Part of the Great Kremlin Palace complex, the Armory is home to Moscow's oldest and most prestigious museum, which boasts a staggering collection of Tsarist artifacts, Russian and foreign jewelry and armour. Although the museum has been open to the public since the mid-19th Century, the current collection was established as recently as 1986, which means that display techniques are relatively modern, the layout is clear and coherent, and there is even plenty of labeling in English.
The Armoury covers two floors, the lower dedicated to artifacts directly linked to Russia's rulers. The first hall on the lower floor contains court dresses and religious vestments, including Catherine the Great's glorious coronation dress, the saccos (ceremonial robe) of Peter, Moscow's first Metropolitan, which dates back to 1322, and Peter the Great's high boots and cane. The next hall contains state regalia and ceremonial objects, which means thrones such as Ivan the Terrible's beautifully carved ivory throne and the exotic gold and turquoise throne given to Boris Godunov by the Shah of Persia, and crowns - most notably the Crown of Monomakh, purportedly a gift from the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomachus, and used to crown all the Tsars up until 1682.
The last two halls of the ground floor contain equestrian-related artifacts: decorative saddlery and state carriages. The most impressive pieces of tack are the two gold harnesses that were presented by the sultans of Turkey to Catherine the Great, and the carriages include one given by James I of England to Boris Godunov, and Empress Elizabeth's coach with paintings by the French artist Francois Boucher.
Upstairs, the first two rooms contain Russian gold and silver from the 12th Century onwards, a sumptuous collection of jewelry, tableware, icons and decorative objects. The large case of Faberge eggs, presents exchanged between the tsar and tsaritsa every Easter, is probably the highlight of the collection, including the famous Siberian Railway Egg. However, the most beautiful items are those from earlier centuries, when Russian craftsmen developed their own techniques and styles, rather than taking their cue exclusively from Europe. Traditional Russian decorative art reached its peak in the late 16th and 17th centuries, and there are scores of examples in the collection illustrating the styles of the schools that developed in different cities of Russia.
The collection of weapons, also divided by hall into Russian and foreign examples, is equally impressive, as befits the building. Mikhail Romanov's ornate, jewel-encrusted arms case and quiver, and the splendid dagger presented to him by the Shah of Persia, are particularly noteworthy.
Opening hours: Daily except Thursday, admission at 10:00, 12:00, 14:30 and 16:30. Sessions last 1 hour 45 mins. Tickets can be bought in the foyer or from the office in the Kutafiya Tower (to save time).