Nevsky Prospekt is one of the most notable streets in St. Petersburg. This street is as old as the city itself, and since it’s quite significant, there are several important buildings, palaces, cathedrals, and tourist’s attractions inside it. One of the oldest buildings in the Nevsky Prospekt is Anichkov Palace which is near a bridge over the Fontanka River with the same name.
Anichkov Palace is the first stone palace that was built in Nevsky Prospect, and it took its name from Anichkov Bridge. Though when it was decided to build this palace, the site was in the suburb of St. Petersburg and the Nevsky Prospekt was not as significant as of today.
The palace was built by the orders of Empress Elizabeth in 1741. Mikhail Zemtsov was responsible for the form and the dimensions of the palace, but the French architect, Francesco Rastrelli was the designer. Though there are no documents about the two architects that support the idea of these two worked on this project, but from the sketches and the design of the palace, it’s likely to be them. Rastrelli started the construction in 1741 and completed the Baroque style palace in 1754. After the construction finished, Empress Elizabeth gave the palace to Aleksey Razumovsky, her favorite and perhaps unofficial husband as a gift. This palace is anticipated to be the most majestic private residences of the Elizabethan era.
Following the death of Razumovsky, Empress Catherine II who succeeded the crown at that time bought the palace from his heirs, only to give it to her favorite, Prince Potemkin. Since Catherine the Great admired the neoclassical architecture, most of the structures that built or renovated during her reign were followed that style, Anichkov Palace was no exception. Potemkin assigned the Russian architect, Ivan Starov to rebuild the palace following the neoclassical style in 1778; the reconstruction completed only a year after. At the same time that the palace was under reconstruction, the British garden architect, William Hould was commissioned to build a regular park near the palace.
Following the Potemkin’s death, the imperial family bought back the palace from Potemkin's descendent to house the imperial council. The last structure that attached to the complex was the government cabinet building during Alexander the first’s reign. The Tsar commissioned Quarenghi to build this structure in the Nevsky prospect, following the neoclassical style. Many believe that since Quarenghi designed the government cabinet building following the neoclassical style, it doesn’t match with the original designing by Rastrelli. Alexander the first gave the palace to his sister three years later.
Following their marriage, Alexander III and Maria Feodorovna took Anichkov Palace as their St. Petersburg principal residence. Their children spent most of their childhood in this palace including the future Tsar Nicholas II. Alexander III even after he succeeded the crown, preferred Anichkov Palace over the Winter Palace. Anichkov Palace had belonged to the imperial family until the February Revolution in1917, but after the revolution, it housed the Ministry of Provisions.
Following the October Revolution, all the residences of the royal and the noble families were nationalized including Anichkov Palace which turned to City Museum of St. Petersburg. The palace housed the museum until 1937 when the administrators decided to change it into the Leningrad’s Young Pioneer Palace, and it remained as the palace of youth creativity since then even after the fall of the Soviet Union. The organization held hundreds of after school clubs to help children and youngster discover and improve their talents.
Currently, besides the palace of the youth creativity, Anchikov Palace housed a small museum inside its main building. This small museum tells the history of the palace from way before the revolution until the recent dates. During the museum tour which lasts for around 1.5 hours, one can visit the main hall, the winter garden, the library, the Alexander III’s study desk, the fairy room, and the fantastic paintings of Palekh masters.
The Anichkov palace which is the first stone palace that built in the Nevsky Prospect is quite important in St. Petersburg’s history. Though there are several more important attractions in St. Petersburg compare to Anichkov Palace, to learn about this marvelous palace is not a waste of time. Besides the museum and the winter garden, other parts of the palace are often unavailable for tourist.
The Anichkov Palace and its amazing park are a relaxing place for people who wants to spend some quiet time far from the crowded Nevsky Prospekt. We recommended that even if you don’t want to add this museum to your St. Petersburg tour list, add this park to your visit of St. Petersburg, and check one of the oldest and the first stone palace on Nevsky Prospekt.