Brooding and glittering in the heart of the capital, the Kremlin (Aleksandrovsky Sad; 10am–5pm, closed Thurs; R350, student R100; w www.kreml.ru; Borovitskaya) is both the heart of historical Moscow and home to its present-day parliament, the Duma. Its founding is attributed to Prince Yuriy Dolgorukiy, who built a wooden fort here in about 1147. Look out for the Tsar Cannon, cast in 1586: one of the largest cannons ever made, this was intended to defend the Saviour Gate, but has never been fired. Close by looms the earthbound, broken Tsar Bell, the largest bell in the world, cast in 1655. Cathedral Square is the historic heart of the Kremlin, dominated by the magnificent, white Ivan the Great Bell Tower. Of the square’s four key churches, the most important is the Cathedral of the Assumption, with a spacious, light and echoing interior, walls and pillars smothered with icons and frescoes, and temporary exhibitions housed in its belfry. The Cathedral of the Archangel houses the tombs of Russia’s rulers from Grand Duke Ivan I to Tsar Ivan V, while the golden-domed Cathedral of the Annunciation (closed for renovations at time of writing) hides some of Russia’s finest icons, including works by Theophanes the Greek and Andrey Rublev.
More about Russia
Find out more
The Armoury Palace
The Armoury Palace
The unmissable Armoury Palace (ticketed entry at 10am, noon, 2.30pm and 4.30pm; R700, student R200), inside the Kremlin, boasts a staggering array of treasures – among them the tsars’ coronation robes, jewellery and armour. A separate part of the Armoury Palace houses the Diamond Fund (daily sessions 10am and noon; buy tickets in Aleksandrovsky Sad) – a priceless collection of jewels, including the 190-karat Orlov Diamond, which belonged to Catherine the Great, and the world’s largest sapphire.
You may only purchase tickets for the set entry times to the Armoury and the Diamond Fund an hour before the session; Soviet-style bureaucracy prevents you from purchasing a ticket in advance. Even if you are in possession of a ticket, you will still have to queue for both attractions separately and watch tour groups and people with connections being ushered in before you. It’s all part of the experience…