Walking along the Nevsky Prospect, attentive wanderers notice an impressive light pink mansion with white columns and decorative flourishes. This is one of the oldest buildings of the Nevsky Prospect — the Stroganov Palace. Almost as old as the city!
This palace was designed by the talented architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli. Rastrelli was the famous architect of Russian Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. He was the author of such world-known edifices as the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.
The fact that Russian Empress “sublet” her Number 1 architect to one of her subjects, shows how important the Stroganovs were.
Who Were the Stroganovs?
The Stroganovs were Russian merchants and industrialists, native from Pomeranian and Novgorod peasants. They owned lands in the Perm region, engaged in salt and fur trade, and later smelting metals. They were engaged in the development of Siberia and paid for some research expeditions (like the campaign of Yermak).
Not only the Stroganovs possessed immense fortune but all they were among the most educated people in Russia and the whole of Europe. During centuries, they collected art pieces, patronized talented artists and built architectural masterpieces. Knowing the Stroganovs fine taste in art, members of the royal and aristocracy families assigned them the purchasing of the paintings and sculptures for their palaces and mansions.
Collections of the Stroganov Palace
The Stroganov Palace on the Nevsky Prospect was built in 1754. It amazed his contemporaries with the luxury of decoration, the magnificence of high-society balls and dinners. Look at this lavishly decorated Great Hall, for instance. I spent at least half an hour watching sculptures, parquet, windows, mirrors, ceiling…
Following the enfilade of the rooms, we came to the amazing Arabesque Room. If you have been to the Hermitage Museum, you certainly remember the Raphael Loggias. The prototype of the Loggias is the famous gallery of the Vatican Palace in Rome, painted by sketches of Raphael.
Copies of Raphael frescoes decorate the walls the Arabesque Room in the Stroganov Palace as well. It’s a quite small room which served as a study room for the Stroganovs. Amazingly cosy with all these paintings, smaller copies of the Vatican sculptures, a fireplace and the daylight coming from large windows!
A few steps further — and we’re already in the Mineral Study. It was meant to be the library of Count Alexander Stroganov and display of the collection of minerals. It was considered as one of the masterpieces of Russian architecture of the 18th century. Fluted columns, bas-reliefs, painting of the cupola, the chandelier — I could describe the decoration of the Mineral Study for hours. But better once to see, as they say. So I would just recommend to include the Stroganov Palace to your itinerary list in St. Petersburg. The tour of the palace will not take long — 1,5-2 hours but you’ll see lots of extraordinary things.
Every room has a different style and requires attention to details. The spacious and light Grand Living Room attracts by its fine tapestries and lions doors. The Picture Gallery strikes with exquisite paintings, mirrors and cupolas.
The Gala Dining Room is interesting because of the large mirrors and the way these mirrors are used for the visual design of the space.
An interesting fact about the Stoganov Palace
Famous Russian dish Beef Stroganoff is named after one of the members of Stroganov family — Russian count Alexander Stroganov (1795—1891). Beef à la Stroganov is usually sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with smetana (sour cream). And the Stroganov Palace in St. Petersburg can be considered as the place where the recipe Beef Stroganoff was born. By the way, the Stroganovs were famous for their generosity. Thus, everyone could come to have lunch in the Stroganov’s gorgeous dining room.
And yes, those mirrors, mirrors everywhere… They are hanged the way they could be an important part of the decor. Reflections elongate the enfilades, increase the space and make me feel I am Alice in a fantastical world of “Through the Looking-Glass”.
Then those chandeliers… And fireplaces… Every single detail brings us to the past made of elegant interiors, talented architects and fine luxury.
The Stroganov Palace Nowadays
Until 1917, the Palace belonged to the Stroganov family. But after the revolution of 1917, the unique mansion had rather tough times of looting, neglecting and disregarding.
Nowadays the Stroganov Palace belongs to the Russian Museum. Not so long ago it was restored and opened for visitors. If you book a guided tour of the palace, the guide will surely tell the amazing story of the restoration. The interiors and decor are collected and rebuilt literally piece by piece. And restorers and researchers are proud of every square meter of the Stroganov Palace. Thanks to their immense work and devotion we are able to see and to learn about our historical heritage.
How to Get to the Museum
Address: 17, Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg, Russia
Nearest metro stations: Nevsky Prospect, Admiralteyskaya
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m. — 6 p.m. Tuesday is a day off.
I have to mention that the visit to the Stroganov Palace was organized by the project Petersburg Inside. The goal of the project is to draw attention to the smaller museums of Saint Petersburg. Less known doesn’t mean “worst”. More often it means “a hidden gem”. St. Petersburg Inside unites St. Petersburg’s museums, locals bloggers community, METRO newspaper and St. Petersburg City Card.
The Stroganov Palace is included to the St. Petersburg City Card — a tourist card which makes sightseeing in St. Petersburg more affordable.
The main feature of St. Petersburg Card is that it saves money. With St. Petersburg Card, visiting museums in St. Petersburg becomes up to 40% less expensive.
St. Petersburg Card offers:
— free admission to 70+ museums, sightseeing bus and boat tours
— discounts and special offers for hotels and restaurants
— 200-page guidebook of St. Petersburg’s attractions.
You can buy St. Petersburg Card here
In conclusion, I would advise you to be more intricate while planning your sightseeing tours. Surely, in any location, there are places not to miss: symbols, must-sees, iconic sights which can be seen on every postcard. But there are also less known attractions which could turn out to give you the best emotions and memories.
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Best wishes from Russia,