Moscow is the capital and most populous city of Russia, with 13.2 million residents within the city limits and 17.8 million within the urban area. It has the status of a Russian federal city. Moscow is a major political, economic, cultural, and scientific centre of Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as the largest city entirely on the European continent.
By broader definitions Moscow is among the world's largest cities, being the 14th largest metro area, the 18th largest agglomeration, the 15th largest urban area, and the 11th largest by population within city limits worldwide. Find the essential sites in Russia's capital:
A potent symbol of two mighty imperial cultures - that of medieval Muscovy and that of the Soviet Union - the Kremlin is at once fascinating and foreboding, a mixture of lavish opulence and austere secrecy, and its eclectic mix of architecture reflect these paradoxes and seismic cultural shifts. Today, the Kremlin remains as alluring and enigmatic as ever.
The Great Kremlin Palace
The Moscow residence of the Russian Tsars was built in 1849 by the architect Konstantin Ton, who also designed the Armory and the Church of Christ the Saviour. The palace of Empress Elizaveta had previously stood on the same site, and that in turn had been built on the foundations of Ivan III's palace. The Palace complex was made up of 19th Century structures erected for the family of Emperor Nikolai I and surviving buildings from previous eras - The Terem Palace, The Tsaritsina's Golden Chamber, The Faceted Palace and the palace churches. In the middle of the 19th Century, the Armory also became part of the complex, connected to the palace by a tunnel.
The Tsar Bell
The Tsar Bell stands on a large pedestal in the Kremlin not far from the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. This is the largest bell in the world, weighing almost 202 tons and standing more than 6 meters high and 6.6 meters across. The story of its construction is marked by a series of almost supernatural misfortunes, as if this white elephant was cursed from conception. Empress Anna Ivanovna had wanted to entrust the making of the bell to a French royal mechanic, but was refused. Monsieur Germaine judged that it was impossible to make a bell that big.
Red Square remains, as it has been for centuries, the heart and soul of Russia. Few places in the world bear the weight of history to the extent that Moscow's central square does. From the 16th Century St. Basil's Cathedral - one of the most famous pieces of architecture in the world - to the constructivist pyramid of Lenin's Mausoleum, Red Square is rich in symbols of Russia's turbulent and intriguing past.
St. Basil's Cathedral
St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow Kremlin although it's known to everyone as St. Basil's, this legendary building is officially called "The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat". The popular alternative refers to Basil the Blessed, a Muscovite 'holy fool' who was buried on the site (in the Trinity Cathedral that once stood here) a few years before the present building was erected.
The Lenin Mausoleum
The Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow Kremlin For the burial of the Father of the Revolution, something special had to be arranged. Immediately after his death in 1924, a wooden mausoleum was erected on the square. In 1929, architect Aleksei Shchusev was commissioned to design a more lasting home for the body. The result, unveiled a year later, is a squat but attractive pyramid in layers of red, grey and black granite that harmonizes remarkably well with the Kremlin buildings behind it, despite its clear Constructivist influences. In the 1930's, granite platforms were added around the sides of the mausoleum, providing a point for government officials to inspect parades, a sight that became famous throughout the world in the Soviet Era.
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow One of the most imposing and controversial buildings in Russia, the resurrected Cathedral of Christ the Saviour has had a short but turbulent history. It was originally commissioned after the defeat of Napoleon, but work did not begin on its construction until 1839. Designed by the great St. Petersburg architect Konstantin Ton, who was also responsible for the Grand Kremlin Palace and the Kremlin Armoury and whose church designs pioneered the Byzantine-revival style, the cathedral was erected, for maximum effect, on the embankment only a few minutes' walk from the Kremlin. Sadly, this entailed the destruction of the medieval Alekseevskiy Convent, a course of events which lends an intriguing irony to the cathedral's own fate.
The Bolshoi Theatre
The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow Although in recent years the Bolshoi has been beset by financial and artistic difficulties, and somewhat overshadowed by the remarkable resurgence of St Petersburg's Kirov, it is still one of the greatest theatres in the world, with its own proud traditions and unforgettable atmosphere. An evening at the Bolshoi really is an essential part of a visit to Moscow.