The Catherine Palace is a remarkable example of Russian baroque architecture. The existing palace was built between 1744 and 1756.
The leading role in design of the palace belongs to Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who by 1756 created an architectural masterpiece, which the delighted Empress Elizabeth named after her mother, Catherine I. In the later part of the 18th century the palace was modified by Catherine II, ”the Great”.
Like the honored guests of the Russian tsars, the nowadays visitors can also admire the full splendor of the palace interiors. Many restored rooms are open for public and contain objects of applied art, fine furniture, Russian and European paintings, unique collections of porcelain, amber, weaponry, artistic bronze and sculpture.
By far the most famous of these rooms is the ”Amber Room”. First given by Fredrick the Great to Peter I, the amber panels were stored for many years. Finally they were assembled in this room and the room was considered to be extraordinary. During World War II the room was plundered. The amber was thought to have first been stolen by the Nazs during the Siege of Leningrad. What eventually happened to the precious works of art has been the subject of many books and wide speculation. After the war the Soviet began to restore the Amber Room as well as the entire palace from memories and pictures. The restoration of the Amber Room lasted 50 years.
Now the Catherine Palace and the magnificent Amber Room are among the must see sights in St. Petersburg and, indeed, the world!
The Catherine Palace is located in the village of Pushkin, a few miles from the center of St. Petersburg.
This picture is of Casey, the daughter of our American director. She is shown on the Catherine Palace grounds with one of the lesser buildings in the background.
For me, St. Petersburg is the perfect destination, rich with history from the days of the Great Russian Czars to the famous siege and courageous resistance by the soviets in WWII.
This magnificent city has art to rival the art centers of Europe, palaces built by Peter I and Catherine the Great, and more.
If you like to follow a day of sightseeing with local nightlife, St. Petersburg is the greatest. Everything is at your fingertips. It’s all here including numerous ballet companies, (St Petersburg is the home of the Russian State ballet school) classical music, and western style nightclubs.
St. Petersburg never sleeps. When you combine these features with the shopping that is unique to Russia, you will be sold too.
The State Museum of the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 is part of a memorial complex at Poklonnaya Gora created to commemorate the victory over Nazism and to honor the heroic deeds and courage of Russian patriots in defending the Motherland.
Opened in 1995, the memorial complex is made up Victory Park, the Main Victory Monument, the Central Museum of the Great Patriot War of 1941-1945 and the open-air exhibition of Soviet military equipment.
The exhibition has over 100,000 items, including weapons, military vehicles, photos, films, etc. pertaining to wartime.
For the military history buff, this is a must-see.
This Visit is included on the The Golden Ring Russian tour.
About an hour’s train ride north of Moscow, the Air Force Museum at Monino is the finest Russian aviation museum. It was formerly known as the Russian Federation Air Force Museum and, before that, the USSR Air Force Museum
The facility was once an operational air base from 1932-1956. The Museum opened in 1960 at the original airfield location and in the original airfield structures. Once run by the Russian government, it is now an independent facility.
For enthusiasts of military history, the historical legacy preserved here is well worth a visit.
Note: www.RussiantourGuide.com will be happy to do the co ordination for your visit to Monino. We even have pilots of the former “Soviet Air Force” who speak English and will give extra commentary to make your visit more enjoyable.
We must arrange this visit a few days in advance and will require the visitors’ passport details.
Russia’s equivalent of a ”flea” market,Vernisazh Market is a huge weekend market, crammed with every possible dealer selling everything and anything you can think of to take home from Moscow. If you can’t find a souvenir here, it doesn’t exist! Matrioshkas in every shape and size, jewelery, wooden toys, Soviet memorabilia, fine hand-knitted scarves and shawls, fur hats, beautiful linens, original arts and crafts, etc. There is something for everyone at this market.
Vernissage in Izmailovo is the largest exhibition in the world. The complex, built by Russian architects in the style of pre-Peter Moscow, is a favorite place of Muscovites and visitors to the city.
