To Westerners, Moscow (Москва) may look European, but its chaotic spirit is never far beneath the surface. Far removed from its beginnings as a humble wooden town in 1147, today Moscow is Russia’s New York City – its residents brash and opinionated, and its glitzy, cosmopolitan heart catering to a well-heeled elite, with the odd pocket of extreme urban poverty. Like its American counterpart, the city never sleeps; you can get anything you want around the clock. Above all, Moscow is an assault on all the senses: a relentless crush of people on the subway, cliquey nightspots, designer shops, any cuisine you can think of, heavy traffic, endless queuing, golden-domed churches and historical treasures.
Moscow’s general layout is a series of concentric circles and radial lines emanating from Red Square and the Kremlin, and the centre is compact enough to explore on foot. Moscow’s sights can also be mapped as strata of its history: the old Muscovy that Russians are eager to show; the now retro-chic Soviet-era sites such as VDNK and Lenin’s Mausoleum; and the exclusive restaurants and shopping malls that mark out the new Russia.