Moscow’s Des Res Districts: (6) Frunzenskaya
Editor’s Welcome: The sixth in our series on the best central residential areas. Look back over RK for
Frunzenskaya – Key Features in Cameo:
A A solid, well organised, family-friendly, agreeable and attractive haven of peace;
B Perfectly located for the city and all its amenities;
C An abundance of well-tended parks and gardens; spoiled for choice for weekend family cycle rides;
D Culturally endowed by Novodevichy and Tolstoy (beat that!),
Y But home of Russia’s football… so all advantages are ‘off’ on match days;
Z Its fluvial moat protects, but also makes for ghastly commuter congestion.
This is a delightful and comforting district. Solid, safe, well-constructed, and splendidly endowed with great parks and features. There are even rows of public apple trees along some of the streets. Start at Kropotkinskaya. Pause to enjoy fine views of the eponymous metro station and the new-old Cathedral; lament that the statue facing you is Engels, not Kropotkin. Head briskly down Ostozhenka Ulitsa. The famous ‘Golden Mile’ is just before ‘GO’ on the game board: if you can afford it, THE place to live. It is steeped in history, ideally located for access and amenities and lined with top-class apartment blocks, and with a well-heeled Bohemian reputation. The Moscow Times once reported Ostozhenka as being the world’s ninth most expensive street. And you are tracking Moscow’s very first and still most prestigious Metro line. Even the air vents are housed in ornate chalets.
That’s the apéritif. Skip over the Garden Ring, using the helpful flyover by Park Kultury metro station, and you are on the peninsula of interest, locally called Hamovniki, but better known by evocative and impressive names from Frunzenskaya and Novodevichy to slightly more equivocally, Luzhniki. Bounded by the Garden Ring and the river, with its busy but scenic embankments, through traffic has little incentive to come this way, so the atmosphere is calm and the pace gentler than in most other areas. They are literally, ‘a spoon of tar’ in the works: easy to ignore from a distance, but an eye- and ear-sore nearer. Bridges do lift the Garden and Third Rings out of the way, and in the latter case, creates an urban sports zone. The streets are broad and festooned with trees.
The focal point of the peninsula is the delightful Mandelstam Park. Right next to Frunzenskaya Metro, cinema, shops and market, this is a wonderfully developed and family-friendly area. Beautifully kept, full of flowers, with a good sized lake, it also boasts special areas for canine and equine enthusiasts. There is also ice skating, sledging, birds and squirrels (caged, sadly). At any time on weekends, the park is thronged with families, prams and pets.
Housing surrounds the park. Not overmuch is quaint or pre-revolutionary, but solid Stalin era and later buildings to cover every taste and budget, and a constantly growing selection of new buildings. There are good facilities at street level, and it should be easy to get a flat with a river view, and the longer vistas that come with it. All feels solid, secure and green. New developments popular with expats include ‘Camelot’ at Komsomolky 32, ‘Vienna House’ at 1st Neopalimovsky Pereulok, ‘La Defense’ and ‘Fusion Park’.
Shopping is not my patch, but even I can see top quality (cost) emporia when I walk past. Fashions, furniture, fine foods and antique shops catch the eye, notably along Frunzenskaya and Kosomolsky Prospekt. There are also plenty of convenience shops, groceries, fast food outlets and chic coffee shops. Between the Metro and the park is a splendid fresh food market, especially recommended on Fridays for eggs and honey.
This is above all a family area, ideal for jogging or cycling along the embankments one way round to Red Square, Kievskaya, or the long run round Luzhniki Park. An abundance of parks and gardens includes Novodevichy, and crossing the river opens up Gorky Park, Neskuchny Gardens, and the Sparrow hills (Vorobyovy Gory) nature reserve. For urban youth, the Luzhniki Stadium area offers basketball under the flyover, rollerblading and skateboarding concrete surfaces, indoor and outdoor tennis, fitness clubs and more.
For even more exercise, try jogging (etc.,) the whole area in a morning or an afternoon, from Sparrow Hills to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, either way round. Enjoy a long green stroll with a variety of landscapes, historical ties and even the setting of the sunset finale of The Master and Margarita in Neskuchny Garden.
Worth the journey in themselves:
Novodevichy Monastery, cemetery and park Virtually intact since the 17th century, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Embankments are wide, varied and offer wide vistas.
The Luzhniki Stadium complex is full of stories – glorious, heroic and tragic – and is a vast play area, on non-match days. If there is a game on, either go – the atmosphere inside is amazing – or get out before you get stuck.
Tolstoy’s House Now there’s an address. One of the nicest houses in Moscow, and an evocative museum.
The Best Metro stations: Kropotkinskaya, magnificently overbuilt, awaiting the never to arrive Palace of the Soviets; the exterior of Frunzenskaya– with its fascinating mosaic murals.