Benois was born in Russia, to Anna Katarina (Groppe), who was of German descent, and a French father, Louis Jules Benois (from Brie, St-Ouen-sur-Morin). He studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts from 1827 to 1836. Eight years later, he was appointed a court architect to Nicholas I of Russia and oversaw several projects in the town of Peterhof, notably the Principal Imperial Stables (1847–52). He was quite notable in 19th-century Russia for adhering to the Gothic Revival style of architecture and decoration.
By his marriage to Camilla, daughter of Alberto Cavos who designed Mariinsky Theatre, Nicholas had four sons. Of these, Alexander Benois specialized in stage design, Albert Benois was a painter, and Leon Benois became a distinguished architect. His daughter married the sculptor Eugene Lanceray and that marriage produced the artist Zinaida Serebriakova. The actor Peter Ustinov was a great-grandson.
- (Russian) Nicholas Benois in Peterhof