(The prices and the order of ticket windows were significantly changed recently. The article is still useful, but expect to pay 200-300 RUB more for everything).
Whether you're buying some of your Kremlin tickets online or not, you'll still have to visit its official ticket office, eventually. So reading this article should be helpful not just to buy them there but to collect your pre-ordered tickets as well.
The Kremlin ticket office looks like this:
It can be slightly differently decorated from year to year. But the main black glass structure underneath it all is always the same.
It is located in the middle of Alexander's Garden next to the red brick bridge that crosses it:
That bridge is the main entrance to the Kremlin, by the way, if you include 'Architectural complex of Cathedral Square' in your visit.
Once you get inside that glass box of a ticket office, you'll see several ticket windows along one side, the official souvenir store and offices along the other and a couple of automatic ticket tellers in the far end of the room.
Window 5, painted in blue colors, sells only Diamond Fund tickets. Windows 6 and 7 sell tickets to the territory (Cathedral Square) and the bell tower (if it's summer and it's open). Window 8 is only Armory tickets. Windows 9 and 10 on the other side from the entrance are for collecting your pre-ordered tickets.
Looking at lines to windows 8 and 9 should immediately make you wish you bought those Armory tickets online. The queue to number 8 in summer can go a long way outside of the ticket office itself. The line at window 9, where people just claim what they bought online, is usually somewhere between 1-3 people long.
Again, if you're reading this from the safety and tranquility of your home or hotel, please, think once again about buying your Armory tickets online if you intend to buy them at all.
Unfortunately, there's no magic universal ticket that'll just let you go everywhere right away. Even in the best case scenario where you've pre-ordered your Armory and Cathedral Square tickets online, but where you still wan to buy all 4 different tickets, you'll have to approach 3 (!!!) separate ticket windows. One to collect your online purchase, one for the bell tower and one for the Fund.
So here are best tips for purchasing every single kind of ticket available there from the easiest to buy to the less so.
Architectural complex of Cathedral Square tickets (windows 6 and 7)
Those are the most available and easiest to buy. It's 500 RUB per person without any discounts. Ready to be sold at any quantity, at any time.
Just take the line to the windows 6 or 7, say how many you need, pay, and you're good to go. All ticket windows accept cards. Lines to those windows are the fastest moving ones.
In case of extremely intense tourist season, and you arriving right in the middle of it, even those fast-paced queues can get pretty long. In this case, just use those ticket terminals in the corner:
They are very useful (unless they run out of tickets), and surprisingly, don't usually attract much attention. The majority of people would always stand in lines to ticket windows even if you loudly announce to everyone that 'yo, people, you can also buy them here'.
The machines have English interfaces. Make sure you tap the British flag to switch to it and then choose the 'Architectural complex of Cathedral Square' and not anything else that occasionally might appear there. Everything is translated pretty well except for the 'Zoom In' and 'Zoom Out' buttons you'll notice that don't make any sense and you should definitely make fun of.
All ticket terminals accept bank cards and actually work when you try to pay with one.
The only downside of buying them through those machines is that you won't get a nice free map of the Kremlin. Those are only given in the ticket windows.
Diamond Fund tickets (window 5)
The second easiest to buy ticket is the one for the Diamond Fund. Buying it should be almost as smooth as the Cathedral Square ticket, but there are no special terminals to speed up the process, the queue's progression speed can potentially hit some serious bumps along the way, and this particular ticket office closes for lunch time.
You should keep in mind that the reason why you're able to just show up at the window and buy those tickets at any moment is because you're a foreigner. You see, technically, the Diamond Fund, just like the Armory, also has a special schedule of several available time-slots every day with limited number of tickets for each. And buying them could've been even more painful that to the Armory Chamber. But they charge 500 RUB per person primarily for the fact that there's a tour with a live guide included with every ticket. So since all those tours are 100% in Russian, they just decided to sell them to foreigners at any moment.
But since not everyone in that queue will be a foreigner, and it might take the woman inside a bit more time to explain to local Russian people how that whole time-slot system works and then calm them down after they see foreigners getting those tickets right away... phhhhhffffff... the whole thing might take a while even with a relatively short line.
But those are rather rare cases, and in general, the tickets are not that complicated to get.
Note: This ticket office is the only one that closes for lunch time. The Diamond Fund officially doesn't belong to the Kremlin Museums. It is run, instead, by some part of the Ministry of Finance of Russia. It allows them to set their own rules and be more welcoming to foreigners. But among those rules is their absolutely incredible lunch break.
