Catherine Palace might as well be St Petersburg’s most famous palace and estate, if only because of its beautiful and because it featured in many movies. But it is not the only palace worth visiting around Saint Petersburg. Here are three other estates you need on your list when visiting Saint Petersburg.
Peterhof Palace and Parks
Peterhof Palace is one of a kind, and sure to take your breath away! Built by Peter the Great, who wanted a Palace close to the seashore, Peterhof is now one of Russia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites (along with the Kremlin and Red Square). It is easy to understand why when you first see its magnificent Grand Cascade and its dozens of golden statues, and easier still to understand why Peterhof is known as the ‘Russian Versailles’. While the Palace itself is opened to visits, it is the park that you absolutely need to see and wander.
By exploring the Lower Gardens, you will find your way to the Monplaisir Palace and its view of the sea, the Chess and Golden Mountains on each side of the park, as well as many other breathtaking places. Play-fountain are in place during warm and sunny days, for small and not-so-small ones to play in the water and try not to be splashed. Beautiful gardens where you can wander to your heart’s desire stand alongside grand fountains, and you can even try your luck at feeding squirrels if you manage to spot one.
Don’t forget to also visit the Upper Garden, which gives you an amazing view of the front of the palace, with more fountains and gardens to admire.
Lower Park opened every day from 9am to 8pm (₽900 for adults, free under 16)
Palace opened every day from 10.30am to 7pm (₽1000 for adults, free under 16)
Upper Gardens opened every day from 9am to 20pm (free entrance)
Pavlovsk’s Grand Palace
Pavlovsk’s Grand Palace was built as a gift to Grand Duke Paul by his mother, Catherine the Great, and then became the residence of his wife Maria Feodorovna after he passed away. The palace sits on a 600-hectare park, most of it woodland that you can explore freely. Most of the park’s interesting parts are close to the palace and river, though, with several pavilions as well as a Maria Feodorovna’s private garden.
The Palace itself is a treasure of architecture, with rooms all more breathtaking than the other. Pavlovsk being lower on the ‘must see’ list for Petersburg means less tourists and more room to appreciate the details of the rooms you visit as well as the history behind it. Sadly though, as its entrance can only be made through a guided tour, you might find yourself rushing through some of its more interesting rooms without the ability to study them to your heart’s content. I wish I had more time in Maria Feodorovna’s library, for example, if only to keep on finding more volumes in French and the subjects of said books (religion and botany, among other things), which I found fascinating.
₽100 for entrance to the park, ₽500 for entrance to the Palace
Note that entrance to the Palace is on a guide-tour-only basis, which is free in Russian but costs ₽200-1000 in English
Oranienbaum is a Russian royal residence, though not an imperial one — it was the home of Alexander Danilovich Menshikov, first Governor of St Petersburg. The estate’s name takes its name from orange trees grown the palace’s greenhouses, and the palace is known for its rococo architecture and interiors. Other buildings appeared later on on the estate, before the estate was destroyed by Nazis during WWII, then slowly restored to its original state.
The interior of the palace is, as can be guessed with rococo designed in mind, delightfully over-the-top every each way you look. Not many rooms are opened to visitors, as major renovation works are still ongoing, but it has quite a distinctive charm to it that you cannot find in other palaces around St Petersburg.
The estate leaves a lot to discover too, with its magnificent Chinese Palace (sadly close on the day of our visit) and its pond at the front, its blue pavilion and its many mythological sculptures. It makes for a perfect and peaceful spot for a picnic or a stroll, especially with how very few tourists coming to visit. A well-needed place to escape the busy life of Petersburg’s city centre.
Park opened daily from 9am to 8pm (₽300 entrance)
Palace opened daily from 10.30pm to 6pm (₽400 for adults, free under 16)
Guided tour are available in English at an extra cost