Like a tree, Moscow has grown outward year to year in concentric circles, from iron age huts on Borovitsky hill, replaced by ever more opulent constructions, to the still-growing suburbs that have burst through the MKAD into the surrounding countryside. At the heart of it all, the Kremlin still holds its own as seat of power and world-class tourist attraction, even in foggy November. In fact, it is made more attractive by the diminishing crowds and by the lovely exhibition of porcelain from the Imperial Factory in St. Petersburg. By starting in the nearby Archeological Museum, you can really get a sense of the layers of history that have accumulated here and the artifacts they left behind, from crude medieval pots to the "white gold" of the tsars. 1. The Archeological Museum, seven meters deep underground through an archway opposite the famous equestrian statue of Marshall Zhukov, is the excavation site of an old bridge across the Neglinnaya River, which now flows through a pipe into the Moskva. You can locate both bridge and river on the museum's model of the old city and you can feel the weight of history above you. Although Moscow officially dates its founding from the first 12th century wooden fortress constructed by Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, (whose statue rides above nearby Tverskaya), there is evidence of human habitation dating back 5,000 years. In some of the pits dug here in the 1990s, archeologists found six layers corresponding to different eras, the top one being a foot of tarmac. Coming up to the surface again, turn right through the gates of Alexandrovsky Sad, with the ancient river running unseen below you.
2. Head for the Kutafaya Tower straight ahead, crossing the garden and passing on your left the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its eternal flame, where brides can often be seen laying flowers, the grotto and the obelisk, a "Monument to Revolutionary thinkers." If the queue at the kiosk selling entrance tickets for the Kremlin and Armoury is off-puttingly long, it's worth trying the kiosk just beyond the tower, which often seems to be less busy. Buy a 300 ruble ticket for the "Architectural En semble," leave your bags at the cloakroom and proceed through the turnstiles towards the gate of the 15th century Trinity Tower, tallest of the twenty towers set in the red brick walls of the Kremlin.
3. Once inside the gateway, the glass and concrete 1960s State Kremlin Palace is on your right and the white and yellow buildings of the Arsenal and the Senate on your left. The Arsenal has a fine collection of cannons outside it, but the biggest one, the ornate "Tsar Cannon" is straight on and round the corner to the right. Beyond it is the world's largest bell, the 202 ton "Tsar Bell," cracked by contact with water while it was still cooling in the foundry. To the left of these Ozymandian monuments is the famous Spasskaya (Saviour) tower with its clock, and the delightful "Secret Gardens" where ornamental cherries still hang on the branches while, beyond the walls, the relative leaflessness makes for good views over Zamoskvorechie.
4. If you walk from the bell, through the garden and right along the wall to admire the view, you come to a zebra crossing before the Armory, leading you back into Sobornaya Ploschad, which the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva described as an "incomparable circle of five cathedrals, ancient holy friend." Starting on your right in the Archangel Cathedral, with its scallop shell gables, you can find the tombs of three centuries of Moscow's rulers, lined up below the chandeliers and high, painted ceilings, with Ivan the Terrible and the son he murdered hidden behind the iconostasis. Tsvetaeva wrote that Moscow was where "...domes are burning, bells are ringing and tombs stand in rows. In them rest tsars and tsarinas."
5. Standing opposite, with nine newly-polished golden domes, is the Annunciation Cathedral (currently closed for restoration) and next to it the "Palace of Facets," the oldest secular building in modern Moscow. These were both part of Ivan III (the Great's) ambitious late 15th century rebuilding project, using Italian architects to copy Russian forms. So too was the magnificent Assumption Cathedral, facing you across the square with a fresco of the Virgin Mary above the door; inside is the wooden "Throne of Monomakh," carved for Ivan the Terrible, while the iconostasis contains an early copy of one of Russia's holiest pictures, the tender Virgin of Vladimir (left of the central ‘king's gate').
6. Don't miss the wood carvings in the "Church of the Deposition of the Robe" hidden next to the Assumption cathedral (through an unmarked wooden door), or the 17th century Patriarch's Palace with its ovens for making holy oil from 50 herbs, or the small museum and Church of the Twelve Apostles. Leave yourself some energy to enjoy the exhibition in Ivan the Great's belfry, containing some beautiful porcelain from the 18th and 19th centuries. When you've had enough, head back out through the archway to Alexandrovsky Sad station. Looking back at the collection of towers and palaces, you can reflect on Lermontov's words, "They have to be seen." When you've finished, you can hop on the red line of the metro and head up to Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) for some fresh air and views over the wintry city.
Family friendly features
1.There are no refreshments at all inside the Kremlin and it's quite hard to get a picnic past the guards, but there is a useful row of cafes by the Alexandrovsky gardens, part of the Okhotny Ryad shopping centre, which features the usual suspects: Planet Sushi, Sbarro, and McDonald's. In the basement of Okhotny Ryad there is a big Internet cafe.
2.In front of these cafes is a row of sculptures, with fountains in summer depiciting scenes from Russian fairy tales.
3.There are plenty of details to interest kids in the Kremlin: the giant, painted church candles, the life-like silver chess pieces in the patriarch's palace or the tea service shaped like a bowl of fruit in the exhibition.
4.When it snows, you can sled down the slopes outside the Kremlin walls.