V. I. Lenin, one of the organizers of the October Revolution of 1917, and the founder of the Soviet State, died on January 21, 1924. Professor Alexei Ivanovich Abrikosov, a prominent Russian pathologist and anatomist at the time, embalmed the body so that it could be displayed to the public. It is still being displayed to this day.
A wooden tomb was designed and built by architect Aleksey Shchusev, and the tomb was placed in Red Square by the Kremlin Wall on January 27 so that the Russian people could visit the tomb. The architect Konstatin Melnikov designed the first sarcophagus.
In 1929 the wooden mausoleum was changed to one made of stone. A new sarcophagus was designed in 1973 by sculptor Nikolai Tomsky.
Tens of millions of people have visited Lenin’s tomb since 1924. It is still a major attraction in Moscow and visitors wait in long lines to view Lenin’s body. Photos and videos are forbidden, as is talking in the tomb.
The Tretyakov Gallery is a Russian national treasure. It began from the private collection of Pavel Tretyakov in the mid 19th century. Tretyakov himself considered 1856 the official year of his collection’s launch and it was several years later that he gave the collection to the city of Moscow.
Many factors influenced him to begin his collection. Among those included his visits to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the association over the years. As a child he met Russia’s brightest stars. The writer Turgenev, composers Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky, artists Repin, Surikov, Polenov,Vasnetsov, Perov and Kramskoy frequented the Tretyakov house.
At the beginning of World War II the collection of the Tretyakov Gallery, which had grown, was in peril. Curators, military personnel and everyday citizens
banded together to pack and ship the most priceless of the gallery’s
collection out of harms way. Shortly after a majority of the works were evacuated the gallery was subject to separate direct hits by Nazi bombs.
Today the Tretyakov Gallery has become more than one physical location. Branches of the gallery house various collections. You will visit the primary
collection of Russian art at the main location.
If you love art and culture, you will appreciate the importance of this collection even more if you take the opportunity to read “Natasha’s Dance” by Orlando Figes. His book on Russian art and culture provides an easy-to-read foundation which helps a tourist appreciate the greatness of the Russian
artists whose works are displayed at the Tretyakov Gallery and other museums in Russia.
This massive picture (left) will leave you speechless. Your Private Moscow Tour Guide will give you the background of the picture and the painter. It is but one example of the massive collection of Russian masterpieces in the Tretyakov Gallery.
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, located on Volkhonka street just opposite the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, is the largest museum of European art in Moscow.
Founded by Professor Ivan Tsvetaeu (father of Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva), the Museum opened its doors to the public in 1912. Without the influence of millionaire and philanthropist Yuriy Nechaev-Maltsov and architect Roman Klein this fine arts museum would not exist today.
After the Russian capital was moved to Moscow in 1918, the Soviet government transferred thousands of works from St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum to the new capital. These paintings formed a nucleus of the Pushkin Museum’s collections of Western art . The most important paintings were added later from the State Museum of New Western Art (also called the European Gallery)– Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artwork, including top works by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Monet and Matisse.
After World War II some works from the Dresden Gallery in East Germany were stored in Moscow for 10 years at the Museum. They were finally returned to East Germany, despite strong opposition from Museum officials.
In 1937, Pushkin’s name was appended to the museum because the Soviet Union marked the centenary of the poet’s death that year.
The Pushkin Museum is a main depositary of Troy’s fabulous gold looted from Troy by the German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann and taken by the Soviet Army from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
The International musical festival, Svyatoslav Richter’s “December nights,”
has been held in the Pushkin Museum since 1981.
The collections in the 3 different Pushkin Museum venues:
- The main museum
- The European Gallery
- The Museum of Private collections
are massive. You cannot do justice to the art here in one day.
Allow us to schedule your private tour of Moscow with visits to each of
these magnificent museums on different days. Otherwise you and your private
Moscow tour guide will “overdose” and it would diminish the enjoyment.
