Moscow - Old Arbat (Stary Arbat) - worth stopping in for a stroll on a nice evening

JUN 22,2015 - JUN 22,2015 (1 DAYS)

Russian Federation

- DAYS

Citywalk

Old Arbat Street:

Attractions: Russian State Library, Alexei Shchusev Museum of Architecture, Morozov's mansion, Mosselprom Building, Arbatskaya Square, Praga-ast restaurant, Church of Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria, House of Burganov, House with the Knights, the fountain "Princess Turandot", the Vakhtangov Theatre, Tsoi Wall, Church of Savior in Peski, Spaso House, Melnikov House, Statue of Bulat Okudzhava, Pushkin Apartment Museum, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Start: Biblioteka Imeni Lenina (Библиоте́ка и́мени Ле́нина), Red Line #1 (Sokolnicheskaya Line) or Aleksandrovskiy Sad (Александровский сад) Line 4, Light Blue line (Filyovskaya Line) or Borovitskaya Metro station, Gray line No. 9 or Arbatskaya Metro station, Dark Blue line No. 3 - which are all part of the same interchange Metro complex.

End: Smolenskaya (Смоленская), Blue Line # 3, Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line.

Note: This itinerary can be combined with the "Moscow - From the Cathedral of Christ the Savior - around the Kremlin walls" route.

Duration: At least 2-3 hours. I don't think this route is a must !

Distance: 5-6 km.

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Introduction: A historic area of old Moscow that was once home to artists, bohemians and the elite. The Arbat is considered the oldest of all official pedestrian zones in Moscow. The name of this street, at that time, referred to the vast countryside, first mentioned in 1475. The name Arbat sounds similar to the Arabic word Arbad, meaning suburb. This could be an explanation of the name, since in the 15th century only the Kremlin was considered as the city center and the actual Arbat area was used by the big convoys coming from the east with their goods.

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Since the 18th century Arbat and its network of side-alleys became Moscow's most aristocratic and literary neighborhood, and many intelligentsia people wanted to live there. The famous poet Pushkin lived in number 53 with his bride, in the same house where Tchaikovsky stayed for some time.

Arbat is the perfect solution when you need a break from broad streets and massive buildings. Old Arbat has been restored to it's former self-identity. A  pedestrian only, wide cobblestone street that has it all: from street artists and booksellers to restaurants ,from the inexpensive to some great eateries. Many souvenir shops, many selling nested 'Russian dolls' from China. Have your portrait painted (the portrait is between 1000-2000 rubles), watch the jugglers, dancers, musicians, artists, poets and singers - or stand and listen to some really talented musicians. Expect for far more from all these attractions - during the weekends.

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From the Metro stations complex we head westward along Vozdvizhenka. St. Aleksandrovskiy Sad Mtero station is already at Vozdvizhenka St. and we head westward. Vozdvizhenka starts from Alexander Garden (from the side of Kutafya Tower) and spans until Arbatskaya Square. The Manege Exhibition centre is on our right (and our back) (north-east) and the red Square is on our back. On our left, before we cross Starovagankovskiy pereulok (Староваганьковский пер.), is the Russian State Library (Российская государственная библиотека), ul. Vozdvizhenka, 3/5. (nearest tube stations: ’Arbatskaya’, ’Aleksandrovsky Sad’, ’Borovitskaya’, ’Biblioteka Imeni Lenina’). This is the national library of Russia. It is the largest in the country and the fourth largest in the world for its collection of nearly 18 million books and 43 million items. Publications are available here in 91 of the languages spoken in Russia and 247 foreign languages - the foreign part representing about 29 percent of the entire collection. Founded in 1862. It was named "Lenin State Library of the USSR" from 1925 until it was renamed in 1992 as the Russian State Library. With the library designated by law as a place to hold a "mandatory" copy of every publication issued in Russia - it holds, from 1922 until today at least one copy of every book published in the USSR. Open: MON - FRI: 09.00 - 20.00, SAT: 09.00 –19.00. SUN: closed. It is also closed on last Monday of the month. In front of library stands the monument of Dostoyevsky:

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Now, cross Starovagankovskiy pereulok (Староваганьковский пер.) on your left and, immediately on your right (north) is the Alexei Shchusev Museum of Architecture. The mansion on the opposite side was built about the same time by architect Matvei Kazakov. Today it is the Alexei Shchusev Museum of Architecture, ul. Vozdvizhenka, 5/25. Neoclassical mansion packed with graphics & artifacts celebrating Russian architectural history. No permanent collection on display. The focal subject is both Russian and international architecture. Although located no more than 5-10 minutes walk from the Kremlin or the Red Square - this wonderful museum still remains off-the-beaten tourist itinerary. Open weekdays 11.00 – 19.00. Prices: 100 rubles. Note: here, you buy tickets for entry of Melnikov House (frequently closed) (see below), 20 min. walk from this museum:

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Continue 220 m. westward along ul. Vozdvizhenka. The Morozov's mansion at No. 16 (opposite, inside the small garden - is the Arbatskaya Metro station and Burger-King branch) on your right (north) will certainly attract your attention with its exotic, Art-Nouveau architecture. This comparatively recent building was erected at the end of the 19th century (1899) for the Moscow merchant family of Morozov. One of the Morozovs was fascinated by medieval Spanish architecture and on returning from a trip to Spain he decided to embody its most typical features in his future house. "The Spanish residence", or the "Moorish Castle" as it was ironically dubbed by Muscovites, has been many things over the years. It reminds, many Iberians, the Pena palace in Sintra, Portugal. Since 1959 it has been the House of Friendship with Peoples of Foreign Countries in the Soviet era. Right now it's called the House of Receptions of the Government of the Russian Federation. Sorry, closed to the public, currently being used as a venue for official receptions - but fascinating for looking from the outside !

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A bit further, on your right, BEFORE you arrive to Arbatskaya Square, see the Mosselprom Building, 2/10 Kalashny Side street. Construction started 1912, Completed 1925. Design and construction by Architect Nikolai Strukov. The Mosselprom building (Дом Моссельпрома) is an avantgarde architecture monument and is located in the intersection of: Kalashny, Nizhny Kislovksy and Maly Kislovky side streets. It is notable for its painted panels by the artists Alexander Rodchenko and his wife Varvara Stepanova. The building was originally intended as a seven-story apartment house with restaurant, built in 1912-13 by Strukov; however, it was hastily constructed and collapsed on March 22, 1913. A part of the structure was rebuilt by 1917; in 1923-1925 two more floors were added for storage and offices for Mosselprom, the Moscow Rural Cooperative Administration (Московское управление сельской промысловой кооперации). In the 1930s it was reverted to an apartment building. It was restored in 1997, and it currently houses a branch of the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts:

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Opposite the Morozov's mansion ("the Spanish House") there is a small garden - a  nice place for rest, drink and sandwiches. You'll find many workers from the banks around - dining there as well. On your left (with your face to Arbatskaya Square), south is the Arbatskaya Metro station (Filyovskaya Line, Line 4, Light Blue line). There are, actually, two “Arbatskaya” metro stations, belonging to “Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya” or “Filevskaya” lines. It resides in the Arbatskaya Square or Arbat Square (Арба́тская пло́щадь) - one of the oldest squares of Moscow, located on the junction of Gogolevsky Boulevard, Znamenka Street and Arbat Gates Square (Bely Gorod).

