If you associate Leningradskoye Shosse with tedious traffic jams on the way to IKEA, you might be surprised to find a river port hidden just metres from the highway. The wide water, cruise liners and wheeling gulls give the Northern River Station a seaside feel. When the Moscow-Volga canal was completed in 1937, it connected Moscow, via the Volga, with the Black, White, Caspian, Baltic and Azov Seas, making it the "port of five seas". The Khimki Reservoir is one of many reservoirs on the Moscow Canal and a starting point for cruises to St. Petersburg.
Take the exit nearest to the back of the train from Rechnoi Vokzal ("river station") metro station and you find yourself on the edge of Park Druzhby ("friendship park"). Head away from the station, into the green. There is a series of ponds with arched bridges just through the trees to the left. This is a pleasant area for a stroll if you have time, but the real delight of today's walk is to the right, across the Leningradskoye Shosse. Turn right through the park, passing playgrounds and sculptures. The entrance onto the road is flanked by a pair of fine Socialist Realist ensembles and on the far side of the perekhod or underpass is the tall white figure of a woman with a boat above her head Walk through the gates and towards the elegant arched building ahead, but turn right before you reach it, past fountains and flower beds. This park was laid out in the 1930s and frames the river station perfectly. At the end of this path, turn left towards the water. From here, you can see the docks to the right, with cranes loading sand onto the rusting sea-going barges. Across the reservoir, you can see an old Soviet submarine and an experimental hydroplane, which was dubbed the "Caspian sea monster" by CIA agents during the Cold War. These relics are the main exhibits of the Submarine Museum in Northern Tushino Park.
Turn left along the water's edge to reach the colonnaded river station building. To one side is a bust of the naval engineer Alexei Krylov. Various cruise companies have their offices inside the main entrance hall with its stained glass windows. If you want to buy tickets for a short trip, carry on along the water to the kiosks near piers 8 and 9. Here they can sell you anything from a 45 minute twirl round the harbour to a daylong excursion with several hours stop-off on a beach in the woods by one of the northern reservoirs. Boat trips are set to continue until the start of October. There is also the Chaika ("seagull") café nearby with an outdoor terrace.
From the end of the waterfront promenade, a view opens up to the south. You can see the water stadium area to the left and the huge lock gates of the canal near Pokrovsky Hills to the right. Going back to Pier 8 and climbing the steps, walk away from the river through the park. To the right, many expatriate parents may recognise the football field where Moscow's junior league plays its matches every autumn. Catch any trolleybus from the bus stop just outside the gates straight ahead, travel two stops back towards town and get off at the stop called "Metro Vodny Stadion". Go through the gates near the bus stop and walk along the left hand side of a disused running track. Through the fence at the far end, you can see the marina of the Royal Yacht Club, bobbing with oligarchs' dreamboats.
Turning right, you reach the Royal Bar restaurant, with its own luxury beach club, sporting deck chairs, umbrellas and unbelievably comfortable sofas. If there is a private function or a busy weekend gathering, it might not be so straightforward to get a table, but at quieter times, anybody is welcome to sit on their beautiful veranda and enjoy the view. If you want to make sure, phone ahead on 979-9090. Prices are steep; a cappuccino will set you back about 200 roubles, but if it comes with free lounging and paddling you might feel it's worth it.
When you can finally bear to drag yourself out of paradise, head for the main road again and cross under the underpass. Go straight along the lane on the far side and continue roughly in this direction wiggling a bit to the left until you come out near the metro. There is one final boat-related site in the area, which might interest some people. The old Moscow Naval Institute is about 500 metres to the right down Ulitsa Admirala Makarova. Red stars on black anchors decorate the iron fence and the grounds are dotted with old tanks and military equipment. The security guard is usually quite happy for you to come in and have a look at the small collection of boats and torpedoes, set against murals of storm-tossed vessels.
Short, accessible, with more playgrounds than even the most energetic kid could use, this has to be one of Moscow's top child-friendly walks. The big boats are impressive, there are gulls to feed on the river and the river station park has bouncy castles and other attractions in the summer.
Landmark of the week
The Northern River Station
Designed by Alexei Rukhlyadev in 1932 and completed in 1937, the layers of arches on this lovely building are clearly inspired by the ships nearby. The tower has a spike with a star on top which used to be on top of the Spasskaya Tower in Red Square. It is decorated with some brilliant ceramic medallions, showing different boats, ships and harbours including the Black Sea at Sochi. The circular pictures facing the water depict contemporary 1930s feats of Soviet architecture and engineering: the Red Army Theatre, the projected Palace of the Soviets and the early metro.