When it comes to attractions in St. Petersburg, Yusupov Palace (which is also sometimes known as Moika Palace) doesn't often make the top tier of people's lists. This is understandable, of course. It's smaller than heavyweights like the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum, and more understated in its beauty than the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, both of which sit relatively nearby in the center of St. Petersburg.
This is not to say Yusupov Palace isn't worthy of a visit—far from it. In addition to being the place where the controversial Rasputin met his end in 1916, Yusupov Palace hides within its walls some truly fascinating history, not to mention some design flourishes you wouldn't expect, given its modest exterior.
History of Yusupov Palace
Built near the end of the 18th century by a French architect, Yusupov Palace takes its name from the Yusupovs, a family of Russian nobles who once called it home. Although the Yusupovs were never at the head of the table of Russian power like Russia's tsars, they were guests at it for generations, having ingratiated themselves to Russian rulers as far back in history as Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century.
To be sure, the Yusupovs were involved with the last Russian dynasty, the Romanovs. Although he didn't pull the trigger (or wield the fist or prepare the poison—it was a complicated death), Felix Yusupov was intimately involved in the murder of Grigori Rasputin, an influential con man who became a trusted advisor to Tsar Nicholas II before communists murdered his family. Felix went on to marry Nicholas' niece, though this pairing ended up being of little value due to the Russian Revolution.
Top Things to See at Yusupov Palace
More of a room than a museum, the Rasputin-related section of Yusupov Palace, which sits in its basement, re-creates the death of the famous mystic using wax figurines. Well, part of the death—as mentioned above, it was messy; Rasputin ultimately succumbed to being drowned in a frigid river after attempts to assassinate him using guns, poison, and brute force failed. Note that if you're on the fence about renting an audio guide, this part of the Palace is one reason you definitely shouldn't say "Nyet!"
The theater inside Yusupov Palace retains much of its late-18th century splendor, especially for the people who are lucky enough to be in St. Petersburg when music and stage performances still take place here. Even if you only enter the palace during visiting hours, it's impossible to deny the beauty of the empty stage—you can practically imagine the beauty that has transpired on it. If you are interested in the possibility of attending one of the performances, keep an eye on Yusupov Palace's event calendar in the weeks leading up to your trip.
Officially known as the "Home Church of the Protection of the Mother of God," the relatively modest chapel inside Yusupov Palace nonetheless boasts a history as impressive as the rest of the building. Among the important sacraments to take place in this church, which is still open for services at 10 a.m. every Wednesday, was the marriage of Felix Yusupov's daughter Irina; Felix's mother was also married in the church, in 1882.
How to Visit Yusupov Palace
The palace is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday except for Russian holidays. The admission fee is 450 rubles ($7) for a self-guided tour or 700 rubles ($11) for a tour with an audio guide. The ticket office opens 30 minutes before opening and closes an hour before closing; it may be more convenient to buy tickets online.
Yusupov Palace sits right on the Moika River, which makes its bright exterior beautiful to photograph as well. This is particularly the case on a sunny day, when blue skies contrast perfectly with the yellow walls of the Palace, or at night time when the facade lights up and reflects in the water.
What to Do in St. Petersburg (Besides Visiting Yusupov Palace)
Yusupov Palace sits near the heart of St. Petersburg, so there's plenty of things to do nearby before or after your visit. If you want a great view, enter the storied St. Isaac's Cathedral, and ascend to the open-air rooftop where you can see the whole city. Yusupov Palace is also only a short walk from the Admiralty building, which itself rises over the mighty Neva River. Yusupov Palace is also only a short walk from many incredible St. Petersburg restaurants.
Once you've finished exploring attractions around Yusupov Palace, you can walk about 15-20 minutes eastward to visit the rest of St. Petersburg's top sites. These include the aforementioned Winter Palace and Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, plus the Nevskiy Prospekt High Street, the Summer Garden, and the Peter and Paul Fortress on the Spit of Vasilevsky Island.