Late Professor Steven Hocking became an internationally acclaimed popularizer of science for explaining the History of Time using one single equation E=mc2. Here we offer you a perfect 40ish-min walking guide in Moscow along the Boulevard Ring aka to the heart of 12-million city of Moscow, with no bears on your way. Promise. And no digital intermediary needed (a camera stays up to you).
Level of experience: Intermediate
A SMALL EFFORT
This walk requires from you to remember just one single Russian geographical name–Kropotkinskaya metro station. We will help you on that. Kro (a cronut) – pot (a teapot that goes with cronuts) – kin (a kin who you are sharing these cronuts with) — skaya (sky that you are looking at eating these cronuts, drinking tea from your teapot, and talking to your kin) — remember now? Then turn off your Google Maps app. You will need literally no outside help to see Moscow with your eyes, listen to Moscow with your ears, and smell Moscow with your nose. And this city does smell good, especially in spring. (By the way, for free offline guidance around Moscow we recommend 2gis app. But for this route, please, take a risk).
The route we are taking you to mainly consists of the Boulevard Ring. A few words about what the Boulevard Ring is. Of course, it would be too easy if the Boulevard Ring were actually a ring, but this chain of boulevards has gotten pretty close: the boulevards form a semicircle bounded by Moskva River. We will not go into the details, just be aware that our route includes a part of this historically developed semicircle + one extra boulevard that we will finish our walk with. A simple plan: leave the underground, always go straight forward, right from the starting point, alternating a boulevard/a crossroad (x5), then turn left, and you’re done.
We start from Kropotkinskaya metro station thinking about that time when we were sharing crounts with the kin and pouring tea from the teapot looking at the sky. There are two exits from this metro station, and one is frequently closed due to some sermons in a nearby Cathedral. So, take whatever exit you choose or the one that is available. Now it is time to locate yourself in space. See the cathedral? You will definitely see it from either point. That is famous Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which was exploded by atheistic Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union and rebuilt just a few decades ago, now one of the hallmarks of Moscow.
At this point look if there is a roadway between you and the Cathedral. If there is one, just turn around and you will see our first boulevard right out front. If not, move to the right, stop on the crossroad, cross to the other side, and you will eventually see the wanted boulevard. (It is called Gogolevskiy blvd; here and throughout, in brackets, you can find the actual names of the boulevards in case you want to look at the map afterward or post a picture with the location indicated.)
BEAR IN MIND
As you go, look around. Architecture you will see on both sides of every boulevard, manifold trees, some seasonal decorations, a diverse gamut of people — this is Moscow. Although our camera roll shows a daytime experience, a nighttime walk works as well. Streetlights and a bunch of decorative colorful soffits on top of some trees create a completely different but still very “Moscow” atmosphere. Allow the city itself to be your guide from now on.
A glimpse of what to expect from each piece of your journey:
1ST BOULEVARD [GOGOLEVSKIY BLVD]
A moderately long boulevard framed with trees, benches, and “urban manors”, preserved houses of different styles, will be your usual set-up on this route. The first boulevard will catch your eye with a rather surreal sculpture on your right. This bronze sailor surrounded by horses’ heads is Russian Nobel Laureate in literature Michael Sholokhov. Some street inhabitants might be keeping him company, which is common to any world capital. Most of these city-dwellers are great in conversation, smart, some might be even selling books. Note this monument: exit the boulevard at this point to the right for one of the most uncompromising contemporary art museums in Moscow called MMOMA. But as for now, keep on walking.
An enormously large screen with a digital billboard on a building on your left is impossible to miss: its lights are reflected on an opposite building where old notorious Prague restaurant is situated. Meanwhile, on your right, there must be someone playing or singing. Most likely you are listening to a cover version of some song by Viktor Tsoi, almost always Tsoi. A white house, the Morozov Mansion, is looking at you from the right diagonal.
According to Morozov’s mother, she had been the only one who knew that her son was a person of scarce intellectual gifts, — and then he built this house in the city center. She was a rather untrusted architectural critic as you can tell.
On your left starts famous artsy Arbat street. We do not recommend taking the turn with no maps handy; follow our route and go down in the only underpass in your Boulevard Ring walk. This underpass is always clean but happens to be overcrowded. Your task here is to carry on in the straight direction.
