The cold and icy streets don't need to trap you indoors. You can see a great deal of Moscow from the warm seat of a traditional tram. Taking over an hour to complete its 17 kilometer route from Chistye Prudy, north east of the Boulevard Ring, down to the University in the south west, no one would argue that the Number 39 is a quick way to cross town, but its leisurely pace makes it ideal for sightseeing and it passes some great Moscow landmarks on its way. You can also get off to take a closer look at the Danilov and Donskoy monasteries, the colourful Danilovsky Market and the atmospheric Donskoe Cemetery. If you want to hop on and off, it might be an idea to buy a multiple journey ticket before you start; otherwise, singles cost 25 rubles from the driver. 1. The first of a whole series of famous Moscow towers is visible on your right soon after you leave the metro station on Chistoprudny Boulevard. The pink church tower, topped by what looks like a golden pineapple, is known as "Menshikov's Tower" after the 17th century prince who commissioned it. Ahead of you is a statue of Alexander Griboedov who wrote the play "Woe from Wit," characters from which appear around the pedestal. The 39 tram also takes you past a memorial to the nineteenth century Kazakh poet, Abay Kunanbaev, before passing Chistye Prudy - the name means "clean ponds" - across from which is a fine view of the Sovremennik Theatre. On the right at number 14 is a house covered in fantastic plants and animals while looking left along Ulitsa Pokrovka you can see the bright blue eighteenth century baroque Apraksin mansion with its elaborate white decorations.
2. The huge yellow neoclassical building opposite the "Dyetsky Park" was an 18th century barracks, now a bank. You pass several churches including the distinctive greeny-blue "Trinity in Serebryaniki" (in scaffolding) which takes its name from the silversmiths who lived here when the church was built in 1781. The view here is dominated by the Kotelnicheskaya Apart ment Block, the first of Stalin's seven skyscrapers, which spans the confluence of the Yauza and Moscow rivers with thirty floors of ornate megalomania. Make sure you look to the right as you cross the bridge for a great view of the Kremlin, a kilometer up the river. The tram traverses the narrow island and then crosses the canal on the other side to Zamoskvorechie.
The round 1940s pavilion of Novo kuznetskaya Metro station appears on the right, the first to be built in this rotunda style, followed by a small park with a sculpture of Adam and Eve and the Indonesian embassy. Shortly after, Paveletskaya Station has been much expanded since its opening in 1900, but still retains its original design.
3. After Paveletskaya, the tram runs through a more industrial landscape, passing the "Red Cloth Factory," only to emerge suddenly outside the white walls and pink gate church of Mos cow's oldest monastery. Alight here to stretch your legs and explore the collection of bulidings that make up the Danilov Monastery, official residence of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Founded in the late thirteenth century by Prince Danil, it includes the beautiful 17th century Cathedral of the Holy Fathers chapels on two levels, and the large neo-classical Trinity Cathedral built by Osip Bove (who designed the Bolshoi Theatre). To the right, you can find a 13th century Armenian cross between the wall and chapel, and the modern patriarch's residence from which a huge picture of Christ stares out like a holy big brother. The Monastery's "Trapeza" sells tea, coffee and pies, as well as bottles for collecting holy water.
4. Coming out throught the gate again, turn left along the walls until you reach the road at the end. There is a shop to the left, "Medovy Spas" selling every kind of monastery produce from icons and prayer beads to bread, honey and mead. Cross over and take the path diagonally left across a small park, between the blue administrative building and a small gold-domed chapel. This brings you to an underpass beneath Tulskaya Ulitsa, after which you can cross right and then walk left along the avenue along the middle of Serpukovsky Val, between the giant urns. First, you might want to visit the Danilovsky market, under the circus-like dome across the road, hiding axe-wielding butchers and mounds of pomegranates. Here you can buy dried figs, rosehips or cured goat skins before you walk on, admiring the view of Shukov's 1920s radio tower above the trees on the right. The cosy "Edelweiss" café in block number 30 does a great business lunch on weekdays.
5. At the end of the avenue, cross over into Ulitsa Shabolovka (best achieved by crossing first to the post office) and turn right. Very soon, the red walls of the Donskoy Monas tery appear on your left. Go up to and then right along the walls, following them all the way round through a wooded park by the Gate Church until you reach the main entrance through a belltower on the far side. Passing the strange white tanks (comemmorating the monastery's wartime unit), you can enter the Great Cathedral of the Don Mother of God. The baroque interior includes a huge carved iconostasis, which Archbishop Amvrosy unsuccessfully tried to hide behind, and frescoes of vine-encircled saints. The rest of the monastery grounds are not accessible at the moment, but there is a fascinating cemetery a little further down the same road on the left. Large numbers of those who died under Stalin were cremated here and are remembered by a "Monument to the Victims of Repression." It is also worth wandering among the other tombs and walls of memorials, especially in the snow; the place has a powerful atmosphere.
Walk on along the road to the tram stop "Universitet Druzhbi Narodov." Looking left, you have a good view of the university with its massive red and yellow Corinthian pillars. From here you can catch the tram, over Leninsky Prospekt, looking right to see the huge statue of Gagarin, past the massive Darwin Museum, to Universtet where the MGU (Moscow State University) (6), the ultimate Stalin skyscraper, towers over the trees in the distance.
Family friendly features
Besides the inherent fun of riding the tram, the woods behind the Donskoy monastery has a small playground and space to play in the snow.
The Darwin Museum has hundreds of stuffed animals and a cheap café.
The Circus, near Universitet, would make a great end to this day trip.