UNESCO World Heritage-listed Red Square and the multi-coloured onion domes of St Basil’s Cathedral

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Red Square and the multi-coloured onion domes of St Basil’s Cathedral

Occupying the Red Square’s south side, the 16th century St Basil’s Cathedral is as extraordinary a creation as you’re ever likely to see. At once brash and refined, chaotic and coherent, this is a lush, fairytale building, one that legends readily attach themselves to (the most famous of which being that Ivan the Terrible blinded the architect responsible, so that he could not recreate his masterpiece elsewhere). An icon and recognisable it may be, but those famous onion domes are more colourful and joyous than any painting or photograph can capture – the swirls of green, stripes of red and shocks of gold are truly one of the greatest man-made sights around.

Often under threat of being removed and buried in St Petersburg (as was his wish), Lenin’s remains remain, for the time being, on show and unmissable in Red Square. Daily moisturising work and intermittent chemical baths preserve the body, and the former Soviet leader has been on public display here since shortly after his death in 1924. Some find the body’s appearance slightly odd – a little waxy, curiously unreal. This however is no kitsch sideshow, but a place of respect for Russians – a reverential atmosphere pervades, and the spectacle offers an interesting window on a people’s attitude towards one of the nation’s defining figures.

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