Strolling around the Kremlin

The Moscow Kremlin is one of the most popular destinations among foreign tourists. Source: Lori / Legion Media

The Moscow Kremlin is one of the most popular destinations among foreign tourists. Source: Lori / Legion Media

If you have some free time during your trip to Moscow, a picturesque walk around the Kremlin is a great way to soak up Russian history and culture while enjoying the capital’s vibrant downtown scene.

The starting point of this walk is the Zamoskvorechye district (literally, “beyond the Moscow River”), one of the city’s loveliest  central sights and viewpoints. This area, once the headquarters of the invading Golden Horde, is packed with churches, cafes, restaurants and galleries.

The Tretyakov Gallery is Moscow’s national collection of pre-20th century Russian art. Not only is it a fabulous museum, but it provides a crash-course in Russian history and culture. Note in particular how the gold-backed icons and stiff portraits of tsars gave way to landscapes and historical epics as the country’s art flowered in the 18th and 19th centuries.

From the gallery, walk to the end of the lane and cross a little footbridge whose iron trees are adorned with padlocks put there by romantic couples. On the far side is a statue of the painter Ilya Repin and the gardens known as Bolotnaya Square (Marshy Square).

Strolling around Moscow. Drawing by Natalia Milhaylenko

See the map and keys here. Drawing by Natalia Milhaylenko

Turn left past the fountain and then right to cross a huge road bridge over the river. The traffic is noisy, but the views toward the Kremlin - with its red brick walls and gold-domed cathedrals - are stunning. On the other side of the bridge, go on through the Alexandrovsky Gardens, beneath the Kremlin walls. Red Square and the Bolshoi Theater are beyond the gates at the far end.

To get a little off the beaten track, turn left through the tunnel behind the statue of galloping horses. This popular bronze fountain is a reminder of the horse guards who used to ride in the huge Manezh building nearby, once an imperial parade ground, now an exhibition hall.

The elegant, neoclassical mansions across the road are part of Moscow State University, founded in 1755. Cross under the road and walk up Bolshaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa to reach the Conservatory [10], heart of many of the city’s musical traditions; concert tickets are often available for sale inside. The statue outside is composer Pyotr  Tchaikovsky, who taught at the new conservatoire from 1866 and wrote Swan Lake while he worked here; notes from six of his works are wrought into the fence around the monument.

Turn left at the big crossroads to stroll along one of the green alleyways of the busy boulevard ring, a chain of narrow parks along the line of the old city walls. On the left side of this short stretch, you will find the wonderful “Theater at Nikitsky Gate,” where you can listen to Russian songs and drink vodka in the courtyard on summer evenings.

Also nearby are the Museum of Eastern Arts, packed with lilac silk and turquoise ceramics, the popular John Donne pub and the Confael chocolate shop, where you can buy an edible postcard of St. Basil’s Cathedral.

The following section of the boulevard starts with a statue of 19th century satirist Nikolai Gogol, who lived nearby, and ends at the white and gold Christ the Savior Cathedral [16], the tallest Orthodox church in the world. Built to commemorate the 1812 victory over Napoleon, the cathedral was demolished by Josef Stalin in the 1930s, but reconstructed 60 years later.  

The elegant Akademia restaurant, whose plate glass windows overlook the cathedral, serves up classic Russian dishes such as home-made borsch or sorrel soup with quails’ eggs.

For an old-fashioned dining alternative, the 19th-century style Chemodan restaurant, along Gogolevsky Boulevard (see Review, below) offers a great range of Siberian game, fish and traditional herb and spice “yerofeich” vodkas. 

Going around the back of the Christ the Savior Cathedral, there are more great views from the wide pedestrian bridge over the Moscow River. Just across the bridgr, the trendy Strelka Bar is just the place for sunset waterside cocktails and watching the sun set. 

Going over the bridge, into Zamoskvorechye again, you can see Zurab Tsereteli’s statue of a nautical Peter the Great.  You can stroll through the garden on the left and on into refurbished Gorky Park, now a riverside Wi-Fi paradise of outdoor art and yoga classes, frequented by everyone from grannies and hipsters to young families with strollers.

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