Day 2. Visiting the Kremlin

Another surprise awaited us when we went downstairs for breakfast, as on giving our room number we were diverted to the Executive Lounge which was a raised area along one side of the restaurant.  Here we found lots to tempt us, setting us up for the day ahead.  Using the coffee machine initially appeared problematic as all the options were in Russian but a helpful waitress came to help me find the cappuccino button.

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Resurrection Gate, Red Square

Also on offer in the Executive Lounge were vodka and sparkling wine.  I spotted several business men mixing vodka with tomato juice which didn’t appear to be the best start to a working day.  I, on the other hand, was more than happy with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice which was delicious!

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Kazan Cathedral, Red Square

At around 9.30 a.m. we wrapped up warm and wandered across the road to the Sokolniki metro station from where we took the train to Red Square’s Oxhotny Ryad station.  It was so much easier using the metro without our heavy luggage and as we left the station it was snowing lightly.  Red Square was looking festive with its ice rink, huge Christmas tree and Christmas market in front of the GUM department store.

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Walking alongside the Kremlin walls

We decided to start the day with a visit to Lenin’s Mausoleum which we accessed from the far end of the square.  The Mausoleum opens at 10.00 a.m. and although we’d read about lengthy queues, there was no wait at all to go inside.  After passing through a security check we were directed along a pathway beside the Kremlin wall where we paused to view several war memorials and a statue of Stalin.

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GUM Department Store and Christmas Market, Red Square

On entering the Mausoleum, men must remove hats and all visitors remain silent and respectful in the dimly lit hall where photography is forbidden.  As long as the queue is not overly long, I would suggest adding a visit to the Mausoleum which is free to visit.

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Lenin’s Mausoleum

Moving on, we admired the beautiful St. Basil’s Cathedral with its magnificent onion shaped domes.  The Cathedral was completed in 1560 and is now a museum with only one church service taking place in October each year.

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St. Basil’s Cathedral

Leaving there, we walked around the perimeter of the Kremlin along the banks of the Moskva river returning to its entrance in Alexander Park.  On one of the snowy paths I lost my footing and fell backwards, landing in thick snow.  I was perfectly all right but needed dusting down as I resembled a snowman with large flakes of snow stuck to my dark grey coat.  After my minor incident we continued to the Kremlin ticket office where we bought two tickets for the Cathedral tour which also included all the external sites.  This option cost 500 Roubles (£6.30) each.  I suggest checking out the Kremlin website before visiting as there are so many different ticket options available that it can be quite confusing deciding which to choose.  Again, there were no queues at all and after another security check, we were soon crossing the bridge to enter the Kremlin through the Troitskaya Tower.

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Entering the Kremlin

As might be expected, the Kremlin covers a large area overlooking the Moskva river.  We started our self guided tour viewing the Tsar Bell which was cast in 1735.  In May of that year a huge fire broke out and spread to the Kremlin buildings, cold water fell on the bell which was still in its cast.  This sudden change of temperature caused it to crack resulting in a huge piece weighing 11.5 ton breaking off.  The Tsar Bell is considered to be the biggest bell in the world weighing approximately 202 ton with a height of 6.14 metres.

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Tsar Bell, Kremlin

Standing near the bell is the Tsar Cannon which is a unique item of the Kremlin’s artillery collection which was created in 1586. It has never been shot or used in war and is adorned with decorative cast figured friezes.

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Tsar Cannon, Kremlin

Our walk then took us alongside the Grand Kremlin Palace which was originally the Tsar’s Moscow residence and is currently the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation.  We then viewed the Kremlin Cathedrals including the Cathedral of the Assumption which is the oldest and most important church in the Kremlin.  The interior was magnificent with much intricate detail.  Photography is not permitted inside any of the Kremlin cathedrals.

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Cathedrals of the Kremlin

Leaving the Kremlin we caught the metro from the nearby Aleksandrovsky-Sad station to the Universtet station in the south west of the city as we wished to visit Moscow State University. This iconic building was designed by Lev Rudnev and is the tallest educational building in the world.  Its central tower is 240 m tall and has 36 floors.  It is flanked by four huge wings of student and faculty accommodation and is the tallest of seven Stalinist skyscrapers in Moscow.

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Moscow State University

From the university, we walked through the adjacent park to Sparrow Hills which is one of the highest points in the city.  On a clear day it offers panoramic views but having arrived in a snow storm our views were somewhat obscured.  Fortunately, we were able to make out an outline of skyscrapers in the Central Business District.  We also viewed Luzhniki Stadium from the metro station platform, where the final of the 2018 World Cup football tournament will take place.

