Red Square - it’s not red and it’s not square!

3 min read    49 comments

Nowhere epitomizes Moscow, Russia's vast and ancient capital, quite like Red Square. An enormous 400 by 150 metres, Red Square lies in the heart of Moscow and on its four sides stand the Kremlin, GUM Department Store, State Historical Museum and St. Basil's Cathedral - centres of government, commerce, history and religion. The square is also home to Lenin's tomb, a gleaming granite mausoleum to the revered founder of Socialism - a system that, like Lenin himself, is dead but not forgotten.

Red Square was established in the 15th Century, under the rule of Ivan III, and was originally called Trinity Square after the Trinity Cathedral, which used to stand on the site where St. Basil's stands now. Sometime later the name 'Krasnaya Ploschad' became popular. The word 'krasnaya' is ambiguous. Originally meaning beautiful in old Russian, it only came to mean red in more modern times. Commonly-held assumptions then that the 'Red' in Red Square referred to Communism, blood spilt - or even the colour of the monuments - are in fact misplaced!

Located on the site of the city's old market place, over the years Red Square has acted as Moscow's equivalent to ancient Rome's Forum - a vast meeting place for the people. It has been a place for celebrating religious festivals, for public gatherings, for listening to Government announcements or Tsars' addresses, and even watching executions (various political dissidents were publicly butchered here by Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great). The square has also been the scene of more than one display of Russian military might - the most notable of which was in 1941 when lines of Russian tanks rolled through on their way to a front-line confrontation with the Germans. It provided a much needed boost to Russians' morale in their greatest hour of danger. More recently the square hosted the Russian Live 8 concert, supporting the fight against world poverty.

Apart from soaking in the history and atmosphere, there are a number of things for the tourist to do in and around the square. Not many will want to pass up the opportunity to visit Lenin's Mausoleum. It's not often you get a chance to see such an influential historical figure in the flesh - even if cynics claim that the embalmed body is in fact a wax-work replacement.

Another must-see is St. Basil's Cathedral, the ultimate architectural symbol of Russia. Its montage of domes, cupolas, arches, towers, and spires is sure to inspire you every bit as much in real life as in the photos.

If retail therapy is more your thing (or if you just want to escape the cold) then the GUM Department Store, the largest in Russia, is a great place to do your luxury shopping.

At the northern end of the square you will find the State History Museum with its huge collection of artefacts charting Russia's past right back to the stone age. Find the famous 1 Red Square restaurant inside.

Last but not least no visit to Moscow would be complete without visiting the seat of the Russia's government, the Kremlin. You many need to set aside a whole afternoon for this. Read our page on the Kremlin for more info.


Comments

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katelyn james
Australia

cool place I want to go there one time

Reply Oct 13th, 2017
liv
Australia

awesome i wish i could go to russia like my best friend victoria

Reply May 4th, 2017
Sedonia
France

Awesome place! I have been there many times to see family and friends. They have a huge mall Called the "GUM" and it is huge! I love it there and i want to go again soon. I am so happy i got to share this with you guys

Reply Mar 17th, 2016
Sarah
Egypt

I don't go there but i think it's not a fantastic , different and new place to go there :( Its just clean and big place what's new?!!

Reply Dec 4th, 2015
Atta ur rehman
Pakistan

Why is it not a new place???

Reply Nov 22nd, 2016
Jharna

You haven’t been there, so you don’t know.

Reply Oct 9th, 2018
Justin
United Kingdom

Cool place but why no red or no square?

Reply Aug 4th, 2015
bella
Malaysia

hi guys! i really want to go there... russia is so beautifull place specially in white nights.and you know... i want experience cold weather! i mean im tired from sun!!!! here is toooooooo hot. :-(

Reply Aug 17th, 2014
julia
Canada

I like the title

Reply Feb 3rd, 2014
rachel tyack
Belize

While en--route to London, UK, when on vacation from work in Saudi Arabia, I made my first ever visit to Moscow, in 1991, for just four days. My hotel was the Сентрал дома турист down in the south west of the city on Leningrad Prospect. I met a young Russian in Red Square who helped me change some US dollars. We struck up a good friendship. He spoke a few words of English and I knew just a little Russian. He took me to many places of interest in Moscow during my 4 days, especially to war and aircraft museums. The object of my trip was to visit the космос museum and to see the Ури Гагарин exhibition. I returned in 1994 for another four days and met my friend and his family again. They still lived in the north of the city on улица Конёнкова. I kept in contact throughout the rest of my work contract in the Middle East and afterwards when I left the MIddle East and settled in Canada in 2000. My friend got married in 1995 I recall, and had a daughter. In 2001 or maybe 2002 I think, my friend, his wife and daughter, all moved from his parents flat in the north into a new квартира in the south west of the city. I lost contact at this point in time, and have not heard from him or been able to locate him. All that was a long time ago, and I would very much like to return to beautiful Red Square and start a new search for my friend

