They really don't try to make it easy for you here, do they? Buying tickets to the famous fortress, perhaps, one of the best examples of that. Getting inside and visiting everything that it has to offer takes cunning, stamina and determination. It's like solving the Da Vinci code in real life. You need to stand in two different lines to buy 4 different tickets, find several special entrances, stealthily sneak by a couple armed guards and quickly know them out if you get noticed. Or... something like that. Let's start from the beginning...
Types of tickets
There are 4 different things to see inside the Kremlin and therefore 4 separate tickets to buy if you want to visit them all. These are: Kremlin's territory and its cathedrals, Ivan the Great bell tower, Armory Chamber and Diamond Fund.
Kremlin's territory and cathedrals - 500 RUB
The most basic and default ticket to simply enter the Kremlin's territory, take a look around and get inside several historic churches.
Ivan the Great bell tower - 350 RUB
Allows you to climb to the top floor of the tallest structure in the Kremlin - Ivan the Great tower. And enjoy the 360-degree view of the city center from about 70-75 meters above the ground. The ticket price apparently includes a free audio guide that you can grab at the entrance to the tower.
Armory Chamber - 700 RUB
The famous museum inside the Kremlin's territory. Holds numerous collections of Russian royal belongings: dresses, crowns, thrones, carriages and Faberge eggs. Two relatively compact floors stuffed to the brim with mostly gold and silver objects of all sorts and almost no armor whatsoever. Takes about 1,5 hours to see it all with the included audio guide.
Diamond Fund - 500 RUB
A special, heavily guarded room in the basement of the Armory Museum building that holds the second most valuable diamond collection in the world. Certainly the most visually striking part of the whole Kremlin complex even though of the size of a one-bedroom apartment. Takes maximum 20-25 minutes to see. Provides some free audio guides too.
Buying tickets online
Before reading anything else, for your own sake, please, consider buying the tickets online especially if you're planning on visiting the Armory. The rest of this article does suggest you the best ways of obtaining even Armory tickets from the regular ticket booth, but it very honestly promises that you'll be going through hell. With no exaggeration... through Hell!
Here's an entire article about online ticket purchasing.
Two ticket offices
There are technically two ticket offices in the Kremlin: one inside and one outside. The following paragraph is all about the main one outside. It's the one that everyone goes to, and the one that you simply cannot miss if you want to get inside the Kremlin. The other one is made to help you buy additional tickets if you've already entered, but changed your mind and decided to see and visit more. You can find all the details about it by reading this post.
Where to find and how to get there
First off, here's how the main ticket office looks like and its location on the map:
All you need to do to find the ticket office is to exit Red Square on the side of the History Museum (the side opposite to St. Basil's Cathedral), turn left, through the big gates enter the park called Alexander's Garden, and go all the way forward until you see a red brick bridge crossing your way. Pass underneath it and you'll see a big, black, glass structure on your left. That's the main ticket office.
Buying tickets through the automated ticket machines
Inside the booth you'll see several ticket windows and ticket machines. Using the latter is the easiest way of buying tickets here, but they only sell the ones to the territory. If you weren't going to see anything else, this is the perfect way for you to get in. Here's how the machines look like:
All you need to do is to get to the screen, tap the British Flag, tap Tickets, choose the right type of tickets you need from all the one option available, "Zoom In" to the right quantity (only sells 4 at a time. You'll have to use it again if you need more), and pay for them with your card or cash (any banknotes under 5000 RUB).
Note that the machines only sell full-priced tickets with no discounts. But thankfully, the Kremlin recently canceled all the discounts altogether, so you can buy them like that without loosing anything. Unless you're bringing a kid under 12 with you. Even though he/she is entitled to a free ticket, you'll have to get an actual ticket itself for him/her to get in. And that you can do only in the ticket windows. However, if there's too big of a line there, a good idea would be to buy a full-priced ticket for your child through the machines too.
If you want to go to the Armory too though, and you haven't bought those online; standing in line is inevitable. You can skip dealing with the machines first, since you can buy the Armory and the territory tickets at the same time from the same window. Here's how you can do it.
Buying tickets from the ticket windows
There are 6 different ticket windows there. First two on the left side are only for organized tourist groups and for collecting your pre-paid online tickets. Numbers 3,4 and 6, I believe, (read the inscriptions above each window) are for the bell tower, the territory and the Armory. The last one - 5th is for the Diamond Fund tickets (the very distinct blue one).