From ul. Vozdvizhenka - take the subway (tunnel underground) and turn, diagonally LEFT (south-west) to the pedestrians-only Stary Arbat. Do not turn on accident to the right along the noisy New Arbat with its high-rise buildings. On your right WAS the Praga-ast restaurant (БЦ "Смоленский Пассаж", Arbat St, House 2/1. Nowadays - closed. Historic 1870s restaurant, one of the most luxurious in the city in Tsarist times, rebuilt numerous times. In the late 19th and early 20th century was considered the premier dining institution in Moscow. One of the few major restaurants in Moscow in the Soviet era, when dining establishments not run by the state were forbidden. In Soviet times, having lunch in the Prague was considered good form for all visitors and travelers:

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we walk along ul. Arbat from north-east to south-west. It is a 2 km. walk along the street - but, side detours will add another 1.5 - 2 km.

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Side short detour: if you turn left (south) to Bolshoy Afanasyevsky Lane, Bolshoi Afanasyevskiy Lane, 16 - you will find the beautiful Church of Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria. The old church, is about 500 years, but, the stone building is only about about 200 years. It has 3 wings or sides: one side of facing Sivtsev Vrazhek, second on Filippovskiy perulok and third turns to Bolshoy Afanasievsky.

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Following the lane, go to the Moscow State Museum or House of Burganov, Bol. Afanasyevsky per. 15, bldg. 9. Nearest Metro station: Metro station: Kropotkinskaya. Open: everyday 11.00 - 19.00, THU 11.00 - 21.00. Price: 150 RUB. Burganov works are displayed in several interconnected courtyards and houses (“Small Louvre”, “The House of Pegasus”, “Arcades’ of Angel”. In the underground room “Small Louvre” sometimes concerts and lectures are held). The surrounding streets of the Arbat and Khamovniki districts also contain many examples of the artist’s work. You will see several works of this artist traveling along this route. A part of its exhibition, by the way, is clearly visible from the outside, so you can choose either to observe it from a distance or to visit this museum. The museum is absolutely unusual. Impressions of this exhibition are very polarized: people are, either very impressed or very disappointed...

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Return to Arbat. Again, we walk along ul. Arbat from north-east to south-west. On your right (a bit behind the Costa Coffee) there is an Art-Noveau building - a mixture of modern and old period architecture:

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On your right (north side of Old Arbat) , a bit further - pictures sellers and portraits painters:

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On the other side of Arbat street, at No. 19 is the Starbucks and Picolo (PIcola) cafe's with a very intersting modern building behind and a large-scale Soviet-style fresco:

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Cross Serebryanyy per. and arrive to the “House with the Knights” or the "Central House of the Actors" at #35/5. Originally, it was designed as an upper-class residence with marble staircase and stained-glass windows. This is an exceptional building with statues of knights and armors. It housed the Ministry of Culture from the 1917 revolution until the beginnibg of the 90's. In 1991 it became Central House of the Actors:

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Another 230 m. and we arrive to a famous theatre and fountain. Continue along Old Arbat and pass Malyy Nikolopeskovskiy per. (Малый Николопесковский пер.). Just before arriving to Bolshoy Nikolopeskovskiy per., on your right, you see one of the most long-lasting fountains in Moscow - the fountain "Princess Turandot ". The fountain is located in front of the theater named after E. Vakhtangov in Old Arbat Street # 26 (see below). Despite its popularity the fountain is in perfect condition and it is being restored as soon as possible after vandal raids. The capricious princess became a symbolic figure and the mascot of the theater. The monument looks like a large oval bowl, with a fountain system. At the top of the fountain there is a gold covered throne with a princess Turandot on it. Around the monument there is a long stone bench and at nights it is illuminated. The illumination creates a special romantic atmosphere which attracts loving couples who date on the bench near the monument. The sculptor of the fountain is Alexander Burganov. It was unveiled in 1997, in honor of the 75th anniversary of the premiere of the "Princess Turandot " play. Bourganov built the Turandot Fountain next to the Vakhtangov Theater on the Old Arbat. It represents the heroine of the play which was the signature work of the Vakhtangov Theater in Soviet times. He also built a series of fountains and sculptures in the park of Ukrainisky Boulevard between the Ukraina Hotel and the Kiev Train Station, representing youth and other themes:

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The history of the well-known theatre of Moscow, the Vakhtangov Theatre,  starts in 1913 when some students have decided to create drama studio and to play according to Stanislavsky's system that became very popular recently. Nobody wanted to help young enthusiasts, but, at last, the administration of young troupe was headed by not less young actor and producer Evgeny Bagrationovich Vakhtangov - Stanislavsky’s student. So, the theatre was established in 1921 by theatre director Yevgeny Vakhtangov, a pupil of the well-known Konstantin Stanislavsky.

