On a wooded hill in far southeast Moscow, Tsaritsyno Palace is a modern-day manifestation of the exotic summer home that Catherine the Great began in 1775 but never finished. Architect Vasily Bazhenov worked on the project for 10 years before he was sacked. She hired another architect, Matvey Kazakov, but the project eventually ran out of money. For hundreds of years, the palace was little more than a shell, until the Russian government finally decided to finish it in 2007.
Nowadays, the Great Palace is a fantastical building that combines old Russian, Gothic, classical and Arabic styles. Inside, exhibits are dedicated to the history of Tsaritsyno, as well as the life of Catherine the Great. The nearby kitchen building, or khlebny dom, also hosts rotating exhibits, sometimes culinary and sometimes covering topics such as icons and art. The khlebny dom is a pleasant place to hear classical concerts in summer.
The extensive grounds include some other lovely buildings, such as the Small Palace, the working Church of Our Lady Lifegiving Spring, the cavalier buildings, greenhouses with tropical plants and some interesting bridges. A pond is bedecked with a fantastic fountain set to music. The English-style wooded park stretches all the way south to the Upper Tsaritsynsky Pond, which has rowing boats available for hire in summer, and west to the Tsaritsyno Palace complex.
Tsaritsyno park is best accessed from Orekhovo metro station – the entrance is right by the station. From there, walk towards the ponds past an open-air stage, where old folks gather to dance to 1960s tunes in summer, then turn right towards the palace.