One of the top attractions in Europe has to be the magnificent Kremlin in Moscow. This fortified complex is at the heart of the city, overlooking the Moskva River. When the Kremlin was first built in the 12th century it was on the banks of two rivers, but the Neglinnaya River now flows underground.
The word “kremlin” actually means “fortress” or “citadel” in Russian. There are many kremlins throughout the country, but the Moscow Kremlin is understandably the best known and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The original Kremlin was built by Yuri Dolgoruky, Grand Duke of Kiev, back in 1147. He built a wooden fortress on the site which was burned in the 13th century by the invading Mongolian Hordes. The present Kremlin was rebuilt by Ivan the Great in the late 15th century. He called in Italian architects who cleared the area outside the walls to create a field for shooting and later built the Alevizov Moat as further defence. The walls are triangular in shape and very high with lookout notches and 20 watchtowers.
The most famous tower is Spasskaya, but the gate beneath is closed to the public. It is reserved solely for use by the President and is also opened once a year to bring in the huge Christmas tree that is displayed in the kremlin over Christmas and the New Year holidays.
This tower was added in 1680 and is actually a tent-shaped chamber built on top of the wall. This gorgeous fairytale-like structure has corner pyramids with gilt flags and a golden weather vane. The huge clock face makes it easy to identify. It replaced a wooden turret known as the Tsar’s Tower, where Ivan IV used to look down on the happenings in Red Square.
Within the forbidding Kremlin walls are the iconic multi-coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west. It includes the official residence of the Russian President as well as four cathedrals and four palaces.
The Assumption Cathedral with its trio of gold onion domes was traditionally where Russian Tsars held their coronation ceremonies. It is also the burial place for many influential figures of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Cathedral of the Annunciation and the Church of the Nativity are beautifully ornate, topped with golden domes that still gleam in the sunshine.
Red Square is where all the major streets of Moscow originate. This huge space was designed as Moscow’s market place and as the site for important ceremonies. More recently it was used by the former Soviet Union to display their military might on special occasions. It was also the resting place of the embalmed and mummified figure of Lenin for many years.
Other attractions that you will need a ticket to access include the Armoury Chamber, the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, exhibitions in the Assumption Belfry and One-Pillar chamber of the Patriarch’s palace, the ceremonial and equestrian procession of the President’s Regiment and the Treasures and Antiquities Exposition in the basement of the Annunciation Cathedral.
With so much going on, you need to spend several days exploring this fabulous world attraction in the heart of Moscow.