In 1966, the ashes of the Unknown Soldier were moved to the Alexandrovsky Garden from the 41th kilometer of the Leningrad Highway. The memorial to the Grave of the Unknown Soldier was unveiled in May 1967. The eternal flame of glory coming from the center of the bronze military star was lit from the flame that burns on the Field of Mars in Petersburg. Inscribed on the granite slab of the gravestone are the words “Your Name is Unknown, Your Deeds are Immortal.” To the right of the grave, there is a row of urns along the Kremlin Wall that contain the sacred soil of hero cities. Every year in May, marking Victory Day, the entire country of Russia observes a moment of silence to honor the memory of their fallen soldiers. Flowers are place on the Grave of the Unknown Soldier to commemorate the day.
Built in the 18th century, the Kuskovo estate is an example of a Muscovite country residence. The estate was built shortly after 1715 when Tsar Peter the Great awarded the village of Kuskovo to his Russian general Boris Sheremetev for his outstanding courage at the battle of Poltava. The Sheremetyevs, one of the richest and most influencial families in Russia during this time, built a summer residence at Kuskovo.
The palace and park complex was designed especially for receptions and festivities. In the late 1700′s, as many as 30,000 guests were entertained in a single day! It was the aristocracy’s favorite place of entertainment for more than 100 years. Magnificent balls, fireworks, folk dances, theater performances, rowing on the lake, were all held at Kuskovo.
Kuskovo’s gardens were maintained by hundreds of gardeners. Throughout the estate there are over 50 statues, most of them 18th century Italian masters. The statue of Minera was built to celebrate the visit of Catherine the Great in 1775. Many of the gardens and buildings found today were created by Borisâ™ son, Pyotr, who had a passion for architecture and landscaping.
Today the estate is used to host classical music concerts and festivities including Independence Day which is organized by the US Embassy, and Bastille Day which is arranged by the French Embassy.
St. Basil’s Cathedral is a magnificent piece of architecture that appeals to everyone.
The Cathedral is a uniquely Russian structure. The towers and domes lack symmetry and consistency, yet the effect of each structure taken together is a wonderful sight.
There are nine separate chapels, one under each of the domes. The central tower unifies the structure into a whole.
The Cathedral was built 1555-1561 to commemorate Ivan’s the Terrible’s defeat of the Tatar City of Kazan. The statue in front of St. Basil’s dates from 1818, and portrays Minim and Pozharsky who drove Polish invaders out of Moscow in the early 1600′s.
It was moved from the middle of Red Square in 1936 because it impeded the many parades that marched through the Square.
The Cathedral was named after Basil, one of Russia’s barefoot “holy fools” (the most famous one being Rasputin). Basil died while Kazan was still under siege.
The “Red” in Red square is not a reference to communism or to the red brickwork around the square. It was originally a reference to St. Basil’s Cathedral. The Russian word “krasnaya” can mean either “red” or “beautiful,” and it was the term “beautiful” which was applied to St. Basil. It later shifted in meaning and location to become Red Square.
If there is one site that can be considered the epicenter of Russia, Red Square has that distinction. The Square has witnessed many famous spectacles throughout the history of Russia: revolution, military displays, outdoor performances in front of more than 100,000 people, trade markets, workers festivals, and much more. Famous attractions around the square include the Novodevitchi Cemetery (the burial place of many elite members of society, famous Russian writers, artists and politicians, including Nikita Khrushchev), Lenin’s Mausoleum, State History Museum, and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
The Bolshoi has it own museum, founded in 1920, that contains memorablia connected to its many world famous performances. Many of the theatrical costumes worn by the legendary Russian bass singer Fyodor Shalyapin are displayed in the museum.
Becoming acquainted with behind-the-scenes activities of the ballet and opera, and visits to the ballet school and museum is to be enchanted with a grandeur of epic proportions you won’t find anywhere else.
The word “kremlin” means fortification, and there are many across Russia. However, “The Kremlin” always refers to the Kremlin in Moscow.
