The Menshikov palace in St Petersburg
The Menshikov palace which once belonged to the most loyal supporter of Peter the Great – Alexander Menshikov- is now a branch of the State Hermitage museum. Menshikov palace is situated on Universitetskaya embankment 15 in the very center of the city and is recommended for a visit to those who are interested in the history of Russia.
Alexander Menshikov was a man of low origin, as people say, as a boy he was selling pies in the street, but due to quick wit and intelligence he became a servant of future emperor Peter the Great. Menshikov made brilliant career from a valet of Peter the Great to his second in command. He was the first general governor of St Petersburg, had many noble titles and was the richest man in the empire. His daughter Maria was to marry Peter II, the new ruler of Russia after the death of Peter the Great and his wife Catherine. Nevertheless, his dreams were not to come true and he was exiled to Siberia with his family and was stripped of all his honors.
The Menshikov palace was built between 1710-1727 and once it was the most luxurious stone building in St Petersburg, that’s why official receptions and celebrations often took place there ( for example, the Summer palace of Peter the Great which was built approximately at the same time is significantly smaller). Today you can see inside restored interiors as well as period furniture and works of art. You shouldn’t expect the second Winter palace of at least Yusupov palace – it is much more modest and the time and tastes were different then. For example, besides a dancing room, reception rooms or a study there was a shop with a turning machine which was the fashion of the day ( even Peter the Great was famous for making things with his own hands).
There are boards in each room explaining what you can see inside (in English and Russian), but the description is a little bit formal to my taste. In fact, they could make very interesting tours of the Menshikov palace in English as people working there have very deep knowledge of the subject and have a lot to tell, but probably they lack financing. Unfotunately there are not too many visitors in the palace now.
The tickets to the Menshikov palace are cheap- 60 rubles, you can buy one inside the palace or use a 2-days Hermitage ticket that allows entrance to the main building of the Hermitage and all its branches. If you buy a ticket in the palace you need to pay extra money for photo permission and during my last visit the permission was several times more expensive than the ticket itself and it is really strange.
All in all, if you are interested in history and want to see how wealthy people lived in St Petersburg in the first third of the 18th century than the Menshikov palace is a must.