Moscow is one of the most populated cities in Europe, but it’s also one that is filled with history that dates back thousands of years in some cases.
There are many buildings throughout Moscow, and especially in its Red Square area, that serve as iconic landmarks for the city itself, as well as the nation of Russia as a whole.
The various towers that surround some of Moscow’s most well-known buildings include the distinctly colorful, swelling tops that have served as recognizable imagery for the rest of the world when it comes to Russian architectural styles.
In this article, we will examine 10 of the most famous buildings in Moscow and take a look at the architects behind these great works, as well as the purpose for which the structures were originally constructed.
Famous Buildings in Moscow
1. Bolshoi Theatre
One building that is revered by locals, and visitors alike, to be the most famous structure in Moscow is the Bolshoi Theatre. This large, elegant building is known as one of the world’s greatest ballet and opera theatres in the world.
The building was formerly known as Petrovka Theatre in the late 18th century after it was constructed, but it would soon be purchased by others after Catherine II granted permission.
What is now recognized as the Bolshoi Theatre was rebuilt and remodeled, to an extent, after a devastating fire that destroyed much of the city of Moscow occurred when the French invaded the city in 1812.
The highly celebrated Russian architect, Joseph Bové, was known as the main designer who worked to rebuild much of the capital city after the fire and he is credited with the design of the Bolshoi Theatre as it stands today.
Bové’s style of building was considered to be neoclassical and it is evident in the many stone pillars that stand at the entrance of the building.
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It’s capable of seating roughly 1,800 visitors at one time and the interior is described as transcendent when compared to other structures from this time period.
Bové worked to maintain much of the building’s former glory and many believe he greatly improved its interior following the fire of 1812.
2. St. Basil’s Cathedral
There is little doubt among visitors to Moscow, as well as those who are vaguely familiar with the destination, that the most recognizable building in the Russian capital is St. Basil’s Cathedral.
This truly iconic building features a multitude of towers that vary in height, as well as colorful design. The St. Basil’s Cathedral is distinct in its color and design as it features a very lively crimson red that’s complemented nicely with a cream colored trim around many of the doors, windows and other sections.
The magnificent structure is filled with history as it was built under the supervision of Ivan IV, who is notoriously called “Ivan the Terrible.”
Construction started on the building in 1555 and it was mostly finished just a few years later in 1561, but there would be numerous re-modelings to certain parts of St. Basil’s Cathedral, as well as additions that took place in the centuries that followed.
Its staggered layered design is one that is distinct to Russia, but it is especially prevalent in Moscow above all other cities across the country. The building was mostly designed by Postnik Yakovlev and Ivan Barma, who were considered to be two of the most highly revered architects of their era.
3. Ostankino Tower
Nearly every building in Moscow adheres, to some extent, to the overall architectural style that can be found across Russia and especially in Moscow. This is true for even the Ostankino Tower, which was originally constructed to serve as a television and radio communication tower during the mid-20th century.
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It was designed by Nikolai Nikitin, who was a well-known architect in Russia during the 1960’s and wanted the tower to serve as both a piece of communications infrastructure, as well as a monument to the city itself.
Construction on the Ostankino Tower started in the spring of 1963 and it would take another four years before the tower was finally completed. As of its completion in 1967, it stood as the tallest tower in the world until 1974.
Today, the tower mainly serves as Nikitin intended it to, which is mostly as a landmark and a symbol of Moscow, as well as pride in the Russian style of architecture. It still functions much as a piece of communication infrastructure, but is mostly preserved as a local icon for Moscow.
4. Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
There are various churches and cathedrals scattered across Russia that are considered to be among the most beautiful of any found in Europe, but the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is largely viewed as one of the most breathtaking structures in all of Russia.
Located in the heart of Moscow, this large and imposing structure was built as a historic landmark and center of worship for those of the Catholic faith during this era.
According to historians, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was planned to be constructed as a means for Tsar Alexander I to mark the victory of Russia over the invading French forces in 1812.
Alexander I actually signed a manifesto which stated that the cathedral was built to honor Christ and “to signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her.”
The building features incredible gold-capped towers and snow-white walls along with incrementally taller arched sections that lead to the grand entrance.
The architectural style is very much in line with everything else one would expect to find throughout Moscow that dates back to this time period, but it’s evident that this great building is a very special landmark.
Russia is a nation that is considered to be one of the world’s greatest superpowers in terms of military might and one of Moscow’s most well-known buildings is connected to that reputation of strength and fortitude.
The Kremlin is one of the largest, most expensive structures found in Moscow and is the birthplace of the political organization that dominated the Cold War.
