The most beautiful manors and royal residences in Moscow, Russia
Moscow had been the capital of Russia for a couple of centuries before St Petersburg got this status in 1712. Naturally, many noble families moved there and built new homes. Still, Moscow wasn’t forgotten and, in addition to some existing palaces, the czars and aristocrats kept building palaces and manors in the old capital. Below is my list of some of the most beautiful ones of them.
Kolomenskoye, which consists of a grand wooden palace and numerous buildings like churches, kitchens, water tower, falcon house, the cabin of Peter I, different chambers, is a former royal residence in Moscow. The area is huge, so you will need at least a day if you want to explore the complex.
Kolomenskoye, the main royal residence in Moscow, is located quite far from the center of Moscow. It was first mentioned in the documents in the first half of the 14th century, but czars fell in love with it much later, in the 16th century. This is when they built the Church of the Ascension (it is still there), presumably to celebrate the birth of Ivan IV the Terrible. Other churches and buildings were gradually constructed in the area, and it became the preferred summer residence of Michael I Romanov. But it was his son, Alexei Mikhailovich, Alexis I the Quietest, who built a magnificent wooden palace with stunning chambers and exquisite decoration.
Then Peter I moved the capital of the Russian Empire to St Petersburg, and, while the royal family still stayed in Kolomenskoye for short periods of time and kept adding new buildings, it wasn’t so important anymore.
While almost all the buildings in the area were erected in the 16th-18th centuries, the wooden palace is not the original one: Catherine the Great ordered its demolition to build another palace. The one visitors see now is an exact modern replica built between 2008-2010 according to the actual sketches. However, the majority of the objects inside the palace are authentic.
But the most outstanding part of Kolomenskoye is the park. Just walk around the place, go to Dyakovo Settlement for spectacular views of Moscow and the Moskva River, go down to the river and walk at the waterfront, see its apple gardens, walk along Golosov Ravine, sit at the famous boulders Maiden’s Stone and Goose Stone. When I was there in August, there were not many people in these places, they were mostly interested in the palace and churches, so you will have the whole place to yourself.
How to get: take Teatralnaya subway station (green Zamoskvoretskaya line) in front of the Bolshoi Theater and get off at Kashirskaya station. This station is close to the wooden palace. Exploring the area you will get to the other end of the complex where you will go to Kolomenskaya station that will take you back to Teatralnaya in the center of Moscow.
Entrance fees: almost all the buildings in the area require a ticket. The entrance fees are 100-200 RUB, and the wooden palace is split into three parts with tickets costing 200-300 RUB. I am not sure whether there are options to buy combined tickets, their website isn’t very good in this regard, so just ask at the ticket office.
Days off: Monday.
If you search for places to visit in Moscow, I doubt you will come across this manor. It’s not because it’s unremarkable, on the contrary, Liublino manor is stunning. Liublino is a small place lost somewhere in the middle of a park far from the city center. Travellers don’t come to this part of Moscow and this palace is overlooked. But the palace is spectacular! Frankly, I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful.
Many-many years ago this place was a small village with a couple of houses and it changed owners quite often. But in 1800 Nicholas Durasov, a very rich man, bought it and changed it forever.
His palace, built in the form of a cross, is very different from any other you will see in Moscow. Yes, it is luxurious, with exquisite furniture, silky drapes, columns, but what makes it special is its decoration. Nicholas Durasov adored theater so he decorated his home with scenes from ancient mythology. Just lift your head up, look at the ceilings and walls and you will see the muses, Apollo, Cupid, Gratiae…
Well, the theater part deserves a special mention. Durasov was a true fan of this form of art, and his theater, that consisted of hundreds of serf actors, was the second most famous one in Moscow. He even built a school where the serfs studied all aspects of this art, including acting, dancing, playing instruments, make up, etc. Today visitors have access to the school where many original objects are exhibited.
It would be fair to mention that according to Durasov’s will, all serf actors were freed and many of them started working in the imperial theaters of Moscow and St Petersburg. That’s an indicator of how talented these people were.
Durasov wasn’t only a theater lover, he was extremely hospitable: the way he treated his guests was legendary! He frequently organised dinners in his greenhouse, where people would dine surrounded by exotic flowers and lemon and orange trees. He even had pineapples there!
