As the symbol of the Russian state, the Kremlin in Moscow’s Red Square is famed and celebrated. But there is a second, less known Kremlin in the northeast part of the city. Located near the Serebryano-Vinogradny Pond, the Kremlin in the city’s Izmailovo District is an unexpected, fairytale-like cultural wonderland.
Kremlin is the Russian word for citadel or fortress, and they are found in many Russian cities. But the Izmailovo Kremlin, a wooden complex completed in 2007, was not built for protection as its name suggests. It was established as a cultural center and marketplace loosely modeled after traditional Russian architecture and fairytale depictions of Old Russia. Wander about and you will spot the Romanov emblem of a crowned griffin decorating everything from buildings to fences, as well as a pink statue of Lenin which has caused some mild outrage.
The colorful and bustling complex is home to several single-subject museums. One is dedicated to Russian folk art, another to bread, and yet another to vodka. It includes a wooden replica of the summer palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, where visitors can experience a traditional Russian meal. It is also home to the Church of St. Nicholas, named after the patron saint of crafts and trade, which at 151 feet in height is the tallest wooden church in the country.
Next to the Kremlin is the Izmailovo District’s landmark open-air market, which dates back to the 17th century, when it was an avant-garde market selling original paintings, crafts, and wares. The market is now connected to the Izmailovo Kremlin by a wooden bridge. Taking the appearance of a town, with roofed stalls lining a maze of walkways, it is divided into two tiers: the Vernissage for souvenirs and traditional handicrafts, and the flea market for all else. The bazaar is attended by merchants from regions all over Russia and is a favored shopping destination for locals and tourists alike, brimming with items ranging from books, baskets, retro toys and furniture to Soviet memorabilia, fur hats, nesting dolls, and traditional artwork.
Entering the Izmailovo Kremlin is like stepping back in time. Most popular during the summer and on weekends, the complex and its labyrinthine market space are equally charming during quiet, uncrowded hours.