From the 15th century towers of the Kremlin to a 21st century underground shopping centre, few cities can pack such diversity into a square mile. Follow the signs towards "Arbat" as you leave Arbatskaya metro station to begin this walk.
The extraordinary scallop-shell encrusted castle, directly opposite the exit from the metro, is the former ‘House of Friendship'.
Arseny Morozov, a son of the influential merchant family, fell in love with an elaborate medieval fort when he was travelling through Portugal with his friend, the architect Viktor Mazyrin, and asked Mazyrin to recreate it for him in Moscow.
The eclectic mix of twisted columns and lacy battlements is typical of the fanciful tastes of Moscow's rich late-19th century merchants. Tolstoy described the building as a "stupid place built for a stupid person" and Arseny's mother, Varvara, is supposed to have said of the finished building in 1889: "I always knew you were crazy; now all Moscow knows it". Varvara lived in the mansion to the right, set back behind trees, and there are several similar 19th century estates along the route.
Crossing under Vozdvizhenka Ulitsa (the underground-pass is to the left), take a closer look at the strange blue and white tower along the Nizhny Kislovsky Pereulok. The Mosselprom (2) building, a weird, constructivist edifice from 1923, has Soviet advertising and slogans by Rodchenko and Mayakovsky on the back. Turn right and right again, following the lanes round until you turn left onto noisy Vozdvizhenka again. Another castle of a building, with a glass dome on top, dominates the next block. The Military Department Store, built here in 1912, has been recently replaced by this lucrative office block.
Turn left into Romanov Pereulok, passing the lovely rounded corner house with medallions on the walls. You can see the main buildings of the Sheremetev-Razumovsky estate across the road. There are many fine buildings along this lane. In the next courtyard on the right, the bright orange Church of the Sign (3) has been beautifully restored after years of dilapidation as a Soviet hospital kitchen. Built for the Romanovs in the 16th century, it was rebuilt in the terraced baroque style favoured by the Naryshkin family in the 1690s. In the 18th century the Sheremetyev family gave the interior a classical makeover so that the building now embodies three distinct trends.
The blue block with white plaster animals on it, at the end of Romanov Pereulok, is the Zoological museum. Turn right into Bolshaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa to emerge between the two parts of the old Moscow University. The chapel and connected buildings on the right are the work of Yevgraf Tyurin, while the yellow mansion with white friezes on the left was designed by the prolific Matvei Kazakov in the 18th century. Kazakov built a huge number of Moscow buildings, overlaying the medieval city with the distinctive neoclassicism of his age. Cross at the lights and then right under Mokhovaya Ulitsa to appreciate Kazakov's domed and columned University buildings from the far side of the street. Two doors along, the 1930s ochre building with pillars is an early example of Stalin classicism by Soviet architect Ivan Zholtovsky.
On this side of the road the opulence of the underground Okhotny Ryad shopping centre gives way to the huge Manezh building. The redevelopment of this area has been controversial. The Manezh was an imperial riding school, built in 1817 and altered in the 1820s by Osip Bove, who laid out Alexandrovsky Sad. A mysterious fire in 2004 allowed the city authorities to completely restructure the interior, which is now an exhibition hall.
The Manezh is currently hosting the winter Honey Festival.
Walk along the side of the Manezh and down into the gardens. Go through the brick tunnel, which would once have been a bridge across the Neglinnaya River, now in an underground pipe. At the end of the gardens, admire the medieval Borovitskaya Tower, part of the Kremlin's 15th century fortifications. The name comes from the pine forest that grew here, where the city first began.
Turn right and right again onto Manezhnaya Ulitsa, passing several fine 19th century buildings, having admired the wonderful white Pashkov mansion across the road. Turn left and cross under Mokhovaya Ulitsa to come up near the 1940s Lenin Library.
Visitors are often struck by the green and white Art Nouveau building opposite the library. Vasily Schaub designed it in 1901 for the Moscow Insurance Society. Go past the library and over Starovagankovsky Pereulok to find the entrance to the Shchusev Architecture Museum. Located in the 18th century Talyzin mansion, it is open 11am-6pm, Tues-Fri and costs 100 roubles. The exhibitions change, but the original decoration - painted ceilings, reliefs and chandeliers - are reason enough to look inside.
You can usually also visit the fascinating ruined wing in the courtyard, where missing plaster reveals the brick and wooden skeleton of the house. The third exhibition space is inside the restored 17th century "Apothecary House". This whitewashed building also contains a café ("Architects' Canteen") in the vault, recently taken over by the ‘ToDaSyo' chain and serving excellent business lunches. The sushi and chicken schnitzel are particularly good value.
Finally, you could go on along Starovagankovsky Pereulok, past the funky Rhythm and Blues bar, to visit the 16th century Church of St Nicholas and see the Pashkov house from another angle. There are further close-up views as you continue left and left again to Borovitskaya Metro.
Landmark of the week
Vasily Bazhenov, another great 18th century architect and Kazakov's tutor, built this mansion for Pyotr Pashkov in the 1780s. Bulgakov called it "one of the most beautiful buildings in Moscow". The belvedere, sculptures, balustraded roof and columns were restored in 2007 and the building, once home to the legendary Rumyantsev Museum, is now the library's rare manuscripts archive. The gardens that used to roll down to the river, with peacocks and fountains, are now a busy road.