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The Kremlin

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The Moscow Kremlin is a symbol of Russia, one of the greatest architectural complexes in the world.

In fact, the Kremlin is a medieval city-fortress with numerous palaces, churches and armouries. The 90 ac (36.4 ha) ensemble of the Kremlin has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Its architectural history may be divided into the three periods: the wooden Kremlin (dated back to the 13th cent.), the Italian Renaissance Kremlin, and the modern Kremlin.

moscow kremlin churchesThe Kremlin began its history as a regular wooden fortification, founded on a hill overlooking the Moskva and Neglina rivers. Due to its location the fortress quickly grew into a town. But during the Mongol invasion in the 13 century the town was destroyed. By the middle of the 14th century, the power of the Mongols was declining and the Kremlin was experiencing a new period of prosperity. In the 14 century, in the course of modernization of the fortress the wooden walls were replaced with stone ones. During the next two centuries, until Peter the Great transferred the capital of Russia to Saint Petersburg, the Kremlin served as the central stage for the Russian history. With the shift of power to St. Petersburg, Moscow and the Kremlin declined. However, the Bolsheviks chose Moscow as their capital thereby returning the Kremlin to pre-eminence. During Soviet rule the Kremlin experienced second life as a great centre of power. Nowadays it serves as a residence of the Russian president.

The Kremlin is situated in the very historical core of the city. Two thirds of the Kremlin territory are closed to visitors, but the remaining third containing the precious Kremlin collections is available to tourists. There are enough attractions open to the public to spend a couple of days exploring them.

Tips and Hints

1. Best time to visit the Moscow Kremlin

cathedral square of the moscow kremlinHigh season (April – October)

Ticket offices start to work at 9:30, so expect a long queue at this time. And mostly it consists of those who want to buy tickets for the first session in the Armoury (at 10:00). You can spend 40-60 minutes in the queue. As a general rule, the queue length is closely linked with the sessions in the Armory (at 10:00, 12:00, 14:30, 16:30). About half an hour before the session, the queues in front of the ticket offices and metal detectors increase.

The best time to go to the Kremlin is the second half of the day on weekdays (starting from 15:00).
The longest queue is on Saturday at around 11:00-11:50, when people gather to see the ceremonial changing of the guard at the Cathedral Square of the Kremlin. The ceremony start at 12:00. If you are not going to attend the ceremony, visit the Armory Chamber at 12:00. There are most likely less people than at other times.

The perfect time to visit the Armory Chamber is the second half of the day on weekdays. There are almost no queues for the last session (at 16.30).

Low season (November – March)

During low season there are almost no queues in front of the ticket offices. They appear either in the morning (about 10:00), or around noon. Rarely the waiting time may exceed 30 minutes.

2. Tickets
moscow kremlin church interiorsThe entry ticket to the Kremlin allows you to visit all of the cathedrals and the museums of the Kremlin, except Ivan the Great’s Bell Tower, the Armory Chamber and the Diamond Fund.

Tickets can be purchased either on the official website of the Kremlin or at the Kremlin ticket booths.

Please note, that you can buy tickets online for the Armory and for the Cathedral Square, but not for the Diamond fund.

The ticket offices are located in Alexander garden (Aleksandrovsky Sad). There are also machines that dispense tickets.

The Diamond fund is open for visiting daily from 10:00 to 17:00 with exhibit sessions starting every 20 minutes and a break from 13:00 to 14:00. Tickets can be purchased in ticket offices 4 and 5 situated in Alexander garden.

During high season, we recommend you to buy tickets online. They are available 14 days in advance.
Please note, that the persons under 16 years old have free admission to the Kremlin (including the Armory). But their tickets cannot be purchased online, and you still have to buy the tickets in the ticket offices in the Alexander garden.

Please note! If you purchase your ticket online, after payment you will recive a link to download a voucher, which should be exchanged for ticket at ticket booths number 9, 10, 11, and 12. Usually, there are no long queues at these ticket offices.

3. The Moscow Kremlin from the bird’s-eye view.
moscow kremlin ivan-the-terrible-bell-tower
The Ivan the terrible bell tower is the highest building in the Kremlin. It offers stunning view over the Kremlin and its vicinity. There is an exhibition room at the ground floor of the belfry. The bell tower is accessible during the warm season only (April – October). The exposition is open daily except Thursdays. Sessions start at
10:15, 11:15, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00 with an additional session at 17:00 from 15 May to 30 September.
An audioguide is available and designed for 45 minutes. Bear in mind that after listening to the whole audio tour, you will have less than five minutes to enjoy the view from the belfry. So think carefully about whether you need the audio guide.

4. The Kremlin’s cavalry guard change.
moscow kremlin guard-change A centuries-old tradition of the ceremonial changing of the guard revives in Kremlin each Saturday through the Russian warm season (April to October). The ceremony is a mix of intricate maneuvers by the infantrymen and cavalrymen, special arms’ drills and musical performances. The ceremony starts at 12:00 and lasts 20 minutes. People start to gather in the Cathedral Square at around 11:30.
Admission to the architectural complex of the Cathedral Square entitles you to visit the ceremony.
In order to buy the tickets and to get to the ceremony in time, come early, by the time the ticket offices start to open.

