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Major sights

Moscow Kremlin

Red Square

Historical museums

Cathedrals and the monasteries

Moscow Kremlin

The Krenlin is the heart of Moscow.

The heart of Moscow and of the Russian state itself, the Kremlin (literally meaning “fortified town”) is a red-brick walled fortress with walls 2235 m long. Since earliest times the Kremlin had served as a fortress intended to defend the city from enemy invasions. The walls are crowned with merlons with slit-like loopholes. During combat the archers blocked gaps between merlons with shields and fired through narrow loopholes. None of the twenty defensive towers repeats itself. The most famous tower is Spasskaya with a chiming clock set up in the last century and playing the national anthem of Russia. The chiming clock dial is over 6 m in diameter.

First stone churches appeared in the 14th century, while a grand rebuilding of the Kremlin began in the 15th century. In the Sobornaya (Cathedral) Square one finds the cathedrals built at that time with participation of best Italian architects. The most beautiful are the Assumption and the Archangel gold-domed cathedrals made of white stone. They are famous for the masterpieces of old time Russian church murals and icon-painting.

The Belfry of Ivan the Great attracts everybody’s attention. Right up to the early 20th century it was the tallest structure in the city — 81 m. There is an old Russian saying: as tall as Ivan the Great. In-between the cathedrals you may find the Granovitaya Palata (Faceted Chamber), its front is decorated with faceted stone. The Faceted Chamber was used for banquets arranged by Russian sovereigns after the coronation ceremony. Also foreign ambassadors were received there and celebrations, state conferences and most important royal ceremonies were held.

The Cap of Monomakh.

The Great Kremlin Palace is the residential place of Russian emperors on their visits to Moscow. It was built in 1849 by Konstantin Ton, the same architect who designed the famous Cathedral of St. Saviour. The palace has 760 rooms and halls, particularly notable is the St. George’s Hall named after the military order of St. George. Nowadays it is the residence of the Russian President.

The Armoury Chamber initially was a depository and a workshop where weapons and armour were produced and kept. The modern building was erected in the 19th century and now it is a treasure house of unique exhibits — articles made by craftsmen who worked in gold and silver. One is overwhelmed by Tzar’s regalia set with precious stones — crowns, scepters, orbs. The museum boasts original thrones of Russian Tzars and luxurious dresses of Russian empresses. Among the most famous exhibits is the Cap of Monomakh, a hereditary coronation crown of Russian Tzars decorated with precious stones and furs. According to the legend the cap was sent by Emperor Monamachus of Byzantium to Grand Prince Vladimir Monomakh of Kiev.

Dress of Catherine the Great, 1745.

The Diamond Fund of Russia, permanent exhibition housed at The Armoury Chamber, boast the unique collection of precious stones and jewelry of the 18th — 19th centuries: Russian diamonds and brilliants, gems, collections of golden and platinum nuggets.

The Tzar Cannon and Tzar Bell are considered wonders of Russian casting work. The bronze 40-ton Tzar Cannon was cast in the 16th century. Some sources say that the cannon was named so because of its enormous size, others say that it was named after the murdered Fyodor Ivanovich, son of Tzar Ivan the Terrible, whose picture is carved on the barrel. The cannon stood at the Kremlin wall but, according to the information available, it never fired.
The Tzar Bell is also of an amazing size. It is the biggest bell in the world. The bell weighs 12 000 poods (over 200 tons), it is 6 m high. An attempt to lift the bell failed, in the fire of 1737 the bell cracked and 11.5 ton piece broke off which is now put on a pedestal near the bell.

 Red Square.

Red Square

The Red Square is the central square of the city and together with the Kremlin is a Moscow visit card. In the old times the square was known as Torg — a trading place and only in the middle of the 17th century it acquired its present name. In old Russian the word red meant beautiful, likewise a beautiful girl was called a red girl.

Just opposite the Spassky Gate there is an elevated platform behind a cast-iron fence — Lobnoye Mesto where important Tzar’s edicts and sentences to offenders were proclaimed. However, it didn’t serve as a place of execution, the scaffolds were set up in another, distant place. A real adornment of the square is the Intercession Cathedral, better known as the Cathedral of Vasily Blazhenny (St. Basil’s Cathedral). The cathedral was laid under Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the subordination of the Kazan Khanate to the Moscow State. Its unusual architecture with the multi-coloured pointed domes united into a single group, original decorative forms and cheerful colours rivet visitors’ eyes and involuntarily make them smile.

The ensemble of Red Square includes the monument to Minin and Pozharsky who in the early 17th century headed the liberation struggle of the Russian people against Polish invaders. This is the first sculptural monument in Moscow opened in 1818.

Reminiscent of the Soviet epoch is Lenin’s Mausoleum with the embalmed body of the leader of the proletarian revolution. By the Kremlin wall behind the Mausoleum is the Revolutionary Necropolis, a burial place of Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov, leaders of the Soviet State, Yury Gagarin, the first cosmonaut, Igor Kurchatov, father of Soviet atomic bomb, Sergei Korolyov, father of space ships.

Historical Museums

The State Historical Museum of Russia.

