Museum of Decorative & Applied Arts

Museum in Smolny & Vosstaniya

Image by Ksenia Elzes Lonely Planet

Also known as the Stieglitz Museum, this fascinating establishment is as beautiful as you would expect a decorative arts museum to be. An array of gorgeous objects is on display, from medieval furniture to 18th-century Russian tiled stoves and contemporary works by the students of the Applied Arts School (also housed here). This museum is less visited than some of its counterparts in the city, but the quiet atmosphere only adds to its appeal.

In 1878 the millionaire Baron Stieglitz founded the School of Technical Design and wanted to surround his students with world-class art to inspire them. He began a collection that was continued by his son and was to include a unique array of European and Oriental glassware, porcelains, tapestries, furniture and paintings. It eventually grew into one of Europe’s richest private collections. Between 1885 and 1895, a building designed by architect Maximilian Messmacher was built to house the collection and this building also became a masterpiece. Each hall is decorated in its own unique style, including Italian, Renaissance, Flemish and baroque. The Terem Room, in the style of the medieval Terem Palace of Moscow’s Kremlin, is an opulent knockout.

After the revolution the school was closed, the museum’s collection redistributed to the Hermitage and the Russian Museum, and most of the lavish interiors were brutally painted or plastered over or even destroyed (one room was used as a sports hall). The painstaking renovation continues to this day, despite receiving no state funding.

To find the museum, take the second entrance to the Academy as you walk up Solyanoy per from ul Pestelya. After buying tickets, head up the main staircase, turn right at the top, walk through two halls and then go down the lovely fresco-covered staircase to your left. Once you've visited the museum, feel free to wander around the grand halls and corridors of the Applied Arts School. If you continue the way you came to get to the museum and turn right you'll get to the school's main hall, with its signature skylights, where exhibitions of students' work are often held.