Many would argue that St Basil's Cathedral is Moscow's most famous attraction, with its multicoloured flame-like towers a world-recognised feature. Surprisingly, however, its distinctive architecture has no analogs in Russian or Byzantine architecture. The Cathedral was built in 1555 upon the order of Ivan the Terrible to mark the seizure of Kazan from Mongol forces. Despite its unique appearance, the Cathedral faced demolition by Stalin, as it obstructed Soviet plans for grand mass rallies on Red Square - it only narrowly escaped destruction thanks to appeals from architect Pyotr Baranovsky (who was imprisoned for five years for his dissent).
Actually called the Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat, this emblematic church building takes its common moniker from the "holy fool" laid to rest in a silver casket in the lower floor chapel. The building is actually a cluster of ten interconnected towers, belying its outward appearance and cathedral status.
Inside the Cathedral, you'll find a series of small chapel spaces, narrow wooden corridors and winding, rickety staircases. The chapels themselves vary considerably in style and grandeur: be sure to check out the Chapel of the Intercession, with its gaudy, elaborate illustrations, and contrast this with bare, stark examples such as the Chapel of St Nicholas. Most of the decoration is simple paintwork: brightly coloured floral and geometric patterns, licked with accents of gold leaf. The interior, as a whole, is most evocative of the middle ages, appearing much older than its contemporary sacred buildings in other European cities.
Seeing all of the publicly-open rooms will involve climbing some pretty ancient, worn and winding narrow staircases.
Throughout the Year
Entry to St Basil's Cathedral
St Basil's Cathedral