Catherine the Great had this baroque palace built in 1783 for Grigory Potemkin, a famed general and her companion for many years. Today it is home to the Commonwealth of Independent States and is closed to the public. The gardens, on the other hand, are open to all; once the romping grounds of the tsarina, they became a park for the people under the Soviets, and their facilities include a lake, several cafes and an entertainment centre.
The palace was named after Tavria (another name for Crimea, the region that Potemkin conquered) and was a thank-you present to Potemkin from Catherine. Catherine’s bitter son, Paul I, turned the palace into a barracks after his ascension to the throne in 1796, which ruined most of the lavish interiors. Between 1906 and 1917 the State Duma, the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet all met here; in the 1930s it housed the All-Union Agricultural Communist University, a fate that would have no doubt horrified Catherine the Great.