You can visit a variety of monuments, cathedrals, museums and commercial galleries in Red Square, each with a special meaning: the Kremlin, the Lenin Mausoleum, the Cathedrals of St. Basil and Kazan, the State Museum of Russian History, or the GUM Galleries. In this post I’ll explain which buildings to see in Red Square and how to organize the visit: Schedules, tickets, prices, official websites, etc.
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0. The Red Square, the most famous in Russia
The most famous square in Moscow (and Russia) is Red Square. Located in the center of the city, it is 330 meters long and 70 meters wide (23,100 square meters of surface). In 1990, the whole of the Red Square and the Kremlin were declared World Heritage by Unesco.
The Red Square in Moscow is for me the most beautiful square in the world 🙂 Here are some interesting facts about the Red Square:
- The square dates from the late fifteenth century, just after the construction of the walls of the Kremlin
- It is said that the name the square does not refer to the red color of communism or the color of the bricks that surround it, but it is actually derived from the Russian word Krasnaya (Красная), which means “red”, but in old Russian it meant “pretty “, that is, the pretty square.
- During the last years, several concerts of world-renowned performers have taken place there: Pink Floyd, Scorpions (with a performance along the presidential orchestra of the Russian Federation) or Paul McCartney (which included its classic Back in the USSR).
- Every year, on May 9, the anniversary of the Great Patriotic War (World War II) is celebrated in the Red Square, with the so-called military parade of Victory Day.
- On May 28th, 1987, Red Square made news in all the media, when the German Mathias Rust, being only 19 years old and a small plane managed to land in it, avoiding the Soviet air defenses, flying from Helsinki on the railway section to Moscow at a low altitude, out of reach of radars. He served 432 days in prison in a Moscow jail. Gorbachev dismissed the Russian defense minister and the anti-aircraft defense commander.
The main monuments, museums and places in Red Square
The monuments, cathedrals, museums, gardens and buildings that can be visited in this square are of the most varied and each one has a special meaning: The Kremlin (official working place of the President, which houses the main Russian museum), Lenin’s Mausoleum (where you can find the remains of the Bolshevik leader), the cathedrals of St. Basil and Kazan, the State Museum of Russian History or the GUM Galleries (luxury shopping malls).
Some of these buildings can be visited for free, while in others you need to pay for an entrance fee, though the tickets are rather economic. Some of these tickets can also be purchased in advance online, which is recommended during the summer to avoid queues.
Aldo I recommend you visit also the Red Square at night to see the wonderful illumination. If you visit the Red Square at Christmas or between November 30 and February 28, you can enjoy its skating rink. In any case, to know the planned activities in Moscow (and on the Red Square) at each time of year, it is best to visit the Moscow City Hall website.
It should also be noted that in Moscow, as in many other capitals, it is possible to buy the so-called Moscow CityPass card, which includes many attractions and museums in Moscow (including those in Red Square), as well as the Moscow tourist bus, a boat trip on the Moskva River and restaurant discounts. Let everyone do their math to know if this card is profitable. You can see the prices and buy it online in GetYourGuide website.
Next, I will give you an overview of all the buildings that can be visited in Red Square. For more information on each of them, you can read the more detailed articles in this blog about some of them.
1. The Kremlin
The word Kremlin means fortress or fortified city. In Russia there are more than 20 Kremlins (Moscow Kremlin, Kazan Kremlin, Novgorod Kremlin, etc.). The most famous in Russia is the Moscow Kremlin whose meaning since the Soviet era has been transformed and become synonymous with the Government of Russia.
The current Wall was built between the 15th and 16th centuries, but it is not the original wall built of wood during the founding of Moscow, back in 1147.
Within the walls of the Kremlin (and outside) you will find the most varied monuments, museums and buildings: the presidential and administrative government buildings, the Great Kremlin Palace, the congress palace, the main Russian museum (the Armory), as well as 4 cathedrals. Except presidential and administrative buildings, the rest are open to tourists.
Below I explain in detail each of these monuments, buildings, museums and sites.
1.1. The Armory Chamber (1.000 rubles – online ticket) and the Diamond Fund (500 rubles)
The Kremlin houses Russia’s main museum, the Kremlin Armory, which exhibits a wide collection of art objects from Russia and Europe from the 5th to the 20th century (Faberge Eggs, Royal Carriages, crowns, clothes of tsars, etc.). Inside the armory you will find also the Diamond Fund, one of the most important diamond exhibitions in the world comparable to the British Crown Jewels.
- Hours: open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (closed Thursday)
- Tickets: they can be purchased the same day at the ticket office or online in advance (it is advisable to buy tickets online in the summer to avoid lines)
- Price: 1.000 rubles (and 500 rubles the visit of the Diamond Fund whose entrance can be bought inside the armory).
- Visit Duration: approximately 2 hours
- Official Website: http://tickets.kreml.ru/en/
- More info: What is the Kremlin and how to buy tickets online
1.2. Cathedral Square (700 rubles – online ticket)
In addition to the armory, inside the walls of the Kremlin you can also visit four beautiful cathedrals located in the so-called Cathedral Square, famous for being the place of coronation and funeral processions of all Russian tsars. Even today it is used at the inauguration ceremony of the President of Russia.