Durasov didn’t have any children, so his sister inherited the place. She tried to keep it the same way as her brother did, but her daughter wasn’t able to take care of the manor and sold it. The new owners built summer residences in the area and rented them out, and the hospitality and extravagance of Durasov remained history.
How to get: if you are around the Red Square, take either Biblioteka imeni Lenina or Okhotnyy Ryad station of the red Sokolnicheskaya line and get off at Chistye Prudy station. Inside the station, without getting out, go to Sretensky Boulevard station on the bright green line and get off at Voljskaya station. The manor is in the park.
Entrance fees: the ticket for the palace is 200 RUB, for the theater school – 150 RUB. Audio guides are available, they cost 150 RUB and 100 RUB respectively in 2019.
Days off: Monday.
Kuskovo is considered to be one of the most beautiful manors in Moscow. While it is much bigger than Liublino, I like the latter more 🙂
Kuskovo manor is quite far from the center of Moscow as well, so not so many foreign travellers venture there: the visitors are mainly locals. And it means that the place isn’t crowded 🙂
Now about the manor. It was a summer residence of the Sheremetev family, one of the wealthiest in the Russian Empire. Do you remember when I said above that Durasov’s theater was the second best in Moscow? Well, Sheremetev’s theater was the first. Initially it was in Kuskovo, but later moved to Ostankino residence, another house belonging to Sheremetevs.
Just like other estates and manors, this one is surrounded by a magnificent park. There are many buildings in the complex, including the palace itself, kitchens, the Dutch house, the Grotto with naval decorative elements, the Italian house with some exhibits and the Great Stone Orangery. Don’t miss the orangery: it houses now a huge collection of porcelain and ceramics, including plates and different figurines.
The main palace is built right in front of a pond. The decoration is rich, with tapestries, colorful fabric wallpaper, chandeliers, furniture. One of the most beautiful parts of the palace is the Mirror Hall.
The majority of the buildings of the summer residence were erected in the second half of the 18th century. Talented serf architects Fedor Argunov and Alexei Mironov contributed a lot to the construction of the residence. The original manor occupied a territory of 230 hectares and included hunting lands, multiple ponds with thousands of fish and smaller gardens. They even had a small zoo! In addition to a covered theater, there was an open air theater in a garden with 100 seats. In its most glorious days the manor saw up to 30,000 guests and wasn’t limited to nobles only: everyone could come.
The estate suffered a lot when the army of Napoleon took Moscow in 1812. When the soldiers left it, they took many valuable things with them and destroyed some sculptures in the park. During World War II it was turned into a barrack.
How to get: the closest subway station is Novogireevo on the bright orange Kalininskaya line. But the station is quite far from the palace, so you will have to either get there on foot or take buses 615 or 247 or trolleybus 64. Another subway station is Ryazanskiy Prospect on the purple Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya line: take buses 133, 133k and 208 from the station to get to the palace.
Entrance fees: a combined ticket for all the places open on the day of visit is 700 RUB. Otherwise, the entrance fees to individual buildings are 100 or 150 RUB. The palace is 250 RUB.
Days off: Monday, Tuesday and the last Wednesday of the month.
I bet Tsaritsyno is the most famous former royal residence in Moscow, mainly because it is associated with Catherine the Great. I have been there a couple of times and I must say that, in my opinion, the palace is much more beautiful from outside than inside. Maybe that’s because I am spoilt by the luxurious palaces of St Petersburg and expected too much when I visited this one, but I was disappointed. Except for some really spectacular halls, there is not much to see. So, I can wholeheartedly recommend walking around the palace and admiring the fancy buildings as they are quite one of a kind. Just have a look at the Figure Bridge!
A bit about the history of the place. St Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire when Catherine the Great ruled. And it meant that Moscow wasn’t so important anymore. Still, the monarchs kept coming to the old capital. During one of these visits to Kolomenskoye in 1775, Catherine the Great bought a manor Black Mud, renamed it into Tsaritsyno (tsaritsa is czarina is Russian) and ordered the construction of a huge complex that should have included palaces, kitchens, houses for servants and guards, etc.
