With its colorful onion-shaped domes, St. Basil’s Cathedral may be one of the most iconic sights in Moscow, if not in all of Russia. Finished in 1561, the cathedral sits on one end of Red Square and marks the geometric center of Moscow. For 40 years after its construction, it was the tallest building in the city, eventually surpassed by the Ivan the Great Bell Tower.
St. Basil’s actually consists of 10 separate churches. When the building was first constructed, eight side churches surrounded the main Church of Intercession. A 10th church was added in 1588 over the grave of the local saint, Basil. While the cathedral was built to celebrate the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible, its side churches were designed to represent major events in Russian spiritual life in the second half of the 16th century.
The cathedral was confiscated from the Russian Orthodox community during Soviet times and now operates as a division of the State Historical Museum. It has been part of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990. Today, visitors can stroll through the galleries connecting the many churches while marveling at frescoes, oil paintings and Russian icons, many of which date to the 16th and 17th centuries.
St. Basil’s Cathedral is located on the southeastern end of Red Square, in the very center of Moscow. The nearest Metro station is Ploschad Revolyutsii, about a five minute walk from the cathedral. The ticket office closes 30 minutes before closing time.