Red Square (Russian: Кра́сная пло́щадь) is a city square that is the central square of Moscow. The square is surrounded by several buildings which have become significant tourist buildings; the GUM department store, the Lenin Mausoleum, the St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, the Kazan Cathedral, and the State Historical Museum.
Visitors enjoy the beautiful scenery, visit the cathedral’s, museum, and other buildings, go shopping and take photographs of the scenic environment. It should not, however, come as a surprise that the square is always crowded during the day. The Square is also the grounds for musical concerts and festivals which take place at different times through out the year.
The Red Square was formerly a marketplace where trades took place between individuals. The wooden shops were destroyed by a fire in 1547. Ivan the Terrible demarcated the lines and made them market lines. Stones were used in replacing the wooden market line in 1595.
High-profile executions also took place here, the execution of Cossack rebel Stepan Razin (a man who led an uprising against the Tsars in Russia between 1670 to 1671). The place also became the grounds for important military parades and the Victory Day parade.
Victory day parades signify the Soviet Armed Forces’ defeat of Nazi Germany. On May 9th 1945 the first Victory Parade was held on Red Square. After this the parade was known as the Victory Day Parade. From Red Square troops and equipment go out into a parade through parts of Moscow.
Religious processions notably the Palm “Procession on a Donkey” was organized here. In 1804, the merchants requested that the square be paved in stone. This led to further reconstructions at the square.
The GUM now sits on the market area that was formerly called the Upper trading rows.
The Red Square was initially known as Fire Square due to the constant fire outbreaks in Moscow at that time. The current name was derived from the word “Krasnyi” which meant beautiful but it now means Red in modern Russian Language.
The square became the venue for several high concerts in the early 2000s. Artists including Shakira, Linkin Park, The Prodigy, Roger Waters, and Red Hot Chili Peppers were hosted at the Square. The square along with the Kremlin were one of the first sites in Russia to be added to the World Heritage List by UNESCO.
The illumination of several buildings, especially the GUM at night, makes the view really spectacular. The square is worth visiting at night, and not just because there are a lot less people. It is a good idea to go to the Square very early in the morning to avoid the heavy crowd.
Visitors who also want to have a very good view of the Square should try viewing from the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky bridge nearby.
A large skating rink goes up at the Square every Winter. The fireworks show during New Year’s eve are worth the experience. It is one of the highlights of the winter festival that appears in several parts of the city known as Journey to Christmas.
During the Journey to Christmas festival different shops are set up selling food and drink including fresh doughnuts and mulled wine as well as Russian pancakes. A number of different traditional Russian gifts like music boxes, scarves and Russian nesting dolls are also available for purchase. There is a lot of music and people having a good time, but dress warm, it is a Russian winter after all.
It is also recommended that visitors in the winter wear some type of footwear which is at least water resistant. Even with temperatures below freezing you will often find water puddles within the square from people trampling the ice and it is never a good time having your feat soaked and freezing.
List of festivals in Red Square:
- Journey to Christmas Festival: mid December to Mid January
- Russian Orthodox Christmas: January 7th
- Maslenitsa Pancake Week: February 20-26
- Labor Day: May 1st
- Victory Day: May 9th
- Russia’s Independence Day: June 12th
- Moscow City Days: End of August – Early September [Moscow’s Birthday Party]