The history of The Kremlin goes back to the reign of the Great Prince Yuri of Kiev, considered to be the founder of Moscow. There is an equestrian statue, erected in 1954, on Tverskaya St. honoring the Great Prince. The white stone walls and towers of the Kremlin were erected in 1367 by Dmitry Donskoy. Totally rebuilt between 1485 and 1495, the Kremlin acquired its present appearance and dimensions.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Peter I moved the capital of Russia to St. Petersburg, but the coronation of Russian tsars continued to be held in within the Kremlin walls in the Cathedral of the Dormition. There you will see the actual chair in which Ivan IV (terrible) sat during the ceremony.
The Soviet government moved the capital back to Moscow in 1917, and the Kremlin became the seat of the highest state bodies, known as the “preserve,” where only those who lived or worked there were admitted.
Only since 1955 have the unique museums of the Kremlin become accessible to the public. The old cathedrals resumed religious services and the Kremlin bells, which had been silent for over 70 years, ring joyously throughout the area.
Also inside the Kremlin walls is the Kremlin Armoury Museum. The Kremlin Armoury requires a seperate admission ticket. It is well worth the price ! Inside the Kremlin Armoury you will find the Crown Jewels, various other gifts given to the Russian state, some Faberge eggs and even the gown worn by Catherine the Great at her coronation.
The Moscow Kremlin has been the residence of Russian tsars and hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. Since 1992 it has been the residence of the President of the Russian Federation and his administration.
The Kremlin remains a unique monument of Russian culture and will always be a symbol of Russian statehood.
- Enjoy your Russian holiday.
- Don’t worry about “past experiences” that may have been unfavorable. Also, don’t let the warnings and “don’ts” posted below worry you. They are there to help avoid problems.
- Trust in your guide. Wherever we travel, we are often a bit vulnerable, since we are not in our “usual” surroundings. By having a guide, you go a long way towards “leveling the playing field.” The guides will take care of you.
- If you want to make a change to your schedule ask. If you want to stop for a longer time than planned, tell your guide. If you need time to rest, take it.
- Do something that you are not used to. Try a new food. Try a different type theatrical performance. Have your picture made with an actor on the street (remember they charge by the picture, not the session).
- Enjoy the Russian evening meal in a Russian home that we offer. How often can you really visit a local citizen when you travel and also be invited to dinner?
- Take a St. Petersburg metro or Moscow metro, a mashutka ( small bus) and taxi somewhere, even if you can afford a private car for everything.
- Buy something beautiful in the “House of Faberge” jewelry store. You can buy a stunning amber necklace for under $50 and get the House of Faberge packaging.
- If you like paintings, you can purchase a good one for $100 to $500 dollars. I know a little about paintings, and many paintings that we see during travels are junk. In Russia, good paintings with attractive prices are available.
- At least learn how to say “please” and :”thank you” in Russian. Then use them!!
- Take a stroll at night (assuming the weather is pretty good). If you are very timid, hire the guide for at least one evening. St. Petersburg is especially dynamic in the evening.
The Hermitage Museum is Russia’s best gallery of world art, one of the most prominent art museums in the world and definitely the main tourist attraction of St. Petersburg. The museum was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of 255 paintings from the German city of Berlin.
Today, the Hermitage boasts over 2.7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art and artifacts from all over the world and from throughout history (from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century Europe).
The Hermitage’s collections include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, unique collection of Rembrandts and Rubens, many French Impressionist works by Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet and Pissarro, numerous canvasses by Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin and several sculptures by Rodin. The collection is both enormous and diverse and is an essential stop for all those interested in art and history.
The main building of the Hermitage Museum is the Winter Palace, which was once the main residence of the Russian Tsars. Magnificently located on the bank of the Neva River, this green-and-white three-storey palace is a marvel of Baroque architecture and boasts 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows and 1,057 elegantly and lavishly decorated halls and rooms, many of which are open to the public.
The Baroque Winter Palace was built between 1754 and 1762 and its first resident was none other than the celebrated Catherine the Great. Many of the palace’s impressive interiors were remodeled after the huge fire that partly destroyed the building in 1837.
