Anna Akhmatova Museum at the Fountain House

Museum in Smolny & Vosstaniya

Image by Ksenia Elzes Lonely Planet

Housed in the south wing of the Sheremetyev Palace, this touching and fascinating literary museum celebrates the life and work of Anna Akhmatova, St Petersburg’s most famous 20th-century poet. Akhmatova lived here from 1926 until 1952, invited by the art scholar Nikolai Punin, who lived in several rooms with his family. The two had a long-running affair, somewhat complicated by the tight living situation – Punin didn't want to separate from his wife.

The apartment is on the 2nd floor and is filled with mementos of the poet and correspondence with other writers, as well as elements from the life of Punin (like the overcoat hanging in the entry) and other boarders who lived here; sadly Punin would die in a gulag in 1953. A visit to this contemplative place also provides a glimpse of the interior of an (albeit atypical) apartment from the early to mid-20th century, even if relatively few pieces of original furniture have survived. Particularly moving is the study where, in her own words, Akhmatova 'quite unexpectedly' started her masterpiece Poem Without a Hero in 1940, and her living room where the poet had a famous all-night conversation with British diplomat Isaiah Berlin during the height of Stalinism, an event that had become legendary in Russian literary history. There are information panels in English in each room, as well as an audio guide available in English and several other languages.

Admission also includes the Josef Brodsky American Study. Brodsky did not live here, but his connection with Akhmatova was strong. For lack of a better location, his office has been recreated here, complete with furniture and other artifacts from his adopted home in Massachusetts. Funds are currently being collected to open a Josef Brodsky Museum at the poet's former home a few blocks away on Liteyny pr.

When coming to the museum, be sure to enter from Liteyny pr, rather than from the Fontanka River, where the main palace entrance is, as it's not possible to reach the museum from there.