Plus wandering around Red Square
One of the highlights of this Museum Nerd’s trip to Russia was visiting the Armoury Chamber, part of the Moscow Kremlin Museums. Fun fact, though most of us from the U.S. think of The Kremlin as the seat of Russian government, and it is, the word kremlin can mean any citadel or walled fortress within a city. The more you know.
My friend Kara and I went to Russia over Thanksgiving week of 2019, with two full days in Moscow at the end of our trip. We had no set plan on how we would visit The Kremlin. Guided tours seemed pricey and too time consuming. We opted to choose one highlight of The Kremlin to focus on, knowing we could return the next day. We were staying at the beautiful, historic Hotel National, across the street from The Kremlin, and both our concierge and a good friend said the Armoury was a must-do.
We set out to visit The Kremlin early in the morning to give ourselves time to make it to our afternoon tour of the numerous Soviet-era public artworks throughout the Moscow Metro. It was a cold but sunny day – the only sunny day of our trip – and not knowing our way around, we wandered while trying to figure out where the ticketing area was. I was dying to take photos of the iconic, onion-domed St. Basil’s Cathedral, in the sun. Then, thinking we were getting in line for Kremlin tickets, we accidentally got in line for Lenin’s Mausoleum. We promptly got out of that line once we realized what it was. Neither of us wanted to spend precious time looking at the Soviet leader’s nearly 100-year-old embalmed body. We wandered some more, along the way seeing the tomb of the unknown soldier.
We finally found the ticketing area and purchased our entry to the Armoury Chamber. For capacity purposes, tickets are sold for four daily entry times; it was helpful to get to the ticket window early. If visiting Moscow during peak season, it may be necessary to purchase tickets in advance. Admission to the Armoury Chamber was 1000 rubles, or around $16, and it was worth every penny, and then some.
Photos aren’t allowed inside, but you can find a full, AMAZING virtual tour and images of some of the museum’s many treasures on its website. Highlights included: a display case holding 14 (!!!) Faberge eggs (for reference – each of these eggs are historically priceless and some are valued in the tens of millions), rooms full of armor, swords and military regalia from throughout Russia’s history, a giant room of gilt Cinderella-style carriages that transported Tsars, Tsarinas and other royals, silver table services, royal gowns and coronation robes, thrones, crowns, jewel-encrusted icon cases, and the list goes on!
Additionally, there is a Diamond Fund exhibition within the Armoury Chamber, operated and ticketed separately from the Kremlin Museums. After researching it a bit and seeing the many amazing exhibits of the Armoury Chamber, we opted to skip the Diamond Fund.
If you visit, and I really hope you do, give yourself at least two hours to visit the Armoury Chamber. There are free audio guides, which hit many of the highlights but don’t discuss the contents of every exhibit case, which would take forever. Like other museums of this magnitude, more than three hours in there could be overwhelming to the average visitor. Put this museum and a trip to Russia on your bucket list; you will not regret it.