Vasilii Bazhenov, a famous architect of those times, was commissioned to do the work. He put a lot of effort into building the complex, but Catherine the Great, except for initial enthusiasm, didn’t show much interest in the palace. Later Bazhenov fell from favour, and when Catherine the Great visited the place, she complained that rooms were too small and ordered to re-do everything. Bazhenov’s disciple Matvei Kazakov was appointed the main architect. He had to dismantle the palaces and other pavilions built by Bazhenov and erect new ones. The current palace with its red and white stone walls, columns, towers, mullion windows is Kazakov’s creation. It looked more like palaces in St Petersburg and showed the grandeur of the empire.
Catherine the Great died before the construction finished, and her son wasn’t interested in the project. Locals used to come here for picnics, and later the place fell into decay. In 1980-ies the experts reconstructed the buildings in the park, but the works in the main palace started only in 2005.
The fact that Catherine the Great didn’t show much interest means the palace was never finished. While it looks imposing from outside, the interior needed additional touches. Still, the place is definitely worth a visit as they exhibit many things like collections of paintings, porcelain, sculptures, clothes, etc.
When I was there there were a few people inside the palace, the majority came to walk around the park and see the buildings. Their architecture is quite curious, and I am sure you will enjoy it. So you can do the same: walk around the park, see its pavilions, ponds, flowers, trees and gardens. There is a musical fountain not far from the entrance: don’t miss the show!
Useful tip: I came once across an app called izi.Travel which has loads of useful info on Tsaritsyno. It includes an audio guide for the park and is linked to the phone’s GPS. It requires an internet connection, but you can download audios beforehand. It has some other tours for Moscow, not only Tsaritsyno.
How to get: take Teatralnaya subway station (green Zamoskvoretskaya line) in front of the Bolshoi Theater and get off at Tsaritsyno station. It is the same line that takes to Kolomenskoye: the distance between Kolomenskoye and Tsaritsyno is about 4,5 kilometers.
Entrance fees: a combined ticket for 890 RUB gives access to the main buildings of the complex like the palaces, orangeries, Bread House and the Third Cavalry Building. A ticket to the main palace and Bread House is 400 RUB. Entrance fees for other buildings are here.
Days off: the museum is closed on Mondays, the orangeries – on Mondays and Tuesdays. The park is open every day and the entrance is free.
Kuzminki was a huge residence that belonged to Golitsyns, one of the most prominent noble families in the Russian Empire. The complex included numerous buildings, like kitchens, stables, animal and poultry farms, an orangery, and other household objects.
I wasn’t sure whether I should add Kuzminki manor to this list. The thing is that it was a very beautiful place and, probably, will be, when the government decides that it is worth restoration works. At the moment many buildings of the estate are in decay. The main palace, which, unfortunately, was wooden, burnt down in 1916, and after the revolution they gave the estate to the Institute of Experimental Veterinary. Many buildings were converted into laboratories and administrative premises, and they erected a new university building on the spot of the burnt palace. But they abandoned it in 2001, so it is decaying now as well.
While many buildings of the estate aren’t in a very good state, the main exhibition, which includes original objects that belong to Golitsyns, are in the Ministerial House, a white building not far from the Church of the Blachernae Holy Mother. The church isn’t the original one, the previous ones were wooden and burnt down. It is famous for the icon of Our Lady of Blachernae which is believed to be miracle working (as far as I know the icon isn’t there anymore).
The stables were open until last year, but were closed after the ceiling fell.
Just like the other estates I mention above this one is far from the center of Moscow. Considering the state of the place I don’t think it’s worth the time of getting there, but that’s my opinion only. And then, if you are genuinely interested, why not to visit it?
How to get: Kuzminki manor is close to Liublino, so, frankly, if you are there you can just cross the park (don’t miss the lily pond in the park!) and visit this one as well. This is what I did 🙂 So, the closest subway station is Voljskaya on the bright green line.
Entrance fees: I paid 200 RUB in 2019 for the museum in the Ministerial House.
Days off: Mondays and the last Friday of the month.
These are the most famous manors and royal residences in Moscow, but there are many more smaller ones. I will keep updating this list as I travel to Moscow frequently. But not this year, most likely…
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