Alexandrovsky Garden (Alexander Garden) (Russian: Александровский сад) is one of the first public parks in Moscow. The park was named after Tsar Alexander I who ordered its construction following his victory over Napoleon in the war of 1812. The north entrance to the gardens is located between the State Historical Museum and the Okhotnyy Ryad shopping center. When you enter from the north entrance to the park you will notice the large iron gates that are the main entrance to the park. The park is really three different and separate gardens. Together the gardens fit between the western wall of the Kremlin and the Okhotnyy Ryad shopping center. The gardens extend along the entire western Kremlin wall for about 865 metres (2,838 ft).
The Three Gardens
Near the north entrance to the park is the monument of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. One of two permanent eternal flames within Moscow can be found here; the other is at Victory Park. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier contains the body of an unknown soldier who died in World War II (also known in Russia as “The Great Patriotic War”).
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Post Number One, a post moved into the park in the 1990s, is where Honor Sentinels stand guard on either side of the eternal flame. Two guards stand watch at the Tomb, and they have a changing of the guards every hour. Occasionally there uniformed police that may let people pay their respects and approach the flame. Typically, flowers are left near the flames and a moment of quiet reflection is allowed for the people paying their respects. The rest of the people are kept back from the flame about 10 meters by a small chain fence.
South of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier going down the sidewalk along the western wall of the Kremlin you can find small stone blocks with different city names on them. These are the names of different “hero” cities, cities that played an important role during the Second World War. Not all cities listed are in Russia, but all are located within former Soviet Bloc countries. Some of the cities displayed include Minsk, Kiev, Leningrad, Tula and many others. It is important to note that this entire area is heavily patrolled by police, and they will let you know if you are doing something wrong such as sitting on the stone blocks.
Further down the western wall of the Kremlin you will find a grotto, sometimes called the “ruined grotto”. It is called this because when you look at it you can see a large amount of stone that looks like rubble. This stone is the debris that resulted from buildings in Moscow being destroyed in the Patriotic War of 1812. Although the grotto was in the original plans for the park, it was not actually constructed until 1841.
To the right of the grotto is a staircase that you can use to walk to the top. From the top you have a much better view to admire the park.
In front of the grotto you will find an obelisk made of granite from Finland that was constructed in July 1914. Originally the obelisk was called the Romanov and was built to commemorate the tricentennial anniversary of the Romanov dynasty (celebrated the year before its construction). Four short years later, after the revolution, the obelisk was changed to include a list of 19 political figures, and social thinkers that Lenin himself approved. In 2013 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the start of the Romanov dynasty, restoration was performed to restore the obelisk to its original design listing the coat of arms from the Russian provinces and all of the Romanov Tsars from the Romanov family.
The statue of Patriarch Hermogenes was built by artist Salavat Shcherbakov and unveiled on May 25, 2013, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the glorification of Hermogenes. Patriarch Hermogenes is regarded as one of the people primarily responsible for starting an uprising that put an end to the Time of Troubles.
Sculptures of Children’s Fairy Tale Heroes
On the northwest side of the garden is an artificial Neglinka river. This river runs alongside the Okhotnyy Ryad shopping center. Constructed in 1996 by sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, 8 bronze sculptures of Russian fairy tales stretch along the artificial river. You can get to this part of the garden by coming from the Okhotnyy Ryad shopping center or by taking an immediate right once you enter the garden through the main gates at the north end near Red Square.
The 8 different bronze sculptures are:
- The Fox and the crane
- The Frog Princess
- Princes and goose
- Woman and plant
- The Wolf and the Bear
- Old Man with goldfish
By far the most popular of the sculptures is the old man with the goldfish. You will usually see people getting their feet wet climbing out onto the sculpture to get their picture taken with it, or to rub the goldfish. It is said that people who rub the goldfish will not have any problems if they have any dealings with authorities.
At the southernmost portion of the river is the 4 Seasons Horses bronze sculpture in a fountain.
4 Seasons Horses
Designed and built by Zurab Tsereteli in 1996 at the same time as the children’s fairytale sculptures is the 4 seasons horses. It can be found just south of the artificial river Neglinka. One horse to represent each of the four seasons. This fountain is very popular with people because water from outside of the fountain shoots over a walkway into the fountain. Many people like to stand under the water passing overhead and pose for pictures.
The most notable landmark of the Middle Garden is the Kutafya Tower (Russian: Кутафья башня) on the western edge of the park. Next to the tower is an entrance to the park that is a few minute’s walk to the metro.
The lower garden was opened in 1823. There are not as many things to see in this part of the garden compared to the upper garden.
Kremlin Museum Ticket Office
The first building most people will notice is the Kremlin Museum Ticket Office. You can buy tickets to the Kremlin Museum here, and it is also one of the dozen city’s tourist information centers.
Monuments to Alexander I
A little south of the ticket office is the monument to Alexander I, the man who ordered the construction of the parks, and who the parks are named after. There is a statue in the middle of the park, and only about 20 meters away is a wall monument to Alexander I.
After the Napoleonic Wars, Tsar Alexander I had the unique opportunity to reshape Moscow. Most of the city was in ruins. One of the things he did was to redirect the Neglinnaya river into a tunnel underground. This freed up more room in the center of Moscow near Red Square for other things that there would not be room for if there was a river right there.
Alexander I hired renowned architect Osip Bove to rebuild several parts of Moscow that had been destroyed by French troops during the war. The gardens were built between 1819 and 1823
In the 1990s Post Number One, where the honor sentinels stand on guard, was moved from in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum to the current spot it is today at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.
The original location for the Obelisk was in the lower garden. In 1966 it was moved to its present location.
The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier was the spot of the first Eternal Flame in Moscow. At some point maintenance was to be performed on the gas lines and the Eternal Flame was moved to Victory Park. Victory Park is the only other permanent Eternal Flame within Moscow. After the maintenance on the gas lines were completed they relit the flame at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.
Other Nearby Attractions: Kilometer 0, State Historical Museum, Red Square, Kremlin, GUM, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Kazan Cathedral, War Museum, Monument to Prince Vladimir, Manezhnaya Square, Moscow Manege, The Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
Too Long Didn’t Read:
- One of the first public parks in Moscow.
- Created after the war of 1812 between 1819 and 1823.
- Built to have a piece of nature in the center of Moscow.
- Many statues to look at, even ones children will enjoy.
- Built over a river that was moved underground.
Hours: 24/7 but changing of the guard is only from 8am to 8pm
Closest Metro Stations: Biblioteka Imeni Lenina (red line) & Okhotnyy Ryad (red line) & Ploshchad Revolyutsii (dark blue line).