VDNH (or VDNKh) is a gigantic entertainment complex, museums, exhibitions, fairs and parks, in which you can also admire the achievements of the past Soviet communist era, all gathered in a unique historical and architectural complex. It is located next to the Moscow Cosmonautics Museum and it is well worth a visit. This is my favorite park in Moscow. The entrance is free. In this post I’ll explain what you can see and how to organize the visit to this fantastic complex.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1. What is VDNH? A bit of history
- 2. What to see in VDNH?
- 2.0. Arriving at VDNH
- 2.1. The main entrance and the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman sculpture
- 2.2. The central avenue: the monument to Lenin and the House of Peoples of Russia
- 2.3. The impressive fountains of VDNH
- 2.4. The Industry (and aerospace technology) Square
- 2.5. The most interesting and emblematic pavilions
- 2.6. Moskvarium
- 2.7. The Green Theater
- 3. The Ostankino Park
- 4. The N. V. Titis botanical garden
1. What is VDNH? A bit of history
VDNH or VDNKh (in Russian ВДНХ) or Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy (in Russian, Выставка Достижений Народного Хозяйства) is one of the most popular public spaces in Moscow, with an extension of 235 hectares.
It is not easy for me to define this space, in fact there is no park similar to it in any other part of the world.
It is a unique historical and architectural complex that served as the central point of the Soviet ideology, where you can now admire the great scale of architecture and art of the Soviet era. When it was inaugurated, it was on the outskirts of the city, but with the growth of Moscow, its location has become much more centric.
VDNH currently gathers an exhibition fair with buildings from the Soviet era that are authentic masterpieces of architecture, museums, cultural exhibitions, sculptures of the Soviet past, large green and recreational areas, spectacular fountains, amusement parks, aquarium, theaters, spaces to practice sports, restaurants, etc.
But to better understand what VDNH is, you have to briefly review its history:
- In 1935, the Agricultural Exhibition of the USSR was planned, through the construction of various pavilions, for its inauguration in 1937, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Russian revolution. It couldn’t be finished on time. The pavilions were expected to be in operation in 100 days, though it was later decided that they would work permanently.
- On August 1st, 1939, it was inaugurated. It was originally a place where agricultural achievements were exhibited, but two decades later and under the government of Nikita Khrushchev, the exhibition was transformed into a vast park, dedicated to the glory of the country’s scientific and technological achievements, with the background of the Cold War and the aerospace race.
- During the 80’s, it entered a phase of abandonment, due to the lack of public funding. Many of the pavilions became warehouses. The disintegration of the USSR was a period of decline. The only place that remained intact was the amusement park where people came to relax. The complex became a flea market and kebab places. Despite this, the buildings were preserved because many of them were provided with state protection.
- On the 2000s, with the improvement of the Russian economy, it was a slow recovery period. In 2009, some pavilions began to be reopened. During this period, the government of the Russian Federation received many offers from private investors to build residential buildings or giant shopping centers, which fortunately did not prosper.
- At the end of 2013, the complex became the property of Moscow City Hall. Since then it has undergone a process of transformation and rehabilitation that has made it one of the most popular spaces in the city: in 2018, 25 million people visited it, which gives you an idea of the importance of VDNH.
Throughout its history, this space has had different denominations (VSHV, VPV, VDNH, VDNKH, USSR, VVC). Between 1992 and 2014, its official name was the All-Russia Exhibition Centre, but in 2014, after a popular vote among Muscovites, the original name was recovered. 90% of the 300,000 votes supported the change to the original name: Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy. Soviet nostalgia. J
VDNH is connected to the Ostankino Park, which has an area of about 82 hectares and is worth visiting. To the south of this park, you will find the Ostankino telecommunications tower, 540 meters high, which became the tallest building in the world, and in which you can go up its observation deck.
Separated from the Ostankino Park by some ponds, from north to east and even with a greater surface area, you will find the Main Botanical Garden of the N. V. Titis Russian Academy of Sciences, from 1945, which occupies around 330 hectares.
In this post, I’ll explain what to see and how to organize the visit to these three unique spaces that are currently linked: VDNH, the Ostankino Park and the Botanical Garden.
These enclaves, along with the section of the annexed Yauza River (an influent of the important Moskva), have a status of natural reserve territory since 1998.
2. What to see in VDNH?
VDNH or VDNKh is a park with a cultural, educational and leisure side, with museums and beautiful gardens, but at the same time it is an architectural complex of buildings, an exhibition center, artistic and international fairs, of great dimensions and variety. It has quite the frantic activity and access is free. The other fairground of the city is the Expocentre, in the heart of Moscow City, full of the most modern skyscrapers.
