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“Come to me brother, please come to Moscow.” With these words, Prince Yury Dolgoruky summoned his allies to a banquet and so recorded the beginning of Moscow's history. The year was 1147. At that time, Moscow was a triangular plot of land – a smallish fort – perched atop Borovitsky Hill.

Surrounded by a wall for protection, the fort contained the earliest settlement, while ceremonies and celebrations were held on the plaza outside. The fort, of course, is today's Kremlin, while the ceremonial plaza is Red Square. This is still the heart of Moscow - geographically, historically and spiritually - making it the ideal place to start your day.

0800 local time
Arrive early at Red Square to beat the crowds, and prepare to be awestruck. The vast cobblestone plaza is surrounded by historical monuments and architectural marvels. Take a tour around the square, paying your respects at Lenin's mausoleum, window shopping at the State Department Store GUM, and ogling the iconic St Basil's Cathedral. Wander through the blooms of Alexander Garden and catch the ceremonial changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

1000 local time
Devote the rest of the morning to exploring the Kremlin, the ultimate symbol of the Russian state. Surprisingly, the noteworthy buildings inside the fortified complex are actually churches, most of them built by Ivan the Great in the 15th Century. Study the colourful murals in the Assumption Cathedral, search for the tomb of Ivan the Terrible in the Archangel Cathedral and admire the amazing iconostasis in the Annunciation Cathedral.

1200 local time
Stroll past the gargantuan Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which dominates the skyline southwest of the Kremlin. Stalin destroyed the original 19th-Century church that was built here to commemorate the victory over Napoleon. This opulent replacement was built in 1997 in honour of Moscow's 850th birthday.

From the Cathedral, a pedestrian bridge crosses the Moscow River, offering a panorama of the Kremlin towers and the cathedral itself.  The bridge terminates at the former Red October chocolate factory, now being refurbished into luxury lofts. The factory garages now house Art-Strelka (Bersenevskaya nab 14, bldg 5), a collection of galleries where you can pick up some souvenirs.

1400 local time
Stop for a late lunch at the hipster hangout Kvartira 44 (ul Malaya Yakimanka 24/8), which means "Apartment 44". Named after the address of the original location, the cosy restaurant looks like an old Moscow apartment, with tables and chairs crowded into every nook and cranny. It is a throwback to the Soviet period, when the best meals were cooked at home.

1600 local time
Make your way into Art Muzeon (ul Krymsky Val 10), an art museum and history lesson all in one. This moody sculpture park started as a collection of Soviet statues after they were ripped from their pedestals in the post-1991 wave of anti-Soviet feeling. These discredited icons have now been joined by contemporary works, ranging from the playful to the provocative. The enormous Peter the Great (sometimes known as "Peter the Ugly") surveys the scene from his post on the embankment of the Moscow River. 

1800 local time
Cross the street to Gorky Park (ul Krymsky Val), its entrance marked by colourful flags and an old-fashioned carousel. Stroll across the fun-filled theme park, stopping to eat ice cream or ride the Ferris wheel. Regroup at Chaikhona No 1, a cool Uzbek lounge in a pillow-strewn tent. Indulge in a fruity drink or a spicy hookah.

2000 local time
An evening at the Bolshoi Theatre (Teatralnaya pl) is still one of Moscow's most thrilling nights out, with an electric atmosphere in the glittering six-tier auditorium. Afterwards, end your evening at O2, the cool rooftop lounge at the Ritz-Carlton (Tverskaya ul 3). Sip your fancy cocktail, take 360 degrees of city views and drink a toast to a perfect day in Moscow.

© Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘A perfect day in Moscow’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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