What is the Kremlin?
The Kremlin is one of the most famous landmarks in Moscow, if not in all of Russia. Steeped in history, the Kremlin is a lot bigger then you may think! It is not just the workplace of the Russian President you know!
The word Kremlin actually means fort, or citadel, in Russian. There are, in fact, numerous Kremlin’s throughout Russia, not just the one in Moscow. These include the famous Kremlin’s of Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod.
The Kremlin has always been the epicentre of Moscow, and indeed it is deeply rooted in the history of the city. All the Russian Tsars lived here until Peter the Great left to base himself in Saint Petersburg in the early 1700s. Napoleon even lived here during a successful, but short-lived, occupation of Moscow. The Soviet Union leaders also based themselves hereafter the Russian Revolution, and to this day the President of Russia works here. Indeed, the Kremlin is to Russia what the White House is to the USA.
The Kremlin is, as the name suggests, almost like a mini-city. It has 5 palaces, 4 cathedrals, the enclosing walls and the many towers that surround it.
What to see in the Kremlin
The Kremlin covers 27 hectares in size, but as a tourist, you will only have access to a fraction of this space. Essentially, you have two options for visiting the Kremlin:
The Armoury Chamber
The Armoury Chamber is one of the oldest and most important museums in all of Russia. It houses a collection of artefacts from Russian history – ranging from the largest collection of Faberge Eggs (a must-see), numerous royal carriages, thrones and crowns that were used by Russian Tsar’s (including the famous Ivan the Terrible’s crown) and royal vestments (including Catherine the Great’s wedding dress). If you like history and in particular Russian history, then the Armoury Chamber museum is a must!
The fee to enter is 1000 Rubles (€14.50).
NOTE: Photography is not allowed within the Armoury Chamber.
Within the Armoury Chamber, it is also possible to visit the Diamond Fund for an extra 500 rubles (€7). It is said to be one of the most important diamond exhibits in the world, with numerous pieces belonging to the former royal family of Russia, the Romanovs. Unfortunately, when we visited, the Diamond Fund was closed for restoration works. Tickets can be bought on the day from within the museum.
The Cathedral Square
The Cathedral Square is a collection of 4 Russian Orthodox Cathedrals, all based within walking distance of one another. The cathedrals are most famous for being the site of the coronations and funerals of the Russian Tsars.
Within the Cathedral Square you will get to visit:
Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin
This was the private church of the Russian Grand Princes and Tsars, where numerous baptism and weddings took place. The church is particularly special due to the Iconstatsis wall – believed to contain some of the oldest icons in Russia, dating back to the 14th century.
Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin
This was the burial church of Muscovite Princes and the first Tsars of Russia. The church is dedicated to Archangel Michael – the patron of the Russian army. Here you can find the burial place of such famous Tsars as Ivan the Terrible and Michael I (the first Romanov royal).
Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin
This was the main Cathedral for the Russian Tsars and the place of numerous royal coronations. It contains some beautiful 15th – 17th-century frescoes of Orthodox art. A must visit!
Church of the Deposition of the Robe of the Holy Virgin of the Moscow Kremlin
The final church in Cathedral Square was the private church of the metropolitan and patriarchs of Moscow. It is the smallest church, and also contains a small museum of pieces inside.
The Cathedral Square is also famous for two pieces which are not religious places of worship:
This is a gigantic, 38-ton, 890 mm calibre cannon that is said to be the world’s biggest cannon.
The Tsar Bell is considered to be the biggest bell in the world, weighing over 200 tonnes with a height of over 6 feet. The bell has a large broken fragment (caused by cold water that was used when trying to extinguish a fire) and contains decoration around its diameter.
Cathedral Square costs 700 Rubles (€10) to visit.
Getting tickets to the Kremlin
There are two options for purchasing tickets to the Kremlin:
1) Buy your tickets at the ticket office
The ticket office for the Kremlin is located in Alexander Garden, just outside the Red Square. Here you will find numerous statues of former Romanov Emperors, the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier, and the ticket office for entry to the Kremlin!
The ticket office opens at 9 am, the Kremlin itself opens at 10 am, so if you arrive at 9am you will still have to wait around.
Here you can buy a ticket to the Cathedral Square, the Armoury Chamber and separately, the Diamond Fund.
2. Get your tickets online
If you don’t fancy joining the regular queue then you can book your tickets in advance. There is a separate ticket booth, on the left as you enter the ticket office. Here you will need to present your printed ticket voucher, and also the ID/Passport of the person who booked the ticket. You will then be presented with a physical ticket. Don’t forget to exchange the voucher for an actual ticket!
You can purchase tickets on https://tickets.kreml.ru/en/
Kremlin Opening Hours
The Kremlin has the following opening hours:
Summer Season (Mid-May to Oct): 9.30 am – 6 pm
Winter Season (Oct – Mid-May): 10 am – 5pm
Do note that the Kremlin is closed every Thursday.
Note that the Armoury Chamber has set entry times; they are 10 am, 12 pm, 14.30 pm and 16.30 pm. You will need to abide by the timeslot you have been given.
Entering the Kremlin
Entering the Kremlin can be quite confusing for anyone visiting for the first time. Many people think that they can enter from Red Square, but you can’t!
You need to make your way to Alexander Garden first. There are two entry points here, and both are towers! If you are starting your tour in the grounds of the Kremlin and the Cathedral Square, then you will need to enter via Kutafiya Tower. If you are starting your tour at the Armoury Chamber then you need to head down to the furthest point of the Alexander Garden and enter via Borovitskaya Tower.
Tips and Tricks for Visiting the Kremlin
- Do not even try to bring a bag into the Kremlin, no matter how small. As a foreigner you will be told to leave it in the luggage room – this is located close to the Kutafiya Tower.
- You will need to go through security before entering the Kremlin – have this in mind if you are starting in the Armoury Chamber and have a specific timeslot, in busier times it could take a while to clear the security!
- It is best to not take any unauthorized pictures and or jaywalk to avoid getting in trouble.
- If heading to the Armoury Chamber in high season I recommend you to book your tickets online as there are a limited number of spaces per day.