Stroll through the hilly backstreets of one of Moscow’s most interesting areas Start: Taganskaya metro
End: Rimskaya metro
Distance: about 6km
The theatres, churches, museums and markets around the Taganka area, in the shadow of one of Stalin's skyscrapers, make this one of the most fascinating areas in the city. There are treasures hidden around every corner: a historic stage, a cold war bunker, an art nouveau gem, a white-washed monastery full of icons and a ‘Roman’ metro station.
Even the Taganskaya Metro Station, with its flame-shaped ceramic panels and embossed dome, is worth looking at. Exit to the city from the brown (circle) line and you should come out directly opposite the famous Taganka Theatre, where the bard-poet-actor Vladimir Vysotsky played a guitar-playing, jeans-wearing Hamlet in the 1970s. There is a monument to Vysotsky in the theatre courtyard and round the back, on Nizhny Tagansky Tupik, there is a funky museum dedicated to his life and work.
Turning sharp left out of the metro, you pass the 18th century Church of St Nicholas by Taganka Gate. Haphazardly restored, it still has some of the Baroque elements of the original design. Cross the road and walk along 5th Kotelnichesky Pereulok to another church, the "Assumption in the Potteries", built in 1654 by the local community of Potters, who created the beautiful tiled frieze partly as an advert for their work. The building, which was never closed, has belonged to the Bulgarian Orthodox church since 1948.
Go straight on across Goncharnaya Ulitsa ("Pottery Street") to find on your left at number 11, the red-starred gateway of the "Tagansky Protected Command Post", now a Cold War Museum. This underground surveillance centre - built in the 1950s to withstand nuclear attack - is now owned by a private company that organizes expensive tours. The idea of 7,000 square meters of tunnels running 60 meters under your feet is a startling revelation.
Carry on down to the river and turn right along the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment, whose name comes from the “Kotelniki” craftspeople, making kettles and saucepans, who settled here in the 17th century. In first Kotelnichesky Pereulok, the third turning on the right, you reach yet another church of St Nicholas, this one built in the 1820s by Osip Bové, who designed the Bolshoi Theatre. This church carries his trademark classical features: porticos, large domes, vaulted ceilings. There is a bas-relief of Christ's entry into Jerusalem on the outside wall. The church was badly damaged during the Soviet era, when it was a hydro-geological laboratory.
Going on along the riverside embankment, you reach the Kotelniki apartment block. This residential skyscraper, which straddles the confluence of the Moskva and Yauza rivers, was completed in 1952 and provided fancy flats for the Kremlin elite. For a flavor of the original interiors, pop into the Gastronom (food shop) in the near corner, where the old decoration has been preserved. The chandeliers and elaborate plasterwork are reminiscent of some of the ring-line metro stations that were completed around the same time.
When you reach the grand entrance just round the corner, you can double back sharp right through the huge archway and head for the stairs up past the playground. Climb up the slope behind the apartment building, ending with a little flight of metal steps to reach the whitewashed wall of another beautiful church, one of the few to survive from the time of Boris Godunov. This ensemble of buildings belongs to the Old Believers' Community and will not admit women unless they are wearing long skirts. In fact, they are generally not too happy to receive casual visitors, but you can peer in through the gate. There is a new museum of icons just opposite. Turn right past a neoclassical bank - and then left past the wooden house on the corner into Ryumin Pereulok.
Half way down this little road, there is a lovely art nouveau mansion on your left, at number two, with a mosaic of poppies, colorful molding and a waveform fence. At the end of this road, our route runs almost straight on into Teterinsky Pereulok, but it is worth taking a look at the early nineteenth century Batashova palace, now a hospital, just to the left. There are smiling black lions on top of the gates and inside, round to the left of the main building, is a beautiful old balcony and a memorial to victims of Stalin's purges.
At the far end of Teterinsky Pereulok, cross underneath the Garden Ring and go on along Aristarkhovsky Pereulok. At the end of this road, turn left and then right into Martinovsky Pereulok which comes out near the huge Church of Martin the Confessor. The architect, Rodion Kazakov (no relation of the more famous Matvei), built this late 18th century church, which has its original trompe l'oeil decoration inside. Turn left along Ulitsa Stanislavskogo, passing the long curving facade of the Alexeyev family’s factory, built in 1912. This family, whose fortune came from making gold and silver thread, is most famous for producing the theatrical pioneer, Kontantin Stanislavsky, who was born round the corner. Don’t miss the beautiful, red brick theatre, Stanislavsky’s first, in the courtyard behind the factory and the café in the factory lobby.
You come out of this road onto Nikolyamskaya Ulitsa and head right to the turquoise church of St Sergei Radonezh. Crossing the road behind it, you come to the Andronikov Monastery, a haven of medieval contemplation in the midst of the noise and pollution of modern Moscow.
Coming out of the monastery, walk straight ahead, past the statue of Andrei Rublyov, the great icon-painter, who lived and worked in the Spaso-Andronikov. Turn left over the pedestrian crossing; take the underpass under the main road, go straight ahead along Bolshaya Andronyevskaya Ulitsa and then left into Shkolnaya Ulitsa.
This pedestrianized street consists almost entirely of low-rise 19th century carriage houses. These were vital resting places for horse-drawn carriages on the major roads to Vladimir and Ryazan. The next stopping place along the highway was the village of Rogozhi (now the town of Noginsk), giving the area the name of ‘Rogozhskaya Sloboda'. There is a weekend market at the end of the road. Go into the underpass ahead to reach Rimskaya Metro and see sculptures of baby Romulus and Remus at one end of the platform.
Food and Drink
There is a cozy branch of Le Pain Quotidien at the start of this walk, just outside the metro station on the side closest to the main road. There is a chic and comfortable café inside the converted factory at, open weekdays until 7 pm. The leather sofas, fresh coffee and homemade biscuits are great, but the service can be a bit leisurely. The café’s lampshades, made to look like reels of silver thread, are a subtle reminder of the factory's original purpose. A new café has opened in the Spaso Andronikov monastery and there is another on Shkolnaya Ulitsa.
There is a museum dedicated to ballerina Galina Ulanova inside the Kotelniki apartment block, in the flat where she lived. Tours are available by calling 91544417.
In the 17th century church of the Archangel Michael in the Spaso-Andronikov monastery, there is a permanent exhibition of icons from a variety of schools and eras. The museum costs 300/150 roubles for foreigners/Russians and is closed on Wednesdays.
You might want to divide this walk into two. The second half with the grassy monastery lawns, pedestrianized Shkolnaya Ulitsa and the playful metro at the end is arguably more interesting. Simply start from Marxistskaya metro and head down Bolshaya Kommunisticheskaya Ulitsa where you can soon pick up the route at.
Landmark – Saviour Cathedral
Inside the whitewashed walls and wood-topped towers of the monastery, Moscow’s oldest surviving cathedral is piled up with curving gables below the single high dome. The Saviour (Spassky) Cathedral, completed in the early 15th century, draws on the church-building traditions of Suzdal and Vladimir, but also incorporates elements like the gables from the nascent Moscow style. Andrei Rublyov originally decorated the interior, but now there is almost nothing left of his paintings on the bare stone walls.