- Kitay-gorod or Veliky Posad is Moscow’s oldest neighbourhood adjacent to the Kremlin.
- Moscow’s oldest buildings are all located here.
- On Varvarka Street are situated the Old English Court, St. George’s Church and Znamensky Monastery, among others.
- A museum in Stary Gosudarev Dvor is dedicated to the history of the Romanov Imperial House and the everyday life of Russian nobility in the 16th and 17th centuries.
- Zaikonospassky Monastery is an active monastery founded in the 16th century, with the surviving Moscow Baroque Spassky Monastery and a bell tower.
- An interesting old building with bas-reliefs in the shape of a lion and a unicorn is the Moscow Print House that printed the first book in Russia in 1564.
- From the Old Square you can observe the government neighbourhood, with the Presidential Administration of Russia, and see motorcades of top government officials.
Kitay-gorodRussian: Китай-город, also referred to as the Great Possadan area outside the prince's, boyar or church settlement under the protection of their walls, is an area of Moscow located east of the Kremlin. This is where the earliest streets of Moscow are preserved, as well as numerous unique monuments of architecture, and an active government district. Kitay-gorod adjoins Red Square and leads into the historical part of Moscow. It is bordered by Okhotny RyadRussian: Охотный ряд, Teatralny PassageRussian: Teatral’ny proyezd or Театральный проезд, Novaya SquareRussian: Novaya ploshchad’ or Новая площадь, Staraya SquareRussian: Staraya ploshchad’ or Старая площадь, Kitaygorodsky PassageRussian: Kitaygorodskiy proyezd or Китайгородский проезд, and Moskvoretskaya EmbankmentRussian: Moskvoretskaya naberezhnaya or Москворецкая набережная. These are the streets where the Kitay-gorod stone wall used to run in the 16th century.
Back then, the district was already inhabited by nobility and foreign ambassadors, and trade was flourishing in Red Square between the Kremlin and Kitay-gorod. This area had to be protected well from the TatarsMongol invaders of Russia and Europe’ raids. For that purpose, a wall was built here by Italian architect Pietro Francesco Annibale in 1534–1538. The very name of Kitay-gorod is thought to have an Italian origin, as the Russian word Kitaytranslated as ‘China’ sounds similar to the Italian word ‘città’ (‘city’).
Unfortunately, this once great wall was demolished in the mid-20th century. Now, only two small fragments are left: one behind the Metropol HotelRussian: gostinitsa “Metropol” or гостиница “Метрополь” and the other in Kitaygorodsky Passage. In addition, the white stone foundation of the Varvarskaya TowerRussian: Varvarskaya bashnya or Варварская башня; means 'barbaric' is preserved in one of the ticket-hall areas of the Kitay-gorod metro station.
Even if you are in a beautiful historic area or a tidy park, walking around the huge city takes up a lot of energy. For you to have a rest in the best way, on the pages of our website there is a lot of information about the best restaurants in Moscow, best bars in Moscow and Moscow nightlife.
Zaryadye. Varvarka street in Moscow
ZaryadyeRussian: Зарядье is the oldest part of Kitay-gorod. This area lies east of the Kremlin, between Varvarka StreetRussian: ulitsa Varvarka or улица Варварка and the Moskva RiverRussian: Moskva-reka or Москва-река. It owes its name to its historical location behind the trading rows on Red Square (zaryadye literally means ‘behind the rows’ in Russian). It was there that merchants and craftsmen started to settle down as early as in the 12th century. Unfortunately, Zaryadye was almost completely demolished in the 20th century, the churches and chambers on Varvarka Street and the small church of the Conception of St. AnnaRussian: tserkov’ zachatiya Anny or церковь Зачатия Анны being the only survivors. Zaryadye Urban ParkRussian: gorodskoy park "Zaryadye" or городской парк "Зарядье" will open in this area in autumn 2017.
Great Martyress Barbara’s Church.Mentioned in documents dating as far back as the 15th century, Varvarka is the oldest street in Moscow that has survived to this day. This is a real gem of old architecture. It starts off with The Holy Great Martyress Barbara’s ChurchRussian: khram Varvary Velikomuchenitsy or храм Варвары Великомученицы located on 2 Varvarka Street. It was built in 1796–1801 by architect Rodion Kazakov in the Moscow classicist style and features a portico and a rotunda, typical of thier time, as part of the dome.
Behind The Holy Great Martyress Barbara’s Church, there is the so-called Old English CourtRussian: Angliyskoe podvorye or Английское подворье (4A Varvarka St), one of the oldest buildings in Moscow, which housed the British Embassy in the 16–17th centuries and also served as the residence for the British Muscovy Trading CompanyRussian: Angliyskaya Moskovskaya torgovaya kompaniya or Английская Московская торговая компания. In the 1970s, it was completely renovated and became home to a museum which tells the story of the British Muscovy Trading Company and the British-Russian relations of the 16th–17th centuries. The 16th-century authentic cellar with a vaulted ceiling is the most curious part of the building.