Opening hours and admission

moscow kremlin tsar-cannonOpening hours from 10:00 to 17:00
Ticket offices are open from 9:30 to 16:30
Day off – Thursday

It is possible to visit the Cathedral Square of the Kremlin free of charge during the festival “Museums at Night” in May and on the Day of Historical and Cultural Heritage of Moscow in mid-April. For accurate dates see the Moscow events.

Please Note: Visitors need a separate ticket for the Armoury Chamber, the architectural ensemble of the Cathedral Square (the Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe, the Patriarch’s Palace, ets), the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. In order to prevent overcrowding, the visit to the Armoury Chamber and the Ivan the Great Bell Tower is possible strictly on time on purchased tickets.

Visit the Moscow Kremlin official website to learn more about opening hours, prices and available exhibitions.

 

How to get to the Moscow Kremlin

the kremlinGPS coordinates:
Latitude: 55°45’1.832″ N (55.750509);
Longitude: 37°36’51.8714″ E (37.614409)

The nearest metro stations:
1. Red line: “Biblioteka Imeni Lenina” (Rus: Библиотека имени Ленина) and “Okhotniy Ryad” (Rus: Охотный ряд)
2. Dark blue line: “Revolution Square” (Rus: Площадь Революции)
3. Light blue line: Aleksandrovsky Sad (Rus: Александровский сад)
4. Grey line: “Borovitskaya” (Rus: Боровитская)
5. Green line: “Teatralnaya” (Rus: Театральная)

There are two ways to enter the Moscow Kremlin:
Entrance 1: Trinity Gates
Entrance 2: Borovitskiye Gates. Go to Borovitskiye Gates, if you decide to start with the Armoury Chamber or Diamond Fund.

Please note, visitors are not allowed to enter the Kremlin with big bags, backpacks, and suitcases. There is a storage room in the Kutafiya tower (next to the entrance 1).

 

getting to the moscow kremlin

 

 

Major Buildings of the Moscow Kremlin

Armoury Chamber
The Armoury Chamber (also known as a treasure-house) is a part of the Grand Kremlin Palace’s complex. The building was erected in 1851 to the design by architect Konstantin Ton and was intended as a storehouse to keep weaponry. However, within a few decades the structure gained the added function of a repository for all sorts of Tsars’ treasures.
The museum’s collection occupies nine halls and includes exquisite jewellery, imperial clothing and carriages, armour and weaponry and many other artefacts from the cultural and domestic life of different eras. Some of the exhibits were made by Russian artisans, others were accepted as ambassadorial gifts. Highlights of the collection are the giant 190-carat Orlov Diamond and over fifty rarely Faberge eggs.

Assumption Cathedral
Assumption Cathedral, the oldest and most important of the Kremlin’s churches, is located on the north side of Cathedral Square. It was constructed between 1475 and 1479 by the Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti. Inaugurations of Tsars and coronations of Emperors were held in the Cathedral. Besides, it served as a burial place for most of the Metropolitans and Patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 14-17 centuries. After the Revolution of 1917, the Assumption Cathedral was converted into a museum, but since 1990, periodic religious services have been recommenced.
The interiors of the Cathedral are richly decorated with frescoes. Most of them date back to the 17th century. About a hundred and fifty artists were brought to Moscow from different towns to decorate the Cathedral.
Near the south entrance to the Assumption Cathedral is the Throne of Ivan IV that dates from 1551.

Cathedral of the Archangel
The Cathedral was erected between 1505 and 1508 under the guidance of Italian architect Alionzo Lamberti da Montanyano (Alevisio Novi). Novi created an “exotic” (by Moscow standards) structure by mixing elements of the Italian Renaissance with traditional Russian forms.
The interior walls were not painted with frescoes until the 1560s. Nearly one hundred artists were involved in decoration of the interiors between 1652 and 1666. They created various frescoes depicting different mythological stories.
The Cathedral houses the tombs of all the rulers of Russia and Moscow from the 14th to 17th century. The notable exception is Boris Godunov, whose tomb is in the Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius.

Cathedral of the Annunciation
The Cathedral was erected by Ivan III in the late 1440s to replace a previous modest wooden church from the 13th century. Originally the Cathedral was intended as a private Tsar’s chapel. Its building was connected by passageways to the chambers of the royal family.
The appearance of the Cathedral was altered several times since its foundation.
In 1572, the Cathedral received an additional porch on its south facade by order of Ivan IV (the Terrible). The Tsar was not allowed inside and can only stand on the porch during services. This is because he contravened church doctrine by marrying for a fourth time, while the Orthodox Church allowed only three marriages.

