The Best of the Best Places to Live
Your Moscow: eight interesting areas to live in. Which to choose? Each month’s article tried to summarise an area in about 1000 words. This time, 100 words per district is the limit. We can avoid some repetition: all are desirable, all have traffic congestion, a shortage of parking places, a great Metro service, are handy for the city centre and have green bits but not as much open space as any family would like. None of these areas are cheap, but all offer a wide range of properties and prices. All have good points, and all have drawbacks.
Text by Ross Hunter
Art by John Harrison and Julia Nozdracheva
Patriarchy Ponds (July 09)
The beauty, freshness and vitality of a London square. The most ‘des res’ district of inner Moscow, an oasis of safe and cultured if noisy calm. The atmosphere attracts families, and more besides. The ears can get confused and getting the dress code right is equally confusing. This place would be more popular if it weren’t so crowded. Families come for the pond; young professionals prefer nearer Moscow. The soul of Moscow, compressed cultural history, thousands of literary references within a few steps. Secure, classy, expensive, unique. The best Metro station – Mayakovskaya. And the zoo and Pushkinshaya. Moscow as theatre.
Arbat (January 2010)
The newcomer’s first port of call, and the greatest density of expats. Lavishly treated by artists, the first pedestrianised concourse, lined with retail and entertainment palaces, between Kremlin and river, rich in embassies. Enjoy the tourist trinketerie on Old Arbat, and expat sportsbarcity on the new. Tolerate traffic and appalling mall muzak and ghastly concrete, if you can. Be frustrated by poor Metro access. Enjoy Polinov, Melnikov, Pushkin, Gorky and Stalin gothic. Arbat risks being a theme park stage set, but people watching on a summer’s evening is pleasant. Behind the bright lights traps, there are lovely places to live.
Frunzenskaya (November 09)
An enchanting area, from the Ostoshenka ‘Golden Mile’ to Luzhniki stadium by way of Park Kultury, Tolstoy’s house, Novodivichy (17th century monastery, cemetery and park) and the long, long embankments of Frunzenskaya. Solid Stalin buildings line broad streets festooned with trees, even an apple orchard on 3rd Frunzenskaya. This is above all a family area, ideal for jogging, pramming or cycling along the embankments, exuding calm and comfort. The central focal point is Mandelstam Park: beautifully kept, full of flowers, with a good sized lake, it is full of families at weekends, and also boasts areas for dog and horse lovers.
Zamoskvareche (September 09)
One of Moscow’s more enigmatic areas hides across the river. Just one bridge away from Red Square, enjoy a charming European-feeling old town with a delightfully random street pattern, lots of old buildings and remarkably few high rise landmarks. Moscow for people not machines: pavement cafes, car-free streets, intimate and changing views. A place for living in, not showcasing, popular with long term expats. Zamoskvareche is best explored on foot: Sculpture gardens, two Tretyakov art galleries, embankments, Gorky Park, the newlyweds bridge, street artists and a canal. What more could you want? The most historic and handy part of Moscow.
Prospect Mira (October 09)
Parts of Moscow look grand from the main avenues. The northern suburbs near Prospect Mira are better behind the traffic. There are places for children to play and couples to stroll, and many hospitals, clinics, retirement homes and public restaurants. It lacks a focal centre or sense of place. Best bits include Ekaterinsky Park, the army museum and theatre, the circus, the Olympic stadium and The Garage – modern art in an old Leyland bus depot. There are plenty of places to live, at better prices than near the famous ponds to west or east. A convenient but hardly compelling zone.
Chisty Prudy (February 2010)
This lovable, homely urban village is a delight for both eye and nose, in the middle of the Boulevard Ring. A delightful stroll by day or evening. Myastnitskaya was the butchers’ district, and is above the Red no.1 Metro: Beautiful Gate to Culture Park, via Clean Pond, Kuznetsky’s Bridge, Hunter’s Row, Lenin’s Library and Kropotkin’s place. Perfect for coffee, a meal or a night out. Enjoy a cold glass, a warm sunset and a busy throng behind the pavilion. Don’t miss the Chinoiserie tea shop, Leningradsky Hotel and Mayakovsky museum. Very popular, so expensive. A favourite with the French. Suffit?
Central Kitai Gorod (December 09)
The most central, oldest, interesting and varied of the popular residential areas. ‘Moscow in miniature’. The original walled town now runs from the Metro, across the Boulevard Ring towards the Garden Ring, between the river Yauza and Chisty Prudy. Kitai Gorod has lots of shops and entertainments; an area full of life and history. With Red Square and GUM next door. The streets are busy, but the cloisters behind are calm. Maybe too hilly for the very old or the very young, but slopes make for great views. Green places are limited. A delight for painters, photographers, historians and explorers.
Taganka (August 09)
Stalin-era and pre-revolutionary buildings at discount prices, great views and easy transport, two Metro stops from the Kremlin? Taganka is oddly unfashionable, but on the verge of a major change. Significant multinational corporations have moved in already, and hotels and expat bars are opening regularly. In a largely flat city, Taganka is blessed with undulating slopes, so great views abound. The landmark is the skyscraper at Kotelnicheskya Nabarezhnaya. It is well served by shops, banks, pleasant restaurants and theatres. There are plenty of green spaces, and two rivers. Unmissable: the view over the river to the Kremlin at sunset.
Which is best? Impossible. You can, and mostly have, made your own choices. Family structure is crucial in deciding where is best. Single, well-salaried professionals might head for the city side of Patriarchy Ponds or the Arbats. Having a young family might ease you towards Frunzenskaya or Chisty Prudy. Those with a sense of history can choose anywhere, but especially near either Pond, Kitai Gorod or Zamoskvareche. On a budget, Prospect Mira and Taganska are attractive. Me? I love our place in Taganska, and if not there, would look near Tretyakovskaya, anywhere with a river view. Take your pick.