North: Around the Olympic Parks & Prospekt Mira
The fourth of an essential guide to favorite residential areas
Text and photos by Ross Hunter
Moscow is a big city. Sometimes, the big streets and the big vistas are the best. By contrast, the areas to the north of Moscow are not at their best seen from the main roads. The Garden Ring – Sucharevskaya Sad – and the 3rd Ring Road are unremitting rivers of traffic and if there is time to look at the view, which is unlikely, concrete and tarmac dominate. Prospekt Mira makes a promising start, going north, but after the eponymous metro, it soon degenerates into down-at-heel shops and worn street furniture, and Olimisky Prospekt is modern, wide and boring. The area is changing rapidly, as modern business developments are expanding.
To find the charming, peaceful and enjoyable areas worth living in, it is vital to get behind the big façades and explore the leafy back streets. On either side of the Garden Ring, and from Novoslobodskaya to Prospekt Mira, there is a splendid set of quiet and relaxing areas, with an abundance of green spaces in which to relax. There are places for children to play, couples to stroll, and every organized attraction from open air concert spots, paddling and boating ponds to tennis courts and formal gardens.
The atmosphere is very different to other parts of Moscow. Without perhaps the prestige of Patriarshiye Prudy (Passport, July), the historical interest of Taganskaya (August) or the intimate charm of Zamoskvorechye (September), the north has its own mixture of landscapes and attractions. As well as parks and trees, the area is extremely well blessed with hospitals, clinics, retirement homes and public service buildings, which may be reassuring. More sybaritically, there is a wide variety of good value restaurants, including Chinese, Japanese, French and more, notably around Mendeleyevskaya and to the Chistiye Prudy side of Tsvetnoy Boulevard. Karetnye, west of the circus, offers historical interest as home to Moscow’s 17th and 18th century carriage building craftsmen. Pick your own cultural favorite: we find The Garage is repeatedly stimulating.
Finding a promising building with a flat to let or to buy should not be too difficult. There are enough pre-Revolutionary buildings to ensure solid walls and high ceilings, and modern developments that are up to expat expectations. The buildings in the side streets around Samotechnye are of notably good quality, having been built for the better echelons of the Soviet ‘nomenklatura’. Prices are estimated to be easier than neighboring Chistiye Prudy to the east, and certainly much less eye-watering than around Tverskaya to the west. However, by the same token, this sector lacks the focus or cohesion of those two most ‘desres’ districts: there is no sense of being in an identifiable place, still less of an urban village community. Many of the best lanes are bifurcated, split asunder even, by the Garden Ring. Even where this is not a total physical barrier, the concrete overpass makes it more Paddington than Notting Hill; more Bronx than Greenwich. My special correspondent in the area, strategically placed overlooking the great slick road, reports that the tedium of every day’s sclerotic congestion is only relieved in the wee small hours by 150+ km/h speed trials and races.
Note: I have explored it as much as I can, and enjoyed cycling all around the area at weekends, but I don’t live there: if I have missed a patch of paradise, a slice of nice, please let me know. I will be more than happy to update my opinion and correct the record. And if you live elsewhere, please give me your input before I potter round your patch with my camera, notebook, and bike. Thank you!
The special bits:
Ekaterinsky Park makes a long green wedge of calm and fresh air stretching out of Moscow, especially as it extends from the Boulevard Ring.
More Green Bits The botanical gardens off Prospekt Mira, Dietskiy Park, Tsvetnoy Boulevard, and a bit to the west the Hermitage Gardens await your playful inspection, not to mention a host of smaller squares.
The Olimpisky Stadium and swimming complex are great edifices, despite the area around them deserving better. Eurovision was one thing, the tatty discount shops below are ‘null points’.
Streets Prospekt Mira, Olimpisky Prospekt, Sretenka and its side streets, Tsvetnoy Boulevard – medical centers in abundance, diversity of restaurants, and plenty of cakes and circuses.
Buildings & Statues Tick them off as you go: The Soviet Army Theater and Army Museum opposite it; the old circus (named after the famous Soviet-era clown, Nikolin); Victor Vasnetsov’s house-museum; The Garage – modern art in an art deco bus depot.
The Best Metro Stations Novoslobodskaya with its delightful illuminated stained glass arches, and its twin sister Mendeleyevskaya sporting gilded stalactites, modelling the molecules you remember from school chemistry.
Nearby? If you like this area but can’t find what you want… keep asking your favorite estate agents! Otherwise, try further north for more greenery; west or east for more characteristic neighborhoods; or further in for a truly city experience.
“There? There’s no ‘there’ there” – Dorothy Parker (by teleportation)
“Pleasant enough, but not really family friendly”
“Handy for the city and major places of interest”
Top 10 +/- The list of all that matters most
- Plenty of pleasant leafy places to live…
- … without any focal point or sense of place;
- With so many hospitals, clinics, dentists and medical centers it is a waste to be well;
- Possibly the best assortment of inner city parks and gardens…
- … but still more bonsai rather than home on the range;
- Handy for the Sheremetyevo Airport Express –
- but at the mercy of endless traffic roaring past;
- Lots of good value eating places – if you know where to find them;
- Much of Moscow’s best culture within easy reach: only 3kms from the Kremlin.
- Unmissable: Nothing, really. A convenient but hardly compelling zone.
Thanks! I am indebted to the following, and more, for their expert and local insights:
RWH at the BBC; Anna at www.eolia-relocation.ru and EIS parents www.englishedmoscow.com