You can also see in this enclosure the Tsar Cannon, a giant cannon weighing 38 tons and a caliber of 890 millimeters, and the Tsar Bell, a huge bell (they say as the largest in the world), which weighs 216 tons and a diameter of 6.6 meters.
- Hours: from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Tickets: can be purchased at the ticket office or online.
- Price: 700 rubles
- Visit duration: 2-3 hours
- Official Website: http://tickets.kreml.ru/en/
- More info: What is the Kremlin and how to buy tickets online
1.3. The Alexander Gardens and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (free entrance)
The eastern part of the Kremlin borders the Red Square, but the entrance to the Kremlin is not through the Red Square, but through the western part, where Alexander’s Gardens, one of the first public parks in Moscow, are located. There you will find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument dedicated to Soviet soldiers fallen in World War II, in the center of which burns the eternal flame, guarded by the Honor Guard of the Presidential Regiment.
The guard shift change is done every hour, at which time many tourists approach to see it. The entry to Alexander’s Gardens is free.
In Alexander’s Gardens there is also an artificial grotto, under the walls of the Kremlin, with four columns of marble, built in 1821 and known as “the ruins”, since it was built as a reminder of the war of 1812 with real fragments of houses destroyed during the Napoleonic war. In front of this grotto you will find the obelisk, which was erected in 1914, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.
1.4. The Government of Russia (not open for tourists)
The Kremlin has been the residence of Czars and today serves as the official workplace of the President, though it must be said that the President of Russia does not live inside the Kremlin.
The presidential and administrative buildings are not open for tourists, in fact, they are out of reach.
1.5. The Great Kremlin Palace (visits allowed upon request)
The Great Kremlin Palace, which dates from the middle of the 19th century, is the place where the President of Russia holds official receptions. It is possible to visit it, but only at the invitation of the President of Russia or by requesting a private visit for a group, whose cost is usually quite high.
For example, the company Pradiz offers 2-3 guided tours per month to the Grand Kremlin Palace. Hiring a guided tour for 4 people is not very economic, as it costs about 1,000 dollars
1.6. The State Palace of the Kremlin (the ballet venue costs between 600 and 3,000 rubles – tickets can be purchased online)
The State Palace of the Kremlin, built in 1961, is used as a Conference Center and as a concert hall. Tickets to events can be purchased online or at the ticket office. This palace is the main headquarters of the Ballet of the Kremlin, one of the most important ballet companies in Russia.
- State Palace of the Kremlin website: https://en.kremlinpalace.org/
- Online ticket purchase (for ballet events): https://en.kremlinpalace.org/events/ballet
Classic ballet works such as Swan Lake, The Magic Flute or the Nutcracker, among others, are usually in their program. The ticket prices range from 600 rubles, as the most economic fee, to 3,000 rubles in the stalls. The only drawback is that the ticket purchase process is done only in Russian, but using the automatic translator you can go through without difficulties (in the phone field you can enter a fictitious Russian phone number since the Russian +7 prefix can’t be modified). In August, the ballet company is on vacation so there are no ballet performances.
2. Lenin’s Mausoleum
2.1. The mummified body of Lenin (free entrance)
Lenin’s Mausoleum, where Lenin’s mummified body is still preserved, has become one of the main tourist attractions in Moscow. Lenin died in 1924 (at 53 years old), but though he had expressed his willingness to be buried in St. Petersburg, along with his mother, Stalin pushed for the decision to embalm his body.
2.2. The Kremlin Wall Necropolis (free entrance)
In the visit to the mausoleum, before entering, you will pass in front of the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in which other military or former Soviet presidents such as Stalin, Chernenko, Brezhnev or Yuri Andropov are buried, as well as Russian celebrities, such as the astronaut Yuri Gagarin.
- Hours: it is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., as long as it is not a holiday, there is no official act or it does not coincide with any period of body treatment or monument restoration.
- Price: admission is free, all you have to do is get on the line to enter (see photo below), which can be more or less long, depending on the time of year (the line is formed on the red line that can be seen in the photo below).
- Visit duration: approximately 15-30 minutes
- Official Website: http://lenin.ru/index_e.htm
- More info: The Free Visit to the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow
3. The Cathedrals of the Red Square
In the middle of the Red Square, but outside the Kremlin, there are two cathedrals: St. Basil’s Cathedral (the icon of the city) and the Cathedral of Kazan (less known but very interesting).
3.1. St. Basil’s Cathedral (700 rubles)
St. Basil’s Cathedral is the symbol of the city, despite not being the main cathedral of Moscow, since this title corresponds to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The construction of the Cathedral was ordered by Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and took place between 1555 and 1561, to celebrate the conquest of the Kazan Khanate.
Throughout its history (in 2021 it will be its 460th anniversary), the cathedral has been on the verge of disappearing in more than one occasion, surviving fires, to Napoleon’s invasion and even to a plan of demolition on the part of Stalin’s collaborators, who considered that the cathedral hindered the army’s parades in the Red Square.
