Visit Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral: tickets, prices, opening hours

What to see and do in Russia? In the capital, here’s how to visit Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral!

At the mere mention of the name, not many people would recognize the building. And yet, when we think of Moscow, we all imagine the huge, colorful meringue with its sweet candy-shaped towers on Red Square. Well, we’re talking about Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral! Built between 1555 and 1561, the cathedral – also known as St. Basil the Blessed Cathedral – was erected on the orders of Tsar Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) following the victory of Russian troops over the Khanate of Kazan (which disappeared when the Russian Empire was founded).

Today, it symbolizes traditional Russian architecture. But we’re not going to tell you everything just yet! Read on to find out how to visit Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral!

Visit Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral: history and presentation

Moscow’s best-known cathedral is a building of the Christian Orthodox faith, whose name and history are shrouded in mystery. It is not known who designed St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. It is assumed that he was Italian – the Italians having built many of the Kremlin ‘s buildings – while other theories point to a Russian name: Postnik Yakovlev (Barma). It is also said that Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) had the architects’ eyes gouged out so that they would no longer be able to reproduce such a beautiful building (if they had known what heads of state have in store for those who create masterpieces…).

Originally built of wood, the cathedral was burnt down and renovated in the 16th century with red bricks and the bulbous bell towers we know today. The cathedral rises to 65 meters at its highest point. In all, the building is adorned with nine domes and a campanile. The building is in fact made up of eight separate churches, each topped by a tower: these eight churches symbolize eight victorious battles that took place during the capture of the Khanate of Kazan, at the same time as several religious festivals.

Threatened with destruction by Napoleonic troops in 1812, who wanted to dynamite the monument but ran out of time, it was once again under the siege of human imprecations: at the end of the 1920s, Stalin planned to have it demolished as a « place of worship » and enemy symbol of the Communist revolution. It was Soviet architect Piotr Baranovski who managed to save it from Stalin’s follies. In 1990, shortly before the fall of the USSR, the site was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

What to see and do at Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral?

Cathédrale Basile-le-Bienheureux

A visit to Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral takes you inside a building that is unique in the world. Most tourists are content to photograph it from the outside on Red Square, but getting inside gives a completely different perspective.

First, admire the ten domes from the outside, including the Dome of the Intercession of the Virgin. On the first level, visit Basil’s Chapel, dating from 1588, richly decorated with frescoes and icons from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The adjoining rooms are small, and feature a variety of religious and historical exhibits.

A narrow spiral staircase takes you to the second floor, where you’ll discover the central chapel, culminating at a height of 64 meters. The program features iconostases and 18th-century frescoes. Incidentally, the iconostasis in the central chapel comes from theUkraine. The chapels are linked by passageways with walls decorated with floral motifs created in the 17th century. From the windows, you’ll enjoy a unique view of the Moskova quays and Zaryadye Park.

On your way back down, take a look at the cathedral’s basements: the basement was once a secret chamber where the treasures of tsars and wealthy Muscovites were hidden. The basement consists of several rooms with 6.5-meter high ceilings and 3-meter thick walls covered by wide vaults.

Book your visit to Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral

How do I get to St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow?

Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral is relatively easy to get to. Located in the heart of downtown Moscow, it’s hard to miss! Four metro stations serve it:

  • Okhatny Ryad on line 1
  • Teatralnaya on line 2
  • Ploschad Revolutsii on line 3
  • Kitai-gorod on lines 6 and 7

As you leave the metro, cross Red Square: you’re there!

The tour lasts between 30 minutes and an hour, and is self-paced: there is no sense of obligation.

Please note that the stairs to the cathedral’s upper floors are very narrow: people with reduced mobility and children in baby carriages will therefore not be able to access them.

Timetable and prices for Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow

Cathédrale Basile-le-Bienheureux

Book your visit to Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral

SCHEDULES

Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral is open every day of the year, except the first Wednesday of each month to allow maintenance personnel to clean the monument.

Here are the times:

  • November to April: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m,
  • May, September and October: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m,
  • June to August: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The ticket office closes 45 minutes before the cathedral closes, so don’t arrive too late.

Good to know: If the mercury drops below -15°C in winter, schedules may change and be restricted.

RATES

The price was 1,000 rubles (€13.7) at the end of 2018. But the price fluctuates with sporting and cultural events held in Moscow. For example, the rate reached 1,000 rubles during the 2018 Football World Cup.

Visits are free for children under 16.

A reduced rate of 150 rubles (€2.06 ) is available for minors aged between 16 and 18 and for students (on presentation of an international student card).

Book your visit to Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral

GOOD TO KNOW

Here are some bonus tips for visiting Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral:

  • Do not touch the cathedral’s windows, exhibits or decorations.
  • Photos must be taken without a flash and without a tripod.
  • It is forbidden to take photographs in temporary exhibitions.
  • Do not leave children unsupervised, as they could quickly get lost in the monument.
  • Backpacks and bags larger than 30×40 cm and umbrellas must be left at the locker.