Peterhof is often compared to Versailles, in the copy of which it was built. But in fact, the Russian copy just kills the original. The beauty of Peterhof is incomparable with any imperial residence in the world. Also because it was built much later than Versailles and was rebuilt and redecorated many times.
Peterhof began to develop as a royal suburban residence under Peter the Great (that’s why it’s called Peterhof). And then each next emperor built and added new palaces, parks, and mansions.
If it were not for the war that destroyed most of the masterpieces of pre-revolutionary architecture, today we would have had a giant open-air museum of royal life. All that we see today is thanks to the many years of work of restorers. During a walk along the park’s alleys of Peterhof’s main palace, pay attention to the stands with photographs of the palaces, or rather, the ruins of the palaces after the Second World War. For me, it’s more impressive than the palace itself.
How to get to Peterhof?
There are 2 most comfortable ways (I won’t tell you about the train, as the train stop is very far from the palace.
Meteor. This is the fastest and most beautiful way to get to Peterhof from the city center. A meteor is a speedboat. Meteors depart from the pier near the Winter Palace and go directly to the pier in the Peterhof Park. One way drive takes 40 minutes and costs 950 rubles per person.
Metro + minibus or bus. This is the cheapest way. It will take a little over an hour. By the metro, you need to get to Avtovo station. Cross the road and take the minibus labeled “fountains” (in Russian its “ФОНТАНЫ”). On the way, you will pass the Konstantinovsky Palace, Peter I’s Palace in Strelna, Alexandria. You have to ask the driver of the minibus to stop after passing the Grand Peterhof Palace. The whole one-way trip will cost around 150 rubles.
How to spend one day in Peterhof?
This plan is designed for tourists. For those who come here for the first time. And, of course, the one-day program has to include the most interesting parts. Unfortunately, you are not able to visit all the places, there is too much for one visit. So my advice is to concentrate on the basics and enjoy them.
First you pay to enter the Lower Park. And then separately you buy each museum in the park. Check the prices and opening time on the Peterhof website.
1. Grand Peterhof Palace
The Grand Peterhof Palace was the center of social life. Here were held all the official parties, receptions, balls, and masquerades, to which up to three thousand guests were invited. The palace began to be built during the reign of Peter I. Then it was rebuilt during the reign of Elizabeth and was finished under Nicholas I. There are regular excursions around the palace (you have to wait until the group is gathered, which is not a problem during the summer). And it is very beautiful inside.
By the way, I would like to note that the guided tours in all Peterhof palaces are really very interesting. All the guides are the locals, and they are very keen on the history of their city.
2. Marly Palace
This palace was also built under Peter I in a very simple style and named after the palace of Marly De Roi in France. Marly Palace was used as a guest house for dignitaries, and after the Peres Epoque, it became the memorial museum of Peter I. On the tour you will learn about the everyday life at the beginning of the 18th century. For example, why did people sleep in a sitting position and how did Peter I introduce mirror fashion in Russia and abolish beard fashion.
“Monplaisir” means “my pleasure“ in French. This is the favorite palace of Peter I, built overlooking the Gulf of Finland, Kronstadt, and St. Petersburg. In Monplaisir are preserved the interiors of the times of Peter I, of course, restored.
Under Elizabeth was built the Catherine Block – a yellow one-level building. The building is named exactly in honor of Catherine II palace coup. It was from here that she went to Petersburg to take the crown.
The Bathhouse Block and the Chinese garden were built for the wife of Alexander II. The museum tells about household and sanitary manners in the 18-19 century. Entrance to the Chinese garden is for an additional price and it doesn’t worth it.
In each of these museums, excursions are conducted separately. And since we only have one day to inspect the entire park, I recommend going on two excursions instead of three: in Monplaisir and the Bathhouse.
4. Lower Park and fountains
The fountains and the Lower Park of Peterhof are a separate attraction. In a difference to the Versailles ensemble, the ensemble of the Peterhof ends with a sea. Also, the fountains of Peterhof work all day long as the water flows by the principle of communicating vessels from Ropsha heights, while in Versailles are required electric pumps.
With this, I recommend finishing your one-day visit to Peterhof. Of course, in the Lower Park, there are several more interesting museums. There is also a tourist tram that goes directly from this park to the neighboring Alexandria park, but it will be too much for one day. So stop and relax.
The most interesting places of Peterhof
If it’s not your first time in Peterhof or Saint-Petersburg, and you want to see smth new, then further information can help you to plan your trip.
The Alexandria Palace and Park ensemble were built by decree of Emperor Nicholas I and named after his wife, Alexandra Fedorovna. There was an idea to build a “rural house” near the Peterhof Palace with the spirit of English country villas, which would become the personal intimate space of the royal family.
Once again I note, I do not recommend visiting two park ensembles in one day. Alexandria deserves special attention. That is a great direction if you are in Peterhof for the second time.
Check the working hours and prices on the official website.
Cottage Palace became the rural house of Nicholas I. The palace was very different from the buildings of that time and really looked more like a country villa than a royal residence. Inside the palace is very nice. Recreated interiors complemented by the original things of the owners recreate the atmosphere of comfort and some kind of family.
To create a rural atmosphere in Alexandria was built a Farm with a cowshed, shepherd’s rooms, kitchens, and pantries. Later, the building began to grow and turned into the Farm Palace of Alexander II. The Farm Palace, as well as the Cottage, are unique in their architectural style. But, also interesting, that it is the only palace in Russia, built specifically for Alexander II.
Alexandria Park is designed in the style of a landscaped English park (a park built in a style of imitation of nature). There are 3 more museums in the park:
- Gothic chapel
- Palace telegraph station
- House of Courier Service
Islands is a complex of 2 pavilions that were built on artificial islands in the Kolonistsky park (this park is located opposite the exit from the Upper Garden) by Nicholas I like a gift to his wife and daughter. Those are Tsarina’s Pavilion and Olga’s Pavilion. These were such places of royal rest, here they played cards, had intimate chats along with the cup of tea.
For me, these are the most romantic buildings in Peterhof. The architectural style of the pavilions resembles Italian villas from antiquity, and in the gardens on the islands, is created a real floral oasis, in the summer peacocks walk here.
Museums of island pavilions operate only in the summer. Check the opening time and prices on the official website.
What to do in Peterhof in the winter?
Of course, if there is an opportunity, then it’s better to visit Peterhof during the summer period. Only in the summer, it is possible to evaluate the park ensemble properly: fountains start to operate in the middle of May.
But if you are here in winter there is still a reason to visit Peterhof. You will be able to see the park, usually full of tourists, in complete silence, without queues and almost alone. It’s like wandering around the theater not during performances. Yes, you will not enjoy the show, but there is a different interest in such a visit. Winter is the time of museums. So take an excursion to the Grand Peterhof Palace, take a trip to the Menshikov Palace in Oranienbaum, or go to the small museums of Peterhof, for which you have no energy left in the summer.
Check the entire list of museums of Peterhof here.
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