The most sumptuous non-imperial palace in St. Petersburg was the home of the unabashedly rich and powerful Yusupov family, who from the mid-18th century (when the first version of this palace was built) until the Revolution, moved in the most powerful circles in Russia. In addition to being movers and shakers, the Yusupovs were great collectors of art, and their collection was known well beyond Russia. After the Revolution, most of the collection was moved to the Hermitage, making this place just another palace, though traces of the incredible wealth that once kept this place pulsating with life still remain: the various sitting rooms, the intricate chandeliers and candelabras that adorn every room and corridor, and the beautiful private theater that looks like a cozy version of the Mariinsky.
Recently the palace opened an exhibit attempting to make up for the loss of all the art treasures, an exhibit concerning an event that occurred in the palace in the winter of 1916. The assassination of Rasputin is one of the most well-known stories of Russian history and they try to capitalize on this to the fullest, retelling the story and showing the two rooms where it all happened. In the first room, where the conspirators waited, hang photographs from the early 20th century showing all the principle characters in the drama including several shots of nasty old Raspy himself in various poses: with soldiers of the guard, with a large group of society ladies, with Siberian followers, as a mutilated corpse, and so on. In the cellar where the assassination took place there are wax figures of Yusupov and Rasputin as well as the table filled with poisoned goodies.
The palace and the Rasputin tours are viewable only on an excursion basis. Excursions can be ordered for either or both; seeing both takes about two hours. Excursions need to be booked at least three days in advance, paid for at least two days in advance, and you'll need to bring your own translator. The relatively steep price - $8 per person in rubles - makes it not really worth it, unless you're a Rasputin buff or you really like extravagant palaces. Recitals and plays are occasionally held in the theater or one of the many palace rooms (except the Rasputin room); go to one to get a peek at bits of the palace without paying outrageously for it. For information on these (in Russian) see the posters outside house 92 on the Moika embankment or call.
94 Naberezhnaya Reki Moiki, Metro: Nevsky Av. then buses 22 or 27, or a 20 minute walk down the Moika, St.-Peresburg
For reservations tel: 314 8893. Open 11:00-16:00.