The Marble Palace is one of the first Neoclassical palaces in Saint Petersburg worth a short visit if you have time to spare.
Set on the Neva River embankment by the famous Field of Mars, the majestic Marble Palace is one of the most impressive works of famed architect Antonio Rinaldi, and one of the grandest Imperial residences from the silver age of Russian culture.
This 3-story building was commissioned by Catherine II as a gift for Gregory Orlov, the Empress's lover, who she described as "the most handsome man of his time". Count Grigory Orlov's creative vision was also a strong influence in the palace's design.
The construction of the Palace begun in 1768 with Antonio Rinaldi and other world-class architects, which they were hired by Orlov. In order to build the Palace 32 different types of superior marble for its design were acquired. From pink Karelian to the Urals to Tallinn dolomite, a large variety of disparate shades were combined to create a skillful contrast between the major and minor details of the interior and exterior of the palace.
The Palace got its name from the marble facing, setting it strongly apart from the usual plastered buildings of St Petersburg. After the revolution the Palace was used with careless disregard by various Soviet institutions that almost entirely ruined the interior decoration.
Under Soviet rule, it was turned into the Academy of History and Material Culture and later transformed into the Lenin Museum, when a portion of the exterior facade was used to conceal a hidden courtyard where Lenin’s armored car was kept from 1937 to 1992.
Today, the Palace is a Russian State Museum which hosts The Ludwig Collection of fine art and special exhibits that visitors say is outstanding, and at times, very moving.
Interested to visit the Palace? If so, click on the links below or scroll down the page to learn more.
The Marble Palace is a low-key museum getting none of the hype of the Hermitage Museum, but because of that, it does not mean you should not visit. Inside the Palace, you can admire various temporary small exhibitions dedicated to modern art and beautiful interiors made of ceiling paintings.
The Marble Hall and the Main Staircase are part of the interiors designed by A. Rinaldi. Both they don't striking for its scale or gilded splendor, but leaves a lasting impression through its somewhat heavy Renaissance architecture. The walls are embellished with bas-reliefs by Mikhail Kozlovsky, framed in yellow Italian marble and lapis Iazuli, that depict episodes from the Punic Wars.
In a city like Saint Petersburg, you get spoiled for a choice when it comes to the palaces to visit. This one is right on the riverbank and has been undergoing a planned restoration for several years up to our days, making it really remarkable.
It is interesting to know that although the Empress considered marrying Orlov, it is speculated that their relationship was sabotaged by her closest advisor. In an effort to rekindle her affections, Orlov purchased one of the greatest diamonds in the world; famously known as the Orlov Diamond. Despite all efforts, he fell out of favor and did not live long enough to see the finalization of his palace.
Catherine the Great bought the palace from Orlov’s heirs and gave it to her grandson, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich. It was then passed down to Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, who redecorated it and renamed it The Konstantin Palace. Keeping only the main staircase and the Marble Hall in their original form, he was the last of the Romanov's to own The Palace, as the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 forever changed the Imperial Dynasty.
As the mastermind behind the notorious coup d'etat on behalf of Catherine the Great, Orlov arranged Catherine's ascent to the throne through the death of her husband, Emperor Peter III, and was richly rewarded. His rise from an artillery officer to the title of Count and General-in-Chief made Orlov one of the most prominent noblemen of the 1760s.
You can purchase tickets online prior to your arrival through the official website, or at the ticket office inside the building. Please keep in mind that Ticket offices close 30 minutes to one hour early.
Address: 5/1, Millionaya Ulitsa
Metro: Nevsky Prospekt or Gostiny Dvor
Opening hours: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm (to 5 pm on Mondays. Ticket offices close one hour earlier). Closed on Tuesdays.
Telephone: +7 (812) 312-9196
Admission: Between 250 - 500 Rubles. Ticket to two branches of the museum between 350 - 750Rubles. All-in ticket to Mikhailovsky Palace, Marble Palace, Stroganov Palace, Mikhailovsky Castle within 3 days between 500 - 1000Rubles.
Photo and Video: free/included
Accesibility note: Some of the sections of the palace are wheelchair accessible.
The Marble Palace is a nice place to visit but keep in mind that it should not be a priority considering the caliber of the other places around the city. Therefore, if you don't have time during your stay don't put it at the top of your list.
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