Travel Icon: Red Square, Russia
Originally published 30 July 2012
Red Square is a vibrant burst of colour amid Moscow's severe Soviet architecture. Indeed, the colourful, ice-cream-like profusion of St Basil's domes seem incongruous next to the stark red Kremlin walls. Add in GUM, the square's expansive grey department store, and you have an odd medley of styles and eras.
Yet despite this vaguely fairytale air, Red Square still feels imposing. Its history is marked with many military and political events, but it is now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is still an impressive sight, however: you feel both awestruck and insignificant here.
The square has much to offer. Lenin's Mausoleum sits beneath the Kremlin walls; visitors are rushed past the waxwork effigy of the man himself but once outside you can slow to examine the other historical headstones.
GUM is a fascinating demonstration of changing Russia: in the early days of Communism people queued here for tiny food portions; now international designers parade pricey goods in glorious window displays, and Porsches reside in the corridors.
The Kremlin, though, is the star of the city, from its vast collection of royal artefacts – including Fabergé eggs and Diamond Fund jewels – to the iconic domes of the Kremlin cathedrals.
Whether your interest is aesthetic, cultural or historical, Red Square is every bit as impressive as its quite formidable reputation.
Did you know?
- 'Red Square' in Russian is krasnaya ploshchad. This originally meant 'beautiful square'; it wasn't until the 20th century that krasnaya came to mean 'red' too.
- The square was originally designed as a marketplace; over time it evolved into a place for victory parades, official announcements, state events and executions.
- Many films have been shot in Red Square, including Arnold Schwarzenegger's Red Heat (the fi rst American film given permission to shoot here) and Air Force One, with Harrison Ford.
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