Church of Maximus the Confessor.The Old English Court is neighboured by the Church of Maximus the ConfessorRussian: khram Maksima Ispovednika or храм Максима Исповедника (4 Varvarka St). This small church with one onion dome was financed by merchants and built in 1699, in the era of Peter the Greatreigned from 1682 until 1725’s reforms, yet still embodying the spirit of old Russian architecture. A small Empire-style bell tower was added to the church in the 19th century.
There is a long blue building on the other side of the street which is difficult to miss. This is Gostiny DvorRussian: Гостиный двор, which literally means ‘guest court’, a place where merchants (referred to as ‘guestsRussian: гости’ in old-time Russia) used to store and sell their goods. Gostiny Dvor in Varvarka Street was designed by Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi in the late 18th century. The building was badly damaged in the fire of 1812, renovated and rebuilt in the 19th century, and, unfortunately, incorrectly renovated in the 2000s: a few more levels and a glass roof were added, which made Gostiny Dvor look more like a newbuild.
An exquisite bell tower in the Moscow classicist style and a five-domed brick cathedral with two tiers of galleries and white stone monks’ living quarters can be seen on the even-numbered side of the street, next to the Church of Maximus the Confessor. They are part of the Znamensky MonasteryRussian: Znamenskiy monastyr’ or Знаменский монастырь. In the 16th century, it served as the family church of the Romanov boyarsa member of the highest rank of the feudal society in Russia, the family that would start the royal house of Romanovthe second dynasty to rule Russia, after the House of Rurik, reigning from 1613 until 1917. The monastery was founded by the Romanovs themselves in the 1630s. There is no active monastery here today, but the Znamensky CathedralRussian: Znamenskiy sobor or Знаменский собор holds regular worship services. The former monastic cells (8B Varvarka St) now house a wonderful refectory, which is open daily from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The neighbouring building (10 Varvarka St) is a medieval Russian palace, the Chambers of the Romanov boyarsRussian: Palaty boyar Romanovykh or палаты бояр Романовых, also known as the Old Tsar’s YardRussian: Stary Gosudarev dvor or Старый Государев двор. Legend has it that Michael Ithe first Russian Tsar of the house of Romanov after the zemskiy sobor (the first Russian parliament of the feudal Estates type) of 1613 of Russia, the first ruler from the House of Romanov on the Russian throne, was actually born there in 1596. Throughout its long history, the building has undergone quite a few reconstructions. It acquired its present look in 1859, when a museum dedicated to the history of the Romanov dynasty was opened here by the order of Emperor Alexander IIthe Emperor of Russia from 1855 until 1881. The reconstruction was performed by Fyodor Richter, the architect who created the look of an old Russian ‘teremthe upper story of a home or castle, often with a pitched roof’ palace. Richter added a balcony facing Varvarka Street, depicting a double-headed eagle (griffin), the emblem of the Romanov dynasty. Today, these old chambers house a museum where you can learn about the history of the dynasty as well as everyday life of the nobility in pre-Petrine Russia (16–17th centuries).
Varvarka Street is not very long. At the end of it, you can see the Church of St. George on Pskov HillRussian: khram Georgiya Pobedonostsa na Pskovskoy gorke or храм Георгия Победоносца на Псковской горке. The place got its name from Pskovians who settled there after PskovRussian city located about 20 kilometers east from the Estonian border had become part of Muscovy. This elegant, yet small, five-domed church was built in 1658. A pseudo-Gothic bell tower and a refectory were added in the early 19th century, giving the church an unusual look.
In addition to the cobwebs of narrow lanes, there are two other well-known streets in Kitay-gorod: NikolskayaRussian: Никольская and IlyinkaRussian: Ильинка. They are business streets that have hardly preserved any ancient churches; instead, they are filled with tenement buildings and shops, brilliant monuments of Moscow Art Nouveau style.
Nikolskaya street in Moscow
Nikolsky Market, or Nikolsky RowsRussian: Nikol’skiy rynok, Nikol’skie ryady or Никольский рынок, Никольские ряды (Bld.3, 5/1 Nikolskaya St) is located behind the renovated Kazan ChurchRussian: Kazanskaya tserkov’ or Казанская церковь, at the very beginning of Nikolskaya Street. The rows were designed by famous Moscow architect Lev Kekushev in 1899–1900. The huge windows and moulded mascarons (ornaments shaped as human faces that decorate building façades) are distinctive features of the Art Nouveau architectural style.
Another impressive trading house in Nikolskaya Street is the former Ferrein’s PharmacyRussian: apteka Ferreyna or аптека Феррейна (21 Nikolskaya St). The building resembles a medieval castle. Its four tall columns are topped with statues of Hygieia, the goddess of health, feeding a snake from a bowl. This exotic building was erected by architect Adolph Erikhson in 1893.
