Five minutes away from Red Square, between a few small churches, stands the old palace of the famous Romanov boyars. Built by the brother-in-law of Ivan the Terrible and grandfather of Tsar Mikhail Romanov in the sixteenth century, it housed the family until 1613 when Mikhail Romanov became Tsar.
After the Romanovs moved to the Kremlin following Mikhail’s election, the house fell into disrepair. It was not until the 19th century that the palace was restored by Nicholas I in honor of his ancestors’ achievements. Since that time, the palace has acted as a museum and continues to show guests the lives the noble families lived in the Middle-Ages.
The living conditions provide for some interesting food-for-thought about what the ruling family’s mindset and relationships were like.
The downstairs contains limestone cellars and the men’s quarters. Dark and bleak with imposing leather-work, it stands in sharp contrast to the women and children’s quarters on the top floor. Light and airy with numerous windows, these were the rooms where the women, young children, and daughters spent most their time. Much of the furniture still remains, including the stations where the women spent their days weaving and doing needlework. The dining room, which leads to the women’s quarters, is elaborately decorated, with every inch of wall-space covered in designs. Directly off the dining-room is the study and library, both of which hold large, tiled stoves depicting fairy tales and scenes from history.
Details: Decent labeling in both Russian and English, though some of the artifacts have more interesting history than you will find from the descriptions. To really learn the cool stuff, groups of school children will occasionally go through on tours – and if you can speak Russian, follow along. The museum is closed on Tuesday. The upstairs is actually secreted up a small, cramped staircase – make sure not to miss it! Students can get in, as of May 2009, for a mere forty rubles. Everyone else can get in for just over 100 rubles. Photography is permitted if you pay an extra eighty rubles for a special pass.
Directions: Click here for a Google Map. The Museum is located at 10, Улица Варварка (Varvarka Street). From the Red Square, walk towards the end of GUM nearest to St. Basil’s Cathedral. Take a left at the end of GUM and walk down Улица Илинка (Ulitsa Ilinka) about 150 meters. Take a right at the Старый Гостиный Двор (Stariy Gostiniy Dvor) and head south down Хрусталый Переулок (Khrustalniy Pereulok) approximately 200 meters. At the end of the building, cross the street and take a left. Walk past the museum (the building between all the churches) and go to the staircase in front of the sea-green church. Take the staircase and follow the sign to the museum.