In front of the cathedral, in a small garden, stands a bronze statue in honor to Dmitri Pozharski and Kuzma Minin, who gathered volunteers for the army that fought against the Polish invaders during the Time of the Revolts (between 1598 and 1613).
- Hours: from June 1 to August 31, it can be visited from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You will find detailed schedules in this link.
- Tickets: they are purchased in the same Cathedral (also they can be purchased online).
- Price: 700 rubles for foreigners (500 rubles for Russians or citizens of CIS countries).
- Visit duration: 1-2 hours
- Official Website and tickets: http://shm.ru/visit/tickets/hvb/
- More info: St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Visits, tickets and schedules
Behind St. Basil’s Cathedral, and very close to the Red Square, is Zarydaye Park, which was inaugurated in 2017 and is already considered one of the best public parks in the world. One of the main attractions of the park is the floating bridge over the Moskva River in the shape of a “V”. The panoramic views from there are unparalleled and its functional and impressive architecture.
3.2. The Cathedral of Kazan (free)
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan is a Russian Orthodox church located in the northeast corner of the Red Square in Moscow. It appears mentioned for the first time in historical records of 1625. However, the current cathedral is a reconstruction of the original church, since it was destroyed by Stalin’s order in 1936.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Cathedral of Kazan was the first one that was rebuilt between the years 1990 and 1993. The restoration was sponsored by the Moscow headquarters of the Russian Society for Historical Preservation and Cultural Organization, and was based on measurements and detailed photographs of the original church.
- Hours: from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- Price: free
- Visit duration: 15-30 minutes
- Official Website: http://www.kazanski-sobor.ru/
4. The Museums of Russian History
4.1. The State Museum of History (500 rubles)
One of the buildings that attract tourists the most is the State Museum of Russian History, built between 1875 and 1881, according to neo-Russian style canons and inaugurated by Tsar Alexander III.
In its interior you will find prehistoric relics that occupied the territory of present-day Russia, and also invaluable works of art acquired by members of the Romanov dynasty. The total number of objects in the museum’s collection is of the order of millions.
An equestrian statue of Marshal Zhukov, one of the most outstanding commanders of the Second World War (who died in 1974) can be found in front of the rear façade of the museum, in Manezhnaya Square.
- Hours: the history museum opens from Monday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. You can find detailed schedules in this link.
- Tickets: they are purchased in the same museum (there are usually not many lines) or online.
- Price: 500 rubles
- Visit duration: visiting the museum can take from 1 hour to several hours, depending on the interest you have in Russian history.
- Official Website: http://www.shm.ru/
4.2. The Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812 (350 rubles)
Right next to this museum, but not in the Red Square but in Revolution Square, you can find the Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812 (the war against Napoleon), which is also managed by the State Museum of History.
- Hours: the same as the State Museum of History
- Tickets: acquired in the same museum
- Price: 350 rubles
- Visit duration: visiting the museum can take from 1 hour to several hours
- Official Website: http://www.shm.ru/museum/mov/
5. The Iberian Gate and Chapel (free)
Between the State Museum of Russian History and the old city hall of Moscow is the Iberian Door and Chapel (also known as Resurrection Gate), and which gives access to the Red Square, from its northwestern end.
Before entering the Red Square through this door, there is also the so-called zero kilometer of Russia, represented by a bronze plate that marks the beginning of all roads in Russia. In this plate you will see many Muscovites and tourists throwing a coin back to make a wish, which will be fulfilled if the coin falls into the center of the plate (see photo below with the Iberian Gate in the background and in the foreground the bronze plate of kilometer zero).
6. GUM Galleries (free entrance)
GUM Galleries (in Russian ГУМ) are the best-known shopping center in Russia and the most visited by tourists in Moscow, since it is in the middle of Red Square. Many of its stores are dedicated to the sale of Western luxury brands.
Even if you don’t buy anything, the visit to the building is a must, both for its imposing 242 meters long facade and for its majestic interiors. Its construction dates back to 1890.
In these galleries you can take the legendary GUM Russian ice cream in one of the kiosks on the ground floor. The ice cream with a ball of chocolate, cream or other different flavors, is served on a cookie-shaped glass.
It is also a good place to eat. Thus, on the third floor it is possible to eat Russian or Italian specialties at an economical price. Also, if some language barrier problems arise, since the restaurants are buffet-style, just point your finger at the dish that looks good. There are terraces outside to eat and contemplate the impressive interior of the building of GUM galleries.
Another place to eat next to Red Square and where there is a wide variety of restaurants is the Okhotny Ryad Shopping Center, an underground shopping mall on several levels located below Alexander’s Gardens, and next to the Kremlin.
- GUM Galleries Hours: open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
- Price: admission is free as in any shopping center
- Visit duration: 1 hour
- Official Website: http://www.gum.ru/en/
- More info:
7. Guided tours in Red Square
If you prefer to take a guided tour of the Red Square, there are different organized tours, among which I recommend GetYourGuide tours.
I hope this article has helped you organize your visit to Red Square. If you found it useful, you can help me by sharing it on your social networks. You can leave your comments below.