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Taganskaya & SE Moscow: The Hidden Gem
The second of an essential guide to favorite residential areas
Text and photos by Ross Hunter; original art by John Har

Kolpachny Pereulok, with a view down to the Stalin skyscraper on Kotelnicheskaya Naberezhnaya

here can you find Stalin-era and pre-revolutionary buildings at discount prices, great views and easy transport, all two stops from the Kremlin and inside the Garden Ring? Taganskaya is curiously unfashionable, and therefore worth a closer look. I declare an interest: we live here, and unless offered Tolstoy’s house or a river-view apartment in Zamoskvarechye, we wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Taganskaya was traditionally an area of metalworking and light industry – the name comes from iron hoops like those used in barrels – and beyond it is a largely industrial wedge stretching southeast: Monopoly’s Moscow version has most of the cheaper properties labelled down that way. However, there are important signs that this is on the verge of a major change. A number of significant multinationals, including telecoms, oilfield development, finance and food processing already have offices here, and the recent announcement that the Yellow Line of the metro is to be extended westwards to Moskva City (in the next couple of years) will surely transform the district… and property values.

Taganskaya is full of contrasts. The big wide streets offer fine views, with too much traffic, but the back streets are cosy and at people-scale.

In a largely flat city, Taganskaya is blessed with nicely undulating slopes, which provide views in all directions, but especially down to the Moscow River and its Yauza tributary – both brilliant for weekend walks or cycle rides.

The area is full of history, from all ages. Bounded by water to west and north, the SE approaches to the city were guarded by a ring of fortified monasteries, of which Novospassky is the largest and most imposing complete with park, pond and river adjoining; Svyato-Pokrovsky is arguably the prettiest, and next to the large and pleasant Tagansksy Park – a favorite with young families. It is also the easiest to visit, only 10 minutes from the metro, just behind one of the Stalin ‘Seven Sisters’ skyscrapers. More recently, the area got more than its share of large, solid and well proportioned 1950s residential blocks, notably along Goncharnaya Ulitsa and down towards the Novospassky Bridge. Whilst houses were going up on Tagansky hill, deep beneath it an even larger construction was hidden from view: a cold war command center and nuclear-proof bunker, 65m below Taganskaya Ploshchad, but now open to the public and well worth a visit.

Most imposing of all is the skyscraper at Kotelnicheskaya Naberezhnaya. One of the famous ‘Seven Sisters’ this is a home for writers and artists and sits at the confluence of the Moscow River and the Yauza tributary, giving it the best and most gracious panorama of any of the ‘wedding cakes’, from any angle but best from near St. Basils or from the river.

Taganskaya Ploshchad is bustling, busy and energetic...

Taganskaya is full of contrasts. The big wide streets offer fine views, but there is too much traffic, though the Garden Ring is thankfully tunnelled out of the way. The back streets, however, are cosy and at people-scale. It is well served by corner shops, supermarkets and banks, with plenty of pleasant bars and restaurants – most famously the excellent Jazz Town club and, of course, the area is renowed for its theaters. At first sight, Taganskaya lacks a hotel or an expat-centred sports bar. As ever in Moscow, news is out of date as it is typed: a new Holiday Inn opens here this month, situated nicely next to and complementing the beautiful Novospassky Monastery: following the historical cue of offering travellers a welcome just as they approach Moscow from the south.

The famous bits:

Taganskaya Ploshchad, with its immaculate metro stations, a choice of theaters, assortment of watering holes and big views down the avenues.

Buildings & statues: tick them off as you go: Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building, four timeless monasteries, one in each corner of the district, the International Library and British Council – which also houses a chatty collection of literary statues in the courtyard, and the cold war bunker – at 5th Kotelnichesky Pereulok.

Fresh air: the Moscow River and the Yauza tributary frame the area, open up the views, clear the air and offer great weekend strolls.

The best metro station: this is easy – there is really only the three-in-one of Taganskaya (radial and circle lines) and Marksistskaya. These are all masterpieces whether above ground, on the way down or on the platforms.

The elegant Stalin skyscraper is a beacon guiding you to Taganskaya

...while the park is tucked away, quiet and relaxing

Streets: the main drags are all busy and lined with shops, but not particularly entrancing. However, step behind any of them to find agreeable lanes, unexpected peace and architectural curiosities, especially heading down towards the rivers.

Handy for? Taganskaya is but twenty minutes brisk walk to St. Basils, Paveletskaya, Chistye Prudy and three metro station stops (Purple Line) to Pushkinskaya; and on the Brown Line only 15 minutes to any railway station of your choice. And it is right on top of the Garden Ring for those with a car.

Good buildings sit in verdant settings, with river views

Next month... Zamoskvarechye – the unspoiled and people-friendy area

Top 10 +/- The list of all that matters most

  1. The Stalin-era buildings, on the embankment, Goncharnaya Ulitsa and by Novospassky Bridge;
  2. Decent expat accommodation at reasonable rates;
  3. Green spaces and views from the hilltop high-rise apartment towers;
  4. Well served with restaurants, daily shopping, banks, theaters...
  5. … but short of good expat/sports bars; 6 Excellent public transport, above and below ground;
  6. Excellent public transport, above and below ground;
  7. Handy by car....
  8. .... but some spots can be tediously noisy;
  9. Surprisingly near the center;
  10. Unmissable: The view over the river to the Kremlin at sunset.

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