Izmaylovo

For many centuries Izmailovsky Park has been a favourite relaxation spot for Muscovites.

Mention of the village of Izmailovo can be found in records dating as far back as the 14th century, when it would have stood at the edge of a dense forest stretching east for many miles. It probably took its name from the boyar Izmailov family, who owned the village at the time.

In the early 1600s, Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich decided to build a model economy at Izmailovo, and more than 700 peasant families were moved there in the course of just one summer. Parks and gardens were laid out, and exotic crops such as melons, watermelons, cotton and grapes were even grown in the orangeries. Rare animals and birds were kept in a menagerie.

Roughly 20 ponds were dug out along the courses of the Izmailovka and Pekhorka Rivers, which flow through the park. Watermills were built on the dams and fish were farmed in the ponds. In the 1660s, an artificial island, Silver Island, was created as the home of the Royal household.

Aleksei's grandson, Peter the Great, spent much of his childhood at Izmailovo, and first learnt to sail here. Thus began a life-long passion that would lead to the birth of Russia as a formidable maritime power and, in part, to the founding of St Petersburg.

Much of Izmailovsky Park has retained its original beauty. Apart from the glorious birch woods, the main attraction of the park is the beautiful Pokhorovoskiy Cathedral on Silver Island, which was completed in 1679. Although badly damaged during Napoleon's 1812 invasion, the cathedral was restored by the great Moscow architect Konstantin Ton in 1840. He also supervised the construction of the buildings which now surround the cathedral, originally designed as a military hospital. Two more buildings from the original estate, the Ceremonial Gate and the Bridge Tower, lie in front of and behind the cathedral respectively.

A visit to the park can also be combined with some souvenir shopping at the Izmailovo Market.