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St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia|en.peterhofmuseum.ru|
The most spectacular of St. Petersburg’s suburban estates, Peterhof was founded by Peter I in 1701, who was determined to create a network of palaces and gardens to rival Versailles.
Lining the shores of the Gulf of Finland, the estate remained a favourite summer residence of the Tsars for centuries and offers an almost bewildering array of exhibitions, private rooms and historic collections dotted throughout the buildings.
The highlight of any visit here is, of course, the Grand Palace – the largest and most impressive building of 30 rooms. In front of the palace is the Grand Cascade, a series of 64 fountains, flowing into a semicircular pool containing the largest fountain called ‘Samson’. The Samson Fountain depicts the moment when Samson tears open the jaws of a lion, and represents Russia’s victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War.
The beautifully landscaped gardens also contain other historic buildings if you have the time to explore – including the palaces of Monplaisir and Marli, as a pavilion known as the ‘Hermitage’.
Peterhof attracts millions of visitors each year, particularly from May to September when the famous fountains and Grand Cascade are in full operation. Visiting the gardens is free, but undertaking a guided tour of the palace buildings gives a fascinating insight into the lives of Russia’s gilded emperors.
While you’re there
After a tour of the main palace and gardens, be sure to visit the moving exhibits that chronicle the careful reconstruction of the palace after World War II and the occupation of the Nazis.
Getting there & doing it
From May to September the fastest and most enjoyable way to and from Peterhof is by hydrofoil from boat stations at the Bronze Horseman, Hermitage, or Battle Cruiser Aurora. The trip lasts 30-40 minutes and takes you to the lower gardens of the ensemble, with an uphill climb to the main palace through the gardens and alongside the Grand Cascade.
Alternatively, take the Red Line train to Prospekt Veteranov Metro Station, then connect with minibus (marshrutka) K-343 or K-639Б to Peterhof. Or take the Red Line to Avtovo Metro Station, then transfer to Minibuses: K-224, K-300, K-424.
Some hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses have extension tours to Peterhof.
Booking tickets online is always advisable; do so some weeks in advance if you want to visit in high season. Every palace and building in Peterhof requires a separate ticket, so plan carefully what you want to see.
When to do it
Peterhof is at its best from May to late September, when the gushing fountains and exquisite formal gardens augment the beautiful facade. Winter offers fewer crowds and more time for leisure, and late afternoons are the best time to avoid cruise passengers.
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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.