Tsaritsyno is a royal estate in Moscow, grand place with a complicated fate.
It is known from the 16th century, when it belonged to Tsaritsa Irina, sister of Tsar Boris Godunov. The estate changed owners a couple of times in the 17th century, until empress Catherine the Great saw it in 1775, feel in love with the beautiful land and bought it, giving the estate its current name Tsaritsyno, meaning “Tsaritsa’s”.
Now all that had to be done was to build a palace worthy of the great empress, who wished to have it in neo-gothic style. The construction lasted for 9 years and the building was almost finished, when, in 1785, Catherine the Great decided to come over with an inspection. She found the rooms to be too small and dark, fired the architect and ordered for the whole place to be demolished and built from scratch. Those are the perks of being the empress of Russia.
The second architect, Matvey Kazakov, started on his mission in 1786 and was determined to produce a palace that even Catherine the Great would fall in love with. He worked hard for 10 long years, but then, unfortunately, Catherine died and the palace never got a chance to host her court. Her successor had no interest in this place whatsoever, halting the financing and, subsequently, all construction works.
Tsaritsyno was left unfinished for more than 200 years, attracting youngsters, who used its walls and roofs as climbing props. Finally, in 2005 Russia’s government ordered for the palace and the park to be finished in the way they were intended to be centuries ago. New Tsaritsyno estate opened its gates just two years later. Now it is used as a museum, exhibition hall, concert hall and grounds for various festivals.
We visited Tsaritsyno with my older daughter and her God mother in 2013 to see an exhibition of dresses and accessories from every decade of the 20th century (organised by Alexandre Vassiliev, owner of one of the largest private couture collections in the world). Although, my daughter was only 3 at that time, she spent quite some time staring at one dress or another – it is never too early to get a fashion education :)
You can get a tour around the palace, but it’s also a great place for a day out – the grounds are extensive and favoured by locals any time of the year. You can have a look at winter fun in Tsaritsyno park – I’ve posted some photos here.
Tsaritsyno might not be the first sight you would think of, when coming to Moscow. However, if you have enough time left after walking around the historical city centre, by all means come to Tsaritsyno and spend a day out, imagining you’re visiting Catherine the Great.