Sparrow Hills is an area in southwestern Moscow positioned on the steep bank of the Moskva River, densely covered in forest and marked by deep ravines and natural springs. One of the Seven Hills of Moscow, Sparrow Hills is the highest point in the city at 220 metres above sea level. It is a favourite spot of local people and tourists alike, offering ample opportunity for sports and other outdoor activities in all seasons, and home to a famous observation deck with a panoramic view over Moscow’s cityscape and a serene nature reserve with walking paths and relaxing spots.
Phot by igor_f on Wikipedia
Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory in Russian) takes its name from the 14th century village Vorobyovo, which was named after the ancient boyar clan of Veliky Novgorod, the Vorobyovs. The village was purchased by the Grand Duke of Moscow in the mid-1450s and transformed into a grand estate for the royal family, complete with the Vorobyov Palace used as a summer entertainment residence for many centuries (which was unfortunately destroyed by Napoleon’s army in 1812). A number of noble estates also appeared in this area, and in 1648 the Andreevsky Monastery was founded at the foot of Sparrow Hills.
Photo by Nikolay Naydenov on Wikipedia
Did you know? Due to its geographical position, Sparrow Hills was the site from which invading armies caught their first glimpse of Moscow!
From the late 19th century onwards, Sparrow Hills became a popular spot for weekend relaxation in all seasons. Folk festivals and fairs were organised there, and many Muscovites built their dachas in the nearby area. Tsar Alexander I ordered the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on Sparrow Hills as a monument to Russian victory over Napoleon. However, due to the unsuitable soil, construction was soon halted and the cathedral was instead built on its present day site in the centre of Moscow.
Did you know? All that remained on the Sparrow Hills construction site of the cathedral was a collection of huts which were subsequently used as a transit prison for convicts on their way to Siberian exile.
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Sparrow Hills underwent significant redevelopment in the Soviet period. From 1935 to 1999, Sparrow Hills was renamed Lenin Hills, and a park and observation deck were constructed there. From 1949 to 1953, the main campus of Moscow State University was erected on the plateau above Sparrow Hills (built partly by Gulag labour), and was crowned with the tallest of Stalin’s Seven Sisters skyscrapers. The Luzhnetsky metro bridge and Vorobyovy Gory metro station were also built to link the university and Sparrow Hills with Moscow city centre. The medieval settlement of Vorobyovo finally disappeared with the completion of the university campus.
Did you know? A winter sports complex was established on Sparrow Hills in the 1920s, inspiring the first generation of serious competitive skiers in the USSR. In 1953, a professional ski-jump and ski-lift were installed on the hills. Skiers training at Sparrow Hills were so talented, that they won nearly half of the medals available in national championships until the end of the 1960s!
One of the best spots for photography and most popular sites among Muscovites and tourists alike, the Sparrow Hills observation deck offers an unparalleled panorama over Moscow’s cityscape. It is well worth using the binoculars installed there to see some of Moscow’s landmark buildings – the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Novodevichy Convent, Kremlin, Shukhov radio tower, Luzhniki Stadium, and skyscrapers of Moscow City. Concerts and other events are held here in summertime. Located at Ulitsa Kosygina, 28.
Did you know? In pre-revolutionary times a legendary restaurant, Krynkin’s, sat pride of place on the observation deck, entertaining Moscow’s rich and famous.
This huge forest park spanning the length of Sparrow Hills is a verdant oasis in busy Moscow, and the only specially protected nature area near the city centre. It is home to ecological trails, ponds, natural springs, rare species of plants and animals, many spots for picnicking, cafes, and a mini zoo. At the bottom of the park lie the Vorobyovskaya and Andreevskaya Embankments, with promenades stretching along the Moskva River with a beach and piers offering boat trips. To reach the observation deck from Vorobyovy Gory metro station, it’s necessary to take a walk through the Sparrow Hill Nature Reserve.
Sparrow Hills is hugely popular for sports and other outdoor activities in all seasons. Visitors can rent sports equipment to explore the park and embankments, and there is a 5km riverside cycle path between Gorky Park and Sparrow Hills Nature Reserve via the Neskuchny Gardens. A new winter sports complex complete with snowboarding, ice skating, and various ski tracks and jumps is currently under construction, and will cater to professionals and amateur enthusiasts alike.
A 720-metre cable car connects Sparrow Hills and the Luzhniki Stadium on the opposite side of the Moskva River, offering passengers an incredible view. One-way tickets range from $1.40 – $5.60 and return tickets from $2.10 - $8.40 depending on the day. The Vorobyovy Gory station lies at the top of Sparrow Hills next to the observation deck, and the Novaya Liga station is on the Vorobyovskaya Embankment by the Vorobyovy Gory pier. Tickets may be purchased here.
Photo by C.caramba2010 on Wikipedia
The only surviving building from the village of Vorobyovo, this church was not destroyed by Napoleon’s invasion, and, unusually, was not closed during the Soviet period. The small church was built in the style of late Classicism and has a single green dome and a two-tiered bell tower. Located at Ulitsa Kosygina, 30.
Photo by A.Savin on Wikipedia
One of the oldest monasteries in Moscow and the first academic institution in the city, established in 1648 as an ‘educational’ brotherhood and religious school. The Andreevsky Monastery is a peaceful place to visit with Baroque architecture and lovely gardens. It is located on the Moskva riverbank at Andreevskaya Embankment, 2.
Photo by Pavel K on Wikipedia
Russia’s oldest university and the educational and scientific centre of the country. Its main campus is perched atop Sparrow Hills. Visitors can get a glimpse of life at Russia’s top university, admire its commanding main building, visit the university’s Museum of Geology, Botanical Gardens, and viewing platform from the 32nd storey of the main building. Located at Ulitsa Leninskiye Gory, 1.
Essential Information for Visitors
Address and Contact Details
Addresses and websites are mentioned above.
Nearest metro: Vorobyovy Gory (located right next to Sparrow Hills Nature Reserve, and 2km from the observation deck).
You can visit Sparrow Hills 24 hours a day. Admission to the nature reserve and observation deck is free.
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