Kuskovo Estate and Palace Museum

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Kuskovo Estate and Palace Museum

In the 18th and 19th centuries the country estate of Kuskovo was a summer playground for the Moscow aristocracy. It belonged to the Sheremetyevs, one of Russia's wealthiest and most distinguished families, whose holdings numbered in the millions of acres. (Today, Moscow's international airport, built on land that once belonged to one of their many estates, takes their family name.)

The Sheremetyevs acquired the land of Kuskovo in the early 17th century, but the estate, often called a Russian Versailles, took on its current appearance in the late 18th century. Most of the work on it was commissioned by Prince Pyotr Sheremetyev, who sought a suitable place for entertaining guests in the summer. The park was created by Russian landscape artists who had spent much time in Europe studying the art. They dotted the French-style gardens with buildings representing the major architectural trends of Europe: the Dutch cottage, the Italian villa, the grotto, and the exquisite hermitage, where, as was the showoffy fashion at that time, dinner tables were raised mechanically from the ground floor to the second-floor dining room. The centerpiece of the estate is the Kuskovo Palace, built in the early Russian classical style by the serf architects Alexei Mironov and Fedor Argunov. Fronted by a grand horseshoe staircase and Greek-temple portico, this building exemplifies Russian neoclassical elegance and overlooks a man-made lake. It's been a house museum since 1918, and its interior decorations, including fine parquet floors and silk wall coverings, have been well preserved. The bedroom, with its lovely canopy bed, was merely for show: the Sheremetyevs used the palace exclusively for entertainment and didn't live here. Ballroom extravaganzas once took place in the White Hall, with parquet floors, gilt wall decorations, and crystal chandeliers. On display in the inner rooms are paintings by French, Italian, and Flemish artists; Chinese porcelain; furniture; and other articles of everyday life from the 18th and 19th centuries. The palace also houses a collection of 18th-century Russian art and a celebrated ceramics museum with a rich collection by Russian, Soviet, and foreign artists.

You can reach Kuskovo by public transit, but you may find it more convenient to book a tour that includes transportation. However you plan to get here, be sure to phone ahead before making the trek because the estate often closes when the weather is very humid or very cold.

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