Capturing Moscow in one day means hitting Red Square early and branching out from there. Bring good walking shoes and as much energy as you can muster. This itinerary takes you inside the Kremlin walls, gives you a glance at bustling Tverskaya Street, and leaves you the evening to explore the artsy Arbat neighborhood. Note: Try to do this tour on a day when the Kremlin is open (it's closed on Thurs). If that's not possible, use those extra morning hours for wandering the Kitai-Gorod neighborhood on the other side of Red Square. Start: Metro to Ploshchad Revolutsii, Okhotny Ryad, Alexandrovsky Sad, or Teatralnaya -- -then head to Red Square.
1. Red Square (Krasnaya Ploshchad)
The city and country spread out from this sloping plaza, whose "red" ("krasnaya") label has nothing to do with the Communists, but dates from the Middle Ages, when the word meant "beautiful." For the full effect, enter the square from the Resurrection Gates, directly south of Tverskaya Street. Though the gates date only from the 1990s, they provide a stunning frame for the square. Sunrise over Red Square is particularly breathtaking. Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin lies embalmed in the mausoleum on the west side of the square, despite his wish to be buried.
2. St. Basil's Cathedral (Khram Vasiliya Blazhennogo)
No trip to Red Square is complete without a peek inside this onion-domed landmark that has formed the backdrop for "Live from Moscow" international TV spots for decades. The interior of the 16th-century church has little in common with its famous and festive exterior; dark and narrow passages wind up steep stairs to mystical, musty chapels and nooks.
3. The Kremlin
This citadel ringed by red-brick walls and towers has been the seat of Russian power for most of the past millennium. Some of its grounds and five of its cathedrals are open to tourists, along with the collections of czarist treasures in the Armory and the Diamond Fund. The tourist entrance is on the north side of the Kremlin, at the Borovitsky Gates. Lines are rarely long. Allow at least 2 hours for the Kremlin experience. The president's offices are off-limits, but you may see a motorcade or two pass through the gates during your visit.
4. Alexander Gardens (Alexandrovsky Sad)
After you emerge from the Kremlin, take some time to rest on a bench or wander through the greenery of Alexander Gardens, which run along the fortress's north wall. This used to be a river that helped protect the fortress from invaders, but in the 19th century it was filled in. Nearer to Red Square is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a solemn spot where veterans and newlyweds often pay tribute. The cities listed around the tomb are those honored for their valiance and suffering during World War II.
5. Take a Break -- Bosco Bar
The employees are too gorgeous to be true and know it; ignore them and enjoy the view on Red Square instead. The bold design and comfy couches of this cafe inside the GUM department store are key parts of its appeal. Try the exotic salads or rich ice cream. Portions are delicate, so if you've worked up a good appetite, try the less romantic but heartier options in the Okhotny Ryad shopping center. GUM, 3 Red Square; tel. 495/627-3703.
6. GUM & Okhotny Ryad Shopping Center
For shoppers and nonshoppers alike, these Russian "trading centers" deserve a look. GUM, which stands for State Department Store (even though it's now a capitalist paradise), is the ornate building that runs the full west side of Red Square. The 19th-century gallery boasts footbridges and skylights and a full array of international luxury brands. The Okhotny Ryad shopping center extends three floors underneath the plaza just north of Red Square. Less than a decade old, it houses shops with prices to fit all pocketbooks, as well as several cafes on the bottom floor.
7. Tverskaya Street
Even if you don't have time to explore the length of Tverskaya Street, you can afford a quick stroll up the first block of this crucial Moscow artery, which extends straight north from Red Square. At the top of the first block, turn around and take in the view of the Kremlin and everything else you've seen so far.
8. Theater Square (Teatralnaya Ploshchad)
West of Tverskaya Street, along Okhotny Ryad, you'll first pass the State Duma (the lower house of parliament). Then the unforgettable facade of the Bolshoi Theater comes into view. At this writing, its pale pink portico is once again under renovation. If you can't squeeze in a performance, or if it is still closed for renovations, at least take a look at the miniature version of the theater's interior on display near the ticket office. For a reminder of the not-so-distant Soviet past, look across the fountained plaza in front of the Bolshoi at the statue across the street: It's Karl Marx, etched with the phrase PROLETARIAT OF THE WORLD UNITE.
9. Take a Break -- Metropol
For a quick pick-me-up or leisurely snack, settle into one of the deep armchairs of this cafe in the 19th-century hotel landmark on Revolution Square. Atmosphere is key here, so take a moment to wander the hotel lobby to admire chandeliers and Art Nouveau designs. Desserts are divine and tea is served with a ceremonial touch of the imperial age. Metropol Hotel, 1/4 Teatralny Proyezd; tel. 499/270-1061.
10. The Arbat
Walk or take the metro from Ploshchad Revolutsii (behind the Engels statue) one stop to the Arbatskaya station. Follow the crowds and the kiosks and you'll end up at the Arbat, a pedestrian street packed with shops, cafes, bars, buskers, and street vendors. The souvenirs inside the shops are of better quality and usually have better prices than those outside. Sure, it's touristy, but locals love it, too. If you're feeling adventurous, explore the lanes that sprout from the Arbat; they once housed Russian literary and artistic giants. The Pushkin House near the other end of the street is a small museum, and the Vakhtangov Theater hosts drama, dance, and other performances. The Arbat is a perfect place to wrap up the day.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.