On my first full day in Moscow, I focused on the Red Square since it was near my hotel, and it had a lot of the sites that were on my list to see. It was a cold day and not a lot of people were around so it was a nice day to walk around.
The first place I went was the Kremlin. The Kremlin is basically the home of the President of the Russian Federation and also houses five palaces and four cathedrals within its walls. I basically decided to walk around it without paying for a ticket to go inside. I had some friends visit it the day before, and they weren’t that impressed since it was basically some smallish cathedrals that you got to see. I knew was going in St. Basil’s Cathedral and was going to visit Cathedral of Christ the Saviour later that week, I opted to skip buying a ticket to go inside the Kremlin.
I do wish now that I had gone into the Kremlin to see some of the items like the the Tsar bell, and the Cathedral of the Dormition looked interesting – it is definitely added to my list the next time I visit.
Another part of the Kremlin that I decided not see is Lenin’s Tomb. It is free, but there was a long line (seemed like all of the visitors to the Red Square were in line to see Lenin), and since you actually see a preserved Lenin laying in a bed, it was not high on my list.
The outside wall and the building of the Kremlin were very colorful on this gray day. The red of the wall and the yellow of the building really made it interesting contrast and pretty against the dull gray sky.
In the upper garden there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This contains a soldier’s body that was killed in World War II. They have two soldiers standing guard and there is a ceremonial changing of the guard on the hour every hour. People will gather each hour to watch the new guards walk in the famous Russian walk and watch the old ones walk out. It is quite a site to see.
I kept missing the changing of the guard during the day and when I finally got there is time to see it, the whole section was closed and a lot of police dressed in riot gear were circling the area. I decided to watch it from afar and it was a very cool thing to see.
Another tradition is for newlyweds to bring flowers on the day of the wedding and take photos. In the summer months there will be many flowers on the ground around the tomb from newlyweds.
As you continue from the upper garden towards the middle garden, you can see this little grotto. This is called the “Ruins” Grotto. This grotto contain marble columns and parts of actual Moscow homes and buildings that were destroyed during the Napoleonic occupation. So while they are made to look like ruins that were once there, the grotto was manufactured (however, with real ruins). It was closed off when we were visiting, but when opened, you can go further inside and is another popular photo spot. I definitely would have liked to be able to go inside.
Another part of the upper garden is the Obliesk. It was erected in 1915 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov family. It listed all of the Romanov Tsars on the monument when it was put into place. Later when Lenin was in power, he added more names of philosophers and leaders that were in Lenin’s favor. This was a nice memorial, but not as impressive as some of the other huge statues nearby.
State Historical Museum
The State Historical Museum sits on the edge of the Red Square right next to the Kremlin. It was opened in 1872 and has a artifacts and manuscripts from Russia’s past. One of the biggest attractions in the museums is its coin collection. It has over 1.7 million coins as part of its exhibits and is impressive.
The statue in front of the museum is of Marshall Georgy Zhukov who was a Soviet General who played a big part in World War II. He is shown on horseback like he was in the 1945 victory parade.
As I went further into the square walking towards St. Basil’s cathedral, I will saw the Spasskaya Tower (part of the Kremlin wall), which is an impressive clock tower facing the Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral. It was built in 1491 and used to be the main gate into the Kremlin. The clock in the tower has a 20 ft diameter and when the eagle on the top of the tower was replaced during the Soviet regime with a red star, it made the tower 71 ft tall.
It is now a closed gate to the Kremlin that looms over the Red Square and every hour when the clock strikes, people seem to stop and gather around (you can see in the photo people looking at the clock as it strikes noon).
St. Basil’s Cathedral
One of the sites that was definitively on my list to see was St. Basil’s Cathedral. This is the most famous landmark when you think about Moscow and even on this gray, cold day, the colors were vibrant. I did purchase a ticket to see inside the cathedral, and since there was so much more to write about it than just a couple of paragraphs, I wrote a whole post dedicated to this beautiful cathedral.
At the other side of the Red Square from the Kremlin is the GUM shopping center. Saying this shopping center was huge is an understatement. I have seen large shopping malls before, but this one was so much bigger than any I have ever seen. The shopping center was decorated for the holidays, and it was ornate – lights, large hanging pieces from the ceiling, Christmas trees decorated by each store, and other signs of the holidays all over the place.
The GUM was built in the early 1800s, but most of it was lost in a fire and then some years later was rebuilt and rebuilt again with additions made to it over the years. It has a large glass dome ceiling and and has three main levels and three main corridors with bridges spanning the width on the second level.
The shops in the GUM represent about every high end brand you can images (Prada, Jimmy Choo, etc) and the prices are very high. I didn’t actually buy anything here, but had so much fun walking around. The one thing I can say that was reasonable in the GUM were the cafes. The food was great and not that expensive. It was a great place to have lunch
The outside was lit up just as much as the inside. This incredibly large building was covered in lights and on one side had an archway of lights connected to the next building. It was a site to see.
My time on the Red Square did not disappoint after hearing about it since I was a kid. It was incredibly lavish and ornate and easily filled my whole day just seeing the sites.