Livadia Palace


It's not the most sumptuously furnished Crimean interior, but Livadia Palace reverberates with history. It's the site of the 1945 Yalta Conference, where dying US president Franklin Roosevelt and heat-allergic British prime minister Winston Churchill turned up to be bullied by Soviet leader Josef Stalin. While here, Churchill declared steamy Crimea 'the Riviera of Hades'. No wonder, given the high temperatures and the company he was keeping. Stalin's insistent demands to keep Poland and other swathes of Eastern Europe shaped the face of postwar Europe. Even as huge tour groups nearly trample you in a race to the overflowing souvenir shops in the furthest rooms, it's hard not to be awed wandering these corridors of power.

In the enormous White Hall, the 'Big Three' and their staff met to tacitly agree that the USSR would wield the biggest influence in Eastern Europe, in exchange for keeping out of the Mediterranean. The crucial documents, dividing Germany and ceding parts of Poland to the USSR, were signed on 11 February in the English billiard room. The most famous Yalta photograph of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin is hung on a wall, along with the awkward outtakes, which bring history to life.

It's upstairs, however, that Livadia's other ghosts genuinely move you (yes, even complete antimonarchists). This Italian Renaissance-style building was designed as a summer residence for Russian Tsar Nicholas II in 1911. But he and his family spent just four seasons here before their arrest by Bolshevik troops in 1917 and execution in Yekaterinburg the following year. Photos and some poignant mementos of the doomed Romanovs are still in their private apartments.

From the row of souvenir stands at the entrance, a signposted path leads to the palace's former power station (800m away), which has been transformed into an organ hall. In summer, concerts take place daily at 4pm and 8pm.

Marshrutka 47a from Veshchevoy Rynok bus station and Marshrutka 5 (3uah, summer only) from the Spartak Cinema bus station drop you right in the palace grounds. A taxi to Livadia will cost around 20uah.