Alexander Palace is one of the Romanov palaces, a former residence of the Russian Imperial family. The palace is situated in Tsarskoe Selo, a suburb of Saint Petersburg, Russia. In August 2021, Alexander Palace opened after a long restoration. Now we can visit the last home of the last Russian Emperor — Nicholas II.
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Alexander Palace is situated in Pushkin, a town in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg.
The main sight of Pushkin is Tsarskoe Selo, a large complex of palaces and parks that belonged to the imperial Romanov family. The Tsarskoe Selo State Museum includes such world-famous sights as Catherine Palace with the Amber Room, Catherine Park, Alexander Park, the Museum of World War I and many other places. Tsarskoe Selo is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.
• Read also: Tsarskoe Selo: The Main Sights of the Imperial Residence
Alexander Palace is one of the gems of Tsarskoe Selo. It was built by the order of Empress Catherine the Great for her beloved grandson Alexander, future Emperor Alexander I. But the palace is known as the last home for the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II.
HISTORY OF ALEXANDER PALACE IN TSARSKOE SELO
Alexander Palace — a gem among the Romanov palaces
Catherine the Great commissioned the construction of a new palace for her beloved grandson Alexander Pavlovich to Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi. The construction began in 1792 and took only four years. Only four years — and Quarenghi created the masterpiece that is considered the gem of Russian classicism!
On June 12, 1796, Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich and his wife moved to their new palace.
Emperor Nicholas I also liked to visit Alexander Palace. He frequently visited it with his family and relatives.
For the grandson of Nicholas I, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich, the future Emperor Alexander III, Alexander Palace was the grand-ducal residence. His apartments occupied the right wing of the palace.
Alexander Palace — the last home for the last Russian tsar
Finally, after the Revolution of 1905, the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II decided to make Alexander Palace his official residence. Nicholas II was concerned about the protection of his wife and children. Saint Petersburg did not seem secure enough to him. Remote Alexander Palace, 30 km away from the capital, surrounded by a vast park, suited more for the role of a safe shelter.
During the reign of Nicholas II, Alexander Palace underwent significant reconstructions. At present, we can see the palace the way it looked at the time of Nicholas II — at the beginning of the 20th century.
• Before you go to Alexander Palace, read books about the last hosts of this palace. They will help you to understand better the historical context and history of several objects. For example, you will surely pay attention to the legendary favourite armchair of Alexandra Feodorovna and watercolours of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna: 9 Books about Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia
Alexander Palace in the 20th century
After the fall of the Russian Empire, Alexander Palace began losing its splendour. Though in 1918 the palace became a museum, the former treasures started to disappear. One part of the palace became an orphanage, another — a vacation house for the NKVD (police) employees.
In 1939, Alexander Palace received a new director — art historian Anatoly Kuchumov. This brave man decided to restore the historical appearance of the palace. He aspired to create a museum of the last Russian Emperor and his family.
Unfortunately, World War II ruined Kuchumov’s plans to bring Alexander Palace back to life. Before the Nazis occupation, he succeeded to evacuate some objects, including chandeliers, carpets, porcelain, furniture and marble works. But it was impossible to save everything.
Foreseeing the pillaging of the museum, Kuchumov walked through the halls of Alexander palace and photographed their decoration. He also cut out pieces of damask upholstery of the walls, furniture, curtains, pasted all this into albums, which he kept until his death. Many years later, those albums helped to restore the decoration of the palace.
During the occupation of the town of Pushkin, the German headquarters and the Gestapo were located in Alexander Palace. There was a prison in the basements. The square in front of the palace became a cemetery for the SS soldiers.
RESTORATION OF ALEXANDER PALACE
The restoration of Alexander Palace started in 1951 and is still going on. In August 2021, 13 rooms of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna opened after another stage of restoration.
The open rooms include studies of Nicolas II where he received official guests. You will also see the private areas where Empress Alexandra Feodorovna spent time with her children: the Mauve boudoir and the Maple drawing-room.