Reply Nov 27th, 2013
Richard Parker
Canada

While en--route to London, UK, when on vacation from work in Saudi Arabia, I made my first ever visit to Moscow, in 1991, for just four days. My hotel was the Сентрал дома турист down in the south west of the city on Leningrad Prospect. I met a young Russian in Red Square who helped me change some US dollars. We struck up a good friendship. He spoke a few words of English and I knew just a little Russian. He took me to many places of interest in Moscow during my 4 days, especially to war and aircraft museums. The object of my trip was to visit the космос museum and to see the Ури Гагарин exhibition. I returned in 1994 for another four days and met my friend and his family again. They still lived in the north of the city on улица Конёнкова. I kept in contact throughout the rest of my work contract in the Middle East and afterwards when I left the MIddle East and settled in Canada in 2000. My friend got married in 1995 I recall, and had a daughter. In 2001 or maybe 2002 I think, my friend, his wife and daughter, all moved from his parents flat in the north into a new квартира in the south west of the city. I lost contact at this point in time, and have not heard from him or been able to locate him. All that was a long time ago, and I would very much like to return to beautiful Red Square and start a new search for my friend.

Reply Sep 17th, 2013
nikolai
Russia

We are very proud to have such a fantastic attraction for tourists as Red Square. It can tell us much about the history of not only of Moscow but of Russia in general. We are happy to see guests from any country of the world.

Reply Nov 12th, 2012
polina
Germany

Hi i lived in Moscow for 9 years and also i was born in Moscow and my parents were born in Moscow.Moscow is a wondeful place.Red Square is also wondeful.Try to see a parade in Red Square.

Reply Mar 7th, 2012
Harris Johnson
United States

First visited in December 1984; last visit September 2010 after a TransSiberian Train ride from Beijing and visited many times during the period between those two dates. Russia is one of my favorite places in the world.

Reply Nov 11th, 2011
offtheroad
United States

Quite a nice place

Reply Jun 1st, 2011
Sam
Russia

Dear friends, as you can see Krasnaya (Red) Square is not actually red. The whole point is that the word "Krasnaya" - meaning "red" in the past meant "beautiful". That is why the right name of the Square is Krasnaya. It took its name after a big fire in Moscow in the second half of XVII century when the square was completely restored and decorated with a number of wonderful churches and cathedrals Moreover Krasnaya Square is a Name, so it should be not translated to any other language – just as Time Square (US), Westminster Abbey (UK), or Port Aventura (ES). Thanks

Reply May 23rd, 2011
richard bozkurt
Russia

red mean beautiful thats why they call it red square

Reply Mar 13th, 2011
alizafi42@gmail.com
Pakistan

i love russia because its super

Reply Feb 20th, 2011
Anastasia
United States

Hi! I am from Russia! I live near Moscow! It is so great to listen this things from people all over the world!!!

Reply Dec 21st, 2010
curly
United States

why is it called the red square if it is nor red or a square???

Reply Dec 21st, 2010
Svetlana
United States

Guys, I'm Russian and I was born in Moscow. But I have been living in California for 2 years. Americans, I love you! Cali, I adore you. And Moscow is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I proud of my hometown ;-))) You are welcome to MOSCOW! Especially americans. I always wished we were the best friends, Russia and the US! And this site is very helpful for my presentation about Moscow in ESL class ;-)

Reply Dec 11th, 2010
Kiecha
Russia

My school isn't far from the Red Square so we sometimes go there with some friends. Oh my god, I love this place!!!

Reply Dec 2nd, 2010
Olivia
United States

I must persuade you all from all over the world to go to The Red Square. you must visit the red square at night.

Reply Jun 10th, 2010
Oliva
United States

I HAVE SEEN WONDERFUL PICTURES OF THE RED SQUARE I HAVE ALSO VISITED THE RED SQUARE IT IS SUPER BEAUTIFUL. I RECOMMEND ALL YOU PEOPLE TO GO THERE AND YOUMIGHT EVEN WANT TO GO AT NIGHT

Reply Jun 10th, 2010
Kent
United States

I*ve been to red square two times, I loved it very much. I do not hate russians, I love the culture and the people.

