Whilst Tverskaya could be sensibly viewed as Moscow's main arterial road, Old Arbat undoubtedly merits its tag as the city's most famous street. Lying to the west of the Kremlin, Old Arbat Street spans 1.25 kilometres from Arbatskaya Ploshchad to Smolenskaya Ploshchad.
Famous Old Arbat Street continues to thrive as a hub for artists of all kinds: that spot that exists in any world-leading city where one can just stroll, take in the ambiance, snoop on some caricaturists at work and pick up some (often wholly misguided) souvenirs.
Old Arbat is - we'll be honest - precisely what you'd expect from a tourist "destination" of a street: its myriad souvenir stalls peddling wares of variable quality, yet uniformly inflated price. The art on offer is similarly varied in genre and style. Such is the beauty of this street, however: with cartoonists, soap-box poets, portrait artists and buskers, there's always something fresh to see, hear and do on Old Arbat. And, with the street side lined with cafe's, an even more attractive proposition, we'd say, is to watch everybody else caught up in the buzz of activity.
The sights of Old Arbat are not limited to the human curiosities on offer: unsurprisingly, considering Old Arbat's tenure as a prominent and prestigious area, the street features a number of truly magnificent buildings. Pushkin, for example, resided just off this street, along with many other Russian luminaries.
Visit the wall of peace, a striking graphic creation and the brainchild of American artist Caroline Marx. The project used tiles - which were painted on by young children with vivid colours and innocent, lovely illustrations - subsequently burned as a representation of the damaging and tarnishing effects of violence and war. Be aware, though, that the wall has since fallen victim to vandalism and graffiti. Construct your own metaphors from this, if you will...
References to Moscow's oldest street can be found dating back to as early as 1493, in connection with a fire which started at the Church of St Nicholas.
The area started life as a suburb in its own right: a favourite destination for traders from the east, who would turn up with their wares to exchange imported goods. Old Arbat Street therefore instantly became known as a point of confluence of cultures as well as a veritable hive of activity.
During the 18th century, the area became increasingly popular with the Russian intelligentsia and artistic community. With Alexander Pushkin at number 53, and Leo Tolstoy on the adjoining Kaloshin lane, this was a great area in which to stroll, to meet, and to muse on the big issues of life, love and art.
Old Arbat Street has also traditionally been a premier area for reasonably priced cafes, which turned out to be a draw for the thinkers of the city throughout the years. Although the 1960's saw Old Arbat's status diminished somewhat - with the construction of the wider New Arbat street - this shift in focus from an arterial, transit-based function marked a new era for the street in the context of Moscow life. The street has since been paved over and pedestrianised, injecting a new lease of life into it and confirming the street's position as a top tourist spot.
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