Natalia Tesseyman takes us on a sightseeing tour of Moscow’s lesser-known attractions: its parks.
When asked to name the top tourist attractions in Moscow, most would name the infamous Red Square, or even the Kremlin. However, often overlooked are two equally interesting and visit-worthy attractions, more natural than man-made. Izmaylovsky Park and Muzeon Park of Arts are two of the lesser-known tourist destinations that Moscow has to offer, representative of the city’s beauty and plethora of amusements.
Izmaylovsky Park is found in the northeast of Moscow, and consists of two parts, the forest and the recreational area. Its history has been turbulent: from 1585 the Romanovs owned the park, in which the young Peter the Great practiced his war games. Following the erection of a dam in the Serebryanka River, an array of ponds arose, and as a consequence an artificial island surfaced. It was upon this island that the Tsar commissioned the creation of a palace: a couple of centuries later, the mansion was used to house veterans, shelter widows and provide schooling for children. In 1939, the grounds were renamed after Stalin, and became one of the most popular parks in the USSR. He issued an order for a stadium to be constructed in his name, destined to be the biggest stadium in the country: never finished, the park was renamed in 1961 following the growing animosity towards him.
Nowadays, the park bursts with new facilities and attractions including Ferris wheels, playgrounds, a 5D cinema, amusement parks, boats for hire, an ice rink and a small zoo, just to name a few. Simply walk around and take in the rich historical knowledge the park has to offer. Also, no knowledge of the Russian language is necessary: a bonus for the monolingual tourist.
Muzeon Park of Arts – also known as the Fallen Monument Park – is situated next to the more famous Park Kultury and is one of the largest open-air sculpture museums in Russia. There are currently over 700 artworks on display, with a further 200 artworks in storage. The park is divided into themed sections: Oriental Garden, Pushkin Square, Portrait Row, and the better-known area of Fallen Monuments.
Similarly to Izmaylovsky Park, Muzeon Park’s history has been challenging. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the park became littered with statues of Soviet leaders and unknown peasants. Taken down from their pedestals, they were left abandoned, many of them damaged. These original statues became the inspiration for the park in the 1990s, now outnumbered by the more modern sculptures.
Muzeon Park is one of my favourite areas of Moscow because it has been transformed into a contemporary art museum, full of historical artefacts, exhibitions, open-air cinemas, workshops and music festival venues. It gives insight into the history of Russia as well as the culture that can only really be fully appreciated by walking along the paths amongst the artwork. Pay a visit to Buratino, the Russian version of Pinocchio. Although many will be unfamiliar with the story itself, there is no better way to learn about Russian fairy tales and stories than by visiting enormous sculptures of them in the park. More importantly, who doesn’t enjoy a good selfie opportunity?
To make the most of your experience in Moscow, I encourage you, as someone who has lived there, to go to the Kremlin and the Red Square, but to take advantage of a clear, sunny day to explore one of these parks. I guarantee that you will get more enjoyment from walking around and learning about the culture and history of Russia, than enduring a guided tour through the Red Square.