The main windows 3,4 and 6 in summertime gather some reasonable queues. Why would anyone stay there? Those people haven't figured out how to use the ticket machines, they want to go to the Armory and no one has told them that they could and should buy those tickets online, they really want to go to the bell tower for some reason, or they are penny pinching folks that will stop them nothing from getting a freebie for their kiddo.
Think about it. Do you belong to any of those groups? I truly hope that after reading all the articles on this website about Kremlin tickets you shouldn't. And I really wish you decide to stay in those lines only as a measure of last resort, and if this is absolutely the last available option. Let me just once again remind you that standing there for Armory tickets in summertime is an utterly devastating experience, and you have to at least try to buy them online first. Here's an entire article about it.
Decided to stay? Well... You've been warned. Here's how you do it.
Armory and territory tickets
About the territory, once again, if you're going just there, you can easily buy those in the automatic machines in the corner without almost any line at all. You should only do that through the ticket windows if you're also going to the Armory. In which case you'll have to stand in an hour-long line with other people hunting for Armory tickets too.
Now, the trickiest moment - Armory tickets themselves. Due to limited size of the museum, all of the daily visits are split between 4 time windows with a limited number of tickets sold for each of them. Those time-slots are: 10:00 AM; 12:00 PM; 2:30 PM and 4:30 PM. There are only 500 tickets available each time, of which more than a half in summertime is usually pre-sold online, reserved by big organized tourist groups or bought by scalpers at the beginning of the line and immediately re-sold to people at the end of the line for as much as 3500 RUB (or "a very good price" as they usually call it). The real price is 700 RUB, just in case.
So your chances of buying them, depending on the size of the line, might already be not that big even if you haven't even started standing for them yet. How do you increase them? By getting there waaay ahead of time. (The most hassle-free opportunity is to come at 8:45-9:00 AM before the ticket office even opens. You'll be almost certainly among the first in line when the tickets start getting sold. Or at least right after the folks who've been camping there overnight).
The sales of tickets for every time-slot start 45 minutes in advance. Here's what happens every time in summer, and why the line eventually becomes so long.
As mentioned, ticket quantity is limited. So in summer there's almost a 100% chance that a significant portion of any given queue throughout the day won't get any tickets. Some of those people will simply take just the territory tickets and be content with it. But some will get so understandably upset that they will decide to stand entire two hours there until the sales for the next time-slot open. That might sound crazy at first, but when you meet people who have tried to get to this line 3 times on the same day at recommended times (45 minutes ahead), and 3 times they missed them; then you realize that the severity of frustration from wasting an entire day for it is nothing compared with 2 more hours of standing there. At least if you do that, you know that you'll be somewhere in the beginning of the line this time.
That's why the line gets so big every time. Because you're not just in it with others like you buying them for a particular time, but also with people who missed their tickets from the previous session or even two.
But because those people can't hold the line for other people who just want to buy the regular territory tickets, sometimes they organize an entire parallel queue that just stays there without moving until the next time-slot opens allowing everyone else who's not there for the Armory to just go ahead without a line at all.
Again, this is an extreme measure, but it's the only one that can increase your chances of obtaining anything there to over 90% depending on how early you decide to show up.
So, to cap this off. On an average off-season day somewhere mid-spring or fall the best way for you to buy your Armory tickets will be to estimate how long the existing line will take and take it at such a moment that will bring you to the ticket window just in time for the next sale to start (45 minutes in advance).
On a hot summer day in the middle of July or August the only way to buy them will be to start queuing at least 1,5-2 hours in advance. Ask at the start of the line whether there's that parallel Armory queue that I talked about, and whether people standing there even understand what they are doing. If there is, jump right in. If there isn't, be the one to start it. That's right. Get there super early, and if the line reaches you way before the sale starts, simply turn to the next person behind and explain the situation. Which is that if he wants Armory tickets as you, he should stand behind you. If not, and he's here just for the territory tickets, he can go ahead and buy them. Then tell that to as many other people down the line, and that they should tell that to the people behind them too. Or simply start yelling that people who are here for the territory tickets can go ahead. A good idea will be to find a Russia person who's also there for the Armory ans who can understand you, and tell him to repeat your message in Russian to all the approaching Russian people there as well.