To visit VDNH, it is essential to have a map, since the territory is quite extensive and it has many attractions. In this link: https://vdnh.ru/en/map/, you will find a PDF map of the site, as well as a panoramic photo of the complex.
Next, I will detail what I consider most interesting or important, at the risk of being mistaken for the magnitude of the site. It must also be taken into consideration that some buildings can be very beautiful on the outside, but not have any interesting inside. There are free access and other paid attractions, though tickets are usually quite economic.
It should be noted that the VDNH website offers an updated list of all the events and fairs that take place on the site and that I recommend consulting before visiting.
2.0. Arriving at VDNH
You can reach VDNH in two ways:
- Arriving at the subway station with the same name (VDNKh), just 15 minutes from the center of Moscow. Upon leaving this station, you can admire the magnitude of the Cosmos Hotel. It is also possible to arrive there by trolleybus.
- If you are going to see the Museum of Cosmonautics and the Monument to the Conquerors of Space, when finishing the visit you can go to VDNH, whose main entrance is right next to this museum.
It is also important to know that there is a monorail that crosses part of the Ostankino district and crosses the VDNH. It has a length of 4.7 km. It goes from Ulitsa Sergeya Eyzensteyna station to Timiryazevskaya. From one of the stops (Teletsentr), you will find immediate access to the Ostankino Telecommunications Tower, of which I will tell you about later. This line is part of the Moscow Metro.
2.1. The main entrance and the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman sculpture
VDNKh can be accessed by up to 14 different entrances, but it is worth accessing it through the main entrance, a monumental arch of triumph, above which are the figures of a driver and a peasant woman. It was built in 1954 and has been recently restored.
At a short walk from the main entrance, specifically next to the north entrance, we will find the renowned Worker and Kolkhoz Woman sculpture, the symbol of the VDNH, designed by Vera Mukhina, which was first exhibited at the Paris World’s Fair in 1937. It was moved out of the current main entrance, but very close to it, in 2009. Its figures carry a hammer and a sickle. The woman represents the farms or agricultural cooperatives of the time: Kolkhoz. Soviet style realism of quality.
As if that were not enough, this sculpture has been since 1947 the logo of the famous Mosfilm film studios, founded in 1920, though this logo has been changing and being modernized over time.
2.2. The central avenue: the monument to Lenin and the House of Peoples of Russia
Once you enter through the main entrance you can walk along the central avenue of the complex. To the right and left you can see the amusement parks of the complex (currently under reconstruction, along with the installation of a cable car).
Walking along the central avenue, you can admire the monument to Lenin and in the background the central pavilion of VDNKh, the House of Peoples of Russia, a building restored in 2016.
2.3. The impressive fountains of VDNH
After the central pavilion you can admire the most important fountains of the complex, which are really impressive.
Thus, since the 50s, other symbols of the VDNH are its famous fountains, designed by the architect Konstantin Topuridze: «The Friendship of Nations (or Peoples)», «The Golden Spike» and «The Stone Flower».
The “Friendship of Nations” fountain was restored in 2019 and consists of figures of 16 women representing the republics of the USSR. The statues are four meters high and weigh 2,500 kg each, and are covered with gold leaf. At night, on special occasions, there are shows made with the fountains with lights and music.
2.4. The Industry (and aerospace technology) Square
Once you pass the fountains you will arrive at the Industry Square where you can see a replica of the Vostok space rocket and a Yak-42 aircraft.
Near this square there is also a Buran spacecraft model outside, which includes an interactive museum where you will learn about the history of the Soviet space shuttle, and you be a pilot with its flight simulator.
In winter, there is a gigantic ice-skating rink of nothing more or less than 20,000 m2 that is installed on that surface. The largest in Russia and Europe. About 5,000 people can skate at the same time. Very successful. In addition, it includes a professional ice hockey rink.
2.5. The most interesting and emblematic pavilions
Armenia Pavilion (and the other republics of the former USSR)
Right next to “The Friendship of the Peoples” fountain, there is one of the most emblematic and monumental pavilions of VDNH, the pavilion of Armenia (formerly called Siberia).
Built in 1954, it should symbolize the greatness of Siberia. This is a project by the architects Clics and Tushkanov. Its huge columns are decorated with sculptures of workers, and the side facades of the building are ornamented with naturists, motifs of flora and fauna, which symbolize the natural wealth of the Siberian region.
