The Eurovision finals take place this weekend in the Olympic Stadium on Olimpiisky Prospekt. This walk explores some of the hidden delights in the neighbourhood, starting from Prospekt Mira, which means "Peace Avenue". At first glance, there's nothing very peaceful about the area, trisected by main roads, scarred by building sites and many of the local sights having more to do with war; but look closer and you will find ancient churches, theatres, wooden houses and a botanical garden founded by Peter the Great. Take the brown line exit from Prospekt Mira metro station and turn left along the road. After about 250 metres, you reach a glass doorway with ramps leading up to it. Go through the doors, buy a ticket from the machine (100 roubles) and you can enter the enchanted world of the Apothecary Garden, Moscow University's Botanical Garden, established in 1706 by Peter the Great. Legend has it that Peter himself planted three conifers, one of which, a venerable Siberian larch, is still alive today. On the far side of the pond near the playground, an even older tree survives. The sprouting, weather beaten stump of a more-than-300 year old willow is reputed to be the oldest tree, indeed the oldest living thing, in central Moscow.
Around the trees, a carpet of spring flowers covers almost every inch of the garden. Wooden walkways wind between the tulips and anemones past ferns, heathers and lilac rhododendrons. There are several cafes in the area. One of the best is Madame Galife whose entrance is just round the next corner on the left in Grokholsky Pereulok. Georgian food, live music in the evening and a 200-rouble business lunch are big attractions, but the winning combination is the colourful, quirky interior and the view onto the garden.
Cross over Prospekt Mira at the traffic lights, turn right along the far side and left along Ulitsa Durova. In the building site to the right, a huge, new mosque is under construction. The third turning on the left, Ulitsa Meshanskaya, brings you to Pereulok Vasnetsova. The fairy tale house at No. 13 was the home of the artist, Viktor Vasnetsov. He built it in 1894 and spent his last 30-odd years there. Even if you haven't seen the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery (which he also designed) or his famous horseback "Bogatyrs" painting, it is definitely worth visiting this house museum. You don't need to know anything about the artist to appreciate the carved wooden furniture, designed by his brother Arkady, or the tiled stoves with ceramics by Mikhail Vrubel. In the studio attic, inside the wooden teremok, are several large canvases depicting intricate scenes from folk stories and myths. The museum is open 10 am-5 pm, Wed.-Sun. and tickets are not expensive.
Go on along Pereulok Vasnetsova and right into Troitskaya Ulitsa, named after the nearby orange Trinity Church. Walk through an archway in block No. 9 to come out on Olympiisky Prospekt. Cross over at the lights and turn right through the long, narrow park on the far side, passing military memorials and the Durov Animal Theatre. A shaggy Bactrian camel lives in the wooden building near the theatre.
Cross over the tram tracks, go on through the grassy triangle beyond and cross again onto a traffic island decorated with tulips and a statue of the 18th-century Russian general, Alexander Suvorov. The whole area is riddled with military associations: the huge star-shaped wedding cake ahead is the Red Army Theatre, built in the 1930s. Just before you reach the statue, turn right and cross at the traffic lights. The imposing blue building ahead of you was the country home of Count Ivan Saltykov and is now the army's Yekaterinsky Institute. Turn left along the road and right through gates into the Yekaterinsky Park, now Veterans' Park. Walk straight ahead past the end of the pond. The huge display of weaponry on your left is the outdoor section of the Central Museum of the Armed Forces.
Go out through the archway on the far side of the park, and cross back over the main road. From here, you can take a short cut right and then left around the Renaissance Hotel. Alternatively, you can detour left to visit one of Moscow's oldest churches, hidden among tower blocks. Quieter than the Olympiisky Prospekt, you can take the little lane running parallel along the far side of block 22. Either route brings you to Trifonovskaya Ulitsa where you turn right to reach a wooden doorway and steps, near the bus stop, up to the Trifona Church. This lovely old building, dating from 1492, once stood in the village of Naprudny. The old, stone walls have been beautifully restored and the surrounding gardens are gradually being tidied up. You can ring the bell to be let in, but the inside is disappointing. A 17th century fresco has been removed to the Tretyakov and the iconostasis is new.
Turn right out of the church gate and right again along Ulitsa Shepkina, passing a green wooden house. The red brick church, dedicated to the Icon of the Madonna, "Comfort of all who Grieve", is now effectively a hospital chapel for the Moscow Area Clinical Institute, which occupies all the surrounding buildings. The brown wooden house at No. 49 was the home of the 19th century actor, Mikhail Shepkin. Drawing level with the Olympiisky Sports Complex, turn left through the garden of the yellow church of Philip the Metropolitan. The exterior of this 18th-century architectural ensemble has been well restored and daffodils have been planted to match the fresh paint. The frescoes inside are also worth a look. The road beyond the church brings you back to Prospekt Mira. The metro is close by, through the underpass and right.
Landmark of the week
The Olympic Arena
This huge oval sports' complex was built in the late 1970s for the 1980 Olympic Games.
It can seat 35,000 spectators.