Arbat: Moscow’s Cultural Heart

17 March, 2015

Старый Арбат (Stary Arbat) is a one kilometer long pedestrian street in the heart of the Arbat district and one of the most charming and famous street of Moscow. Souvenir stalls, shops, restaurants, cafés and bars spring up all along the street and performers and artists at every corner creating an alluring, bohemian atmosphere.

This is such an astonishing and inspiring district because of its many stories and the people who lived there. Arbat was the centre of business and then of intellectual and artistic activities in which famous artists and writers have lived and worked. Historic buildings stand together with examples of modern architecture as the imposing 19th century building of the restaurant Praga and the constructivist Дом Мельникова (Melnikov House) named after the architect who designed it in 1927. There are many museums and memorial flats as Pushkin House (No 53), where the writer and his wife Natalya lived for a short time that now has been turned into a museum. Along the street the you can find the moments to two popular Russian bards: the statue of Булат Окуджава (Bulat Okudzhava) and a graffiti-covered wall dedicated to Виктор Цой (Viktor Tsoi) and his band Кино (kino). At the end of the street, you can see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (one of the Seven Sisters) in СмоленскаяСенная площадь (Smolenskaya-Sennaya Ploshchad).

During all its history the district has always been the centre of important commercial and cultural activities. Since the 15th century it has played an important role as main trade route and home for many craftsmen. In 18th it became one of the most prestigious living area of Moscow in which resided the Russian nobility. In 1812 the district was almost completely destroyed by a fire during Napoleon’s occupation. And from the 20th century it is known as the street of artists and academics, where middle class lives. Russia’s intelligentsia made up of a large number of thinkers, poets and artists who came from the middle nobility who lived in Arbat. At the beginning of the 20th century the main business activities were held on the western end, the area of Smolenskaya Square, where Смоленский рынок (Smolensky Rynok) took place. Arbat’s important role is witnessed by the fact that they opened the first metro station on Арбатская площадь (Artbatskaya square) in 1935. Then during the Soviet Union, in 1986 this busy street was closed to traffic and made into a pedestrian zone. During Perestroika youth movements, street musicians and artists used to gather together on the Arbat; at that moment the Tsoi’s wall was created and then has remained a symbol of these years.

Arbat is definitely a must-see in Moscow: it is like an island in the city, a city in the city, a special little world. This unique street which connected Moscow with the Western Europe and its lively cultural life never lost their charm.

On Friday, March 20, Liden & Denz will organize an excursion to the the Museum of Illusions on Arbat. So you will have the possibility to see the famous street and the unusual exhibition at the museum. Learn more about it here.

Written by: Jessica Carrettiero

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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