Moscow KremlinThe Moscow Kremlin is a magnificent architectural achievement. Its monumental walls and towers, golden-domed cathedrals, and ancient palaces stand high on the Borovitskiy Hill above the Moscow River. It's an entire city within Moscow. Russian princes and tsars lived here a long time ago, but today it is the official residence of the President of Russia.
What does the word 'Kremlin' mean?Kremlin is the Russian word for “fortress” or “citadel”. Indeed, some other old Russian cities have their own Kremlin. But the Kremlin of Moscow is the one known around the world and the symbol of the Russian state.
The word "Kremlin" meant not the outer city wall but a fortress within a city. Thus, in the first 200 years of Moscow history, people referred to the Moscow fortress as "the city." Later on, the town started to grow, and more people settled outside the city wall.
It was a common practice in the past to built a fortress in the middle of a town. Smolensk, Novgorod, Pskov, Astrakhan, Tobolsk, Kazan, Kolomna, Zaraisk, and many other Russian towns had their kremlins.
The History of Moscow KremlinThe Kremlin dates back to the first residents of Moscow. The founder of Moscow, Prince Yury Dolgoruky, ordered the construction of the first wooden fortress in 1156 on a site known as the town of Moscow, but the word “kremlin” was only first recorded in the 14th century.
The Kremlin we see today was constructed in the late 15th century. Moscow prince Ivan the Great dreamed of building a capital that would equal Constantinople in grandeur and importance. He called his dream the "Third Rome" and brought architects from Italy. Most of their work is still standing.
After the Revolution, the Bolsheviks moved the capital to Moscow and settled on the grounds of the Kremlin. Lenin, Stalin, and some members of the Soviet government lived on the territory of the Kremlin. Since Soviet times the word "kremlin" has become synonymous with "government of Russia".
Does anyone live in the Kremlin these days? In fact, yes and no. The president lives not in the Kremlin, but in his residence outside of Moscow. Kremlin serves only as an official place of work.
The Arsenal building houses the barracks of the Presidential Regiment, where the servicemen of the Presidential regiment live, however, this hardly makes the Kremlin residential. There are no classic "residential areas" where, for example, officials or just wealthy citizens would live on the territory of the fortress.
What to see in the Kremlin?
- Cathedral Square with oldest Moscow churches
- Ivan the Great’s Bell Tower (outside only)
- Patriarch chamber museum with restored 17th-century interiors and a curious collection of patriarch's treasures
- Three main cathedrals of the late 15th - early 16th century and a Church of the Deposition of the Robe
- The biggest cannon in the world known as Tsar's cannon
- The biggest bell in the world referred to as Tsar's bell
- Peaceful Taynitsky Garden that offers impressive views on the Cathedral Square, Moscow River, and a helipad constructed for the use of Vladimir Putin. Here you can find an oak tree planted by Yuri Gagarin and
- The view (from outside!) on the presidential offices
You can visit three 15th-16th century cathedrals.
- The Assumption Cathedral (1479) was the main place of worship for Moscow and the place of coronation for all the Tsars.
- The gilded Cathedral of the Annunciation was a domestic royal church; it has several unique icons by Andrey Rublev.
- The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael is the final resting place of the first Russian princes and tsars. You can find tombs of the first Russian rulers.
You may also visit two churches:
- The Church of the Deposition of the Robe is a private church of the metropolitans and patriarchs. The church is surprisingly small and quiet. Among the interesting exhibits is a rare collection of wooden sculptures.
- The Church of the 12 Apostles is a part of the Patriarch's Chambers. Here you'll discover a gorgeous 17th-century iconostasis and a remarkable collection of icons.
Several churches are located inside the Grand Kremlin Palace. Walking around the cathedral square you'll discover beautiful golden domes of the Upper Saviour Cathedral.
Other Museums in Moscow Kremlin
- The Armoury Museum is a royal treasury. Among the must-sees are 10 Faberge Easter Eggs, Royal crowns and thrones, Coronation dresses, and the second largest in the world collection of Royal carriages. The museum is open daily except for Thursday. You need to book your visit in advance and choose a convenient session: 10 am, 12 pm, 2.30 pm, or 4.30 pm. The visit lasts 1,5 hours, but sometimes they allow you to stay a bit longer.
- The Diamond Fund is a separate museum located in the same building as the Armoury. It boasts unique diamonds, rare precious stones, masterpieces of jewelry of the 18th-20th centuries, and gold and platinum nuggets. The museum is open daily except for Thursday from 10 am till 6 pm with a break from noon to 1 pm. You may book your visit online http://www.gokhran.ru/en/ however are they usually sold out quickly. You might also get tickets on the day of the tour; your chances depend on visitors' flow on the day of your visit. The museum is easy to navigate as they give you a free audio guide in English.
- The Grand Kremlin Palace is the Official Residence of the Russian Federation President, which is not open to the general public. On specific dates, we organize group tours of the palace. The palace interior is impressive: you can explore the luxurious ceremonial halls of St. George. St. Andrew, St. Vladimir, as well as ancient Terem Palace and Faceted Chamber.
- Ivan the Great bell tower offers amazing views of the Kremlin, but the tickets are not available in advance. You may purchase the ticket only on the day of your visit. The museum is open every day, except Thursday, with sessions at : 10:15, 11:15, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00 from May 15 to 30 September. Considering that the group size is limited to 5 people, your chances to visit the bell tower are not very high.
Visiting the KremlinThe Kremlin is included in our classic tours with our Moscow tour guide.
The Kremlin is closed on Thursdays.
The Kremlin grounds are open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m in summer (May 15 to Sept 30) and from 1om am to 5 pm in the low season (Oct 1 to May 14).
The Armoury Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with four sessions starting at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m.
Please note that a ticket purchased online or at the Kremlin ticket office doesn't allow you to explore Kremlin with a guide. If you are willing to have a guided tour of the Kremlin, we'll need to book a visit including permission to guide.
On average a visit to the Kremlin grounds lasts 1,5 hours. Armory museum tour lasts 1 - 2 hours.