It is just 1 hour. But a different hour for the museum and its ticket office. The office is closed 12-1 PM, the museum - 1-2 PM. The idea was that apparently you would spend an entire hour walking to the museum after buying a ticket and this way wouldn't even notice that the museum itself was closed at all. But if seems slightly odd to you at any moment, you're not the only one.
Also, you can skip standing in that line at all and still get to the Fund because you can buy tickets right inside the Armory building (they are in the same building), in front of the Fund's entrance. But for that you'll have to have a ticket to the Armory to have a reason to get inside that building in the first place.
Ivan the Great bell tower tickets (windows 6 and 7)
This is where things start get a big more complicated. Nothing extraordinary, but those tickets are sold only for very specific timed visits at very specific time intervals.
Visits' timetable: 10:15, 11:15, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00. And for each different time you can only buy tickets starting from 45 minutes before the visit. Sort of, not only they want you to be able to climb the declared 137 steps, but also each of the visitors to be good at math.
You want to buy them online? - No. You want to buy a ticket to a later visit in the evening when you'll have time? - No. You want to join a 2 PM session with a 1 PM ticket? - Nope, not in this tower. You want to return money if you didn't make it there in time? - A well rehearsed 'No refunds' speech is already waiting for you back in the ticket office.
Plus, it's not the most spacious building in the world (width-wise), so only about 50-80 tickets are available for every hour.
So, it's a nice tower, and 250 RUB is not that much to ask for it. They also recently added some quick, improvised museum of the 'history of the Kremlin's architecture' inside to pad out the whole experience a bit. But waiting an hour until tickets become available (in case they aren't) or calculating the exact moment that you should show up at the ticket window to buy them, might not really be worth your time and effort.
But it's nice that they are sold in the same windows as the regular Kremlin territory tickets (Cathedral Square). So the best advise, if you're just considering going in, would be to buy your regular Kremlin tickets in those windows and while buying them ask about the tower as well. If those tickets happen to be available at that very moment, take them right away. It'll be a nice addition to you territory visit. If they aren't, well... it wouldn't be a dramatic loss.
If your intentions are to get to that tower no matter what, then the best way to buy them would be to come to the ticket windows 1 hour (instead of 45 minuted) before the planned visit. This way you'll be among the first in line and will have more chances of buying one.
Armory tickets (window 8)
These are very similar to bell tower tickets in terms of having a special timetable of visits, being sold only 45 minutes before each session only for this particular hour and not for any later time and in terms of having no refunds as well.
But... there are sooo many more people who want to visit it. The lines to the only ticket window that sells Armory tickets in summertime can be so insane that sneaky scalpers, that have better sense on how those lines work, manage to get to the top of the line, buy a bunch, get to the back of the line and immediately sell them for as much as 2500 RUB a piece. The original ticket price is 700 RUB (no discounts). That is over 250% margin just for walking a couple of dozen meters to the end of the queue.
Again, this applies only to summer months. If you happened to come any time past September and before May, just go there and buy them. Just keep in mind the Armory's visit schedule.
10:00 AM; 12:00 PM; 2:30 PM; 4:30 PM - these are 4 possible visiting hours, the tickets start being sold 45 minutes beforehand, and you better be there an hour before instead to be ahead of the competition.
Also, even if it's the middle of the tourist season, you can still get them by coming early in the morning. The ticket office opens at 9:30 AM. So if you come at 9:00 AM, you'll certainly be one of the first in line and buy them for 10:00 AM visit.
If you just suddenly decide to buy them in the middle of a hot summer day, you have to go to the ticket window 1,5 hours or slightly more before the planned visit. There are only 500 tickets available for every slot, 100 of which are pre-sold online and another 100-200 pre-sold to organized tourist groups of big tour operators. So there's quite a limited supply, and eventually, on an average summer day there's about 80-90% chance they'll run out of tickets for any given hour within first 20-30 minutes of selling them, and half the queue will have to wait another hour or come next day.
So, buy online, come before hours, take the queue veeery early or bargain with scalpers. Those would be your best strategies of obtaining your Armory tickets.
And that will do it for the best tip on buying Kremlin tickets in the official ticket office. I hope makes your ticket-purchasing process smoother and faster leaving you more time to enjoy everything inside the Kremlin.
Share the article everywhere you can if you liked it. Thanks for reading, and have a nice visit!