The Kremlin is a beautiful building that was originally constructed in 1482 and its name literally translates in Russian to “fortress inside a city.”
It was built on a historic site that dates back more than 1,000 years to the Finnic peoples and had been used as a fortress for many centuries as the location looks over the point in which the Neglinnaya River flows into the Moskva.
Today, the Kremlin is mostly used for ceremonial purposes and houses many of the higher governmental officials for various special occasions. It sits on a massive swath of land that is walled around nearly 3,000,000 square feet of space inside Moscow.
6. Grand Kremlin Palace
Just to the south of the Kremlin is another iconic building in Moscow that bears a similar name. The Grand Kremlin Palace was a location for many centuries where various tsars and rulers lived or stayed while visiting the city.
It sits on Borovitsky Hill, which had been used as a fortress for centuries before the formal construction of the Grand Kremlin Palace.
The large building sits along the edge of the winding Moskva River, which curves its way throughout the city and was formerly used as a trading route for certain vessels that were small or light enough to traverse its waters.
The Grand Kremlin Palace was constructed beginning in 1837 and was completed in 1849 in the place of a building that was once home to Russia’s princes and tsars.
The architectural style is very different from some of Moscow’s other notable buildings with much of the Grand Kremlin Palace featuring geometric patterns and a very uniform appearance that was common for the late classicism style of architecture.
7. Lenin’s Mausoleum
Vladimir Lenin is regarded as one of the most famous figures in Russian history and his tomb is also one of the most well known buildings found in Russia’s capital city.
Lenin was a very influential political leader who helped bring about many changes and even revolutions in Russia during the early 20th century. He died at a time when many believed he was nearing the crest of his political and social influence at the age of 53 and his mausoleum has long been a well-known site in Moscow.
It was constructed in 1924 shortly after his death and is one of the most visited sites within the city of Moscow as it features great historic value.
Lenin’s Mausoleum is one of the few gravesites of a great political figure where his body has actually been preserved using extensive methods that were revolutionary for the time of his death and have since proven effective as Lenin’s body has remained in surprisingly good condition for nearly a century.
The mausoleum itself is painted in the characteristic dark red paint that so often adorns much of the city’s famous structures. It features a small, but distinct pyramid-like shape with blocks making up various levels of the structure.
8. State Museum of Konstantin and Viktor Melnikov
One of the most unique structures among our list of Moscow’s most famous buildings is known as State Museum of Konstantin and Viktor Melnikov.
This small, but intricately-designed building was the home of the notable architect and designer, Viktor Melnikov. It is built in an unusual cylindrical style that includes various diamond-shaped windows around the outer top portion.
The building was constructed in the 1920’s and served as the home of the famous architect for many years.
In recent years, the State Museum of Konstantin and Viktor Melnikov was dedicated as an official ‘state museum’ in 2014 and has since become a very popular tourist destination, especially for those interested in Russian-style architecture.
The main purpose behind the cylindrical design was so that Melnikov’s home would display incredible lighting throughout the day as the sun passed overhead.
This was accomplished to a great extend thanks to the unique honeycomb-style windows that disperse light in a distinctly-beautiful fashion throughout the home’s interior.
9. Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy(VDNKh)
One of the city of Moscow’s greatest buildings that has been a continual work in progress throughout the decades since it was first constructed is the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy(VDNKh).
This structure is a large monument located very near the center of Moscow and borders the Ostankino Park, as well as the Moscow Botanical Garden.
Constructed in the 1930’s, the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy(VDNKh) first opened to the public in 1935 and it was meant to serve as a large complex that was a combination of a museum and recreational site for many in Moscow.
It has changed greatly throughout the years with certain portions being torn down and others erected in its place, but the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy(VDNKh) in recent years has been designed with specialized lighting that makes the building visually impressive during the day or night.
10. Dormition Cathedral
One of the oldest and most highly-revered structures in Moscow is the Dormition Cathedral. This Orthodox chapel is relatively small in terms of size, but is one that contains more historical value than just about any other church or chapel in Russia.
Archaeologists working at the site have uncovered evidence to indicate that there was a wooden church structure in place at some point during the 12th or 13th centuries and this was later improved during the 15th century when construction began on the Dormition Cathedral.
Construction on the Dormition Cathedral began around 1475 and the building was completed in 1479. Since that time, it has largely remained in its original state as the Russian Orthodox church has worked to preserve the majesty and history of one of its oldest structures.
The interior is adorned with paintings, or murals along the walls of the church. The building’s five gold-capped towers sit on top of the structure.