Gorky Park and Sparrow Hills
Russia’s capital Moscow has over 100 parks and larger green spaces. The Muscovites regularly seek refuge in the countryside when the hustle and bustle of the big city grows over their heads. None of the 100 parks is as well known and popular as the huge Gorky Park in the south of the capital, which is located on the Moskva River and consists of four very different parts.
A Hollywood thriller of the same name about a murder in the park, one of the most famous Russian rock bands called Gorky Park, and numerous mentions in pop culture – from a scene on House of Cards to a song by the Hanover band Scorpions – all this makes the central park of culture and relaxation, as the somewhat bulky official name is, a little celebrity.
For Muscovites, however, it is the first port of call to spend a little time in the country. Be it by bike, jogger or walker to explore the 120 hectare site – or to soak up the sun on the recently refurbished Krimskaya river bank in the so-called Muzeon park, or simply on one of the large lawns on the ground floor -Section a little to enjoy the tranquility in the middle of the metropolis.
The history of the Gorky
The park was built in Soviet times between the two world wars and named after the author Maxim Gorky at the time. Up until the turn of the century, the area not far from the center was only a residential area with huge estates and then, in the turmoil of the civil war and shortly afterwards, served as an illegal landfill where citizens and entrepreneurs disposed of their garbage.
After intensive cleaning in the early communist years, the site was first used as an agricultural exhibition in the mid-1920s until the Moscow City Council decided to set up a park here that was accessible to all citizens of Moscow. After all, this was supposed to take a full ten years of construction. Throughout the entire Soviet period, the park was incredibly popular and familiar to every Soviet citizen, whether from Moscow or not.
Rebirth after basic renovation
However, after the end of the Soviet Union, the area fell into disrepair – cheap hustle and bustle like shooting booths and slowly rusting rides shaped the sad picture. Only outsiders got lost in the park, which lived more from its reputation than from the sad reality.
Only with the fundamental and just as expensive renovation in 2011 did the Gorky become the park it was once loved by the locals. Especially the promenade along the river with its large sunbathing areas in summer and the numerous ice rinks for ice skating in winter now attract thousands of locals to Gorky every day.
Countless food and café stands scattered across the site provide visitors with everything imaginable – from Georgian delicacies, a decent café to traditional Russian kvass, or ice cream and smoothies in summer.
Concerts, art and privacy place
Even bigger crowd pullers are just the concerts in the park and these have a long tradition here. In 2018 alone, David Guetta, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Killers and Lana del Rey performed numerous international music greats Open Air. But even outside the big events there is always something to see in the Gorky. The modern art center “Garage” (website https://garagemca.org/en) in the park holds regular art and design exhibitions.
In addition, the art center gave the park the largest children’s playground in all of Russia for its 90th birthday in 2018. Numerous play equipment, including 29 different swings alone, are the perfect place to spend a few hours with the youngsters. Pedal boats can also be rented at several locations in the park, for example at the Andreevsky ponds, which is also suitable for children.
Sports courses for adults are held regularly in the park. From jogging to yoga or Pilates there are organized courses – beach volleyball fields, soccer fields and an open air fitness studio offer further opportunities to do sports. Afterwards, beer gardens invite you to linger – all of this happens primarily in the central part of Gorky Park, known as the Neskuchny Garden.
Would you like to experience Gorky Park and the magic of Moscow by yourself? Then you need a visa first – you can find out how to get it here!
Away from the central part: Muzeon and Sparrow Hills
In the section called Muzeon north of the Crimean Bridge there are over 1000 statues, Soviet monuments and modern art facilities. This open-air museum-like section of the Gorky invites you to take a walk that takes you past oversized and pompous Soviet busts as well as avant-garde art objects of the 21st century. Surrounded by statues of Lenin, this section looks partly surreal. The Stalin statue in particular, which had its nose removed, magically attracts visitors.
For photographers, the sometimes slightly rusty busts and remains from the Soviet era offer great motifs. If you’d like to improve yourself as a promising photographer, you can even take a photography course in the park at Photoplay ( https://photoplay.ru/courses/workshop/photoplayatgorky.html ) At 2900 rubles, i.e. just under $ 41, this is significantly more affordable than comparable products in Asia or Australia.
No wonder this section is considered an Instagram paradise for Moscow’s exploding hipster scene. Events are also held time and again in the Muzeon – for example, the warm months over and over here are held cinema screenings outdoors. Russian classics such as international cinema are shown.
You have absolute peace in the Sparrow Hills, which also belong to the park but are spatially separated from the other part. About four kilometers further along the Moskva River out of town is this section of the Gorky Park, which is largely natural. There, just opposite the large Luzhniki Stadium on the other side of the Moskva River, where the Olympics and the World Cup finals have already taken place, there is another privacy place in the middle of Moscow. At the highest point of the Sparrow Hills, to which a cable car leads, you have a fantastic view of Moscow.
The easiest way to reach the park is via the Oktyabrskaya (Октябрьская) metro station, from which it is a short walk to the monumental main portal of the park. But also from the stations Schabolowskaja (Шаболовская) and Lenin Prospekt (Ленинский проспект) you can reach the southern parts of the park, such as the Sparrow Mountains. The northernmost part with the Muzeons section and the sculpture park can best be reached via the Poljanka station (Полянка).
On the official website of the park you can find all kinds of useful information, such as current events such as cinema screenings and concerts ( https://park-gorkogo.com/en) in Russian and English. The Russian part is updated more regularly. The garage art exhibition is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Muzeon part of the park was accessible free of charge from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.