Fresh snow improves almost any scene, concealing the blemishes and softening the rough edges. Gold domes, evergreen trees, monumental sculptures and wooden cottages all have an iconic beauty in the winter landscape. The climate is changing, replacing Moscow's glorious snowy winters with gloomy rain. Moscow's mayor Yury Luzhkov is plotting to dispel whatever snow does still dare approach the capital, using chemicals to "seed" the clouds so that the snow falls elsewhere. Skiers complain there is too little powder to ski through the woods on. But despite all that we are sure to see a fair number of snowy days this winter.
Here are some accessible Moscow sights to visit in snow or sunshine for those Christmas card moments.
Domes and spires
The smooth snow in the Kremlin's garden, on its high bank above the Moscow River, makes the perfect setting for the Ivan the Great bell tower and the surrounding domes of the Assumption, Ascension and Archangel cathedrals. These ancient, holy buildings in the heart of the city are symbols of Russia in the same way that winter weather is, so the two together are a winning combination. You could check out the new exhibition on the Battle of Poltava, a decisive conflict between Sweden and Russia in 1709. A 200-rouble ticket to the exhibition (in the belfry and the one-pillar hall of the Patriarch's Palace) also gives you access to the Kremlin gardens, the neighbouring architectural ensemble, Tsar Canon and giant bell (but you'd need to buy another ticket to go inside the cathedrals).
As with the Kremlin's Sobornaya Ploshchad (Cathedral Square), any snow that falls on Red Square is cleared up with almost supernatural speed. Your best chance of catching St Basil's famous multi-coloured domes surrounded by winter icing is to pitch up when it's actually snowing. The seasonal ice rink and Christmas tree outside fairy-lit GUM add to the magic.
In the city's south, the pink gate-church and fortified walls of the ancient Danilovsky Monastery surround a contrasting collection of buildings that are just made for snowy days. To the left, the candlelight of the 17th-century Cathedral of the Holy Fathers falls on ancient icons and glowing frescoes. Opposite, the neo-classical Trinity Cathedral, with Christmas trees around it, was built by Osip Bove, of Bolshoi theatre fame. The little gold-domed chapel in between was erected to celebrate 1,000 years of Russian Orthodoxy in 1988. As the official residence of the Patriarch, the monastery has Cossack guards, dressed for snow in boots and fur hats.
Forests, lakes and rivers
You don't even have to go outside to enjoy the huge sweep of wooded riverbank stretching from Oktyabrskaya all the way round to the Setun valley. It is visible from the glass-walled metro station at Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) or from the pricey, panoramic Sky Lounge on Leninsky Prospekt. There are rewards for those who brave the elements. The paths of Gorky Park are flooded to form the city's largest ice rink. The ski lift at Sparrow Hills takes snow boarders and downhill skiers to the top of the slope.
Further west, the Moscow River loops again around the strange Mnevniki peninsula. Filyovsky Park on the southern shore has a scenic mix of coniferous and deciduous trees and cliff-top views along the water. There is even a woodland café, hidden in the middle of the park close to Pionerskaya metro station. Three stops into town, near Fili, the wedding cake baroque Church of the Intercession stands pink and gold against the snow.
On snowy weekends, the hills and lakes of the Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo forest-park are packed with sledgers, skiers, battle re-enacters and ice fishermen.
Parks and cemeteries
Moscow's most central park, lining the red brick Kremlin walls along the course of the old Neglinka River, Alexandrovsky Sad retains its 19th-century charm. Bove's grotto and the flaming monument to the Unknown Soldier combine with Tsereteli's galloping horse fountain to create a fairytale ensemble. You can even slide down the steep banks near the Kremlin walls.
The gold fountain and ornate pavilions of the VVTs (formerly VDNKh) exhibition grounds are set off perfectly by a layer of snow. The new name means "All-Russia Exhibition Centre" and the buildings were designed to represent different Soviet states. There is the added advantage that if it gets too cold, you have multiple choices of strange indoor labyrinths, full of strange museums, kiosks and cafes.
The spire of the UNESCO-listed Ascension Church at Kolomenskoye looks perfect, of course, in winter. You might see a horse-drawn troika among the snow-laden orchards, and the hills here are among the steepest in Moscow - for really scary tobogganing. The row of log-cabin cafes left inside the Kolomenskoye entrance will serve you blini and hot chocolate to warm you up.
An outline of snow along the contours of monuments and sculptures gives them a ghostly grandeur. The famous Novodevichy Cemetery is a great place for appreciating this effect: the contrasting textures of Khrushchev's black and white marble or Mayakovsky's red granite. And, of course, the neighbouring convent looks brilliant too.
The graves around the Donskoi, another of Moscow's fortified monasteries, are a moving and beautiful collection. There is also a second, early 20th-century cemetery next door which can be particularly atmospheric.
Dachas and cottages
The island of Serebryany Bor must be the ultimate winter destination. The name means "Silver Pine Forest", and this is exactly what you'll find on a snowy day. It is a cross-country skiers' paradise, with long stretches of forest trails. When the river freezes over, you can ski or walk on that too and visit the village of Troitse-Lykovo with its lovely churches on the opposite bank. Both Serebryany Bor and Troitse-Lykovo have a few wooden houses among the pine trees. One of them, at the far end of the island, contains a café. A riverside open-air ice rink and slides complete the scene.
If Mayor Luzhkov really succeeds in banishing snow from the capital, you could try heading out to one of the numerous dacha villages that surround the city. Take any slow train from Yaroslavsky station through the forests of the Losiny Ostrov national park, get off at Perlovskaya, Taininskaya or Mytishchi, and explore.
Danilovsky Val, m. Tulskaya, 7 am - 7 pm
32a Leninsky Prospekt (Academy of Sciences building), m. Leninsky Prospekt, 11 am - 1 am
Krymsky Val, m. Park Kultury or Oktyabrskaya, 10 am - 10 pm