An insider’s guide to Moscow’s parks
Visiting Moscow? Wondering where to start?
There are so many incredible things to see and do in Russia’s capital. Beyond the obvious Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and Kremlin, there’s the Moscow Metro (a world heritage site since 1994), taking a stroll down Old Arbat (a pedestrian street with a great mix of past and present), the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Stalin’s Seven Sisters skyscrapers … the list goes on and on.
However, to experience Moscow as the Muscovites do, you need to visit one of the many parks scattered throughout the city. Here, you can take a stroll, enjoy a little light recreation, and use the open spaces they contain however you like.
Here is a brief description of some of the main parks for you to enjoy…
- Gorky Park (officially known as Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure) is named after Russian socialist author Maxim Gorky. It became famous outside Russia in 1983 when William Hurt starred in the murder-mystery film, Gorky Park. Within walking distance of Red Square and located on the river, it’s Moscow’s main park, covering around 300 acres. Kiosks and cafes line the walkways that meander past the massive Lenin gate, Statue Park, a space shuttle mock-up, and all the Soviet architecture along the river. In winter, there’s ice-skating and an annual ice sculpture competition.
- To the east of the city centre is Victory Park, built to commemorate the USSR’s success in World War II. The park’s main monument is a three-sided obelisk that juts into the air in the centre of a wide, empty plaza. However, the main attraction is the old Soviet military vehicles – an impressive collection of planes, tanks and massive railway guns. And if you’re feeling hungry or thirsty, there’s a selection of places to eat or grab a beer.
- VDNKh, in north Moscow, was originally meant to showcase the great achievements of the Soviet People’s economy. Today, as you pass through VDNKh Park’s impressive entrance gate, you’ll find great halls honouring former Soviet countries and a range of popular carnival rides – rollercoasters, a Ferris wheel and all kinds of fairground games and other attractions. There’s a large tribute to the Russian aeronautics programme, complete with its massive Vostok rocket. You’ll also find pavilions celebrating hunting, atomic energy and, at the centre of it all, the impressive Fountain of the Friendship of Peoples.
- In the west of the city, Izmailovo Park is the place to go to escape the city bustle and get back to nature. But the city is never too far away, and the impressive Izmailovo Market offers some fantastic open-air shopping. The park is a great place for a shady stroll with the locals, offering a range of al fresco eating/drinking options, or head for the embankments along the Serebryanka River for a picnic and admire the buildings across the water.
- Heading south of the city centre, you’ll find two popular parks well worth a visit – Tsaritsyno and Kolomenskoye. They’re more peaceful and lack the carnival spectacle of the others. Tsaritsyno Park is home to the rebuilt Grand Palace of Catherine the Great, a massive lake and plenty of scenery to enjoy. In winter, there’s ice-fishing or sledding. Kolomenskoye Park – one of the first places known to have been inhabited in Moscow – is today famed for its wooden structures, which arrived from northern Russia in the 20th century as part of a conservation effort. The park also contains the hilltop Church of the Accession, offers some spectacular views of the Moscow River, and lots of open space to relax.