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Moscow Neighborhood: Zamoskvorechye

Meet Zamoskvorechye – one of our favorite districts in central Moscow, the beautiful open-air museum of old nobility mansions, a lively area of street musicians, cozy cafes and low skyline. 

Despite its close location to Red Square, it is not touristy at all, neither it is glamorous. Thanks to that in Zamoskvorechye we still can see authentic Moscow and get the feel of city life while enjoying the historical architecture and good vibrations.

Zamoskvorechye literally means “area beyond Moscow River”. In the Middle Ages, this was the area where traders, artisans, and Mongol officials from the Golden Horde lived together, making it one of the most diverse and vibrant parts of Moscow. Later on, it became the district of merchants and soldiers with a prominent Tatar population, hence the mix of Russian churches, the oldest mosque in the city and multiple mansions of successful merchant families. Many streets of Zamoskvorechye are named after businesses and crafts: Tanners’ Lane, Coopers’ Lane, Gardeners Street, Big Tatar street – those are just a few examples.

You can spend a whole day walking and getting lost in Zamoskvorechye, blending in with the locals and tasting cuisine from all around the world in local restaurants, but you won’t see even half of its treasures. Most of us Muscovites keep returning to Zamoskvorechye and discovering new marvels, but we definitely have some favorites that bring us back over and over again. We made sure that you don’t miss them!

A perspective of Pyatnitskaya street, Smirnoff house

The easiest way to get to Zamoskvorechye is to either walk or take the metro. If you walk from Red Square, you just need to cross two bridges behind St.Basil Cathedral, and you will find yourself on Pyatnitskaya Street. If you take the metro, get off at Novokuznetskaya station (Line 2). It is one of the 7 stations in Moscow that were built during World War Two. It is decorated with mosaics, marble benches, and bronze lamps, and is one of the most opulent stations in the city. You can see more of the wonders of Moscow Underground on our daily metro tour.

Novokuznetskaya metro station

There are a few things to see and do around Pyatnitskaya Street and Novokuznetskaya metro, for example, at the beginning of the street, you can see a pale pink house of Peter Smirnoff – the vodka king of Russia. This was his office when he became the proud supplier of the royal court and today you still can see the historical sign. One of the few cinemas in Moscow that shows films in original language with subtitles is not far down the side lane. If you are looking for a perfect read, visit Bookbridge – a bookstore, where one can find a good choice of Russian literature in foreign languages. And if you like treasure hunting, pop into Charity Shop – the oldest in a chain of second-hand clothes shops occupying the basement of the 18th-century building. They sell vintage and custom made clothes and also accept old clothes donations.

It is a perfect place to get lost in crooked and curved side streets, gazing at unusual buildings in all possible styles: you can spot the hidden Historical Mosque of Moscow, the oldest ones in the city, Art Nouveau masterpieces like Korobkova mansion and even a wooden house of Ostrovsky, where now there is the museum of this famous playwright. 

You will eventually come out to Bolshaya Ordynka Street and Martha and Mary Convent, an outstanding complex in Art Nouveau style. It was founded by Princess Elizabeth, the sister of the last empress of Russia, who became a nun after the assassination of her husband Grand Duke Sergei in 1905. Apart from its historical and spiritual value, this convent is just a fantastic example of architecture, stone tracery, fine and decorative art. It also has a beautiful rose garden and is one of the most tranquil and awe-inspiring places in Moscow. 

Photo - Martha and Mary convent

a Mural on Walls of Martha and Mary convent

Zamoskvorechye also houses a priceless collection of Russian art. One of the most visited museums of Moscow, the Tretyakov gallery constantly hosts popular art exhibitions and cherishes the collection of 180 000 pieces of art from medieval icons to the works of Valentin Serov. The gallery was originally a private collection of Pavel Tretyakov, who lived in Zamoskvorechye – he passed the ownership to the city of Moscow in 1892. Next to the museum, there is a church of St.Nicolas, where the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir is preserved – one of the most famous religious artifacts of Russia, it is believed to have miraculously saved the city from many troubles such as the invasion of Timur (Tamerlane) and Ahmed Khan. 

A little further on Bolshaya Ordynka, there is building number 17 – this grey building is easy to miss, but it is very famous among Russian literature lovers: this was the house of a famous satirical writer Viktor Ardov, and it was frequently visited by such authors as Boris Pasternak, who did public readings of Doctor Zhivago here, and the poet Anna Akhmatova. Akhmatova lived in this house when she visited Moscow, and nowhere you can find her monument based on the famous Modigliani portrait, memorial plaque and graffiti art with her poems on the walls of the house. 

Of multiple churches in Zamoskvorechye, St.Clement church stands out – it is taller than others, with red walls and five blue and golden domes on top. This Barocco church is as beautiful inside as it is outside – don’t hesitate to enter, just remember that it is a working church and it is important to be dressed properly: no shorts and showing shoulders, and preferably closed shoes. The Western facade of the church looks at Pyatnitskaya Street – we are back to where we started, but just to take the tram. 

The tram is a local favorite – the oldest functioning public transport in Moscow it is not as crowded as the metro, and you can enjoy the views of the old city by taking route 3 or 39. It is the last tram line that still goes through the area.

You will pass the monument to Tatar poet Gabdulla Tukai and so-called “Drunk House” (on the picture above) where the Soviet time-travel comedy “Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession” was shot. The tram goes past the Old-Believers Intercession church and multiple mansions all the way down to Danilov Monastery, founded in the 13th century by the first prince of Moscow Daniil. Near the monastery, there is the Danilovsky market – arguably the best food market in the city, where you can find practically any food. There is nothing better than a nice meal after exploring the city, and at the Danilovsky market, you can find the whole variety of Russian cuisine. Join our Moscow Local Market Food tour and you won’t walk away hungry!

written by Marina Vinogradova