‘Your Moscow’: an essential guide to favourite residential areas
Guides of Moscow are packed full of information, however not many of them will give you the low-down you actually need to decide on where to live. Will it feel right? Is it affordable? Is it handy for shops, schools, culture? Is it a good place for a young family?
This month, Passport launches a major series covering eight of the best residential areas, close to the center of Moscow, starting with the oldest and bestknown neighborhood, NW of the city. This first guide has been compiled by Ross Hunter, regular Passport contributor, English International School Headmaster, and explorer of Moscow by bicycle and metro. He has sampled local opinion already, but Passport now asks all our readers to send in their opinions and information about their areas, at any time, to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next month, our roving eye focuses on Taganska and the South East. After that, not yet in order, we will be in Prospect Mira (N), Chisty Prudy (NE), Kitay Gorod (E), Zamoskvorechye (S), Park Kultury (SW) and the Arbat (W). We look forward to hearing from you.
North by North West: Patriarshiye Ponds & neighborhoods
Text and photos by Ross Hunter
The arc from Petrovka westwards to Barrikadnaya includes many of Moscow’s most famous sights – and best loved inner city residential areas. On the metro map, this is within the Brown ring line, and between the Green and Violet lines.
North By Northwest: in the epic Hitchcock film, Cary Grant runs frantically across an endless landscape pursued by a very hostile biplane. This corner of Moscow is wonderfully visualized in The Master and Margarita, as our heroine warms up her newly acquired witchcraft skills by test riding her broomstick around the suburb. Let us take a gentler tour, without shaking up the neighborhood or burning down any buildings.
This is generally agreed to be the most ‘des res’ district of inner Moscow, and has been for at least a century. This was reinforced in Soviet times, attracting the well connected, ambassadors and then, elite boutique shops. This is an oasis of safe and cultured calm, bounded by a quartet of busy roads. These should ensure excellent accessibility, and the competing centers of central Moscow/Tverskaya; the growing Belorussky area and the Moskva-City/World Trade Center district are all handy. Aiming NE-SW, if the Garden Ring has long lost its green under a ghastly screech of car on tarmac, then the inner Boulevard Ring can still be an absolute delight for a stroll or more vigorous exercises, with children, pets, bikes or running shoes. Going N or NW, Nikitskaya and Tverskaya radiate themselves and are radiant with retailing. A brisk ten minutes’ walk brings any number of shops, offices, theaters and more within range.
Of course, it is the ponds that draw everybody here. Ponds? One magnificent square sheet of inviting water does not merit a plural. There used to be at least three, as the name Tryokhprudny Pereulok suggests (see pg. 40). As ever with Moscow, the battle between land and water has ebbed and flowed, and the former goat marshes were rationalized into distinct ponds in the 17th century, and two of these drained in the early 19th century. In winter or summer, this crosspath abounds with life. It has the beauty, freshness and vitality of a London square. Possibly even too much vitality. While peace and calm are what attract families, the reality is slightly more kaleidoscopic. While one corner is an adventure playground for small children and their chatting mums, they are not alone. A steady stream of folk wander, jog and cycle by, and a varied collection of young and not so young are there for a chat, a romance, and a spot of music. The ears can get confused between pop, rock, blues, amateur guitar and raucous goth beats, and getting the dress code right is equally confusing. Is the pond the preserve of families, romantics, tourists or the thirsty? All, of course – as the old saying goes, this place would be more popular if it wasn’t so crowded.
The famous bits:
The Patriarshiye Ponds act as both a breathing space and a magnet. They are restful on the eye, the ear and the pulse rate, and a meeting place for all ages.
Streets: the clockwise square made by Tverskaya Ulitsa, Tverskoy Boulevard, Nikitskaya and Kudrinskaya Ulitsa/Krasnaya Presnaya gives you four of Moscow’s most throbbing thoroughfares, with astonishing calm between them.
Buildings & statues: tick them off as you go: Kudrinskaya skyscraper, the zoo, Gorky House, the Museum of the Revolution, the Chekhov House and then the theaters at Malaya Bronnaya, the Mossovet’s Theater on Bolshaya Sadovaya, the Moscow Satire, the Luna and the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall; the Stanislavsky House museum, Morosov Mansion, the Tass building and the Belorussky Station; and in stone, Mr and Mrs Pushkin, V. V. Mayakovsky and dozens more.
The Best metro stations: is a highly subjective list, but try and beat Mendeleevskaya/Novoslobodskaya, Chekhovskaya/ Tverskaya/Pushkinkaya, Ploshchad Revolyutsii, Belorusskaya and best of all Mayakovskaya.
Nearby? If your dream apartment doesn’t show up in this area, cross any of the four framing roads and keep looking: between Tverskaya and Dmitrovka; nearer the city across Tverskoy Boulevard, tucked in between Nikitskaya and Novy Arbat or out by the zoo all offer nearly the same ambience – but beware of high prices and traffic noise in these areas, too.
The Third Eye
What the locals say: by different residents – some Muscovites, some expats.
Families like to live west of Tverskaya, towards the pond while young professionals look nearer to the center of Moscow inside the Boulevard Ring
The soul of Moscow, old Moscow, the Moscow of the intelligentsia, the cultural history in a compressed form, thousands of literary references within a few steps
Love the feeling of living here, quiet in the summer when the trees are greenleaf heavy, compressed countryside – until you hit the road again; but half the people are away at the dacha anyway
No local shops any more, all fur and jewellery and overpriced unnecessaries. Bring your own!
Handy for Red Square, GUM, TSUM, galaxies of theaters – all possible on foot. But not so good for the metro, and worse for parking
Lots of embassies and important residents (as well as you), so the area is very safe
“This is Moscow as theater – everything stage perfect, staged, and made up” “Wouldn’t live anywhere else”
Top 10 +/- The list of all that matters most
- The Mayfair and Park Lane of the Moscow Monopoly board (with Stary Arbat of course)
- Lots of top-class expat accommodation
- …. At a price
- Very well served with restaurants, medical services, green spaces, churches, expat bars
- …. But not enough metro stations
- The top shops are eye watering ...
- …. and plastic card melting; selling furs and bangles, but not bread and jam
- Several kindergartens nearby – and on all the main senior schools’ bus routes
- Very missable: Prices, traffic on the main roads
- Unmissable: The zoo, the pond, Pushkinskaya Ploshchad, strolling along Tverskoy Boulevard in the sun