When you exit from the underpass, you will have to make a few steps along either side of the boulevard to reach the next green segment. However, here we recommend to elongate this urban gap and walk along the line-up of houses until the next crossroad.
If you choose the left side, you will pass a house where the author of the novel “Dead Souls” and the forerunner of literary surrealism and grotesque Nikolai Gogol lived. Gogol House, the museum, is open there now. If you take the right side instead, watch out: among solid architecture you might suddenly notice an elephant far behind the gate. This building houses The State Museum of Oriental Art.
- the church where the face and soul of Russia, poet Alexander Pushkin, had his wedding ceremony
- in a hell of a season, you might find here some ridiculous festival decorations (including but not limited to a grandiose arch made of yellow lights, giant Easter Eggs, or a random ballerina)
- Friends Forever Company cafes (as sweet and sugary as it gets in Moscow)
3RD BOULEVARD [TVERSKOY BLVD]
A lot of portal frames to inner yards and theaters on both sides are here for a reason. Back in Tsar’s Russia, this boulevard was Moscow aristocracy’s favorite going-out destination, and the paraphernalia stayed mostly unchanged.
With this Moscow version of Berlin’s Unter den Linden boulevard, the construction of the Boulevard Ring itself started. Of course, the trees on Moscow equivalent are lindens too.
- Izvestiya (Editor house)
- Monument to Alexander Pushkin (Russian national pride sprinkles his spirit all around the city)
- Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory
4TH BOULEVARD [STRASTNOY BLVD]
Tile-cobbled, short, peaceful, not so many locals, let alone tourists, –– this boulevard is very homey and as if beyond time constraints.
(on this crossroad you are facing a building — a sushi bistro Catch)
A street on your right, with a church, is called Petrovka. Petrovka starts with TsUM (Central Department Store) and Bolshoy Theater in the very center of Moscow and reaches the ring on this crossroad. Between its ends, you may find a lot of fine examples of pre-revolutionary Moscow architecture, a number of art galleries, bars, and boutiques. But now back to our route.
Bypassing the sushi bistro, take a slight left to note a place for a perfect evening—Mondriaan Bar: warm atmosphere, a rather small and cozy bar, opens at 5 pm, DJ on weekends, decorated in Piet Mondriaan’s style. Cocktail Byron is highly recommended. For more on bars consult our bar digest.
5TH BOULEVARD [PETROVSKIY BLVD]
Packed with soffits, this boulevard gives you a great opportunity to imagine being on a disco party in an outdoor Studio 54, especially if you have just exited Mondriaan Bar. Moscow must have become your friend by now.
You are facing the Central Market, a rather diverse food court in a two-stored building that has just opened in the end of 2017. Of course, here you might just continue walking along the Boulevard Ring. In its turn, our route implies you turn left on this crossroad (the one and only turn on your way). Keep to a mint-green building when crossing, then follow the urban side of the boulevard. The Boulevard you have just turned onto looks best in the late fall when all the leaves are brownish-red.
AFTER YOU HAVE TURNED LEFT
(onto Tsvetnoy Blvd)
This sixth boulevard does not belong to the Boulevard Ring. Do not be puzzled by a mixture of rap fans and mothers with little kids you will mingle with since on this boulevard a Russian rap-artist’s burger diner is located right next to a circus. All the young people in long black/gray/beige monochrome coats and white sneakers or other seasonal fashion essentials will show you the way to an upscale Tsvetnoy Central Market—just follow the stream along the boulevard for a few hundred meters.
IF YOU NEED A MINUTE
This market is not about food. It is more about your social status. You can grab a coffee on the first floor and relax. Clothes with the prices elevating as you are elevating (but faster) is arguably the selection most liked by Russian millennials. On the top floors, there is a great food market with always fresh traditional cottage cheese on offer, a bar, and a restaurant. More info on Tsvetnoy Central Market you can find here. The next building, Tsvetnoy Boulevard metro station, will take you and all of your impressions back to your accommodation.
Actually, there is a metro station on almost every crossroad if you feel exhausted. But we do recommend you make it all the way through. Our route is so worth it. And keep in mind that such a picky guide as Moscow has a tendency to show its different sides to each and every tourist. Which is why the given list is just a sample of what you might see. You might as well see so much more.