Some of the best Russian and most famous foreign architects worked exhaustively to ensure that this Imperial residence was one of the finest and most luxurious palaces in the world.
The collections at the Hermitage are displayed in adjoining buildings along the Neva embankment, together form an enormous museum complex: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage and lastly the New Hermitage. The Hermitage Theater, the private theater of the Tsars, is a beautifully decorated amphitheater and still hosts regular lectures, concerts, opera and Russian ballet performances.
The experts say that if you were to spend a minute looking at each exhibit on display in the Hermitage, you would need 11 years before you’d seen them all. We suggest you opt for one of our tour guides.
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 10:30am to 6pm Sundays and national holidays 10:30am to 5pm The Hermitage Museum is closed on Mondays. Ticket offices close one hour before the museum closes
Alexander Palace in Pushkin
Tours of St. Petersburg,Russia are hard to plan. Why? Because there are SO MANY great places to see and things to do in St. Petersburg.
The Alexander Palace was the last royal home to the last Czar, Nicholas II and his family, including Grand Duchess Anastasia.
The Alexander Palace is steeped in history. Located just 15 miles from St. Petersburg Russia, the Palace is on the Tsarskoe Selo (Czar’s village) estate.
Tsarskoe Selo estate encompasses some 1482.6 acres of land, chiefly donated by Peter I to the Russian court in 1701. The estate is home to the enormous Catherine Palace which was used by the last Czar and his family only on very formal occasions. The Alexander Palace is adjacent to the Catherine Palace and was their principal residence.
The original palace on the grounds of Tsarskoe Selo was only a 16 room summer palace. Peter the Great had it constructed for his wife Catherine Alekseyevna. His daughter, Elizabeth, later enlarged and improved the palace.
Years later Catherine the Great also added her input to the Alexander Palace. She spent much time on perfecting this project. This new palace was built for Catherine’s grandchild, Alexander I. The Alexander Palace was given to Alexander and his bride in 1793 as a wedding gift. He further contributed to the design of the remarkable Russian palace.
The palace was designed to be a home that was simple yet elegant.
In the end the design left out ornamental structures and expensive interior additions. It certainly cost much less than the more opulent Romanov summer palaces like Peterhof and the Catherine Palace. Even ornamental statues planned for the roof were removed to further simplify the design. The final product included both Roman and Palladian styles with a touch of Neo-Classicism. The facade that greets visitors is marked by a double row of columns linking two pavilions. Perpendicular wings creating the courtyard of the entrance way give the palace an urban feel. In the 1830s the Alexander Palace central colonnade was adorned with two bronze statues of young men playing Russian games.
In 1997 the Recollections of Alexander Palace exhibit was set-up in the left wing. A visit today to the Alexander Palace will enable you to see many of the clothes and other personal items belonging to the children of Nicholas II and his wife Alexandria. A poignant site to see is the family’s pet cemetery on the children’s island near the palace.
The Alexander Palace holds a unique place in the history of the Russian monarchy.
For more information on how this palace was viewed by its last inhabitants click here!
For more information and amazing photographs of the family of Nicholas II find the coffee-table book entitled “The Lost Word of Nicholas and Alexandra – TSAR” by Peter Kurth. Photos of the once all-powerful Tsar working in the vegatable garden of the Alexander Palace while under house arrest show just how far this monarch fell. The blissful scenes of the royal children at play near the palace prove that they had no idea of their tragic fate.
We can design a tour of St. Petersburg,Russia which will tell the story and and “connect the dots”between the relationship of the last czar and the evil Rasputin. You will see evidence of the limitless wealth and power of the czar and his family. The royal residences , particularly Peterhof , the Winter Palace, the Catherine Palace and the Alexander Palace. You will also see the beautiful downtown Yusupov Palace where friends of Nicholas II murdered Rasputin hoping to save the czar from his disastrous influence.
If you have children they have undoubtedly seen the animated film “Anastasia “. We will bring the characters and places in “Anastasia” to life and correct the historical errors portrayed in the film.
Ask us to create this tour for your family.