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The building with the thoroughfare arch at the centre of its frontage is nowadays the home of the Pokrovsky Chamber Opera – but before the Revolution it used to be the Slavyansky Bazaar Hotel & Banquet-Hall. On the other side of the road is the Scheremetevsky shopping centre.
Slavyansky Bazaar was once a legendary hotel – one of the first to exploit all the technical comforts & benefits the late-C19th had to offer. The hotel had a restaurant and a concert-hall – for which the contractor, Alexander Porokhovschikov, commissioned Ilya Repin's colossal painting “The Slavic Composers”. These days part of the building is occupied by the Boris Pokrovsky Chamber Opera company. Unfortunately a large section of the building which used to occupy the inner courtyard burnt down in the 1990s. Even now no repairs have taken place, and what's left stands there in sad wreckage.
The service standards were so refined at the Slavyansky Bazaar Hotel that it was appointed the official hotel for VIP foreign guests attending the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896. It was also the preferred hotel chosen by the Parisian banker Rothschild when he paid a sightseeing visit to Moscow in 1901. Yet even more celebrated than the hotel itself was its fabulous restaurant – the first restaurant where Russian cuisine was presented with European-level service. The restaurant was especially frequented by actors and musicians. It was here that Stanislavsky & Nemirovich-Danchenko hatched the idea of the Moscow Arts Theatre – and here the famous Russian bass Chaliapine gave private concerts.
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.