Yusupov Palace: A Palace of Grand Design

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by sararevell on August 6, 2007

Palaces aren’t often at the top of my list of places to see even when visiting large cities but I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the Yusupov Palace. Compared to many royal residences, this place seemed so modest in size. I could see from one end of the building to the other for starters.

The ticket office is open daily from 10.45am to 5pm and for $15.66 you get an audio tour guide of the Palace rooms. There’s an additional charge to go the murder site of Grigory Rasputin, and had the museum attendants not been so rude and frustrating, I probably would have shelled out the extra $10 to see that too.

This sand coloured building stands about three stories tall, and apart from six white columns flanking the doorway, I would have been hard pressed to tell that this was a palace at all. We entered into a grand lobby, where a sweeping white staircase draws your eyes skywards. A couple of twitchy attendants at the entrance looked thrown off as we were not part of the big tour group that had entered just ahead of us. They impatiently directed us left and right, first to buy our tickets and next to check our bags, which you’re obligated to do.

We were each given an English language audio guide which we dutifully strapped on and followed instructions to ascend the beautiful staircase to the first room. The incredible detail and spectacular craftsmanship of the marble staircase was just a small taste of what was to come. Barely a wall, ceiling or corridor in the palace has been spared from the skill and artistry that the glamourous Yusupovs commissioned in their many facelifts and refurbishments.

The Yusupovs bought the palace in 1830 and its best known for being the place where the monk Rasputin was poisoned by Viscount Felix Yusupov in 1916 and then unceremoniously dumped into the icy Moyka Canal. Shortly after, the revolution forced the Yusupovs into exile and they deserted the estate for the Crimea. Fortunately their namesake palace survived revolutions and wars and is now resplendent again as a museum.

We followed the engaging audio tour through room after room. Highlights were the imposing oak dining room and the prince’s study, which was also the library and had two levels of bookshelves and at one time contained around eight thousand volumes. The two standout features for me though had to be the exquisite Moorish drawing room and the Yusupov Palace Theatre. The Moorish room would be better described as a hamam fit for a king. It glowed gold in the lamplight, with gilt room partitions and narrow crimson floor rugs adding a Middle Eastern inflection. The diminutive theatre has to be seen to be believed, as its plush scarlet cushions and drapes are straight out of a Russian fairytale. They still use it for music recitals and I can only imagine that being in the audience is quite a unique experience.

Yusupov Palace
Naberezhnaya Reki Moyki 94
St. Petersburg, Russia


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