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In the back of Staraya, or the Old square there is a long beige and green building with grey balconies and large arched windows. Today it houses the Administration of the President of Russia, but originally it used to be the “Boyarsky Dvor”, or the “Baron’s Court” hotel.
The “Boyarsky Dvor”, or the “Baron’s Court” hotel was built in the early 20th century by the order of a Moscow-based insurance company. The building successfully incorporates both precise and rationalistic architecture – and modern elements. Unorthodox-shaped balconies, stucco work, the grey-and-green bricks all lend this strict-looking structure a degree of festivity and pageantry.
“Boyarsky Dvor” fulfilled all the contemporary criteria. It was simultaneously a platform for representative, trading and exchange activities, and it took little to no time becoming a huge “office and hotel complex” with residential accommodation on the top floors.
Originally the building of the “Boyarsky Dvor”, or the “Baron’s Court” hotel stretched along the Kitai-gorod wall. You could only see a few of the top floors of the building from Staraya, or Old square, and it was decided to style the structure as an ancient fortress. The top floors, as well as the bay windows topped with small towers, looked like a proper old castle from the street. The massive Kitai-gorod wall and the tower, all covered up by trees and grapevines, only exacerbated the impression and gave the building somewhat medieval character.
During the soviet times the building belonged to the Communist Party’s Central Committee. At the moment it is the headquarters of the Administration of the President of Russia services.
Kitay-gorod is one of the oldest parts of Moscow. It appeared nearby the old wooden Kremlin. Although the name translates as “Chinatown,” it probably derives from kita (wattle), referring to the wall that surrounded this early Kremlin suburb. Today, remains of an old city wall and colorful churches are scattered throughout this ancient neighborhood.
The stone walls were erected in the 16th century by an Italian architect known under the name Petrok Maly and originally featured 13 towers and six gates. They were as thick as they were high. The last of the towers were demolished in the 1930s, but small portions of the wall still stand. One of two remaining parts of the wall is located in Zaryadye and the other near the exit from the Okhotny Ryad station of Moscow Metro behind the Hotel Metropol.
Kitay-gorod starts at Red Square. Apart from Red Square, the quarter is bordered by the chain of Central Squares of Moscow, notably Theatre Square (in front of Bolshoi Theatre), Lubyanka Square (in front of the KGB headquarters), and Slavyanskaya Square.
Since time immemorial Kitay-gorod has been developing as a trading area. And for centuries it was known as the most prestigious business area of Moscow. Its three main streets — Varvarka, Ilyinka, and Nikolskaya — are lined with banks, shops, and storehouses. There are also lots of historical buildings that relate to the heritage of the federal and global importance now.
In our tour you will walk along Nikolskaya Street that is famous for being the site of Moscow's first university, the Slavic Greek Latin Academy, housed in extant Zaikonospassky monastery (1660s). Another monastery cathedral, the main church of Epiphany Bogoyavlensky Monastery (1690s), is the oldest male monastery in Moscow, stands in the middle of Kitay-gorod in the eponymous Bogoyavlensky Lane. The 18th century survives in the exterior walls of the otherwise rebuilt Gostiny Dvor (Guest Merchant's Court) by Giacomo Quarenghi.
A whole quarter of Kitay-gorod adjacent to the Moskva River and known as Zaryadye (now just Varvarka Street) was demolished in the 20th century, sparing only those structures that were classified as historic monuments. These include the Cathedral of the Sign (1679–84), the Church of All Saints (1680s), St. George's Church on Pskov Hill (1657), St. Maksim's Church (1698), St. Anna's Church at the Corner (1510s), St. Barbara's Church (1796–1804), the Old English Embassy (1550s), and the 16th century Romanov boyar residence. The two last are the museums. You can visit them to see the life of the first Romanovs in the 16-17th centuries.