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Last updated: 09 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Jennifer Eremeeva

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.

Price from: £6
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

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.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[22.9 miles]

Incomparable elegance, comfort, and service await at the Four Seasons Lion Palace, just steps from the Hermitage.

Official star rating:

Hotel Astoria

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[22.9 miles]

One of the city’s oldest and most elegant places to stay in the city, it offers luxury accommodation and an excellent location.

Official star rating:

SO Sofitel

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[23 miles]

A hip design hotel opposite St Isaac’s Cathedral, with a basement spa and rooftop bar and restaurant that’s one of the city’s premier party spots.

Official star rating:

Faces Historical Center

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[23.3 miles]

Enjoy the convenience of a central location, in-room amenities, and friendly staff at a very affordable price.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Ballet & Opera at the Mariinsky Theatre

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[22.1 miles]

Enjoy an unforgettable evening of classical ballet or opera at the world-renowned Mariinsky Theatre. It was here that Tchaikovsky’s famous ballets, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake were first performed.

Best for ages: 18+ | £40 | 2+ hours

St. Isaac’s Cathedral

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[22.8 miles]

Dominating the city’s skyline, St Isaacs is magnificently decorated with Orthodox icons and frescoes, and offers panoramic views from the alfresco colonnade.

Best for ages: 18+ | £3

Boat tours of St. Petersburg’s canals

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[22.9 miles]

Discover St. Petersburg’s spectacular architecture from the water, with a slow-paced cruise through the city’s rivers, waterways and canals.

Best for ages: 4+ | £7 | 1-2 hours

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State Hermitage Museum

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[23.4 miles]

Once the premier royal residence of the Romanovs, today this vast complex – the second-largest art museum in the world – houses a jaw-dropping collection of Egyptian antiquities, European Renaissance Art, treasure galleries and Russian military history.

Best for ages: 13+ | £5

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

Yellow painted mansion on canal front

Yusupov Mansion

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[22.3 miles]

Visit the elegant mansion of the wealthy and colorful Yussupov family, the notorious site of the grisly murder of Grigory Rasputin in 1916.

Best for ages: 18+ | £8

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Wide yellow villa

House of Academics

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[22.7 miles]

One of the city’s oldest and most famous apartment blocks, home to scores of Russian Scientists since 1708; the facade of the building has nearly 30 memorial plaques honoring its past residents. You can g inside and visit the house-museum of its most famous resident, the great physiologist Ivan Pavlov.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[22.9 miles]

Founded by Peter the Great to house his collection of physical oddities and preserved ‘freaks’, this museum has a ghoulish lure; not for the faint-hearted, or children.

Best for ages: 16+ | £6

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Pale yellow building on corner of street

Literary Cafe

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[23.5 miles]

St. Petersburg’s oldest eatery is a favourite of Russia’s famous writers and an excellent place to sample traditional Russian food.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Round-ups that include this experience

101 World’s greatest historic buildings

Multiple countries

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.

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