Inside the Armenia pavilion there is a restaurant, called Ararat, with the typical dishes of the country and a shop of Armenian products (sweets, wines, cognac, etc.)
Throughout the complex you will find many restaurants and fast food places.
But in addition to the Armenia pavilion, there are also pavilions of the other republics of the former USSR scattered throughout the complex: Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Abkhazia, Kazakhstan, among others.
Pavilion number 2: Education
In this pavilion you will find Robostantsiya (or Robostation), a very innovative exhibition with robots. It is aimed at family audiences and children. The highlight is the robotdog or robotic dog “Sirius”, one of the stars of this site, which offers engineering workshops. It is located near the fountain of “The Friendship of the Peoples (or Nations)”.
The Moscow Model Pavilion
The Moscow Model Pavilion (without number) houses a splendid model of the Russian capital. You can’t miss it if you like this kind of facilities. It has a very expressive lighting. It is next to pavilions 61 and 62. Entrance is free.
Pavilion number 57: the Historical Park
In Pavilion number 57 you can see the Historical Park and the interactive exhibition: Russia-My History 1914-2017, among other interesting exhibits. It is located near the Vostok space rocket.
Pavilion number 34: Cosmos
The Center for Cosmonautics and Aviation, the main building of the industry square, is located in the emblematic Pavilion Number 34 (Cosmos), renovated extensively in 2018. It explains, among other things, the daily life of astronauts in orbit or the operation of a space station. Inside there is the 5D Space Sphere Cinema.
In addition to the pavilions, the Moskvarium Marine Oceanography and Marine Biology Center is also worth mentioning, located almost in Ostankino Park, which is the largest in Europe of its kind. It was opened by Vladimir Putin, in 2015.
In the Moskvarium, you can see different shows with dolphins, whales and wonderful shows with water, in addition to many marine species.
Hours: from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Prices: Adults 900-1000 rubles. Children from 3 to 12 years: 600-800 rubles. The sale of tickets is online.
2.7. The Green Theater
Abandoned for more than 30 years, the Green Theater of VDNH was one of the most popular in the city. Recently renovated, this open-air theater has a capacity for 4,000 people in an original scenario, in which musical, theatrical performances and film screening are performed. In these photos you can see the theater before and after the renovation:
3. The Ostankino Park
3.1. A place to relax
The Ostankino Park is connected with VDNH. It is a recreational space created by the powerful Counts Sheremetiev, which also includes a heritage set that evolved over time.
The current Ostankino Palace and Museum, a vestige of Russian neoclassical architecture, was built from 1792 to 1798 entirely in wood, though the plastered walls seem made of stone. The improvements went on for many more years. Inside it has many works of art. There was a private opera theater at the beginning, very advanced in his time, which was refurbished today, retaining a great charm.
Since 2013, it has been closed for renovations. Its reopening is expected in 2020.
Next to the Palace, there is the Trinity Church, the oldest monument on the estate, which was consecrated in 1683. Its nine-level carved iconostasis stands out.
Currently, the park has different recreational uses and areas with water. The oak forest that it shares with the Botanical Garden is already bicentennial and national heritage.
It is a very special place to relax, take a walk and enjoy its varied recreational offer: water attractions, cafes, theatrical sculpture park, etc.
3.2. The Ostankino Tower
Located south of the district and the Ostankino Park, the Ostankino TV Tower is well worth a visit. It became the tallest building in the world in the late sixties and mid-seventies of the last century, with its 540 meters. Today it is the tallest telecommunications tower in Europe and the fourth in the world.
You can visit the observation deck and enjoy incredible views of the city and also eat in the Seventh Heaven restaurant complex on its three levels or floors. In the previous link, you will find schedules, prices and official websites for this purpose.
The platform viewpoint offers 360-degree views. It is amazing to see from there the amount of green areas of the city. It is estimated that 40% of the 2,511 km2 of Moscow.
4. The N. V. Titis botanical garden
Separated from the Ostankino Park by some ponds, from north to east and even of greater surface area, we have the Main Botanical Garden of the N. V. Titis Russian Academy of Sciences, 1945.
It occupies about 330 hectares, that is, it is very extensive. With free access in part, it has a botanical pool with some 18,000 plant taxa from around the world, as well as a curious Japanese garden since 1987. The entrance to this Japanese landscape space costs 100 to 250 rubles and children under 7 years old can enter for free.
There are different metro stations around, but the closest is Vladykino.
I hope this article has been useful for organizing your visit to VDNH and the Ostankino and Botanical parks. If you found it useful you can help me by sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.