as we all know, so I propose you dedicate at least half a day to getting familiar with Moscow historic center.
A wooden house near Arbat - just like in Russian fairy tales!
There are two options. You can either plan your route ahead or you can improvise. By that I mean exiting one of the central Moscow metro stations and walking around while checking out all the interesting streets you encounter.
I'm pretty sure you will discover a lot of cool things even if you don't have an exact plan. You will stumble upon the old, historic houses with all kinds of ornaments. You will see pieces of Moscow that represent different centuries, and you will actually see our city's past and imagine how it was back then, before the October revolution of 1917.
Some streets have all kinds of buildings - those built during the tsarist time are accompanied with Soviet and completely modern office centers made from steel and glass. It feels weird because you immediately imagine you're in some sort of twilight zone that's just waiting to send you back to the times of Stalin. Do me a favor, if all of a sudden Tsar Nikolay Romanov appears in front of you - send me a picture.
Jokes aside, I think the people who are supposed to watch the historic center of Moscow don't do their job well. I don't want to get into all the bureaucracy/corruption stuff here, but sometimes you see really weird combinations. But hey - that's also Moscow, right? I mean, if you want to see it as it is then you need to be aware it's not always as pretty as the postcards show. Relax though - it's only a small fraction that won't ruin your impression!
It's hard to say about the exact routes, but here are some locations in center of Moscow that can be a good start. First of all, check out Nikolskaya Street that spans from GUM and Red Square. It has everything you'd want to see in Moscow - old houses, monastery buildings, a church and a luxurious Ferrein pharmacy built in the 19th century.
By the way, if you exit from Nikolskaya to Revolution Square ("Ploshchad Revolyutsii"), then you'll see the ruins of Kitay-Gorod wall built in the 16th century. In fact, that's one of the few fragments that are left.
A fragment of Kitay-Gorod wall.
From Nikolskaya, you can get to Bogoyavlensky Pereulok that passes to Birzhevaya Square ("Birzhevaya Ploschad"). There are so many things you can see there, from Ilyinka with its famous Gostiny Dvor, to Varvarka with several houses and churches of 17 and 18th centuries. The rest of them were demolished to make room for Rossiya Hotel. By the way, the hotel was also demolished recently, and now there's an empty spot right in the center of Moscow!
A beautiful building on Ilyinka street.
Speaking of the non-matching styles - on Nikolskaya, there is an expensive "Nautilus" shopping mall that looks completely alien not only to the street but also to our planet. Who knows? Maybe the ETs from
You can walk around the place for hours finding more and more interesting things, or you can cross Ilyinka and get to Kitay Gorod
You can also walk across Neglinnaya Street named after Neglinka River that runs in the underground tubes these days. If that's what you want, then start from
Petrovka street again.
The truth is you can probably find something interesting in any place in Moscow if you look close enough. For example, if you get to Tverskaya, you will find a lot of historic buildings hidden inside small side streets and yards, but you'll never see them if you don't pay attention. I also didn't until one day I had to get to an office that was sitting in one of such places, and then I realized how much things about center of Moscow I still didn't know.
This jewel is hidden in the yards of Tverskaya street.
Another possible route is Chistye Prudy ("Clear Ponds"). Walk around the ponds themselves, stroll across Myasnitskaya Street and take a look at its crown jewel - the Tea House. From there, you can turn to peaceful and quiet Krivokolenny Pereulok. Every time I'm there, I imagine myself in the old Moscow because there lots and lots of buildings from that time.
One more option is to get to Shkolnaya Street near Rimskaya subway station. That street is basically a one big historic monument because it looks exactly like in the 19th century. The two-story houses look very strange compared to all the huge, Soviet buildings that surround the street. Fortunately, Shkolnaya is protected by Moscow government as a part of cultural heritage.
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I love that place. Once it served as an entrepot for the caravans that moved to Moscow via Vladimirskaya Road. Well, the caravans are gone but the street stayed the same. Gives you the feeling that you are just about to see the people and the carriages of that time. No wonder - the place is a one big open-air museum! All the houses were restored very close to the originals, and even the colors fit the old ones. Plus, the street was made pedestrian only, which means you can walk around freely and not get annoyed by the passing cars.
I think that's enough for now. Keep in mind that there are dozens of such places in Moscow, and it's really impossible to list every last route. However, if you are fan of old Moscow like me, then make sure you have a good map because it's easy to get lost in all those tiny side streets and yards. Plus, it's best if you travel during the day because at night it's always harder to find a way.
Oh, and how could I forget about the side streets of Arbat! If you get there, make sure you see at least some of its side streets. Trust me, they have a lot to show!
One of Arbat's side streets. What a view!
Unfortunately, since there are a lot of wealthy people who'd kill for having an office in the center, more and more of historic buildings get demolished every year. Don't miss your chance while they are still around!
Again, I couldn't possible tell you about all the things to see in historic center of Moscow because there's just too many of them. So, take your time, walk around, make pictures, and don't be in a hurry, I beg of you! After all, you can always visit Moscow again!
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