Lonely Planet review
This spectacular palace on the Moyka River has some of the most perfectly preserved 19th-century interiors in the city, in addition to a fascinating history. The palace was built by Vallin de la Mothe in the 1760s, but the current interiors date from a century later. It became the residence of the illustrious Yusupov family after they moved from another fine house on Sadovaya ul (which, confusingly, is also sometimes called the Yusupov Palace). The palace’s last Yusupov owner was the eccentric Prince Felix, a high-society darling, enamoured of cross-dressing, who often attended the Mariinsky and society balls as a woman and was at one time the richest man in Russia. Most notoriously, the palace is the place where Grigory Rasputin met his gruesome end in 1916.
The palace interior is sumptuous and rich, with many halls painted in different styles and decked out with gilded chandeliers, silks, frescoes, tapestries and some fantastic furniture. The tour begins on the 2nd floor, which features an amazing ballroom and banquet hall, where musicians perform short concerts throughout the day. The highlight is the ornate rococo private theatre, which apparently has hosted artists as famed as Fyodor Chaliapin, Mikhail Glinka and Anna Pavlova. The tour continues on the ground floor, where you can’t miss the fabulous Turkish Study and Moorish Drawing Room. Of the latter, Felix Yusupov wrote: ‘I loved the tender Oriental luxury of this room. I used to dream here… I sat on the sofa with my mother’s jewels on me and imagined myself as an Oriental satrap, surrounded by slaves.’
In 1916 Rasputin was murdered here in the grizzliest possible way by Felix Yusupov and some fellow plotters, who considered the ‘mad monk’ to have become too powerful.
The palace is certainly one of St Petersburg’s finest, but it’s very overpriced for foreigners (Russians get a far better deal) and if you want to see the room where Rasputin’s murder began, you have to pay for an extra tour (adult/student R300/180), which takes place at 1.45pm daily except Sunday. There are only 20 tickets available each day, so come in good time to secure a place. The tour is in Russian only, so it’s hard not to feel you’re getting a bum deal, as Russians themselves pay far less. The admission price to the palace includes an audio tour in English and a number of other languages, but you’ll need to leave a R1000 deposit per audioguide.