What’s the most famous landmark in London with Russian connections? The Russian Embassy may spring to mind, or maybe Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery. But where else can you go to get a little closer to the culture and traditions of this fascinating country? Here are a few suggestions…
The Tate Modern exhibits plenty of Russian art, from Soviet propaganda posters to the intricate imaginary architectures of Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin.
The National Theatre has a long tradition of Russian drama. In fact, its first ever season in 1963 included Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, while the theatre has more recently staged acclaimed productions of the Cherry Orchard and Gorky’s Children of the Sun.
The British Film Institute’s annual London Film Festival shows several Russian films every year.
Pop into the Baltic Bar on Blackfriars Road for Siberian pelmeni (dumplings), blini with caviar, and a wide selection of vodkas.
The ornate building on Ennismore Gardens in Knightsbridge that houses the Russian Orthodox Dormition Cathedral holds regular services in its cosy chapel, filled with icons and candles.
A white plaster eagle off Bayswater Road celebrates the Visit of Alexander I in 1914, a memorial to the Russo-British alliance against Napoleon. And it’s just around the corner from the Russian Embassy, on the corner with Kensington Palace Gardens. By the way, did you know that the Russian Embassy pays just £1 a year as a token annual rent, while the British Embassy in Moscow pays just one rouble annually for its palatial riverside residence?
Visiting Queensway Market? Then call into the Samovar Café with its traditional borshch (beetroot soup) and elegant glasses of tea. Neighbouring kiosks sell Russian books and DVDs, and you can even get a Russian haircut! Kalinka next door to the market is London’s oldest Russian shop.
An equestrian statue in Kensington Gardens is London’s answer to St Petersburg’s ‘Bronze Horseman’.
Visit the Russian Orthodox Church on Harvard Road, Chiswick. Dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Royal Martyrs, its services are usually held on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, but remember to brush up on your Church Slavonic first!
Nearby Chiswick House is well worth a visit in its own right, but gains additional interest among Russophiles when you hear that it once hosted a huge summer party when Tsar Nicholas I came visiting.
The impressive building at No 152 King’s Road (Chelsea and Fulham district) was once Serafina Astafieva’s Russian dancing academy. Astafieva, a great niece of Leo Tolstoy, performed with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Her academy’s pupils included Margot Fonteyn and Alicia Markova.
Stamford Bridge is the home of Chelsea Football Club, which Russian businessman Roman Abramovich bought in 2003.
There are plenty more places to visit in London with a Russian theme, but we’ve saved the best till last. No visit to the British capital is complete without a visit to 202 Kensington Church Street – the home of the unmissable Russian National Tourist Office. If you want to see Russian architecture, history and culture in its homeland, this is the place for you! For all your travel and accommodation needs, and so much more, there’s only one place to go – RNTO! We look forward to seeing you in 2017…
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