Surely, you will be interested to see the Moorish restroom with a pool, the room where even children of Nicholas II could not enter without permission.
WHAT YOU WILL SEE IN ALEXANDER PALACE IN TSARSKOE SELO
Alexander Palace is a part of the Tsarskoe Selo State Museum. It is situated a 10-minutes walk from Catherine Palace.
Alexander Palace stands in Alexander Park. For many years, a fence had been surrounding the palace. It was impossible to get close to the walls and even less possible — to look inside through a window.
In August 2021, the first 13 rooms opened after restoration. Those are private rooms of the last owners of Alexander Palace — Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna.
Let’s have a look at those rooms!
The first space you enter in Alexander Palace is an underground hall. There you will find ticket offices and a cloakroom. As soon as you join your group, you receive headphones and a receiver that would allow you to hear your guide well.
Your visit to Alexander Palace starts at two libraries. These are vast halls with wooden bookcases and sculptures of Russian Emperors. The Romanovs possessed the richest book collections — but unfortunately, most of those books were lost in the 20th century.
Corner Drawing Room
After the libraries, you enter the Corner Drawing Room. If I lived in Alexander Palace, this would be my favourite room. The Corner Drawing Room has large windows and is full of light, even on a cloudy day. Pay attention to marvellous striped chairs, crystal chandelier, decorated piano, and the marvellous portrait of Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France.
Maple Drawing Room
The Maple Drawing Room is a superb example of Art Nouveau style. Art Nouveau became popular in Saint Petersburg at the end of the 19th century. The decoration of the room is inspired by natural forms: entwined roses embellish the walls and the ceiling.
The room has several zones. There the Empress could do needlework, read, have five o’clock tea and spend time with children. Various family portraits, photos, and vases turn the Marple Drawing Room into an intimate family space.
Palissandre Drawing Room
The Palissandre Drawing Room served as a reception sitting room and music salon. This yellow and deep brown room amazes with its cosiness. The fireplace, the panels on the walls and the furniture are made of rosewood (“palissandre” means “rosewood” in French).
The Palissandre Drawing Room was the room where Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna spent time with family and organized unofficial dinners. It is also the chamber, where they heard that they had been arrested in 1916. Their palace became their prison.
The Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir was the favourite room of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She could stay there for hours: read letters and books, stitch or play piano with children,
Anna Vyrubova, the closest friend of the Empress, in her memoirs says that Alexandra Feodorovna loved to sit in an armchair, leaning back on lace pillows, in front of the painting “The Dream of the Virgin” by Edouard Paupion, and read books. The armchair was so popular that children sometimes fought for the right to occupy it.
We can see that legendary armchair in old photos of Alexander Palace. The restorers recreated the famous piece of furniture. Nowadays, we can not only judge by photos but also feel the atmosphere of that cosy family nest.
Bedroom of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna
The bedroom of Nicholas and Alexandra Feodorovna is another private room that you can see in Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo.
At Alexandra Feodorovna times, uncountable icons and other religious items covered the walls of the bedroom. Almost all those items were lost. On the other hand, at present, the bedroom looks clean and airy. We can fully appreciate the tapestry with tender flower wreaths.
The next room on the itinerary is an exhibition room that tells the story of Imperial children. Nicholas and Alexandra had four daughters and one son. Children rooms have not opened yet. There is only one small room with several toys and photos of Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexey.
Reception Room of Nicholas II
The Reception of Nicholas II was the workplace for the Emperor. It is the office where he received official guests and diplomats and studied his correspondence.
The design of the reception room is strict. Dark-green tapestry complements the wooden furniture, walls, and ceiling. The main “decoration” of the room is a corner fireplace, that is made of oak and green marble. But even this official place has a touch of the Modern style — the chandelier with strands of yellow beads.