The Patriarch’s Palace and The Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles
The Patriarch’s Palace 3-story palace is one of the best monuments of Moscow mid XVII century’s architecture. The palace was constructed by order of Patriarch Nikon, the seventh Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus. Nikon was a religious leader who unsuccessfully attempted to establish the primacy of the Orthodox Church over the state and whose reforms that were attempted to introduce in Orthodox rituals led to a schism.
The Patriarch’s palace consisted of numerous chambers and churches interlinked by staircases and passages. The interiors were amazingly lavish rivalling the Tsar’s own Terem Palace. The Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles, built between 1652 and 1656, served as the grand entrance to the Palace.
The Palace now serves as a museum of 17th-century applied arts, ecclesiastical regalia, furniture and domestic objects of the period. The Cathedral also houses images of Saints Peter and Paul of the 12th century, which were a gift to Peter the Great from the papacy.
The Church of the Deposition of the Robe
The Church was built in 1484-1485. Its name refers to the Byzantine church festival, which was set up to the memory of transferring of Virgin Mary’s Holy Robe from Palestine to Constantinople. This modest church served as a personal chapel of the Moscow Metropolitans and Patriarchs.
There are a number of frescoes devoted to the Blessed Virgin in the Church. The Church’s main icon depicts the ceremonial laying of the holy on the altar throne of the Court Emperor’s Cathedral.
In the gallery of the Church visitors can see a rare exhibition of Russian wooden sculpture of 15-19 centuries.

Ivan the Great Bell Tower
The construction of the Bell Tower was started in the early 16th century and ended in 1600. Until erecting the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour it was the tallest building in Moscow – 266ft/81m.
In 1812 the Napoleon’s Army blew up the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. The Belfry and the Filaret’s Tower were completely destroyed. The ensemble was restored in original appearance in 1819. Today, 24 bells of XVI-XVII centuries are located in the tower and belfry. The largest one, the Great Assumption Bell, is located in the central arch of the belfry and weighs about 70 tons.
At present, the Bell Tower houses a museum dedicated to a nine-century history of the Moscow Kremlin.

Tsar Bell
The Tsar Bell (literally means “the King of Bells”) stands on a large pedestal not far from the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. This is the largest bell in the world, weighing about 202 tons and standing 6.14 meters high and 6.6 meters across. The bell was not destined to serve the purpose originally intended.
The story of the bell’s construction is connected to a series of misfortunes. The casting works were started in 1733, but they had to be suspended because leaking metal caused a fire and the hoist constructed to lift the future bell burnt down. In 1735 the bell was eventually casted. However, in 1737, a fire broke out in Moscow and, during firefighting, cold water fell on the overheated bell. The difference in temperature caused it to crack, and a huge slab of over 11 ton broke off. Another century passed before the bell was lifted from the casting pit and placed on its present location.
The Tsar Bell is decorated with portraits of Russian rulers, images of saints and inscriptions telling the story of the bell.

The Tsar Cannon
The Tsar Cannon (literally means “the King of Cannons”) is considered to be the one of the oldest and the largest cannons in the world, weighing more than 39 tons. It is located between the Ivan the Great Bell Tower and the Twelve Apostles’ Church.
Visitors can admire the rich relief work on the cannon’s exterior adorned with floral ornament and depicting Tsar Feodor Ioannovich on a horseback. The cannon has never been fired although it was originally intended as a weapon in the Kremlin’s defences.
Since 1960 the cannon has stood on a gun-carriage surrounded by vast cannon balls, which serve a decorative purpose only. Each ball weighs about a thousand kilos and is larger than the diameter of the cannon’s barrel.

The Arsenal
The Arsenal’s building was originally intended as a military store. It’s supposed to be the most unfortunate building of the Kremlin. Its erection began in 1702 and took many years. A year after construction was finished, the building was severely damaged during a terrible Troitsky fire in 1737. In 1812, after Napoleon invasion, the Arsenal was completely destroyed. Only in 1828, the Arsenal’s building was finally reconstructed. After Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow the Arsenal was intended to be a museum commemorating the Russian victory, but it was never open. Captured enemy cannons were arrayed on a special base along the Arsenal walls.
Today, the collection in front of the Arsenal comprises Russian cannons of XVI-XVII centuries, 15 foreign cannons of that time and 830 cannons captured during the War of 1812.
At present, the Arsenal is the headquarters of the Kremlin Guard.

 

 


Other Moscow attractions:

 

It took 44 years to build the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Today, it is the main temple of the country.

The building of the Bolshoi Theatre is one of the symbols of Moscow and Russia.

Novodevichy Convent is the oldest and probably the most beautiful functioning cloister in Moscow.

Novodevichye cemetery is the most famous cemetery in Moscow. It is included in the UNECO list of the World heritage.

The Kolomenskoye estate, a unique historic place located in the most scenic corner of Moscow.

Tsaritsino, a park with a magnificent historical architectural ensemble, picturesque ponds, musical fountains, scenic landscapes and timeless atmosphere.

Serednikovo, a manor ensemble representing the Russian neoclassical architecture of the 18th century.

Izmailovsky Kremlin, a cultural and entertainment complex built with imitation of the Russian architecture of the 18th century.

Ghost town Piligrim Porto will make you feel like a time traveller: old houses, narrow streets, the Catholic Church, guillotine and even a full-size ship stranded on land!


 

 

 

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