Reply May 30th, 2010
Joe Moe
United States

I really want to go to Moscow!!! im using this city for a project in school, and this site was very helpful, unlike some others.

Reply May 21st, 2010
Sergei
Russia

Why many concern with hatred to Russian? sorry for my English

Reply May 11th, 2010
Selly
United Kingdom

Russia isn't or .... Russia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Russia is always welcome to foreigners. In ancient history Russia helped to England, USA, France- ... many many times! You should have some gratitude. Please, be polite.

Reply Apr 7th, 2010
marcel
Netherlands

I miss Russia, miss Moscow!

Reply Jan 23rd, 2010
India
India

I love Russia! :)

Reply Jan 19th, 2010
CYNREZ ESE OUT
Mexico

I THINK RUSSIA IS SUCH A FASCINATING PLACE. IM DOING THIS RESEARCH ON MOSCOW AND "WOW",ITS A VERY BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO GO......

Reply Nov 16th, 2009
USSRZ-N-A
United States

I love this place, this is where I proposed to my wife, and found out that I was gonna be a father!!

Reply Aug 3rd, 2009
Nicolas
United States

I have been to Red Square, moscow several times and saw Lenin in his tomb once. Red square is fascinating to me considering all its history. It is a beautiful place surrounded by a lot of interesting buildings.

Reply Jul 20th, 2009
philipp
United States

i was just kidding. i love russia. :)

Reply May 27th, 2009
Dimitri Moslov
Russia

I LIVE THERE COMRADES

Reply Mar 11th, 2009
Edwidge Bwalya
South Africa

I loved every moment I was at Red Square during Xmas and New Year. It is beautiful. Restaurant service needs a lot of attention.

Reply Jan 21st, 2009
LOL
United States

I LIVE THERE

Reply Nov 11th, 2008
Victoria
United Kingdom

The Red Square is amazing! I found it really beautiful!I really advice people to see it. I have been in lots of places,saw lots of nice things,this is one of them :). I liked it,hope u will too :)

Reply Oct 22nd, 2008
Sarah
China

red is красный. while beautiful is красивый.they're 2 words,but look alike. it's called Red Square for the russian name:"красная площадь" ,it's said they called to say how beautiful the square is in their mind. but i just want to declare, that "red" and "beautiful" are definitely 2 words in Russian.

Reply Aug 17th, 2008
lea
Croatia

i was in moscow this year and i could definitely say that moscow is really beautiful. the Red squair is absolutely astonishing (it's not surprising that Russians call it Krasnaya=beautiful squair),church St Basili's takes away your breath..there are so much things to see and learn there, town is so big and has so big and rich history.every building is beatiful.Tschaikovsky konservatory is also great!=) Mockba RULZ!!! :)*do svidanja!*

Reply Jul 2nd, 2008
Christy
United States

For the guy asking about why use the color 'red' for 'Red Square', in Russian, the word 'red' and 'beautiful' are the same word, but it's that English speakers have translated the word 'krasnaya' as 'red' instead of 'beautiful.' Russians think of it as the 'Beautiful Square', it's just us English speakers that think of it as 'Red Square.'

Reply May 28th, 2008
andrew the great
United States

st basli's is beaustiful place it looks like. but is that line to see lenin's tomb?

Reply May 5th, 2008
woody
United States

why is it not red when it says it is red square

Reply Apr 14th, 2008
Kyuubi
United States

...wow...this place is BIG!!!!!!

Reply Jan 18th, 2008
Mohammed Sabzwari
Pakistan

Prepare to experience rich history, culture, art ... all in one location! Things to see: Changing of the Guard, Flame of the unknown soldier, GUM, The Cathedral and at a short walk Peters Monument.

Reply Oct 19th, 2007
Anna Triadaphillides
Canada

I really would love to go to The Red Square and actually see for myself, the place where they burried my great grandfather Vladimir K. Triandafilov. It's still a mystery to me, how he was killed?! My ancestors sure loved Russia, and I bet I would too. So much to learn, so little time!

Reply Aug 10th, 2007
Veda
United States

moscow is amazing. the buildings are gorgeous, the country is great, there are so many things to do in Russia. it's one of the greatest places on earth.

Reply Jun 28th, 2007
Valya
Ukraine

Wow, Red Square is amazing. My father is from Moscow so I had to come all the way from Ukraine to visit. Beautiful and crazy to see little old Lenin in his mausoleum.

Reply Jun 27th, 2007
Juan
Argentina

Red Square is very heart of Russia. Such atmosferic place. Go Red Square in Moscow i must persuade you!

Reply Feb 8th, 2007