With fifty thousand thirsty football fans descending on Moscow this week, here is a route that incorporates plenty of bars with some sightseeing thrown in for good measure. It takes you from the old city center near the Kremlin, all the way out to the river, where you can catch a boat back into town. Drinking in Moscow can be shockingly expensive, so there are some cheaper options suggested here too and a variety of venues for different tastes and budgets: an eclectic pub crawl for visitors to discover the city and for long-term residents to find something new. Head out of Kitai Gorod Metro by the "Ulitsa Solyanka" exit, coming up by the beautiful old red and white church of All Saints. A few doors to the right, is the cozy little café "Lyudi kak Lyudi" ("People as People"), open from 8 a.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. weekends. If there's nowhere to sit, don't panic, there are plenty of roomier places further on. Walking back past the church and under Kitaigorodsky Proezd, you come to Ulitsa Varvarka which packs more old buildings per meter than any other road in Moscow: three 17th century churches, a monastery, the "English Court" and the wood-roofed 16th century Palace of the Romanovs, all backed by the wreck of the former Hotel Rossiya (whose 3,000 rooms might have been useful this week!). If you feel in need of fortification before seeing all this, you could do worse than the newly-opened Varvarka Café, a no-nonsense canteen and bar with moderate prices. The beers start at 70 rubles a half liter for Zolotaya Bochka.
Keep going until you reach the unmistakable domes of St. Basil's, then turn right, enjoying great views of the Kremlin towers. Walk straight through Red Square. If you don't feel you can make it to the other end without a little something, try walking through GUM, the ornate cream-colored shopping mall on your right, full of balconied cafés. On the top floor in the corner is the new Stolovaya No. 57 which gives Soviet Nostalgia a colorful twist and serves shots of platinum "Russky Standart" Vodka for 100 rubles. At the far end go through the archway out of Red Square, past the souvenir stalls and left through the gates into Alexander's Gardens.
Walk right towards the fountains and you will come to the Albion which calls itself an "Anglisky Pab" ("English Pub"). The interior looks moderately convincing and it's certainly a good place to sample Russian beer snacks (dried squid, salted fish, smoked cheese to name just a few); the beers include draught Stary Melnik for 45 rubles. Next go on under the brick arch ahead and turn right into the tunnel under the road, coming up eventually to the left outside the Lenin Library. Passing the statue of Dostoevsky, go on along Ulitsa Vozdvizhenka.
If you feel it's time for something classier than canteens and park benches, you can venture next left down Starovagankovsky Pereulok. The first café, the Italian "Muar" is the kind of place that has kept Moscow top of the "worlds' priciest city" league for the last two years. More moderate and more fun, though still not cheap, are the Rhythm and Blues Café and the "Nyeskuchny Dvorik" ("Not-boring Courtyard") further down the road. These are both located in a flowery yard under an old oak tree; the first often hosts live bands in the evening which can mean an entrance charge, the second has a lovely terrace and serves Georgian food including several variations on the delicious cheese-bread khachapuri.
Back on Ulitsa Vozdvizhenka, you pass some interesting buildings, including the "House of the Friendship of Nations" with scallop shell decorations all over it. At the junction, go through the underpass into Ulitsa Arbat. This pedestrianized road, also known as Stary ("Old") Arbat diverges to the left from the modern Novy Arbat and is full of cafés, bars and fast food joints, including an "Irish" pub (Doolin House) about half way along. At the end of the pedestrian section, turn right past Smolenskaya Metro Station to find the John Bull Pub. Its welcoming "Victorian" interior comes at a fairly high price, but the beer is generally good.
Go left after the archway by the John Bull and immediately right onto the main road. Don't miss the underpass, located between the "Shesh Besh" restaurant and Mir Pizza. On the other side, turn away from the main road, past a church onto 1st Smolensky Pereulok. For anyone who likes beer, it is worth making a detour downhill to the right and just round the corner to the left to find Tinkoff's microbrewery on Protochny Pereulok. This huge place sells several varieties of their home-brewed beer, filtered and unfiltered, for about 200 rubles a half liter. For 799 rubles you can drink as much as you want. The food is expensive and not great, but the atmosphere is convivial with many screens playing non-stop football.
Back on 1st Smolensky Pereulok, keep going until you reach Smolenskaya Ulitsa; cross over to reach the huge neon Zolotoe Koltso ("Golden Ring") Hotel.
On the top floor, the Winter Garden bar has great views over the city. Going down Ulitsa Plyushikha, just next to the hotel, turn right into 4th Rostovsky Pereulok, passing the wine shop on the corner, and then left along a curving tower block until you come out on a larger road. Turn left again past the Turkish embassy to reach the elegant Bogdana Khmelnitskovo Bridge. This glass-roofed pedestrian bridge has great vistas along the river.
Just before you get to the other side, go down a flight of stairs to come out on the river bank. Nearby is a pier from which boats leave every 20 minutes throughout the day for an hour or so's pleasant cruising through the town. The on-board bar is relatively cheap and the top deck is a great place to enjoy the view. Have fun!