Brush up on your Imperial history and discover the romance, the mystery and the tragedy behind one of history's most famous families
The Bolsheviks would be turning in their graves to hear us say it, but the House of Romanov laid the foundations of St Petersburg with that indelible magnificence of the early Russian Empire. The city’s beloved patron and namesake, Peter the Great, became Russia’s first emperor in 1721, and his lineage was responsible for the architectural development of St Petersburg for almost 200 years thereafter.
Discover the tumultuous history of the imperial lineage through the Romanov palaces of St Petersburg, which remain scattered throughout the city today. Embellished with gold yet plagued with whispers of conspiracy and insurrection, these numerous palaces offer valuable insight into the rise and fall of one of the world’s greatest empires.
Palace Embankment, 32, St Petersburg, 190000
The Buckingham Palace of St Petersburg, the extravagant Winter Palace was favoured by the Romanovs as their main imperial residence until Tsar Alexander II, whose assassination in 1881 highlighted existing concerns about the size and security of the property. St Petersburg’s most famous and extravagant palace is now home to the world-famous Hermitage Museum, where visitors flock to observe the imperial throne and the extraordinary Malachite Room, which was used as the official drawing room of Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas I. The most popular attraction is the Main Staircase, also known as the Ambassador’s Staircase, whose extravagant frescoes, marble balustrades and granite columns are considered the pièce de résistance of the entire palace.
Krasoarmeysky Prospect, 1, Gatchina, 188300
Following the assassination of his father at the Winter Palace, the newly appointed Tsar Alexander III removed his family to safer accommodations at Gatchina Palace. Located on the outskirts of St Petersburg, this sweeping suburban residence can hardly be considered downsizing, and is reserved in style yet imposing in scale. Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi was inspired in its construction by England’s finest stately homes, as can be seen from the weathered limestone and sweeping crescent façade.
Millionnaya Ulitsa, 5/1, St Petersburg, 191186
The illustrious Marble Palace is the jewel in the crown of the Palace Embankment in St Petersburg. This decadent design incorporates 32 different kinds of marble and is considered the finest example of Antonio Rinaldi’s neoclassical style.
Originally commissioned by Catherine the Great for her political ally and lover, Grigory Orlov, the palace was subsequently purchased from his heirs and incorporated into the royal palaces of St Petersburg. The famous building is now managed by the State Russian Museum, and houses a permanent collection of modern art alongside a wide range of temporary exhibitions.
Inzhenernaya Street, 4, St Petersburg, 191186
Intended as a christening present from Tsar Paul I to his son the Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, Mikhailovsky Palace wasn’t begun until some 21 years later, when it was passed down through the generations of his children and grandchildren.
Designed by the master of neoclassicism Carlo Rossi, Mikhailovsky Palace is now home to the greatest depository of fine art in St Petersburg, and remains one of the finest examples of 19th century architecture in the city..
Dvortsovaya Ulitsa, 2 Pushkin, 196601
The last of the Romanovs hoped to find security and longevity in Alexander Palace, although it would transpire that nothing could prevent the violent assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and his immediate kin in 1918.
Commissioned as a wedding present for Alexander Pavlovich (later Alexander I), the favourite grandson of Catherine the Great, Alexander Palace is a fine architectural monument replete with Corinthian columns and an impressive neoclassical portico. The palace has been recognised as one of the most influential works by Giacomo Quarenghi, and the ongoing restoration project is accompanied by a fascinating exhibition on the history and the lives of the Romanovs.