Peterhof Palace and Park Ensemble: What to Visit?
Today I would like to write about my favourite museum complex, the fountain fantasie of the Russian Tsars – Peterhof.
It’s raining outside and I feel a little sad that I can’t really grab my kids and go to Peterhof, which they rave about. Good weather is essential here. Peterhof is not about indoor tours, Peterhof is all about outdoors!
If your time in St. Petersburg is limited to 1 or 2 days, then one of the must-visits will certainly be Peterhof fountain gardens. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, capable to walk long distances or physically impaired – you will love it! Your visit can be as long as 1 day, or as short as but an hour or so – you will see amazing fountains and breathtaking views.
Peterhof – Russian Versailles
Peter the Great wanted his marine residence to “befit to the very highest of the monarchs”. A visit to Versailles furthered Peter’s ambitions and already by 1720s Peterhof gardens were adorned with numerous pavilions, fountains, garden sculpture and 3 cascades. Each ruler after Peter 1 made his/her contribution in the design.
Take an electric cart ride through Peterhof gardens or an electric train going from Peterhof to Alexandria, and you will kill two birds with one stone: rest your feet during the ride and see much more then you could possible do on foot.
As for the many inside visit options: Peterhof has over 20 museums on its grounds dedicated to different aspects of life of the Russian Royalty back in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Grottos of the Grand Cascade
If you have but a couple of hours in this outstanding palace and park ensemble, then my pick would be visiting the Grottos of the Grand Cascade. This actually means going behind the main Peterhof Cascade to see how the fountain system really operates. Besides, during such a tour you will get the closest possible approach to the beautiful Cascade complex for pictures.
The dazzling Grand Cascade is a sequence of gilded bronze sculptures, fountains and water spirts descending from the Grand Palace to the Marine Canal and the Gulf of Finland. Inside the Cascade there are Grottos, arranges on the orders of Peter 1 for his special fun parties. Two of the Peterhof famous trick fountains are still to be seen and tested there.
If you have a full day devoted to Peterhof Palace and Parks, then I would definitely recommend to add Monplaisir Palace and Royal Kitchens and Baths (=Bath Block) to your itinerary.
Monplaisir Palace and Royal Kitchens and Baths (=Bath Block)
Monplaisir is delightfully unpretentious. In fact, it’s more Peter 1’s Dutch home with a French name. Monplaisir offers an insight to the life style of the most modest Emperor in the history of Russia.
The other side of everyday life of the Royal family is exposed at the Royal Kitchens and Baths exhibition. Would you like to see some of the non-parade life of the Russian monarchs?
Oranienbaum Palace and Park ensemble
And, finally, time permitting, you can combine Peterhof tour with yet another estate that belongs to this museum complex – Oranienbaum.
Oranienbaum offers to visit the Grand Menshikov Palace, but I wuld rather head for the most exquisite palace I’ve seen – the Chinese Palace of Catherine the Great.
Catherine commissioned her court architect Rinaldi a rococo and chinoiserie palace, that she described as her “personal dacha”. Filled with personal belongings, Catherine the Great’s Chinese Palace, alongside with the Monplaisir palace of Peter the Great, can be referred to as the most authentic building of Peterhof museum complex. Visiting it is like going back in time to get a taste of splendid, lavish and mysterious 18th century.