Most importantly, do not mind looking weird throughout the whole process. You'll feel much worse if you miss your tickets in the end. If anyone gives you a side-eye, don't take it personally. The heat and lack of information sometimes brings the worst out of people. More often than not up to 90% of the whole queue have no freaking idea of what are they standing there for. So be patient, explain yourself, talk to people - and in the end, you'll be rewarded.
Ivan the Great Bell Tower
The bell tower tickets are sold from the same windows as Armory and territory tickets, so all of the above said knowledge about standing in those lines applies to them as well. There's a certain separate schedule for when can you visit it, and when do they start selling them. Look for it somewhere right around the ticket windows themselves. It's usually something like: a visit every 45 minutes with 30-minute advance sales. Those tickets are much less popular than the Armory, so coming 2 hours ahead is unnecessary. Recommended 30 minutes will do just fine. But I'm not sure that trying to calculate the perfect moment to be able to buy all three ticket at a time is worth the effort. It's not that essential, unless you are a professional photographer and visiting solely for the panoramic vistas.
The best way to buy them is to ask whether they are available while buying other tickets. If it so happens that they are, so much better for you. If they aren't, not that big of a deal.
On the surface, after all written above this is the easiest one to get. But even here, there's a bit of a twist in the end.
The simple part is that you just need to go to the special Diamond Fund ticket window number 5 and buy tickets for the closest available time.
Now, the Diamond Fund has the same system of special time-tables allocating only a certain number of tickets to every time-slot and requiring people to reserve their tickets in advance very much like the Armory Chamber. But... It is an unwritten rule there that all foreigners can just come and go as they please at any moment. And everyone seems to be aware of that except one particular guy on your way in.
You see the reason why they let you in like that is because a normal ticket there for a Russian person includes a Russian human guide. But since they only do those tours in Russian, they apparently figured that it'll be much easier for everyone if they just allowed all foreigners in at any moment. And it is swell and all, but because of the very existence of those time-slots, every ticket you buy has a particular time stamped on it whether you purchase it as a Russian person or a foreigner. Which is not that big of a deal since everyone there knows the rule. The lady in the ticket office will sell you tickets at any time, the guards at the entrance to the museum will let you in at any moment. Whether you come an hour earlier or three hours later than the time on your ticket, they don't care. A foreigner? - Come right in!
But to get to the entrance to the museum itself, you first need to get inside the Armory building where it is located. And the guy at that entrance might not be always as enlightened about their sneaky internal rules about foreigners. He sees the ticket, he sees the time on it, looks at his watch, does some math in his head; and if the numbers don't match, he doesn't let you in. Very straightforward. And though some are better than others, there's some chance that you can get to an impasse with him. Don't try to argue in this case, he's from the Russian military. That's like arguing with a concrete wall. Instead, just take another entrance to the building.
Remember, you doing everything right. It's just the rule is not always properly communicated to all of the guards around them, and the lady selling tickets just can't help but to print some time on them. The machine automatically gives her tickets to the next time-slot slated that day, and depending on when do you get there, it can be as far as an hour ahead of your current time.
So not wait that hour outside in the worst case scenario, just go through the entrance to the Armory Museum. Here's the picture (it might be slightly too schematic, but I hope it does its job):
What you see is a schematic image of the Armory building as seen right after you pass the metal detector. Entrances 2 and 1 are the supposed entrances to the Diamond Fund and the Armory respectively. Entrances 3 and 4 are the actual entrances to those museums inside the building on the basement floor. Once you've passed through 1 or 2, you can walk around that basement level with bathrooms, a cloakroom and a souvenir store for as long as you want without actually entering any of the museums.
So the guard that you're trying to bypass is at the 2nd entrance. The actual Fund's entry is number 3. All you need to do is to go through the 1st one instead. If anyone there sends you back to the 2nd, just tell them that you're going to the bathroom, which is on the left side after entering through the 1st. It's a benevolent lie, I assure you. You have limited time here, and you've got to use every loophole available.
In case you still haven't figured out where to go after purchasing all of those tickets, here's that picture again:
Entrance 1 is for the bell tower, territory and cathedrals; entrance 2 is for the Armory and the Diamond Fund.
Thanks for reading! Now you should know exactly what to do and where to go if you want to buy any kind of Kremlin tickets. Hope it helps. Please, click the ads below if you liked it. Leave your comments below or send them to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your Kremlin visit!