Castles in Russia

Russia, an immense span of diverse landscapes, from the remote, unspoiled depths of rural Siberia, to the heavily populated modern cities, it is a country like no other.

With layers of fascinating heritage, from gruesome historical battles to world-changing revolutions, Russia is a land with no shortage of hidden gems and spectacular and important sites and landmarks; amongst these are the abundance of castles that are dotted across the country, each offering a unique insight into the past.

Here are some of the best castles to explore in Russia:

1. Moscow Kremlin

One of the top tourist landmarks to visit in Moscow is The Moscow Kremlin, which is an enormous historic fortified structure that has a fascinating past.

Its origins date back to the 2nd century BC, where it was inhabited by the Finno-Ugric peoples; it was later occupied by the Slavs in the 11th century, before being significantly extended and modernized in the mid-12th century by Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy.

Over the centuries in which The Moscow Kremlin has existed, it has had a range of different purposes, from a residence for the Tsars, a venue for coronation ceremonies, to a hub for the Soviets.

Where: Moscow
When: 2nd Century BC origins
Style: A mix of architectural styles
Open for visit: 10:00am – 18:00pm

2. Peterhof Palace

In the heart of Saint Petersburg is the fantastic, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Peterhof Palace.

This enormous complex consists of a number of palaces and gorgeous gardens, which were originally commissioned by Peter the Great after he was impressed with the grandeur of the Palace of Versailles in Paris.

You could spend an entire day exploring the ins and outs of the gigantic Peterhof Palace, but some of the top highlights include The Grand Palace, where is the largest and most striking palace in the complex, The Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain, and the Lower Gardens.

Where: St Petersburg
When: 18th Century
Style: A mix of architectural styles, but primarily Baroque and Rococo.
Open for visit: 10:30am – 18:00pm

3. Catherine Palace

In the town of Tsarkoye Selo, which is just outside the center of St Petersburg, lies the fantastic and grand Rococo style Catherine Palace, which is famous for being the summer residence for the Tsars of Russia.

The name and origins of this Palace date back to the year 1710, when Peter the Great gifted the estate to Catherine I, who was his wife; the stone palace was later constructed in 1723 in replacement of the original wooden structure.

Over the centuries, the palace got increasingly grander and more lavish, and today has a series of incredible rooms that are furnished with impressive features and artifacts.

Where: Tsarkoye Selo
When: 18th Century
Style: Rococo
Open for visit: Grounds are open year-round from 9 am – 19:00 pm.

4. Kazan Kremlin

Situated in the Russian city of Kazan, lies the fascinating Kazan Kremlin, which was constructed by the decree of Ivan the Terrible, upon the ruins of an earlier fortification.

In this enormous complex, there are a string of incredibly old buildings, one of which is the Annunciation Cathedral, which dates back to the 16th century, and is constructed of locally-sourced pale sandstone.

Some of the architectural highlights to look out for at Kazan Kremlin include the Soyembika Tower, the Spasskata Tower, the Governor’s Palace, and the Kazan Kremlin House Church; there is so much to see and explore at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Where: Kazan
When: 16th Century
Style: A mix of styles; varies between buildings.
Open for visit: 9:00am – 19:30pm

5. Winter Palace

Famous for being the official residence for the Russian Emperors between the years 1732 and 1917, The Winter Palace is one of the most spectacular and historically rich castles in the entire country.

The palace that stands today is actually the fourth Winter Palace and was constructed between the 1730s and 1837 when it was finally completed, though tragically, it was heavily damaged by fire, and was rapidly rebuilt.

There are centuries worth of fascinating history associated with the glorious Winter Palace, and this castle should be at the top of your sites to see list when visiting St Petersburg.

Where: St Petersburg
When: Current palace was built completed in 1837.
Style: A mix of architectural styles, primarily Rococo and Baroque.
Open for visit: 9:00am – 20:00pm

6. Astrakhan Kremlin

Situated in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan is the historic fortress, Astrakhan Kremlin, which is nestled upon a large hill, on an isolated island in the Volga Delta, which is the largest river delta in Europe.

The Kremlin was originally constructed between the years 1587 and 1588, though it was initially made of wood; it was converted to a stone citadel later.

Since 1974, the Astrakhan Kremlin has been a museum; there is a fascinating exhibition that provides an insight into the life of the Astrakhan military garrison in the 19th century.

Where: Astrakhan
When: 16th Century
Style: Astrakhan Kremlin has a mixed architectural style with a range of different influences.
Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

7. Vyborg Castle

Vyborg Castle is situated in the Russian town of Vyborg, and it is one of the oldest in the country. Originally constructed in what was the medieval Kingdom of Sweden, it was one of three primary castles of Finland, and served as a defensive fortress.

