A stroll through town, followed by a trip to Sparrow Hills introduces many of the city's best-loved sights. Start: Tverskaya metro
End: Vorobyovy Gory metro
Distance: about 7km on foot plus three stops on the metro.
Whether you're moving to Moscow for a couple of years or passing through for a couple of days, this walk aims to help you find your bearings. Starting from the famous statue of Pushkin, a favourite meeting point, you will explore busy Tverskaya, pass through Red Square, cross the bridge for the best Kremlin views and then follow the canal to the Christ the Saviour cathedral where you can catch the metro up the viewpoint at Sparrow Hills.
Stand with your back to the statue of Pushkin and look straight ahead towards the trees on the other side of the road. You are standing on the Boulevard Ring, a semi circle of narrow parks running along the line of the white stone walls that surrounded the city in the 16th century. The section you are looking at is the most popular for a stroll and contains numerous monuments, theatres, museums, galleries and cafes (including the city's first Mc Donald's and the ever-popular Cafe Pushkin).
The monstrously trafficky road right in front of you is Tverskaya Ulitsa, one of Moscow‘s main shopping streets. It's not exactly a peaceful place to walk, but it's useful to know. If you want to explore it without the noise and fumes, come here on the first weekend in September when the street is blissfully clear of cars to celebrate City Day. Before you leave Pushkinskaya Ploshchad, you might want to check out the gaggle of cafes behind you including branches of Costa Coffee and Coffee House (good breakfast deal) and to your right across the road where, through an archway on Maly Palashevsky Pereulok, Scandinavia's leafy terrace provides an unexpected haven in the middle of the city.
Turn left at last along Tverskaya. The Yeliseyevsky Grocery at No. 14, open 24 hours a day, may not be the cheapest place to buy your Cheerios, but the chandeliers are great. The Moskva Bookshop in No. 8 has a limited English language section, but some great city maps and atlases at reasonable prices. The red and gold building across the road, opposite the statue of Yury Dolgoruky, is the Mayor's Office. Don't miss the fairy tale Savvinskoye Podvorye in the courtyard of No. 6. The pedestrian street on the left is Kamergersky Pereulok. The Moscow Arts Theatre is here along with a statue of Chekhov and a lot of cafes.
There are more theatres to the left at the bottom of the hill, including the famous Bolshoi (recently reopened after renovation). Go under the underpass (using underpasses is an essential feature of surviving in Moscow) and walk towards the Resurrection Gates into Red Square. The horseback figure here is Marshal Zhukov, who led the Red Army in World War II. The red brick building behind him is the Historical Museum. Cross the blood-steeped cobbles of Red Square, between the elegant GUM shopping mall and Lenin's Tomb, backed by the Kremlin wall.
If you feel like a break, go up to the far corner of GUM on the top floor and look out for the brightly coloured umbrellas. This is Stolovaya ("canteen") 57, a cheerful self-service cafe with a range of Russian specialities, shots of vodka from the bar and very reasonably priced coffee, given the location. Keep St Basil's on your right and head down towards the river, crossing the sloping "Vasilevsky Spusk", which has been used throughout the centuries as a stage for all kinds of entertainment, from executions to rock concerts.
Look left along Ulitsa Varvarka for a fine view of the domes of ancient Kitai Gorod, the oldest part of the city outside the Kremlin. Go on across the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Most ("Big Moscow River Bridge"). This busy road bridge is hardly a relaxing way to cross the river, but the views make it worthwhile. To the left, the Kotelnicheskaya apartment block, one of Stalin's seven skyscrapers, dominates the skyline. Another one, the Foreign Ministry, is also visible to the right, along with the gold and white of the rebuilt Christ the Saviour Cathedral and - in the distance - the unfinished, business district, including Europe's tallest towers.
Best of all, look back from the viewpoint on the far side for panoramic views of the Kremlin Cathedrals, ranged above the red brick walls and the river. Take photos here - you won't get a better shot. Across a second bridge, over the canal which has turned this area into an island, is the area known as Zamoskvorechye ("beyond the Moscow River"), full of churches, cafes and galleries, including the Tretyakov, whose paintings provide an excellent crash course in Russian art and culture.
For now, stay on the north bank of the canal and turn right along the edge of the water passing between a statue of the painter Ilya Repin and a little footbridge decorated with padlock-covered metal trees. The relatively recent tradition of fixing symbolic padlocks to railings, as a kind of engagement ritual, has become so popular that the city authorities have had to replace the metal trees on this bridge several times and ‘replant’ the old ones along the embankment.
The gardens here, known as Bolotnaya Ploschad (‘marshy square’), were a venue for protests in December 2011. Carry on along the canal until you reach another pedestrian bridge leading to the Christ the Saviour cathedral. On the far side of this towering building, the largest orthodox church in the world, you reach Kropotkinskaya metro station. This elegant station, one of the first to open, was built as an entrance hall for Stalin's unfinished Palace of the Soviets. He demolished the previous cathedral and it was rebuilt during the 1990s.
From Kropotkinskaya, take the red line, the oldest in the system four stops to Vorbyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) for a view over the city. Taking the exit nearest the front of the train, turn right through the woods. At the junction beyond the pond, double back sharp left up a steep flight of steps and then right again at the top, along the road to the viewing platform. Alexander Herzen described this climb in his autobiography: “Flushed and breathless, we stood there mopping our faces. The sun was setting, the cupolas glittered, beneath the hill the city extended further than the eye could reach…”
You might want to avoid traffic-heavy Tverskaya and start from Teatralnaya/Ploshchad Revolutsii metro station at the bottom of the hill. If they haven't quite got used to borshch with sour cream yet, the canteen in GUM also does pancakes, pasta or jacket potatoes. Sparrow Hills is freckled with playgrounds and the ski-lift can be an entertaining diversion.
Landmark of the week - Statue of Yury Dolgoruky, Tverskaya Ploshchad
This horseback monument to Moscow's legendary founder was supposed to be unveiled in time for the 800th Anniversary of the City in 1947, but was actually finished seven years later. On City Day, this is the site of an enormous stage for music and dancing. Dolgoruky, whose name means "long arm", was crucial in the transfer of power from Kiev to Vladimir-Suzdal.