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20km (12 miles) W of Moscow

This accessible estate offers an excellent opportunity to appreciate aristocratic architecture and breathe pine-scented air at the same time, without traveling too far from your hotel. Owned by a series of wealthy princes from the 17th to the 20th centuries, the estate once housed one of Russia's richest private art collections. Its design still bears testimony to the whims of its owners, with its frivolous pavilions, a Grecian-style mausoleum, and a Gothic bridge. Plenty of Russians come here just to wander the grounds, hide amid the tunnels of rose-covered trellises, look over granite balconies at children frolicking in the Moscow River on a summer day, or picnic on a bench in the oak groves.

Essentials

Surprisingly few organized tour groups visit here, preferring to take visitors to the more famous towns along the Garden Ring. That's part of Arkhangelskoye's appeal, making it feel more like a discovery. Most Moscow tour guides and many Moscow hotels can arrange an individual trip, with or without an English-speaking guide. You should be able to negotiate such a tour for around 2,000 rubles per car for the day, plus the cost of the guide (1,300 rubles). In the calmer days of July and August, the ride from central Moscow shouldn't take more than 40 minutes one-way, meaning you can make the whole trip in an afternoon. The rest of the year, Moscow traffic can make the one-way trip take an hour or even two.

If you go on your own, ride the metro to Tushinskaya, then bus no. 549 to Arkhangelskoye; the bus ride takes about half an hour, runs three times an hour, and costs about 60 rubles. Drivers are unlikely to speak much English, but the estate is the last stop so you can't miss it. Patriarshy Dom occasionally offers a summer English-language tour (tel. 495/795-0927; www.russiatravel-pdtours.netfirms.com).

What To See & Do

The architectural epicenter of the estate is Yusupov Palace, which is set back from the Moscow River in an overgrown grove. Many visitors don't notice the palace at first, instead heading for the long facade of the more exposed, Stalin-era Military Convalescent Home overlooking the river. The palace originally dated from the 1670s, when it belonged to the family of Prince Cherkassky. Little remains from that era, however, since in the 1730s it became the pet project of Nikolai Golitsyn, who later became a favorite of Catherine the Great. The building's classical form and Ionic pillars date from Golitsyn's time, but much of the interior -- including the art collection -- was designed under the direction of Prince Nikolai Yusupov, who bought the estate in 1810 and whose name the palace retains.

Yusupov was a devoted art patron, amateur scientist, and philosopher, as well as one of Russia's richest property owners. A renowned bon vivant, he called Arkhangelskoye "a corner of paradise." He brought many of his treasures to Arkhangelskoye when he moved in, and in 1825 he turned the palace into one of Russia's first public art museums. More than 500 paintings by European masters, including Tiepolo, van Dyck, and Boucher, graced its walls. The library held 16,000 volumes and was often visited by famous writers of Yusupov's day, including Alexander Pushkin. Sculptures, antique furniture, tapestries, and rare china completed the collection. The palace itself has been undergoing renovations for years, and only parts of it are open to visitors. The estate stayed in Yusupov's family for more than 100 years, until the revolution saw it fall to Bolshevik hands. Its last owner, Felix Yusupov, went down in history as the prince who shot Grigory Rasputin, the controversial spiritual adviser to Czar Nicholas II and his family. The Soviets turned the estate into a museum in 1919.

Leading down from the palace toward the river are the geometrical, Italian-style gardens, which were long neglected but are again being planted with roses and grape vines. The surrounding pavilions are in various states of disrepair, making them seem older than they are -- almost like the ancient Greek temples they emulate. The military convalescent home was built in the 1940s for the Red Army elite. Still in operation today, it is closed to visitors. Its terraces overlooking the river are accessible, and its staircases are the best way to reach the riverbank.

Before or after visiting the river, head left to see the rest of the grounds. Highlights include the Gothic bridge over the ravine and the rose-colored granite-and-limestone temple built as a mausoleum for the Yusupov family in the late 19th century. The Corinthian columned Holy Gates lead up to the Church of the Archangel Michael, which dates from 1667 and is the oldest building on the grounds. It's also the source of the estate's name. Note the remains of the theater across the main road from the palace, which Yusupov had built for his troupe of serf actors and musicians.

The estate is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 6pm (tel. 495/363-1375). Entrance to the grounds is 50 rubles.

Where To Dine

There's nothing to eat on the grounds of the estate itself except ice cream and cold drinks from stands in the warmer months. Just outside the grounds, across the main road, is the charming wooden Arkhangelskoye Restaurant (Ilyinskoye Shosse; tel. 495/562-0328). It's rather touristy since it's the only place to eat here, but the satisfying Russian food and drinks are served in a more relaxed setting than you'll find in Moscow. The walls are decorated with panels made to resemble lacquer boxes from the town of Palekh, and the long windows look out on the surrounding woods. Anything with wild mushrooms is worth trying, including the mushroom soups or veal with mushrooms. Salads are heavy on mayonnaise or sour cream in the traditional Russian style. A full meal will run 1,500 to 2,000 rubles. The restaurant is open daily from 11am to 11pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.