Visit The Shah Palace
Crowning the abrupt precipice in the historical part of the city, the Shah Palace is one of the most beautiful and magnificent structures in Odesa. Constructed in Neo-Gothic style, it stands out against other old buildings of the city and represents its true adornment that locals boast about and guests amaze themselves over more than one and a half century.
The intricate building of the palace is from 1852 by a design by Felix Gonsiorowski, for the Polish tycoon Zenon Brżozowski. It emerged on the site of the proposed military hospital, whose construction took longer than planned due to uncertain reasons.
So the half-finished building was pulled down. As of today it's a 2-floor limestone palace faced with Inkerman stone. Its shapes and decorations are reminiscent of medieval English castles, which inspired the architect. Battlement turrets crown its thick walls, cut with big ogival windows and arches that imitate the castle style.
Rooms with a view
Making client wishes come true, the architect designed the palace to produce the biggest impressions from the seaside. It was a perimeter formed by four buildings. There was an open-loop patio in the middle that leaded to the area once featured the fountain. It was accessible through the monumental arch that imitated medieval turret with wicket gate modeled after drawbridge.
Zenon Brżozowski’s family lived here until 1910, after that the Polish count, Józef Schonbek purchased the mansion. He turned it into a lodging house.
For 10 years, the Persian shah, Mohammed Ali, rented the palace. Being dethroned and banished from his own country, he settled down in Odesa. His personality served as a base for most of the rumors and legends of the palace. They say that upon moving to Odesa, the shah didn’t give up his Oriental customs and decided to organize a harem. He had a habit to get rid of guilty concubines from the ground floor balcony instead of saying them goodbye at the front door.
House of People's Art
It was a great moral for other girls and a fine amusement for locals. Also, the citizens of Odesa fell in love with overseas guest for his generosity. Every time he went out to the city, he would give a lot of presents to everyone who crossed his path. Since then, the locals nicknamed this edifice the Shah Palace. It's known under this name as of today.
In 1920, after Mohammed Ali left Odesa, the mansion welcomed the House of People’s Arts. Its activities affected on the state of the building. The palace’s exterior didn't change, unlike interiors of the building that were ruined, including tiled stoves, marble fireplaces, decorative parquet. Only the main staircase and the lobby survived.
Literary Museum (Palace of Gagarin Family)
The Odesa Literary Museum is one of the largest specialized museums in the country and one of the most famous in the city. It occupies a former palace, once property of Prince Dmitry Gagarin. Towered above a steep slope in the historical center of Odesa, not far away from Opera House, the awe-inspiring building is a significant architectural monument. It represents another attraction of the Southern Palmira.
Built to a design by Ludwig Otton in the middle of 19th century, the gala mansion of the Gagarin Family has the then-popular eclectic style with classical predominance. Faced on to the seaside, the massive edifice with high foundations, large arched windows and turrets-shaped balconies is reminiscent of a severe medieval castle.
The luxurious, rich interiors that has survived almost unchanged until now contrast the reserved exterior of the mansion. They impress with unusual combination of styles. The decorations of the palace’s halls feature classic, baroque and Empire elements.
Accessible by large forked marble staircase, the 2nd floor numbers main rooms. The most prominent among them is the Golden Hall, decorated with stucco work and gilding. It's said that once the great Hungarian composer and pianist, Franz Liszt, gave a concert in this very hall.
A Literary Museum
In 1898, the Gagarin donated their mansion to the city. For several years it housed the Odesa Literary Artistic Society, consisting of writers, musicians, artists and journalists. In 1984, the former Palace turned into the Literary Museum. Its exposition has over 6,000 exhibits in 10 rooms. They tell the history of the literary Odesa. Each hall is an image of certain epoch that influences its interior decorated with original things of Palace of Gagarin Family.
You might learn about life and works of more than 300 hundred writers, whose names link to Odesa. Alexander Pushkin, Adam Mickiewicz, Nikolai Gogol, Ilf and Petrov, Anna Akhmatova and Leo Tolstoy are among them. The museum features rare books, lifetime editions of writers of 19th and 20th centuries, autographs and manuscripts of many famous writers, their personal belongings, photographs, archival documents about the life and work of the literary representatives of Odesa. A wax dolls collection of Odesa artist, Mikhail Komomyya, is also showcased in the museum. These exhibits are the parodies of well-known political and public figures of today.
The Italian-inspired patio with flower beds and fountain is next to the building of Literary Museum. It features the so-called Garden of Sculptures. It is a unique cultural project of contemporary sculptors that has humorous statues devoted to literary protagonists and iconic characters of urban legends. Also one can admire Kuman and Scythian babas, monuments of ancient sculpture of the Northern Black Sea Coast.
Visit The Flat House
The Flat House is the most unusual building in Odesa, its architectural highlight that gathers crowds of tourists throughout the year. Located in the very center of the city, a stone’s throw from the famous monument to Duke de Richelieu, this building with unique structure is very popular among locals, who are keen on bringing the Southern Palmira’s guests here and watch their puzzled reaction.
The thing is when one stands in front of the house it seems to be the ordinary old one with fine hammered balconies, original cornices and stucco work on its walls. It doesn’t differ much from the rest of the edifices of the Odesa historical part.
But if you look at it at the certain angle, the house will present a new image of itself. It looks like being completely flat as though the house features only facade wall. An unusual architecture of the building causes this interesting visual effect. It lacks the back wall, and lateral ones are next to the main facade at an acute angle.
This is why the building has a triangular structure. Because of this architectural feature, the building got the nickname "The Flat House". The same reason serves as a basis for the mystical properties. Sometimes people call the building "The Witch’s House".
Some history lost
The time of construction of the original building is uncertain. It's believed that the house is from the end of 19th century, and its first residents were courtiers of count Vorontsov, whose palace stands nearby. Moreover, history lacks the name of an architect, who designed this Odesa architectural masterpiece. According to the most common version explaining the unique peculiarity of the building, the architect lacked money during the construction, so he decided to adjoin two lateral walls and save some money on the back one.
Even so, there's one more explanation of the architecture. It's said it was a lack of land and impossibility to violate the historical facade of the street why the architect had to use such an unconventional structure of the house. The Flat House, or the Wall-House, another nickname of the building, is notable not only for its exterior.
Despite being of advanced age, caring residents achieved to keep its old interiors intact: hammered handrails, marble staircases, flawless stucco work on the ceilings.
Visit Tyoshchin Bridge
The Mother-in-law’s Bridge reaches across the Voyenny Descent to connect both sides of Primorsky Boulevard, and has a story of its own. Built in the 1960's, it seems to have been a whim of the city’s mayor at that time.
The mayor lived on one side of the Voyenny ravine, but his mother-in-law (who made the best pancakes) lived on the other side of it. Climbing up and down the stairs was burdensome for the party official, so he had a bridge built.
Time has proven that this solution wasn’t such a bad idea, because the bridge has since become a symbol of the city. Countless padlocks are fastened along its metal railings by newlyweds on their wedding day. Of many different sizes and in various states of rustiness, the locks are to secure a couple’s union.
The bridge sways in the wind, adding to the peculiar sensation that surrounds it. The Marine Terminal and its cranes loom at one end, while the other end leads toward the splendid white colonnade of the Vorontsov Palace, another symbol of love for Odessa’s couples.