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Green city: which Moscow parks and gardens are worth visiting?

The Russian capital is considered to be one of the greenest cities in Europe: each of its districts has a park or garden, and to residents of other European cities some of the parks will seem like real forests. Below we list the green zones of Moscow that you absolutely must visit alongside the city’s museums and landmarks.

Zaryadye is not a park but a natural and architectural masterpiece

The Zaryadye contemporary landscape park combines nature and architectural wonders in a single space with a view of the Kremlin. Here, they have recreated various geographical zones from around Russia, so that Russians themselves and visitors to the country can see birch groves, tundra vegetation, coniferous and coastal forests, meadows and fields. Under a huge glass dome – itself a genuine work of modern art – a unique microclimate is maintained for growing more heat-loving plants. Here, in Zaryadye, is located a unique experimental funnel-shaped greenhouse equipped with aeroponic plant growing systems. The greenhouse uses the aeroponic growing method: there is no soil in the phytoboxes, and nutrients are delivered to the roots in the form of an aerosol. This Florarium presents medicinal, ornamental, economically valuable and rare plants from all natural zones of Russia — from Kaliningrad to Sakhalin, more than 250 plant species in the collection. The jewel of Zaryadye is the park’s unique “floating bridge”, from which you can enjoy Instagram views of the Moscow River.

Gorky Park – Neskuchny Garden – Sparrow Hills: a chain of parks along the river.

On the map of Moscow, this green belt on the right bank of the Moscow River, comprising several large interconnected parks, really stands out. Gorky Park is a symbol of the city and a legendary leisure space for Muscovites. It’s a park where there is always something going on: concerts, festivals, educational, sporting and dance events. In winter, part of the park turns into a huge skating rink, which shrinks back to its normal size when the weather warms up. Gorky Park has some unique playgrounds for kids, which are visited by people from all over the city, while older children also enjoy the many swings of the park’s Mega-Swings complex.

Gorky Park merges into another green zone – the Neskuchny Garden. After numerous activities of Gorky Park, this is a place of silence where, amidst the dense greenery, you can forget that you are in the centre of a metropolis. Neskuchny Garden is a small corner of nature with natural relief, gullies and slopes. There are also some dedicated spaces for Cross-Fit and some children’s zones, along with several old-fashioned buildings where Russian TV programmes are sometimes filmed.

Sparrow Hills is one of the seven hills on which Moscow stands. It consists of an 80-metre-high green slope above the Moscow River, covered in trees. The Sparrow Hill viewing point is not only a place with a panoramic overview of the city, but also a meeting place for bikers, Moscow State University students and young people. Here, you can stroll along an ecotrail, pop into Moscow University Botanic Garden, or cross the Moscow River in a cable car, admiring the views on the way.

Park or forest? Moscow’s enormous green recreation zones

The scale of Moscow’s parks is staggering: in most of them you need a map to go for a walk, and some of them actually merge into forest zones. The biggest park of all is Izmaylovsky. Here, you can choose just how close you want to get to nature: you can walk deep into the park with its age-old trees and forgotten ponds; or you can devote your time to more active pursuits together with other visitors by hiring a boat, enjoying the fairground rides, riding a horse.

In the south of the city there are two huge parks – Kolomenskoye and Tsaritsyno. Kolomenskoye is famous for its restored wooden Czarist palace and unique tent church, which is listed by UNESCO. It also boasts flowering orchards which, in springtime, fill the garden with a sweet aroma. Tourists come specially to see the 4,000 apple trees in blossom, while Muscovites visit during the weekend. Tsarytsino is a wonderful landscape park with picturesque hills, ponds and thickets of tall trees, a palace ensemble in the unique Russian gothic style, and architectural wonders dotted about the grounds. It’s a park that is always popular with tourists, who are attracted by the grand restored palace, the haven of Russian nature amidst the metropolis, and the fresh air.

Moscow’s botanic gardens

Most cities of the world have just one botanic garden. In Moscow there are more than 12 of them. The most popular one is the main Botanical Garden of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which occupies more than 360 hectares, including the lands of VDNKh and Ostankino Park. There is a rose garden, a Japanese garden, greenhouses, and a protected oak grove.

The tiny (6.5 hectares) but Muscovites’ favorite Aptekarsky Ogorod is worthy of attention on a par with the main botanical garden of the city. This is a historical botanical garden founded by Emperor Peter the Great for growing medicinal plants. To this day, you can still see larch trees planted by the great Russian tsar. More than 5000 species of plants are grown in the Aptekarsky Garden, including heat-loving inhabitants of the subtropics – they grow in greenhouses. Coniferous and heather hills, a collection of orchids and ferns, and the garden’s own arboretum have repeatedly brought the garden well-deserved awards in landscape architecture. For a complete immersion in nature, there is a sensory garden where you can touch flowers, walk barefoot, smell herbs and play musical instruments.

Sokolniki Park (another must see) offers a rosary where there is always some variety of rose in bloom, as well as a mini apiary, a lilac garden and an aroma garden.

All of Moscow’s parks are equipped for a full range of leisure experiences, with cafes, restaurants, rides or playgrounds for children, mothering rooms, free toilets, benches and beanbags in summer, sports facilities and security guards. All the paths are well lit, ensuring comfortable walking experience even in the evening. After your action-packed tours and trips around the capital, take a rest and relax amongst nature in Moscow’s wonderful parks!