Very close by the Pharmacy, you will find the Monastery of the Holy Mandylion, or Zaikonospassky MonasteryRussian: Zaikonospasskiy monastyr’ or Заиконоспасский монастырь (7/9 Nikolskaya St). It it thought to have been founded by Tsar Boris Godunovruled as a regent from 1585 to 1598 and then as the first non-Rurikid tsar from 1598 to 1605 in 1600. The monastery’s architectural ensemble consists of the SpasskySaviour Cathedral, UchitelskyTeacher Unit, and the Religious Seminary. Throughout its history, it has been a center of enlightenment. The Silvestr Medvedeva book-keeper and a copy editor of the Moscow Print Yard training school was opened under the Monastery in 1682. In 1687, the Slavic Greek Latin AcademyRussian: Slavyano-greko-latinskaya akademiya or Славяно-греко-латинская академия, Russia’s first university, was founded here. Mikhail Lomonosov, a Russian scientist of global significance, was one of its successful graduates. During the Soviet era, it was home to the Institute of History and ArchivesRussian: Istoriko-arhivnyi institut or Историко-архивный институт. Today, the building serves its original purpose: there is an active monastery there. The Spassky Cathedral with its bell tower has been preserved. This is an interesting monument of the Moscow baroque style built at the turn of the 18th century.
The Moscow Print YardRussian: Moskovskiy Pechatnyi dvor or Московский Печатный двор in 15 Nikolskaya St is another remarkable ancient building. This is where Ivan Fyodorovthe first known Russian printer printed his ApostolosRussian: Апостол, the first book ever printed in Russia. The building was reconstructed and acquired its present pseudo-Gothic look in the early 19th century. Of special interest are the bas-reliefs with images of a lion and a unicorn, symbols of the tsar’s power in the 16th century. The building is home to some departments of the Russian State University for the HumanitiesRussia: Rossiyskiy gosudarstvennyi gumanitarnyi universitet or Российский государственный гуманитарный университет today.
More trading rows are located at the beginning of the neighbouring Ilyinka Street. These are the Upper and Middle Trading RowsRussian: Verkhnie i Srednie torgovye ryady or Верхние и Средние торговые ряды (the present State Department Store, or GUMRussian: ГУМ), the reconstructed Tyoplye Trading RowsRussian: Tyoplye torgovye ryady or Теплые торговые ряды (3/8 Ilyinka St), and Gostiny Dvor (4 Ilyinka St).
The Birzhevaya (Stock Exchange) SquareRussian: Birzhevaya ploshchad’ or Биржевая площадь located on Ilyinka Street owes its name to the Moscow Stock Exchange that used to be based here some time ago (6 Ilyinka St). The yellow building looks like an ancient temple with the statue of Mercury, Roman god of trade, on its pediment. The Moscow Stock Exchange building was designed by architect Alexander Kaminsky in the 1873–1875. Now it is home to the Chamber of Commerce and IndustryRussian: Torgovo-promyishlennaya palata or Торгово-промышленная палата of the Russian Federation.
Ilyinka used to be Moscow’s major banking street up to the revolution of 1917. Today, state and government agencies are located here. Particularly noteworthy are the western and eastern buildings of the former Northern Insurance CompanyRussian: Severnoe strahovoe obschestvo or Северное страховое общество (21 Ilyinka St; Bld. 1, 23 Ilyinka St). This is an interesting example of the early 20th century functional style incorporating some neoclassicist features. The Northern Insurance Company buildings were constructed in 1909–1911 by a team of Moscow architects led by Ivan Rerberga Russian civil engineer, architect and educator active in Moscow in 1897–1932. The Moscow office of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation is located in the western building today, while the eastern one is the seat of the Presidential Administration of Russia.
The government buildings of Kitay-gorod are of special interest. Quite often, senior government officials are seen passing by here. This is why, unfortunately, the general public has no access to the part of Kitay-gorod limited by Ilyinka, Staraya SquareRussian: Staraya ploshchad’ or Старая площадь, Varvarka, and Rybny LaneRussian: Rybny pereulok or Рыбный переулок. However, you can access the passage along Staraya Square, from where you can see the Presidential Administration building (4 Staraya Sq; Bld. 1, 6 Staraya Sq; 10/4, Staraya Sq). Interestingly, these buildings were constructed at the turn of the 20th century to serve as trading and tenement houses. The most remarkable of them is the building of the former Boyarsky Yard HotelRussian: Boyarskiy dvor or Боярский двор (8 Staraya Sq). It was built by famous architect Fyodor Shekhtelthe most influential and prolific master of Russian Art Nouveau and late Russian Revival in 1901–1903. The architecture of this building is a successful combination of functionalist convenience and Art Nouveau luxury.© 2016-2020 moscovery.com