By Suicasmo – Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts about the Winter Palace in Moscow


The Winter Palace is the former royal palace that is today part of the Hermitage Museum.

Russian emperors lived in the Winter Palace for more than 185 years. The Palace is located between Palace Embankment and Palace Square in Saint Petersburg.

With the occupation of the Palace by each Emperor, adjustments and renovations were made to the palace between 1730 and 1837.

At one point, the palace was destroyed by fire but was rebuilt soon after. The fire was not the only tragedy that the palace experienced, it was attacked in 1917. 

This Palace was built by Peter the Great as a symbol of the high social class of the royalty. It has served as a hospital, a birdcage and the administrative headquarters of the Russian government.

There is so much more to know about the Winter Palace. I have put together the top 10 facts about it. Check them out below.

1. The Tsars and Tsarinas of Russia ruled from the Winter Palace

Palaces in Russia were a symbol of supremacy and power. Therefore, much thought went into the design and size of the palace.

The Winter Palace is one such palace, the Tsars of Russia lived in the palace and it was their administrative headquarters.  

They ruled over 125 million people for over millions of square miles, it is estimated that the empire was over 8.8 million square miles.

The Tsars had lavish parties at the Winter Palace. They would host more than 1,000 guests while the stateroom could hold about 10,000 people.

The Palace also witnessed the Russian Revolution and was attacked by the Red Army. It was one of the major strategic points of the Soviet governmental takeover.

2. Italian architect was involved in the construction of this Palace

Aerial View of the Winter Palace. Photo by Andrew Shiva-Wikimedia

Several architects were involved in the designing and construction of the Winter Palace.

The most prominent architect was Bartolomeo Rastrelli from Italy. He was known for his Elizabethan Rococo style. Winter Palace takes the shape of an elongated triangle.

Another notable person that worked on the palace was Johann Franz Dunker, a German sculptor. He worked on the exterior of the palace.

The two men worked closely in achieving the Rococo style. They were involved in the expansion of the palace.

3. Fire destroyed the Winter Palace

Photo By B Green – Wikimedia

In 1837, a huge fire destroyed the palace leaving the imperial family homeless. The exterior was not damaged as the interior was.

While the exact cause of the fire remains unknown, it is believed that the architect was rushed into finishing the palace by the Tsar.

He used wooden materials instead of stone. The wooden partitions had narrow ventilation shafts. Therefore, the fire spread through the walls undetected.

The palace workers, about 6,000 of them, were involved in renovating it. The interiors were largely redesigned while the exterior remained the same.

It took a year and a half to complete the renovations.

4. The Winter Palace was a residence of the Tsars

By W. Bulach – Wikimedia

It was the official residence from 1732 to 1917. The Tsars lived there for more than 180 years. They lived in the palace together with their families.

The last Tsar to live in the palace was Alexander II. He lived there from 1855 to 1881 when he was murdered.

Peter the Great was the Tsar that made St. Petersburg the new Russian capital. He lived in a simple log cabin.

The Winter Palace was built by Domenico Trezzini who needed a larger residence.

5. There are several valuable art collections at the Winter Palace

By Alexander Kolb – Wikimedia

One of the Empresses that lived in the palace loved art. She was Catherine the Great.

Catherine bought 255 paintings from Berlin in 1746. She continued collecting paintings for the rest of her stay at the palace.

All the paintings can be viewed at the Hermitage museum together with millions of other art collections.

The collections are from West-European art, Ancient Art, Primitive culture, Oriental art, and Russian art. They are estimated to be more than 3 million in number.

6. There are more than 1000 rooms in the Winter Palace

The Winter Palace is massive and has 1,500 rooms. There are 117 staircases, 1945 windows and 1,786 doors.

On the ground floor were the bureaucratic and domestic offices while the second floor housed senior officials.

The Tsars and their families lived on the first floor.

About 4,000 workers were involved in the construction of the palace. Despite working in a majestic palace, the workers living conditions were not so good.

7. It took 8 years to complete the Winter Palace

By Florstein – Wikimedia

Construction of the Palace started in 1754 and ended in 1762. The palace was the tallest residential building in the whole of St. Peterburg.

After the palace was finished, there was a lot of debris all over the place. Emperor Peter III announced that people could take anything from the debris for free.

The people quickly took what they wanted and there was no more debris.

8. The Winter Palace has been painted different colours over the years

The Winter Palace was repainted in different colours many times. It was red and pink at one time while another time it was green and white. Its present green colour was painted in 1946.

Each room in the palace stands out with its unique architectural design.

9. The Winter Palace has been stormed in the past

In 1905, during the Bloody Sunday or Red Sunday, demonstrators marched toward the Winter Palace. They wanted to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II.

The imperial family had moved to Alexander Palace and only used the Winter Palace for formal and state functions.

As the crowd marched to the palace, the imperial guard opened fire on them. The crowd was led by father Georgy Gapon. It is estimated that more than 1,000 demonstrators were killed. 

10. The Hermitage Museum at the Winter Palace has a great art collection

This museum was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764. It started as a court museum and was her private gallery for all the paintings and art she collected.

The museum was reconstructed in 1840 and opened to the public in 1852. All the collections in the museum were owned by the government of Russia in 1917. 

It is the 2nd largest museum in the world after the Louvre in Paris. There are over 3 million permanent exhibitions and several other private exhibitions.