Travel bucket list idea:
St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia|www.tzar.ru|
Built originally for Peter the Great’s wife, Empress Catherine I in 1723, this extraordinary Baroque summer palace was later expanded upon by their daughter, Empress Elizabeth using the services of her favorite Italian architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
Rastrelli designed the palace’s showpieces, including the magnificent Marble Staircase, the Grand Ballroom, and the interior of the incomparable Amber Room, which houses the priceless amber panels gifted to Peter by Frederick William I of Prussia. The stunning, turquoise 1,200-foot palace facade features Rastrelli’s life-sized caryatids (stone carvings of female figures, used as pillars) and glittering domes of the Imperial chapel.
A showcase for the grandeur of Imperial Russia, and a fascinating insight into the gilded lives of the Tsars.
The Amber Room is a stunning 18th-century chamber decorated in amber panels, backed by gold leaf, mirrors and gemstones. The room was sadly looted during WW2 and the original lost. A reconstruction by Russian craftsmen was completed in 1979.
Getting there & doing it
If travelling independently, the most efficient and cost-effective way to get to Tsarskoye Selo is via minibus (marshrutka) service running from Moskovskaya Metro Station on Moskovsky Prospekt. Numbers K-342 or K-545 go directly to the Catherine Palace and Park. Many sightseeing hop-on-hop-off services also offer extension tours to Tsarskoye Selo. A round trip from the city will take around five hours.
Tickets to the palace may be purchased from the palace’s rather confusing website and advance planning from May to September is essential. It’s better to book on an organised tour, where the arrangements are made for you by those in the know, and where be hosted by knowledgeable guides. There are hours of history to uncover here…
When to do it
Cruise ships often begin their days with an early entrance to the Catherine Palace, so later afternoon visits in summer may help avoid crowds. Winter offers a more leisurely experience.
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The great civilisations of the past have left a legacy of constructions that still stand out and inspire. Built without the wonders of 20th-century technology, many are also monumental feats of engineering; others offer such grace and beauty, that they’ll literally take your breath away.