10 Famous And Historic Palaces In Russia

The grandness and sheer beauty of these residences are rivaled by few, and as such, are great places to visit and see, being open for most of the year.

Being a historically and culturally rich country, Russia is naturally replete with hundreds of beautiful and architecturally significant buildings. These specific ten palaces were all originally built as royal residences, with exception to the last, but have now become either government offices or museums. The uniqueness of these palaces is that they were all built during the Imperial Romanov era, which lasted from 1613 to 1917, and that they were all mostly built either in Moscow or in St. Petersburg. Ravaged by war and revolution, the grandness and sheer beauty of these residences are still rivaled by few, and as such, are great places to visit and see, being open for most of the year.

Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg

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Peterhof Palace is located in the town of Petergof, which now falls under the jurisdiction of the city of St. Petersburg in Russia. Peterhof Palace, known as "the Russian Versailles" was built in 1725 on the orders of Peter the Great, who was famous for modernizing and expanding the Russian Empire. Peter the Great actually designed the palace and grounds himself. Peterhof was captured by German troops in 1941, and was largely destroyed. Before the arrival of the German army, employees were able to save only a handful of the solid-gold sculptures and palace treasures. Restoration work began in 1945 and has now been largely completed.

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The greatest technological achievement of the palace are the fountains, all of which operate without the use of pumps. Spring water from reservoirs collects in the Upper Gardens, and then runs down an elevated slope. The difference in elevation creates a high pressure, powering most of the fountains, which are located in the Lower Gardens. The exception to this mechanism is the Samson and the Lion statue, shown above, in that it is operated via a 4 km long aqueduct, which runs water from a naturally pressurized spring found on the grounds. The Samson and the Lion fountain continuously shoots a jet of water, 20 feet high, up in the air.

The Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow

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The Grand Kremlin Palace is located within the Kremlin at the heart of the city of Moscow in Russia. The actual site has been continuously inhabited since the 100s BC, although the current palace was built in 1839. It was designed for the Russian Czar by a team of architects under Konstantin Thon, using many medieval elements of Byzantine and Russian architecture. The palace, covering a total area of 250,000 square feet, containing over 700 rooms. The palace, as well as the Kremlin complex, now serves as the official residence of the President of Russia.

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The Grand Kremlin Palace is famous for its lavish interior decoration. The above Hall of the Order of St. Andrew, is only one among seven such reception halls within the palace.

The Winter Palace in St. Petersburg

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The Winter Palace, located between the Palace Embankment and Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia, was aptly constructed to represent the imperial might of the growing Russian Empire. Built in 1730, it was designed by a host of famous architects, among them Bartolomeo Rastrelli. From 1732 to 1917, it was the official residence of the Russian Czars. The palace boasts 1,500 rooms, 1,945 windows, and 117 staircases. The dining table seats 1,000 guests, while the state rooms can accommodate 10,000 people. The palace was stormed in 1917 by Red Army soldiers, and in the following years was partly looted and damaged. After 1943, restoration work began, and has now brought the palace back to its former splendour.

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In addition, under the current Russian government, the gilded trappings, emblems, and symbols of the Romanov family have been restored to the palace. Today, the palace is one of the world's most famous museums and attracts over 3.5 million visitors each year.

The Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg

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The Catherine Palace is located at Tsarskoye Selo, which now falls under the jurisdiction of St. Petersburg, Russia. Built in 1717 for Catherine I as a summer residence, it was designed by the German architect Johann Braunstein. Empress Elizabeth, however, asked her favourite architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli, to largely re-construct the Catherine Palace, which was completed in 1756. The new 325 metre-long palace quickly became famous for its insanely lavish decorations. Over 100 kilograms of gold were used to gild the palace's facade and roof statues.

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The Palace Chapel is only one testament to the massive amount of money spent on the palace's construction. Unfortunately, after German forces retreated from the Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), they intentionally destroyed the palace, leaving only the shell of it behind. However, Russian archivists had documented most of the palace before World War II, so accurate reconstruction was made possible. A large amount of reconstruction was completed by the time of St. Petersburg's 300 year anniversary in 2003, although much work remains to be done.

Belosselsky-Belozersky Palace in St. Petersburg

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The Belosselsky-Belozersky Palace is located in St. Petersburg, Russia. Built in 1747, it was designed by Andreas Stackensneider, the personal architect of Nicholas I. After its opening, the palace quickly became famous for its lavish concerts and balls. It was sold on the eve of the Russian Revolution, and housed a regional soviet until 1991. After being restored, it now hosts small concerts for the public.

Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg

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The Alexander Palace is located at Tsarskoye Selo, now falling under the city of St. Petersburg in Russia. Built in 1796, it was designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi. The palace is primarily known as the favoured residence of Nicholas II, the last Russian Czar. It was said that royal family life was less formal at the Alexander Palace than at the other royal residences. The royal family would often eat there without attendants or the presence of a court.

Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg

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The Tauride Palace is one of the largest and most historic palaces of St. Petersburg. Completed in 1789, it was designed by the architect Ivan Starov. There is an extensive park and harbour to the front of the palace, connected to St. Petersburg's Neva River via a canal. In 1906, it was transformed into the seat of the Imperial State Duma, Russia's first parliament. Twelve years later, in 1918, the palace was used by the Bolsheviks for their meetings. Since the 1990s, it has been used by the Commonwealth of Independent States for meetings.

Mariinsky Palace in St. Petersburg

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The Mariinsky Palace is located at the south end of St. Isaac's Square, in the city of St. Petersburg in Russia. Built in 1844, it was designed by the Russian architect Andreas Stackensneider. After the Russian Revolution, the palace was home to various Soviet ministries. During World War II, the palace was used as a hospital and was heavily bombed. Restoration work has been mostly completed.

The Great Palace at Kolomenskoye in Moscow

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The royal estate of Kolomenskoye is located several miles to the southeast of Moscow's city centre, in Russia. The original Kolomenskoye Palace was demolished in 1768, on the orders of Catherine II. The current Russian government began a full reconstruction, which today has nearly been completed.

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The oldest structure in Kolomenskoye is the Church of the Ascension, which was built in 1532.

Livadia Palace in Livadiya

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Livadia Palace is located in Livadiya, Crimea, in present-day Ukraine, a former Russian territory. The estate of Livadia, originally belonging to the Potocki family, and containing some small holdings, became a residence of the Imperial Russian Royal family in the 1860s, when a larger palace was built by the Russo-Italian architect Ippolito Monighetti. It was a summer residence of Czar Nicholas II, the last Russian Czar. The Yalta Conference was held there, and the palace was used to house the American delegation.

© 2010 Gregory Markov

See my other travel articles, including another in a series on Historic and Famous Palaces:

13 Remarkable And Historic Palaces In England

Leeds Castle: One of Britain's Greatest National Treasures

Blenheim Palace: One of Britain's Greatest National Treasures

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