St. Basil’s Cathedral, also known as The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed is widely considered to be Moscow’s most famous piece of architecture and an iconic landmark in Russia.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square is one of the most famous buildings in the world and has stood watch over countless historic and political events throughout history. It is open to the public all year-round and invites visitors inside to marvel at its beauty.
|Children (0-16 years)
|General Entrance + Audio Guide
Tickets can be purchased from the ticket office on arrival or online in advance. Audio guides are available in English, French Chinese, and Spanish.
- June – August: 10 am – 6 pm (Territory of St. Basil’s Cathedral open daily 9 am – 7 pm during the summer months).
- November – April: 11 am – 5 pm.
- May, September, October: 11 am – 6 pm
Note that the cathedral is closed the first Wednesday of each month for cleaning. The ticket office closes 45-minutes before closing.
History & more information
Located on the Red Square in central Moscow, St. Basil’s Cathedral was constructed in the 16th century under orders from Tsar Ivan the Terrible to celebrate his conquest of the Khanate of Kazan.
It’s a symbol for Russian Orthodox church architecture, and according to the legend, Ivan the Terrible blinded Postnik Yakovlev (the building’s architect) after finishing the construction, so he could never recreate this work of art elsewhere, or build a better version overseas.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral has survived its fair share of disaster and has fought off fires, survived Napoleon’s invasion, and even avoided plans for its demolition by Stalin collaborators who felt its location in the Red Square hindered their military parades.
Despite the ongoing troubles that surrounded the church somehow remained a strong symbol of spirituality and patriotism across Russia. However, one attack that the cathedral didn’t survive was that against the belfry.
Over the decades, the cathedral has had a multitude of bells but only one has survived to present day as in 1929 the soviet authorities melted down all bar one of the bronze bells.
Today visitors can step inside the famed building and explore the narrow pathways that lead from one room to another and admire the 400+ paintings that hang on the walls.
The Soviet State confiscated it in 1929, after the Bolshevik Revolution, and since then it has only been used for church services occasionally. St Basil’s Cathedral has first and foremost served as a museum and tourist attraction.
The whole Red Square, including Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, have been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1990.
In the small museum, you’ll find a number of exhibits including holy banners, mica windows, and the chains of Ivan the Blessed. As you wander the labyrinth of winding pathways to exit, be sure to admire the beautifully painted narrow corridors.
Points of Interest
Before heading inside the cathedral make sure you step back in Red Square and admire the exterior of the building including the bright colorful domes.
The Nine Chapels
The cathedral is made up of nine rooms and chapels and visitors can explore each one in turn. All rooms are decorated differently and are dedicated to each of the saints on whose festivities Ivan the Terrible won the battle.
How to get to St Basil’s Cathedral
The St Basil’s Cathedral sits in the heart of Moscow on Red Square and is quite hard to miss if you’re exploring in the vicinity due to its brightly colored domed roof.
If you’re arriving via Moscow Leningradsky Railway Station simply head outside and take metro line one from Komsomol’skaya station and alight at Okhotnyy Ryad (4 stops). From here the cathedral is a 9-minute walk away.
Make the most of your time in Moscow by visiting nearby attractions. The below museums, galleries, and monuments are all within walking distance from St Basil’s Cathedral:
- Pobeda Gallery
- Zaryadye Park
- Chapel of Iberian Icon of Our Lady
- Minin & Pozharsky Monument
- Linin’s Mausoleum
- Lobnoye Mesto
- Red Square
- Church of St Varvara
- English Courtyard Museum
Best time to visit
The cathedral has varied opening and closing hours throughout the year but as a general rule of thumb, to avoid crowds try to avoid visiting at weekends and midday. Visit early in the morning and late in the afternoon during the week and you’ll likely enjoy a slightly quieter cathedral.
Facts about St Basil’s Cathedral
- Saint Basil’s cathedral is made up of nine individual chapels.
- The first Tsar of Russia, Ivan Vasilyevich (also known as ‘Ivan The Terrible’) ordered the construction of the cathedral in 1554.
- The cathedral’s original color was said to be white to match the white stone of the Kremlin, while the domes were gold. Starting in the 17th century, the façade and domes began to be painted in the remarkable colors that are seen today.
- The cathedral is one of the centerpieces of the Red Square (formally known as the Krasnaya Ploschad).
- There are several theories as to who designed the cathedral. The most widely accepted one is that St Basil’s cathedral was designed by architects Postnik Yakovlev and Ivan Barma. The legend has it that Ivan the Terrible ordered that the architects be blinded after they completed the work so that they could not replicate or surpass it elsewhere.
- A replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral was built in the city of Jalainur over 3200 miles away in northeastern Inner Mongolia.
- As of 1990 the cathedral, the Kremlin, and the Red Square were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- In 1812, when the French troops were retreating from Moscow, they wanted to blow St. Basil’s Cathedral up but did not have time to do it.
- In the late 1920s, the cathedral was nearly destroyed again, this time by Soviet authorities who wanted to pull it down. The building was saved by a telegram which was sent by architect Pyotr Baranovsky to Stalin.
- Since the cathedral was built in the 16th century a number of bells have been and gone but only one of the original bells remains today.
FAQ’s (Things to know before you go)
Can you go inside St Basil’s Cathedral?
Visitors who pay the entrance fee of 700 Ruble is welcome inside. Children from 0-16 years are free to enter.
How long should I allow for my visit?
Plan for at least one hour to see the different chapels and have time to admire the domes. If you’re interested in history, culture, and religion, you might want to spend more time than 1-hour.
How tall is St Basil’s Cathedral?
The height of Saint Basil’s Cathedral is 65 meters (213 ft).
Is Saint Basil’s Cathedral accessible for disabled visitors?
Unfortunately, not all areas are wheelchair accessible.
Can I take pictures inside St. Basil’s cathedral?
Pictures and videos are permitted with the flash off and without a tripod. However, in temporary exhibitions, both photography and videography are prohibited.
Can I bring my luggage?
Only bags and backpack that are sized 30 x 40cm and under are permitted inside. If your luggage exceeds this, please leave it at your hotel or find suitable luggage storage in the city before visiting the cathedral.
Is St Basil’s cathedral open in bad weather?
If temperatures drop below – 15 degrees the cathedral will still be open but schedules will likely be reduced.
Are there any rules for visitors?
Visitors must not touch the windows or any exhibits and objects found inside the cathedral.
Do you have more questions before visiting St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow? Leave a comment below!