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Luzhniki Stadium, Word Cup 2018 Final Venue
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Sparrow Hills Park, Moscow

From the viewpoint we made our way down the steep and slippery path through the Sparrow Hills nature reserve to the Vorobyovy Gory metro station to return to our hotel for a short rest and a relaxing sauna.

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GUM Department Store, Red Square

Feeling refreshed, we caught the metro back to Red Square and wandered around its Christmas Market which was an enchanting experience with its extravagant festive decorations looking even more beautiful in the snow.

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Inside the GUM Department Store

Dominating the eastern side of the square stands the GUM department store, its facade looking stylish and sophisticated with its gold coloured lights stretching along its vast 242m exterior.  Stepping inside, it’s now an opulent palace of capitalism with  many designer stores, restaurants and cafes.  Featuring a glass roof, the building is divided into galleried sections and no expense has been spared in decorating it for Christmas with its trees and decorative hot air balloons.  It’s not to be missed and even if you don’t intend buying anything, I believe a visit to Moscow should always include a visit as it’s an absolute delight to wander round.

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Ice Skating in Red Square, Moscow

Up on the top floor there are a collection of moderately priced restaurants and cafes.  We dined in Stolovaya 57 which was tucked away in one corner and our two course meal was good but served lukewarm which was a little disappointing as we like our food piping hot.

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Arbatskaya Metro Station

Leaving GUM we hopped back on the metro to take a look at some of its grand stations.  Whilst navigating the Moscow Metro it’s easy to determine the direction of travel as trains heading towards the city centre have male announcements whilst those heading away from the centre feature female announcements.  On the Circle line, clockwise announcements are male and anti-clockwise female.  The system was initially intended to assist the visually impaired but is helpful to all commuters.

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Kievskaya Metro Station, Moscow

I would recommend picking up a metro map which displays both the English and Cyrillic station names as the majority of stations have signs only in Cyrillic and most of these bear little or no resemblance to the English translation.

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Kievskaya Metro Station, Moscow

Visiting some of the metro stations is a definite must see on any visit to the Russian capital.  The incredible, luxury underground made of marble and granite is a special place filled with impressive artworks and chandeliers dating back to the era of socialist realism.  We toured Kievskaya station, here we found exquisite mosaics embedded in frames with motifs of Ukrainian ornaments, telling the story of the mutual relationship between the Ukraine and Russia.

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Ploshchad Revolyutsii Metro Station, Moscow

Before returning to our hotel for the night we took a look at one final station, Ploshchad Revolyutsii (Revolution Square) which features 76 bronze life size statues.  All the stations we passed through were immaculately clean with no litter or graffiti and we felt completely safe and at ease both on and off the trains.  It was then time to return to the hotel for the night after a splendid day exploring the Russian capital.

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93 thoughts on “Day 2. Visiting the Kremlin

  1. jasonlikestotravel

    That was such a great read and some wonderful photos too! I also love their system for the metro using male / females to help commuters – what a useful method 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. jasonlikestotravel

        You’re welcome. Sorry for referring back to such old posts haha, I’m still playing catch-up after a busy December.
        I can imagine it’s really helpful though. I’d love to see it implemented in other cities.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Europe Travel Blog Posts – Directory – The Intentional Traveler

  3. Great atmospheric photographs… Maybe I should add this destination to my long list of ‘places to see’. And the snow certainly adds to the mystique surrounding Russia… A winter trip certainly has its merits.

    Lieve

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s a shame that you can’t take photos inside the cathedrals, but not unexpected. Did you feel welcome there, as a tourist, aside from in the hotel? The Metro is phenomenal, isn’t it? You could be tempted to ride round all day taking photos of the stations. 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Locals all seemed polite especially on the Metro where they wait for everyone to get off before boarding and are very orderly. We were out late at night and always felt at ease wherever we were. Few people seem to speak English but w managed without problems. It was a real bonus to be there when it was snowy!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a beautiful place to visit!! The architect is amazing, so detailed and pretty. The lights and snow, perfect 👌 we don’t get the joy of a lot of snow in London, so When there probably a few millimetres of snow people start to panic. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You managed to pack a lot into your day! Such beautiful photos, matched by your expert commentary. The stations look amazing as does the Kremlin. Looks like the shopping is pretty good too. Thanks for taking us on the journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pleased you enjoyed Moscow. I found it really interesting when I went in May a couple of years ago. It’s lovely to see it in winter – we had either rain or sunshine when I went so it was very different. The metro stations are so beautiful, definitely a highlight.

    Liked by 2 people

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