The State Historical Museum was founded by Emperor Alexander II in 1872. The history and culture of the Russian State is represented by over 4.5 mln exhibits and 15 mln sheets of unique documentary archive. The museum halls, each of them styled in a certain historical epoch, host the relics of Russia from most ancient times till the early 20th century. The Museum keeps archeologic collections, a unique collection of coins and medals. Also on display are documents and autographs, icons, portraits, prints, photos, manuscript and early printed books, old weapons, rare items of old fabrics, garments, full-dress uniforms, works of applied art. In Paradnye Seni (Principal Portal) concerts of classical, choral and spiritual music, Russian romance songs are held.

The Old English Courtyard, an architectural monument dating from Ivan the Terrible’s time is found in the oldest part of Moscow called Zaryadie. It was the residential place for visiting English merchants and diplomats. In 1556 -1649 the English Courtyard housed both the office of London’s Moscow Trade Company and the English Embassy — the first official representation of a Western country in Russia’s capital. In 1994 after a long reconstruction the museum was opened to visitors.

Znamensky Monastery Museum is among the most interesting old monuments with the surviving five — domed cathedral, a refectory, a belfry and cell building. It was also the site of the patrimonial estate of boyar Romanov, the first Tzar of the Romanov dynasty. In the 19th century in the territory of the complex one of the first Moscow museums was opened included by the European International Forum of 1998 into the list of thirty best museums of Europe. One can see the interior of a wealthy boyar’s house with the authentic items of applied art: tile stoves, silver plates and dishes, facial embroidery, trunks. Visitors may become acquainted with the life style of boyars, pass through the study, dining room, women’s attic, have a look at the entrance — hall. The exposition also contains a potter’s workshop of the 15th — 16th centuries.

Museum-Panorama — “Borodino Battle”.

Borodino Battle Panorama Museum. The exhibits show battle scenes of the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon. The canvas 115 m in circumference and 15 m high, strikes one with its enormous dimensions and naturalistic character with 360 degrees diorama. There are military banners, weapons, ammunition and uniforms of soldiers and officers of the Russian army on display. A separate section shows captured guns from different European countries whose troops were part of Napoleon’s army. The double-level observation platform allows the visitors to see the entire panorama and to examine closely the details of the battle.

Stalin’s Bunker, a unique memorial complex of Russian military history.  Established in 1930-s it was Stalin’s secret alternate command post during The Second World War, 1941–1945, with the conference room, working office and all logistical services built in. As a museum, the complex was opened in 1996. Intourist clients can visit the Conference Room, Stalin’s cabinet and Dining Room. Personal belongings of Stalin, soviet officers and soldiers are on display.

The Cathedral of St. Saviour.

Cathedrals and the Monasteries

Cathedral of St. Saviour is a colossal cathedral demolished in the Soviet period and reconstructed in the 1990-s. It was conceived as a memorial to the liberation of Russia from Napoleon’s troops in 1812. The construction of the cathedral in the style of the Greek-Byzantine basilicas began in the late 19th century and continued for about 20 years. The money for its construction was collected by the means of donation.  The best specialists were involved in the construction: famous artists painted the walls, the most talented sculptors created high-reliefs. In 1924 the decision of the Soviet authorities was taken to pull the Cathedral down to the ground to make room for the projected Palace of Soviets in the form of a tall tower crowned by a statue of Lenin. However, the Palace of Soviets was never built and the foundation ditch was used for the outdoor swimming pool. 
Nowadays the Cathedral is reconstructed and combines museum with a working church. Museum exhibition includes priceless relics of the destroyed monument, fragments of memorial tablets with names of 1812 war heroes, as well as documents related to the explosion of the cathedral in 1920-s. The Cathedral is designed for 10 thousand visitors.

Novodevichiy (New Maiden’s) Convent. If you look at the city from the observation platform on the Vorobiyovy Hills on the left you may clearly see very light, tracery New Maiden’s Nunnery built of red and white stone. The idea of the nunnery was conceived by Ivan the Terrible’s father who in 1525 decided to erect a convent and the Smolensky Cathedral to commemorate the liberation of the town of Smolensk from Lithuanian occupation. For a long time the nunnery was the place of solitary life of princes’ and boyars’ widows and orphaned daughters. After a woman retired to the cloister all her property was transferred to the Nunnery. A great contribution to the development of the nunnery and its architectural ensemble was made by Tzarevna Sofia exiled to the nunnery after her brother Peter I had come to power. The first wife of Peter I also lived there. The Smolensky Cathedral contains frescoes of the 16th century, carved iconostasis and items produced by Tzar’s craftsmen. In 1922 a museum was opened in the Nunnery — a branch of the Historical Museum.

Kazan Cathedral in the evening Moscow.

Kazan Cathedral is a a Russian Orthodox church located on the northeast corner of the Red Square in Moscow. The current building is a reconstruction of the original church which was destroyed by orders of then country’s leader Joseph Stalin in 1936. The original church was erected as a shrine in the early 1630s to mark the city’s liberation from the Polish aggressors by the Russian people’s volunteer army. In 1936, when the Red Square was being prepared for the military parade Stalin ordered the square to be cleared of churches. Although efforts were made by famous architects to save it, they could not prevent the Kazan Cathedral from being demolished (though they did manage to save from destruction another one of the square’s cathedrals, St.Basil’s Cathedral). After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990-s the Kazan Cathedral was the first completely rebuilt church. The cathedral’s restoration was based on the detailed measurements and photographs of the original church architect Peter Baranovsky made before its destruction in 1936.

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