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Impressive. Gargantuan. Opulent. Grandiose. These are just some of the words used to describe the Peterhof Palace and Gardens, which still aren’t enough to do the sprawling estate nicknamed ‘The Russian Versailles’ justice.
Located in the town of Petergof about a 45 minute drive from St. Petersburg, the grounds are nestled along the seafront overlooking the Gulf of Finland, and are considered Peter the Great’s crowning achievement.
History of the Peterhof Palace and Gardens
The Russian tsar commissioned his extravagant summer residence back in the 1700s, and after being badly damaged a couple centuries later during World War II it was beautifully restored. That work resulted in Peterhof being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the greater St. Petersburg area, and is now one of the country’s most popular attractions.
Today, visitors passing through the gates are greeted by the sight of the palace’s sunshine-yellow exterior, majestically perched on a hill overlooking the expansive grounds that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Peterhof Grand Palace
Most Peterhof Palace tours begin with a visit inside the Grand Palace, which is made up of over two dozen rooms, all lavishly decorated with different themes—a nod to the wealth and worldliness of the tsar. Silk tapestries adorn walls and furniture, while frescos and statues line the long hallways done up in the baroque style.
Perhaps the most impressive rooms are the White Dining Room which boasts exquisite chandeliers hanging from towering ceilings, and the dramatic ballroom where golden facades drip off the walls.
Heading back outside, guests make their way onto a walkway overlooking Peterhof’s crown jewel: the Grand Cascade. The most impressive out of the all the fountains found throughout the Peterhof Lower Park and Upper Gardens—which Peter designed himself—the towering, golden gilded statue depicts Samson prying open a lion’s jaws.
It’s a marvelous sight from all angles given the backdrop of the opulent palace and lush gardens, and is surrounded by dozens of fountains and more than 200 bronze statues. Visitors will want to ensure they’ve grabbed a spot around the Grand Cascade in time for the daily turning-on of the fountain, which sees water shoot out of the statue and hillside behind, all set to classical music.
Globe Guide tip: Those lucky enough to time their visit for the annual opening of the fountains (usually at the end of May) can look forward to an all-day festival which includes performances and a spectacular fireworks show.
Once guests have their fill of the fountain, it’s time to explore the park—and hopefully they have comfortable shoes on. There are hundreds of hectares to explore, featuring meticulously manicured gardens, trellis’, numerous palaces and the canal-like reservoir that stretches away from the Grand Cascade.
Popular spots include the checkered Chess Board Hill Cascade which is flanked by three dragons as well as Greek and Roman deities, along with the so-called joke fountains which spray water at unassuming visitors who have the misfortune of stepping on the paving stone or sitting on the bench that sets them off!
While touring the entire estate in just one visit is virtually impossible, even a quick wander through the Grand Palace and surrounding gardens is enough to give guests a taste of the opulent life of Peter the Great, making a Peterhof Palace tour a must-do for anyone travelling to St. Petersburg, Russia.
How to visit Peterhof Palace and Gardens
Getting to Peterhof Palace: Trains from St. Petersburg take about 45 minutes, plus a 20 minute walk to Peterhof’s gates. There are also a number of buses and even a fun hydrofoil ride across the Gulf of Finland.
Peterhof Palace tickets: The Peterhof museum, palace and gardens are usually open every day except Monday. Click here for details on timing and ticket prices for each attraction.
- Buy a skip the line ticket for the Lower Park: Click to book
- Buy a skip the link ticket for the Lower Park and Grand Palace: Click to book
Need to know: Videos and photos are not permitted inside the palace, but are allowed to outside and throughout the gardens.
Book a Peterhof Palace tour
You can visit Peterhof Palace and Gardens as a day trip from St. Petersburg, and spend the full day there or combine it with other sites like Catherine’s Palace. Here are a few top-ranked guided excursions:
This article was originally published in January 2017 and updated in May 2020
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