The Vakhtangov Theatre is a large colonnaded building, loved by many generations of Muscovites. It has become not only the physical node but also the cultural hub of the central heritage district of Moscow. The numerous lanes that branch out from the main street commemorate the many trailblazers of this famous theatre. The names of these celebrities are inscribed in memorial plaques, embedded on stone monuments, making the atmosphere of this side of Old Arbat even more remarkable. The theatre performs a variety of genres, from classic tragedy to mischievous vaudeville. A typical programme includes imaginative productions of such traditional works such as The Queen of Spades (Pikovaya Dama,) and Anna Karenina, with a particular focus on re-interpreting the psychological motivations of the characters. Theatre shows here are recommended and... pricey:

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At #37 (at the intersection of Arbat Street and Krivoarbatsky Lane), before turning right to Spasopeskovskiy per or turning left to Krivoarbatsky Lane (see below), is the Tsoi Wall (Стена Цоя). It is a graffiti-covered wall dedicated to a past and very popular Russian musician Viktor Tsoi and his band Kino. Nowadays, the wall is dirty, neglected and not worth being called an attraction. The wall WAS considered one of Moscow's landmarks. Frequently visited by Tsoi's fans, the wall has become a place to hide a note for a friend or arrange a meeting It is customary for Tsoi's fans to leave a broken lighted cigarette in the special ash plate by the wall. . There are also memory walls of Tsoi in other Russian cities, such as Saint Petersburg, Khabarovsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Sevastopol. The wall was first inscribed on 15 August 1990 with "Viktor Tsoi died today" (Сегодня погиб Виктор Цой) in black. Subsequently someone inscribed a reply: "Tsoi is alive!" (Цой жив!). Later, many other inscriptions were added, including snippets from Kino's songs "Pachka sigaret" ("Pack of Cigarettes") and "Ya ne lyublyu, kogda mne vrut" ("I Don't Like When They Lie to Me"). In 2006 the wall was painted over by the Art Destroy Project members, but the graffiti was restored by Tsoi's fans. In 2009 the Moscow authorities announced plans to renovate the wall, but the plans were met with criticism and were dropped. Another idea, a monument of a barefoot Tsoi, sitting on a motorcycle, was planned to be installed near the wall, but the idea was rejected by local residents and Tsoi's fans:

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We make a small detour to Spasopeskovskiy per.:

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We turn right from ul. Arbat to Spasopeskovskiy per. (Спасопесковский пер.). Turn right to this lane. At No. 4A (on your right) is the Church of Savior in Peski or the Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, Peski. You should take a distance to catch up this handsome church with its brown and gold-onion domes:

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A bit further in the lane, still on your right, at No. 10 is the Spaso House or or Vtorov’s Mansion. It was originally built in 1913 as the mansion of the textile industrialist Nikolay Vtorov. Externally and internally, Vtorov House was a recreation of an early 1820s upper-class estate, with palladian windows and a perfectly symmetrical floorplan. Work on the house began in April 1913, and by the summer the exterior was nearly completed. Work on the interior continued during the winter of 1913-1914. The house was completed and the Vtorovs moved in shortly before the beginning of World War I in August 1914. In the turbulent months following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Nikolay Vtorov died mysteriously and his family fled Russia. Spaso House was expropriated by the new Soviet government. Spaso House served as a reception house for the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, then as a residence for Soviet diplomats, including Georgi Chicherin, the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs from 1918 to 1930, and Lev Karakhan, who was Chicherin's deputy. It has been (since 1933) the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union. The United States finally established diplomatic relations with Moscow in 1933. Nikita Khrushchev made surprise appearances at the 4th of July receptions at Spaso House in 1954 and 1955. Vice President Richard Nixon stayed at Spaso House when he came to Moscow to open the first large-scale American National Exposition in Sokolniki Park, and dined with Khrushchev at a dinner at Spaso House. On May 26, 1972, President Richard Nixon, Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Alexei Kosygin used Spaso House as the venue to announce their agreement on the first round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT 1) and on an Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The early 1980s saw a series of turnovers in the Soviet leadership. Vice President George H. W. Bush came to Spaso house three times to attend the funerals of General Secretaries Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. On May 31, 1988, the jazz pianist Dave Brubeck performed in the Spaso House ballroom for President Ronald Reagan and the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. The 1991 Fourth of July Reception at Spaso House was not attended by President Gorbachev, but it was attended by Boris Yeltsin, the President of the Russian Federation. A month later, an attempted coup against Gorbachev failed, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Yelstin became the leader of the new Russia. The 1992 Fourth of July Reception was not attended by Boris Yeltsin, but it was attended by Mikhail Gorbachev, who no longer had a job. The occupant of Spaso House, Ambassador Robert Strauss, had a new title; he was the last Ambassador to the Soviet Union and the first Ambassador to the Russian Federation. On March 24, 2002, President George W. Bush also came to Spaso House to commemorate the signing that day of the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms Reductions. Well, this house perfectly reflects all the ups and down in the relations between USSR and USA:

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We make a short detour to Melnikov House:

Return to ul. Arbat. With your face to the south and Spasopeskovskiy per. on your back - turn right onto ulitsa Arbat (Арбат/ул. Арбат), 60 m. Turn left onto Krivoarbatskiy per (the Graffiti wall) . (Кривоарбатский пер.), 95 m. The road slights to the right (south-west). At Krivoarbatskiy pereulok, 10 you find the Melnikov House. Konstantin Stepanovich Melnikov (Константин Степанович Мельников), 1890 – 1974, was a Russian avant-garde architect and painter. Melnikov was an independent artist, not bound by the rules of a particular style or artistic group. In the 1930s, Melnikov refused to conform with the rising Stalinist architecture, withdrew from practice and worked as a portrait painter and teacher until the end of his life. The house (and studio) of Konstantin S.Melnikov in Krivoarbatsky Lane is the most famous and believed to be the top of the architect's creative work. Melnikov designed and built the House in the years of his "Golden Period", in 1927-1929. His design has become one of the most famed, innovative and revolutionary architectural experiments and achievements in the history of architecture. The house is constructed as two interlocking cylinders – that employs no internal load-bearing wall. These days Melnikov's House is in jeopardy (due to corrosion which spreads over its construction). Russian Avantgarde Heritage Preservation Foundation endeavors to save the masterpiece and turn the Melnikov's House into a Museum - a step which will safeguard its existence and preservation. To see the house/museum interiors - you must book a guided visit in: tel. +7 495 697 8037. More details: http://muar.ru/en/melnikov-house. Tours are from TUE to SAT, Starting time: 13.00 duration: 1 h 40 min. Prices: adult - 300 rubles, senior people and students - 150 rubles. Tickets have to be bought at the box office of the Schusev State Museum of Architecture (see above):

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Return to Arbat street. It is 250 m. walk to our next destination in Arbat. At ul. Arbat #43 we come across the interesting statue of an accomplished Russian artist – poet, writer, musician, novelist and singer-songwriter – by the name of Bulat Okudzhava (Moscow 1924 - Paris 1997). He lived on Arbat Street at no 43; this is where his statue is situated. The monument symbolizes the narrow streets of Moscow praised in the songs by Okudzhava. The singer goes out of the yard toward the dawn. Arches are covered with quotations from his poems that are made in the style of simple yard inscriptions on the walls:

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It is 2000 m. walk, further to the west along Arbat, to our next destination in Arbat. We return to Stary Arbat, turn right and continue westward  and our next stop is Pushkin Apartment Museum (or: A.S. Pushkin Memorial Apartment in Arbat Street) at #53. The poet Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) spent his 3 first months of his marriage with Natalia N. Goncharova (From 23 January 1831 to 15 May 1831) in this house. In the 1920s it was used as a residence of the Moskovian Red Army theatre group. The museum "Pushkin memorial flat on Arbat" was opened on 18 February 1986. The exposition occupies the whole 2 floors of the old Arbat house. The halls of the first floor are dedicated to the topic "Pushkin and Moscow". The second floor is occupied by the memorial Pushkin chambers. Limited English explanations. For taking photos - get a permit. The museum is open: WED, FRI - SUN 10.00 - 18.00, admission until 17.30, THU noon - 21.00, ticket office to 20.30. Closed - MON & TUE, the last FRI of the month Price: 120 rubles.

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Opposite Pushkin house/museum stands the monument to the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and his wife Natalia Goncharova. It is erected opposite the Arbat house where they used to live for several months. One can see that Natalia was really beautiful woman !

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Immediately, after Pushkin Museum there is a Mcdonald's branch (WC inside).

Approaching “Smolenskaya” metro station, we continue westward along ul. Arbat. It is 300 m. walk approx. to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Министерство иностранных дел Российской Федерации, МИД РФ) after turning LEFT from Arbat Street to Smolenskaya Square (32 Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square). The Seven Sisters are a group of seven skyscrapers in Moscow designed in the Stalinist style. Muscovites call them Vysotki or Stalinskie Vysotki (Сталинские высотки), meaning "(Stalin's) high-rises" (or "Stalinist skyscrapers"). They were built from 1947 to 1953 IN Russian Baroque and Gothic styles, and the SAME technology used in building  skyscrapers in the USA. The seven are: Hotel Ukraina, Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Apartments, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, the Hotel Leningradskaya, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs main building, the main building of the Moscow State University, and the Red Gates Administrative Building. Several facts: Height 172 m., floors (above ground) - 27, Construction start
1948, Construction end 1953, 114 meters up the main facade is the reinforced concrete CCCP emblem of a hammer and a sickle in the center of two ears of wheat. It covers a surface of 144 square meters, approximately 200 rooms and offices inside the building cover an area of some 65,000 square meters, Included in the building are 18 express lifts, topped with a 20-meter spire, In a sharp contrast to the brown facade, the sculptured bas-relief, white-limestone double entrance surrounds two metal trellis doors, on both sides of the grand entrance are two large obelisks of dark gray stone, the polished black granite floor in the entrance lobby contrasts sharply with the surrounding light marble walls:

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The Seven Sisters compared: height and floors:

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With the Ministry of Foreign Affairs skyscraper to your right and your face to the north - walk northward along Smolenskaya. Pass Stary Arbat to your right and 300-350 m. further north, along Smolenskaya - you'll see the Smolenskaya Metro station on your right.

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Food

Varenichnaya №1, Ul. Arbat 29, Metro: Arbatskaya or Smolenskaya. Opening hours
10.00 - midnight. http://www.varenichnaya.ru
If you want a genuine feel of the Soviet era, Arbat's Varenichnaya №1 is the place to visit. An authentic Soviet cuisine at it's best. Generous portions of traditional Soviet dishes and desserts (pancakes, big chocolate truffles). The main and most popular menu items are borscht, vareniki and pelmeni (different kinds of dumplings with meat, potatoes and fruits) with sweet and savory fillings. Prices - affordable. The interior is vibrant with bright colors. Oldie atmosphere and decoration (old movies in the B & W TV, the 70's items). A popular lunching place, where are often queues of people waiting for a table. They speak Russian and a little bit of English. Good WI-FI. Service, sometimes, leaves much to be desired...

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