Top 10 Moscow Parks
Top 10 Moscow Parks: Artistic, Active, Historical, Inspiring!
A person who has never been to Moscow might imagine it as a concrete jungle (considering the size of the city and its communist past, that normally makes people think of Moscow as grey and gloomy). That is far from the truth: Moscow is very green, and both the city center and the outskirts have beautiful large parks that are the favorite places for locals to hang out – on a picnic with their friends, on a stroll with their children or just jogging on their own in the morning. In recent years, Moscow has been lucky to have a few new parks and became even greener than ever.
The largest green area of Moscow is an enormous national park called Elk Island. It is also one of the largest forests ever to grow within a city area and among the oldest national parks of Russia. Home to more than 200 types of animals, among which beautiful elks, deer and wild boars, this might be the best place in Moscow to forget about the huge roaring metropolis and meet the wildlife. Since 2002 there is an Elk station working on the territory of the forest, where you can learn everything about these majestic beasts and even feed one.
A few of Moscow’s parks originally have been the countryside residences of Russian nobility or summer residences of tsars and emperors. Probably the best-known one is Kolomenskoye Estate in the South, a summer residence of the royalty since the 16th century. Muscovites love to walk through this massive forest with a picturesque ravine. Kolomenskoye is a UNESCO heritage site, with unique architectural treasures, like Ascension Church, built to celebrate the birth of Ivan, the heir to the throne (soon to become Ivan the Terrible). The panorama of the church on the high bank of Moscow River is breathtaking! Many sites are connected to the life of Peter the Great, who was growing up in his father’s palace in Kolomenskoye. The wooden palace is recreated on the territory of the park and is part of the museum complex.
Tsarytsino and Ostankino Estate
Another former royal residence in the South of Moscow is Tsarytsino, built for Catherine the Great, maybe the most popular venue for outdoor wedding ceremonies and photoshoots, and Ostankino Estate has a lovely little park with a pond, that seems frozen in time – especially on the contrast with the surroundings, like Ostankino TV tower, the tallest structure of Moscow, and the futuristic monorail road.
Not far from Ostankino there is one of the most famous parks in the city, VDNKh. Most foreigners can hardly ever remember this name, which is, in fact, an acronym for Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. Originally created for this exhibition, with the various pavilions representing different republics of the USSR, the fountains and a few museums, this park turned into a busy recreational area, where equally young and elderly can enjoy their time. The Soviet architecture is maybe what the park is most known for, and it delivers: every pavilion or fountain, even the main gate to the park was built by prominent Soviet architects and celebrated the friendship of nations and the achievements of the socialist republics in different economic branches. The statue of the Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman represented the USSR at Paris World Exhibition in 1939, and ever since has been one of the most recognized statues of the communist period. If you want to read more about this fascinating place, read another blog post dedicated to VDNKh park.
Since the reconstruction in the 2010s, VDNkH, Ostankino and Sokolniki Park (another one, really popular by the residents of the nearby areas) have been united into one large recreational zone. A walk from Ostankino to Sokolniki through VDNKh might take you a whole day, but you can also cycle or rollerskate, or skateboard.
Victory Park and Sparrow Hills
Cycling becomes more and more popular in Moscow and it is one of the best ways to explore Moscow in the warm season. In the past few years, multiple bike rentals have opened in the city, including the municipal ones all over Moscow. But the busy roads can be a bit tough to cycle through, that’s why Muscovites normally cycle in the parks. I personally cycle the most in Victory Park, which is not far away from my apartment. It opened 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and apart from a pretty green area, it has a museum of the WWII and a fountain alley. Every now and then I keep on cycling to the Sparrow Hills and follow the Moscow River all the way to Gorky Park. The area of Sparrow Hills is associated with Moscow State University with its imposing main building, surrounded by a lovely park and a botanical garden, and of course the observation deck at the highest point of the city.
Gorky Park and Museon
The Sparrow Hills park slowly flows into the most popular park of Moscow that got international fame ever since the hit song Wind of Change by the Scorpions, that celebrated the end of the cold war. Gorky Park was designed and planned by outstanding avant-garde architects such as Konstantin Melnikov and El Lisitsky and was one of the grandest projects of the 1920s. The park these days not only keeps up with the changes but sets the trends for the whole city of Moscow, opening modern art exhibitions, open-air cinema, playgrounds for beach football and volleyball, yoga classes, ice skating in winter and many many more. Located in the very central area of the city it provides its visitors with amazing views as well as enough ideas for spending free time. A separate part of Gorky Park is Museon – a relatively small area strongly associated with art, as it is home to New Tretyakov Gallery with the Soviet and Russian art of the 20th century, a sculpture park, where you can find works of modern artists and the old statues to communist leaders of Russia, and the vernissage at the embankment, where you can buy paintings by local artists. Within a few years, Gorky Park from an old-fashioned Soviet regular park has turned into the most attractive venue for the young generation and has set a high standard for all of the Moscow’s parks.
Zaryadye Park and Tufeleva Roscha
Recently a few new generation parks have opened, and they became the best in the world in combining urbanism with green zones. The most famous one we see on our Behind the Icons walking tour: Zaryadye Park by the Kremlin walls combines modern architecture with medieval churches and brings all different natural landscapes of Russia, such as mixed forests, tundra, and the steppe, to Moscow. Tufeleva Roscha laid out on the territory of the former automobile factory, has opened just last year, and already has conquered the hearts of the locals, but transforming the industrial zone into a fun park with fantastic design and architecture.
If you are coming to Moscow, its parks are a must-see, for so many reasons: Moscow’s parks are pioneers in urban landscape designing and are ideas-inspiring! You will never be bored exploring them. They are the favorite locations of the citizens themselves, and walking, cycling or skating (depends on a season!) through them will help you feel the city’s pulse and mix with the locals. Most of the parks are packed with history and culture, providing you with a different angle on Moscow. If you want to get the best out of Moscow parks, you can join our Moscow by Bike tour that will take you through the city center to Museon and Gorky Parks, our personal favorites!
Planning your trip to Moscow? Check out this post to get some nice ideas on what to visit and where to eat in Moscow. Enjoy!
by Marina Vinogradova