This Sunday is "City Day" when the streets of central Moscow are given over to music and dancing to celebrate the founding of the city exactly 861 years ago. This week's walk takes advantage of the traffic-free festival area to admire Tverskaya at its best, and then cuts through the city walls to explore Kitai Gorod and the Museum of Moscow History. We will pass monuments to the city's long, exciting history: museums and theaters celebrate Moscow's vibrant cultural life, while buildings like Lubyanka represent the grimmer aspects of life (and death) in the Russian capital. The statue of Pushkin in Push kinskaya Ploschad, directly outside the metro station, makes a good starting point. From this popular meeting spot among the fountains and flowers, walk downhill towards the Kremlin along the left hand side of Tverskaya Ulitsa. Towards the end of block number 14 you will find the wonderfully ornate Yeliseyevsky Grocery, known in Soviet times as ‘Gastronom Number One.' The building was designed by Kazakov (who also built the Petrovsky Palace near Dinamo) in 1790 and opened as a grand food emporium in 1898. The lavishly detailed interior, complete with chandeliers, is packed with luxury goods and open round the clock.
For coffee, cakes and free newspapers, head for number 10, currently under reconstruction, which contains the first and finest Coffee Bean shop. The ornate ceilings are worth a look and the cheerful atmosphere will warm you up if the weather happens to be cold. At the second intersection, in front of the horseback statue of the city's founder, Yuri Dol goruky, a hu ge stage is erected for performances, .
The imposing gold-crested, bright red building across the road is the Mayor's office, also based on a design by Kazakov, but much altered and moved back fourteen met res when the road was widened in Stalin's time. Many of the older houses were also destroyed during this period to make way for blocks like number 9, with its huge granite archway. This marks the entrance to Bryusov Pereulok, home to numerous soviet actors and musicians. A ‘Flat-Museum' dedicated to avant-garde director, Vsevold Meyerhold, is just beyond the arch. Opposite this, back on the left hand side of the road, it is worth going into the courtyard of number 6 to see the gothic spires and ornate frieze of the Savvinskoe Podvorye, decorated with tiles from the workshop at Abramt sevo.
Turn left onto pedestrianised Kamergersky Pereulok (side street) past a statue of Chekhov and the famous Moscow Art Theatre with its distinctive wave-form doorway and stylised seagull logo. The expensive ‘Cafe des Artistes' across the road is great for fine French dining; alternatively the cheap and cheerful ‘Seno' Traktir ("Hay canteen"), decorated with plastic sunflowers, serves up Russian staples with beers starting from 75 rubles. Cross over Bolshaya Dmit rovka, at the far end of Kamigersky, turn right and take the little lane on the far side of the ‘Operetti' Theat re, past posters for the Bolshoi's up-coming new season.
Turning right down the steps between the ‘New Stage' where the Bolshoi currently performs and the building site that still surrounds the original theatre, you reach Teatralnaya Ploschad. Walk left past the fountain towards the yellow Mali Theatre, looking right across the road towards Vrubel's spectacular frieze on top of the Hotel Metropol. This is where we are headed, but it's not so visible close up. If you aren't walking on blessedly car-free City Day, you will need to use the underpass. Walk along the Hotel, away from the road, and left to find the entrance where you can pop in to admire the stained glass ceiling of the restaurant (through the atrium, near the lift) and art nouveau interior. The crenellated red brick walls beyond the hotel reconstruct the line of the medieval city walls, above which you can see the belltower of the Zaikon spassky Monastery. Follow the wall and then the beer garden to the right until you come to an archway leading left, just before the round fortress of the "Old Tower" Restaurant.
Walk past the painted doorway of the Boris Godunov Restaurant, left up the steps and follow the lane out through another arch onto historic Nikolskaya Ulitsa. Turning left along this road, you pass the ornate blue and white Synod Printing House where Russia's first book was printed during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. Number 17 used to house the ‘Sla vyansky Bazar' restaruant where Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Dan chenko stayed up until the small hours planning the foundation of the Moscow Art Theatre in 1897. Going past the huge gated walkway which leads through the old city walls, you reach the pillared front of the Ferryn Pharmacy at 21, the Soviet ‘Apteka number one.'
At the end of the road near the modern Nautilus shopping centre, five monumental landmarks are visible, ranged around Lubyan skaya Ploschad: starting on the left is Detsky Mir, the characterful soviet childrens' store whose future has now sadly caught up with it. The eight storeys of grey granite looming beyond is the current headquarters of the FSB, while the clock-topped sandstone Lubyanka Prison next door is now used by the Frontier Police. The block to the right contains the surreal Mayakovsky House-Museum and the Neo-russian building behind hoardings is the Politechnical (Scien ce) Musem.
Turn right along Novaya Ploschad to reach the Moscow History Mu seum in a pink and white building that used to be a church. The first exhibition room, upstairs, charts the growth of the city "from village to capital" during the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries. As well as archaeological finds, maps and models, there are Apollinari Vasnetsov's detailed water colours bringing sce nes from Moscow's past to life. On the ground floor there are also exhibitions de picting more recent times as well as a room full of historical maps. Kitai Gorod Metro Station is only a couple of hundred metres beyond the museum. Alternatively, you can turn back towards Red Square to find somewhere to eat and a good place to watch the fireworks over the Kremlin as City Day ends.
Family friendly features
City Day makes a great day out for the kids with a huge variety of free street entertainment and the utopian freedom of wide streets without traffic. There is also an ‘Art-tour' open-air exhibition of reproduced paintings from the Pushkin Museum which are fun to spot: Bronzino's Holy Family, for instance, next to the statue of Dolgoruky; or Shishkin's Sunny Day next to Chekhov.