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Visiting Tsaritsyno

Last update on December 12, 2018

Blogger Tamara Smith and family spend a lovely day soaking in the fairy-tale atmosphere of Tsaritsyno, a park in southern Moscow.

We spent Saturday at Tsaritsyno, a park in southern Moscow that dates back to the 16th century. It first belonged to Tsarina Irina, the sister of Tsar Boris Godunov, and eventually ended up in the hands of Empress Catherine the Great in 1775.

Catherine’s extravagant tastes extended to her visions for the land, and she embarked upon a very ambitious plan to redesign and rebuild the palace.

Catherine the Great’s extravagant tastes

Her first architect, Vasili Bazhenkov, must have rued the day he agreed to work for such a difficult woman. Involved in every aspect of the plans, she personally approved of his original design combining old Russian, Gothic, classical and Arabic styles for the estate. Construction of the luxurious palaces and other buildings continued from 1776 until 1785, when Catherine fired Bazhenkov and decided that the palace was so unacceptable that she had it torn down.

Matvey Kazakov then took over as architect, continuing the construction until Catherine died 10 years later and funding for the project was exhausted.

Palaces in disrepair

The palaces became very dilapidated over the years, creating a fairy-tale atmosphere that hung (and actually still does) over the lake, ponds, gates, bridges, church, woods and winding paths.

The Grand Palace

The Third Cavalier Building – the white details look like royal icing on a gingerbread house.

I remember horseback riding there in 1991; I felt transported back in time, as if I’d unknowingly entered some parallel universe. Before the estate was restored in 2007, rock climbers used to practice their skills on the crumbling brick walls!

The Figure Bridge

Tsartisyno’s museums

Tsartisyno is a wonderful destination if you want to stroll around the grounds, perhaps even stopping to picnic. You can also enter the various museums, featuring the history of Catherine the Great and the estate. Since at any given time, only a small fraction of the museum’s collection is on display, each new trip is an opportunity to see something new. You can view some of the palace’s interior, and there’s a cafe in the basement.

Tsaritsyno is a very popular spot for photographs after one’s wedding ceremony; I counted 17 different couples; on a warmer — and less rainy — day, there would be many, many more!

Click here to see the museum’s official website in English and take a virtual tour of the grounds.



Tamara Smith / Expatica

The writer is a happily married mom to two little girls navigating the unexpected twists and turns of life in Moscow. They’re in their sixth year of living here, and the city has changed so much during that time. The writer taught French and Spanish back in the USA and now she’s the Director of Foreign Languages in a Russian private school. Click here to read more of her blog postings.


Photo credit: A.Savin (thumbnail).