Kremlin – Moscow, Russia (10.09.19)

Sandwiched between Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the sprawling Alexander Garden to the west, Russia’s mother-ship Kremlin fort complex stares down across Moskva River as if straight out of a fairy-tale.

Huge, intriguing and utterly engaging, it is a ‘must visit’ experience that anyone travelling through Moscow should factor into their itinerary.

You’ll need at least half a day up your sleeve to make the most of the range of historical and contemporary sites. The true enormity of the fortress unfolds as you explore some of the five palaces, four cathedrals, halls, offices, ramparts, towers, gardens and museums. If you are lucky, you might see the home guard marching past, a Bolshoi ballet performance or a traditional church service.

Although, as my photos show, the Kremlin is charming and elegant in summer sunshine, I have found with previous visits that it is equally as enchanting under a blanket of mid-winter snow.

Dating back to 1156, the complex has always been the religious centre of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as a previous residence of the tsars. Positioned high up on Borovitsky Hill, the first stone rampart walls, replacing the original wooden structures, were erected 1367-60, with an additional revamp by some of Europe’s best craftsmen over the following century. With its towering domes, imposing red star clock tower and open plan parade and garden areas, there is to this day no quieter place to soak up the summer city views with an ice cream and a shaded bench.

Even though the site remains the official residence of the president of Russia, with foghorn communications blasting out to the wider world, the combination of cherished historical artefacts, churches and museums still gives the palace a feeling of quaint old-fashioned history, rather than of a dour, unsmiling propaganda prison.

Get your walking boots on. The triangular UNESCO World Heritage Site Kremlin complex is spread out over 70 acres, with four gateways offering a journey in time through some of Russia’s most important and exciting Byzantine, Russian and Baroque styles.

Oh, and whether exploring with a guide or solo, make sure you plan your Kremlin visit well in advance.