Moscow is a sprawling beast that can be disorienting. Come armed with a basic knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet (it's surprisingly easy to master the basics to the level of reading street names), and a well-thought-out plan.
The city is split in two by the Moscow River, but most of the tourist sites are on the north side -"location for the Kremlin and Red Square, from where the city ripples out in a series of concentric circles; first with the tree-lined Boulevard Ring, then the busy Garden Ring (a 12-lane highway, with no greenery in sight despite the name).
Take a hike
Begin on the cobblestones of Red Square, site of Tsarist executions and Soviet parades, to see the mummified body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. There are constant whispers about removing him, but for now the hero of the October Revolution is still in his marble mausoleum and open for business from 10am to 1pm daily except Mondays and Fridays (free entry).
Soak up the austere beauty of the square before walking down Ilinka and the lanes of Kitai Gorod, dotted with ancient churches and low-rise buildings. Emerge on Lubyanka Square, the monolithic base of the KGB and its successor, the FSB. Head back down the hill to the Soviet-era Russian parliament and you'll be back at the other side of Red Square.
Head up Tverskaya, Moscow's main thoroughfare, passing the mayoralty and a statue to Yury Dolgoruky, the city's founder. You'll end up at Pushkin Square, from where you can cut through to Patriarch's Pond, where the Devil first appears in Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita.
Lunch on the run
The area around the Patriarch's Pond has a number of lunch options. CafÃ© Margarita at 28 Malaya Bronnaya, named after Bulgakov's book, serves hearty Russian fare such as pancakes with caviar and salt herring. Lunch will cost 750 roubles (Â£15).
Yeliseyevsky Supermarket at 14 Tverskaya is worth a visit for its Tsarist-era interiors. You can stock up on caviar. Like many shops in Moscow, it's open 24 hours. There are no restrictions on red caviar.
Take a ride
The Moscow metro is an attraction itself. Central stations boast grand columns, mosaics and statues extolling Stalinism. All the Circle Line stops are impressive, particularly Komsomolskaya; the sleek columns of Mayakovskaya and the imposing statues of Ploshchad Revolutsii are worth a detour.
Dining with the locals
Feeling adventurous? Try Mayak at 19 Bolshaya Nikitskaya, which has the dÃ©cor of a grand Soviet-era apartment. The Russian-European menu is reasonable if basic, with soups, grilled fish and steaks and an average bill of 1,000 roubles (Â£20) per head, but you come here for the atmosphere.
You'll rub shoulders with actors, journalists and the political opposition. If you come before 9pm you should get a table for dinner; the place gets raucous later on as tables are cleared and loud music and bad dancing kick in until sunrise.
For a more refined experience, it has to be CafÃ© Pushkin at 26a Tverskoi Bulvar, the long-standing champion of haute cuisine Ã la russe. The room has been painstakingly renovated to late-Tsarist splendour and the waiters come in period costume. The food -" beef stroganoff, perfectly prepared fish, and pelmeni dumplings -" is fantastic.
Sunday morning: go to church
Take the red metro line south to Sportivnaya and turn right on exiting the metro. Here you'll see the extraordinary castle-like walls of Novodevichy Monastery (10am-5pm Wednesday to Sunday, admission free). You can tour inside, but the real draw is the cemetery (9am to 5pm daily, free), with cultural and historical names galore, from Nikita Khrushchev to Boris Yeltsin.
A walk in the park
Two stops back up the red line lies Park Kultury station, from where you can cross the river bridge to Gorky Park. Until recently it was a forlorn place, but a spruce-up with Roman Ab