Gorky Park and Garage Museum of Modern Art in Moscow
Poster Child of Russia’s Urban Revitalization
Free Entrance, Bring Cash for Food, Bike Rentals, etc.
For several years now, Russia’s federal government and the city government of Moscow have worked together in an attempt to revitalize the capital city, with a particular focus on infrastructure. Whether it’s newly paved roads, widened sidewalks, the removal of street vending kiosks for aesthetic improvement, or splendid new urban parks, the project has had some clear and noticeable successes.
One of Moscow’s most impressive examples of urban revitalization is Gorky Park. In previous years, this park southeast of Moscow’s center had an infamous reputation for its dilapidated appearance and even crime. Today, approach the park from any side and it would be hard to believe that the place had ever seen difficult years.
The first time I ventured to Gorky Park, I did so entirely on a whim, learning through my internship that there would be a popular Russian food festival held at the park. Living at Moscow State University, reaching the park is very easy, requiring only a short walk to the metro and then riding for three stops to Park Kultury on the red line.
Crossing the bridge over the Moscow River, the incredibly green park immediately comes into sight on the right. Situated right on the bank of the river, there are numerous kiosks for food, coffee, tea, and kvass, any of which you can enjoy while strolling along the embankment and taking in the sites of Moscow, including the monument to Peter the Great and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
You can decide either to descend the steps of the bridge onto the pedestrian embankment, or continue down the street until you reach the main entrance: a large structure of columns, resembling a sort of fusion of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe with Rome’s Parthenon. The immense size of the structure provides a stunning first impression of the park you are about to enter, which is sizeable itself and full of things to spend an entire day doing.
As a runner, a way that I most often explore cities is through that sport, going where my feet take me and discovering new attractions in the process. The sporting embankment that was constructed and maintained as part of Gorky Park begins at the base of the bridge one crosses to reach the park from the metro station. From here, it continues north and south from the park, following the path of the Moscow River. If one chooses to go south, the options are seemingly endless. With dedicated lanes for cycling, rollerblading, running, and a sidewalk for those out for a stroll, there is no shortage of ways to explore. One can additionally rent bikes and rollerblades in the park.
Whatever activity in which one engages, the embankment offers options for eating, drinking, reclining in large chairs on a grassy hill to bask in the sun (and, in some areas, enjoy free WiFi), or just sitting on any number of benches and enjoying a nice book while watching the active Muscovites go by.
The activity area continues all the way to Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills), by which point you are almost back at Moscow State University. Here, enjoy any one of numerous trails that go up the hill, and take in a stunning panoramic view of Moscow when you reach the top.
Back in the main body of the park, perhaps one of the most stunning and immersive attractions to visit is the Garage Museum of Modern Art. A monumental, grey structure with its own public square just southeast of the park’s center, the building itself is free to enter, as I did in order to get out of the rain. Regardless of the weather, just outside the building is an area that hosts art installations. When I visited, modern sand art by Russian artists was on display, with many pieces boasting impressive size and eye-catching conceptualism.
Upon entering Garage, a botanical display of interlocking metal cubes that goes up to the ceiling greets you, with vines and leaves draping from all sides and lamps keeping the plants healthy. You can stroll through the display to see it from all angles, and even take a seat in one of its many nooks.
Of main interest in the building is of course, the museum, which requires paid entry but costs less than 500 rubles ($7 at the time this is being written), with discounts available for students. The art that is present depends on the exhibit, but there is always a great selection of modern art by Russian artists on view.
The museum’s bookstore has a collection of Russian and English-language books on all subjects, with some leaning towards the quirkier sides of life. There are art books, graphic novels, stationery, and some more unique selections such as an illustrated dream journal.
If the day’s activities in the park have got you hungry, the café in Garage in inexpensive and casual, allowing you to seat yourself. Waiters will promptly bring you menus, full of breakfast items, teas, and coffees all around 200-400 rubles, and entrees ranging between 500 and 1000 rubles. There is also a full-service bar, with a cool, modern art-deco design. The room that houses the bar also has more of a coffee-shop type feel, with large, comfortable chairs for relaxing with friends or just clearing your head.
If you are not in Garage, there are also numerous other kiosks around the park offering everything from coffee and ice cream to pelmeni and burgers.
Over the course of the summer, Garage and at least one other outdoor amphitheater in Gorky Park will screen movies on the weekends, providing a great opportunity to escape the heat of the day and kick back with friends. The movies are all free admission, requiring only that you get there early to save yourself a space.
Whether it’s athleticism, art, dining, or just enjoying the weather and seeing the city, Gorky Park has something for just about everyone. Located conveniently within the middle of the city and open 24 hours, 7 days a week, it is always readily accessible, and provides a quick getaway from the busyness of city life.