Peterhof

Back in the day the magnificent building of the railroad station welcoming you to Peterhof was a rare wonder even for the Europeans, as the trains arrived inside the structure. The terminal is a Gothic colonnade crowned by a round tower with lancet windows in the arches that allow daylight to fall on coming trains.

This is a kingdom of fountains and water joys, marvelous palaces where you can still feel the glorious times of Peter I, Elizabeth, Catherine II and Nicholas I – for almost 200 years Peterhof was the emperors' state summer residence. After winning the Battle of Poltava in 1709 Peter the Great decided to establish a countryside residence that would be able to compete and even exceed in its luxurious excellence the great palaces of Europe, as well as to be a symbol of Russia's great geopolitical achievement – gaining access to the Baltic Sea. There are drafts and outlines with markings detailing construction specifications, setting of alleys and fountains all made by Peter I himself.

In the Peterhof Palace you will find Peter's chamber right next to the Baroque halls of the mid-18th century, solemn interiors of Classical era, as well as mid-19th century Rococo halls. However, the pearl of this place that attracts visitors from all over the world to Peterhof is a unique system of magnificent fountains. In the 18th century the system of fountains and cascades of Peterhof was the largest in Europe! You will see the Grand Cascade and Peterhof's trademark, the fountain depicting giant Samson wrenching apart the lion's jaws. You will also behold the old fountains still preserving the look of the Peter-the-Great cultural mindset, which are Adam and Eve and trick fountains, which are activated only when a curious or absent-minded tourist steps onto their platforms. The great legacy of the Peter I era here also includes Russia's first Hermitage, Marly Palace and the Monplaisir Palace, which was Peter's favorite palace where he preferred to live even after the Peterhof Palace was built.

Romantic Alexandria park, named after the spouse of Nicholas I, Alexandra Feodorovna, provides a charming setting for a genuine treasure, the romantic Cottage Palace, a unique monument of the era. After it was built Nicholas I commissioned the Gothic Cappella, a family church. During the reign of this emperor a lot of new palace-like pavilions appeared here, such as Olga's and Tsarina pavilions. These were constructed for Nicholas' daughter Olga and his spouse, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Peterhof is also the place where you can see Russia's only palace specially built for Alexander II, the Farm Palace, where the emperor's belongings were kept.

In one of the renovated Cavalry Corps buildings you will see several interesting displays dedicated to the emperor's hobbies. In the Lower Gardens of Peterhof on the banks of the Gulf of Finland the museum Emperor's yachts has recently opened after renovation. Its collection comprises everything related to the imperial yachts of the House Romanov, from Peter's Botik to the famous Standart of Nicholas II.

In case you have some spare time, we advise you to explore the surroundings, there are a lot of unusual places around the complex. The mansion of Leuchtenberg, which today is Sergievka park, used to belong to Emperor Nicholas' daughter Maria and her husband. One of the sights of this park is widely known among the citizens of Petersburg, it is a stone head of a legendary knight appearing right from underneath the earth. According to a legend, this was Pushkin's source of inspiration to create the image of his Chernomor character. There is also another, grimmer legend. It is said that each year this head goes deeper into the ground, and should it disappear completely, St. Petersburg is to vanish with it.

Address: Razvodnaya St., 2 (Ulitsa Razvodnaya, 2), Peterhof, Saint-Petersburg
Opening hours: daily 9 am – 9.30 pm. Next to the ticket offices of the Lower Gardens, seen from the side of the Upper Gardens you will find a lot of guides one of whom you can choose to be your excellently interesting and not very expensive companion on a tour around the park (guides usually take small groups).
How to reach: the Lower Gardens can be reached via Meteor tour boats departing from Palace Square, located in front of the Hermitage; commuter trains depart from Baltiysky Railway station (Baltiyskaya metro station) to Noviy Peterhof station, then you should take a bus that goes from the square in front of the station or simply walk from there (20 minutes). Shuttles to Peterhof depart from Avtovo metro station, from Baltiysky Railway station (Baltiyskaya metro station) and from Ligovsky Prospekt metro station. All shuttles to Peterhof should have "Fountains" sign.
Coordinates: 59.883027, 29.907970