Study of Nicholas II
The Study of Nicholas II looks like a room from an English manor: dark-red walls, wooden furniture, a fireplace with green tiles. The study used to house the library of Nicholas II: memoirs, biographies, books on history, politics and religion.
Some furniture items are still missing in the study: the ottoman sofa and the desktop of the Emperor. Instead of them, we see the uniforms of members of the imperial family.
The Moorish Restroom is probably the most unusual room that you might have seen in palaces.
“With great pleasure, I bathe, rinse and swim in my new huge bath,” Nicholas II wrote in his diary on October 21, 1896. Indeed, the Moorish restroom has a huge bath (or pool). You would need 7 000 buckets of water to fill it!
The Valet Room is the room where the Emperor’s valets were on duty. It was also a dressing room where the emperor’s clothes were stored in ash wood wardrobes.
At present, in this room, we can see wardrobes with clothes in them. There are two old suitcases, made by the suitcase master Wilhelm Dering. They belonged to the mother of Nicholas II — Maria Feodorovna. The Tsarskoye Selo Museum bought them not so long ago from a private collection.
The carpet is authentic too. It has miraculously survived. The museum employees used the carpets as packing material during the evacuation of the museum exhibits before World War II.
State Study of Nicholas II
The State Study of Nicholas II is the last opened room in Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo. The Emperor used the study for official meetings. Family members did not have the right to enter this working room.
The study is a large room divided into several zones. One zone includes a personal work table, bookshelves, and a round table with chairs for meetings. On the other side, we see a convenient area for more relaxed conversations. It has a fireplace, a cosy sofa, and a billiard table.
The State Study of Nicholas II has a mezzanine with marble columns. Visitors do not have access there. We can only guess how it looks upstairs. The mezzanine has a connection with the Maple Drawing Room, the room of Alexandra Feodorovna.
Though official, the study is embellished by family photographs, porcelain, and books.
The tour of Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo might take you about 1,5-hours. After visiting the palace, think of exploring Alexander Park. This park is a museum under the open sky. On the vast territory of the park, you will see numerous pavilions, bridges, and monuments. While walking in Alexander Park, keep in mind that it was the favourite walking place for the family of Nicholas II.
Alexander Park opens every day, from 7 a.m. to 9-10 p.m. The entrance is free.
TICKETS AND OPENING HOURS OF ALEXANDER PALACE
Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo:
Address: Dvortsovaya Street, 2, St Petersburg, 196601
Opening hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (entrance to the museum closes at 5 p.m. )
Days off: Wednesday (from November to April – Wednesday and the last Thursday of the month).
Ticket price: 600 Rub. (~9 USD)
You can buy tickets online (recommended) or in the ticket offices of the palace.
HOW TO GET TO ALEXANDER PALACE
— suburban trains. Suburban trains depart from Vitebsky Railway Station in St Petersburg. One-way ticket costs about 80 rubles (1 USD). The road takes 30 minutes. You will have to exit at Tsarskoe Selo Railway Station.
The railway station is 3 km away from the entrance to Tsarskoe Selo museums and parks. So you can either continue on foot or take the bus № 371, 382. The buses stop right in front of the entrance to Alexander Park (stop “Alexandrovskiy Dvorets”).
— bus/marshrutka. Buses depart from Moskovskaya Square ( Moskovskaya metro station) in St Petersburg. The bus stop is behind the fountains of the square. Take buses №286, 287, 342, 347 or 545. The road takes 45-50 minutes. One-way ticket costs 50 Rub. (~0.75 USD). You will need to exit at the “Sadovaya Street” stop. Alexander Palace is a 10-minute walk from the bus stop.
— transfer or taxi. It is a good choice for those who travel with family or prefer comfortable trips. Taxi from St Petersburg to Pushkin costs about 2100 Rub. (~30 USD) The price is per car.
If you are interested in other Romanov palaces,
check our collection of travel guides “Imperial Russia“.
It is a project about travelling and visiting places from the times of the Russian Empire.