The first mention of this impressive castle dates back to the year 1293, and it was originally built for Torkel Knutsson, who was a prominent individual, and leader of Sweden. Today, Vyborg Castle houses a fascinating museum, and it is a popular tourist attraction for visitors.

Where: Vyborg
When: 1293
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 10:00am – 17:00pm  

8. Vorontsovsky Palace

Otherwise known as the Alupka Palace, Vorontsov Palace is an enormous historic palace, which is located at the edge of the Crimean Mountains, in the Crimean town of Alupka.

Famous for being one of the oldest and largest palaces in the whole of Crimea, Vorontsov was originally constructed for the Russian Prince, Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov, between the years 1828 and 1848.

It incorporates an array of different architectural styles and features, from Scottish Baronial, Indo-Saracenic Revival Architecture, to Gothic Revival. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the southern coast of Crimea.

Where: Alupka
When: 19th Century
Style: A mix of architectural styles
Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

9. Ivangorod Fortress

Ivangorod Fortress is a gorgeous medieval castle that is situated in the Russian town of Ivangorod, in Leningrad Oblast; it is situated upon the Narva River, which borders with Estonia.

The fortress dates back to the year 1492, whereby it was first established by Ivan III; it was primarily built as a stronghold and defense.

Today, there is a fascinating museum on the grounds, whereby the local history and relating artworks are displayed; there is also a permanent exhibition that centers on the Northern War and the Livonian War.

Where: Ivangorod
When: 1492
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

10. Gatchina Palace

Gatchina Palace, or as it is sometimes referred to, The Great Gatchina Palace, is an immense and fascinating complex in the town of Gatchina, in Leningrad Oblast, Russia.

It was originally constructed between the years 1766 and 1781 by the Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi, for Count Grigori Grigoryevich Orlov.

The architecture of this grand palace is one of its most charming and well-renowned features; it combines the principles of several styles, from the medieval period to the Classical era. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular tourist attraction.

Where: Gatchina
When: 18th Century            
Style: A mix of Medieval and Classical
Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:30pm

11. Izborsk Fortress

Just a stone’s throw away from Pskov lies the fantastic and historic Izborsk Fortress, which is a ruined, but nonetheless fascinating medieval fortress.

It was originally founded by the Slavic Krivich tribe in the 10th century, where an early wooden structure was erected; it later took on a stone exterior in the 11th century.

The fortress that stands today dates back predominately to the 14th century, and what is left of it is relatively well-preserved. This is a popular tourist attraction and offers gorgeous views of the surrounding landscape.

Where: Izborsk
When: 1oth Century origins
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

12. Novgorod Kremlin

Novgorod Kremlin, or as it is also known, The Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin, is a fantastic fortress in the historic center of the Russian city, Nizhny Novgorod. The origins of this structure date back to the year 1374, where it was first recorded that an early wooden fort was constructed.

Over the centuries in which this castle has stood, it has had a primarily military role and has been at the heart of many important battles and conflicts.

One of the highlights of this castle are the 13 towers that survive to this today; they each have their own unique history and design.

Where: Nizhny Novgorod
When: 14th Century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:30pm

13. Saint Michael’s Castle

Saint Michael’s Castle, or as it is also known, The Mikhailovsky Castle, or The Engineers’ Castle, is situated in the heart of the historic center of St Petersburg and is one of the most famous and most beautiful castles in the entirety of Russia.

It is well-known for being a former residence for the Russian monarchy and is equally famous for its various architectural influences, such as Gothic, French Classicism, and Italian Renaissance.

Over the centuries, there have been a string of historic and important battles held here, and also a series of different prominent and famous guests and residents. Saint Michael’s Castle should be high on the list of things to do for anyone visiting the bustling city of St Petersburg.

Where: St Petersburg
When: 18th Century
Style: A true mix of styles; Classicism, Renaissance and Gothic
Open for visit: 9:00am – 19:00pm

14. Vologda Kremlin

In the center of Vologda lies the brilliant Vologda Kremlin, which was originally constructed in the midst of the reign of Tsar Ivan the Terrible; the initial purpose of the Kremlin was that of a defensive structure, though, over the centuries, it changed its overall role.

Over the time in which this castle has stood, it has seen many architectural changes, as well as new additions, such as the Resurrection Cathedral, which is home to the fantastic Vologda Regional Art Gallery.

There is also the wonderful St Sophia Cathedral, which has a string of different frescoes inside, many of which date back to the 17th century. This is a fantastic spot to visit.

Where: Vologda
When: 16th Century
Style: Renaissance
Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

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