The purpose of this essential guide to royal palaces is to give you an idea of interesting places to visit AROUND Saint Petersburg.
Most tourists coming to Saint Petersburg head to two main attractions: Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo. I bet not everyone knows that actually there are many other authentic imperial residences. They’re all located within 50 km from Saint Petersburg. Every place has its unique vibes: Petergof is more about luxury, Pavlovsk is more about harmony and cosiness.
Are There Many Palaces in Saint Petersburg Suburbs?
The group of royal palaces in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg is often called the “Pearl necklace of Saint Petersburg”. Certainly, the name reflects the unique splendour of the emperors’ palaces and parks. The “Pearl Necklace” includes Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo, Oranienbaum, Gatchina, Pavlovsk and Strelna.
Please, don’t be surprised by frequently used adjectives like “splendid”, “gorgeous” or “magnificent”. Romanov royal family knew a sense of luxury — the highest rank luxury! And despite the incredibly sad destiny of the royal palaces in the XX century, we are still mesmerized by their glow.
Each suburb “pearl” includes the main palace (usually named Grand Palace) and a park. But there’s also a great number of other amazing museums. For example, except Grand Menshikov Palace in Oranienbaum, there are also Chinese Palace, Sliding Hill Pavilion, Palace of Peter III, Stone Hall Pavilion. Don’t underestimate them!
Parks are another important part of Saint Petersburg imperial palaces. Though sometimes they seem to be just wild parks, actually they were as thoroughly planned and elaborated as palaces. If you are lucky enough and the day of your visit the weather is good, you can easily spend a half-day wandering around ponds, canals, pavilions, statues and bridges.
Peterhof Palace and Peterhof Fountains
Peterhof is one of the most exquisite and most known palaces and park ensembles in the world. This splendid summer residence of the Russian Royal family is an embellishment of the “Pearl Necklace” of Saint Petersburg.
These are just a few facts reflecting the glory of Peterhof:
- The most visited Russian museum.
- Included to TOP 10 most visited museums of the world
- UNESCO World Heritage
- One of the 7 wonders of Russia
- 5 mln visitors every year
- The capital of fountains also called Seaside Paradise
The Grand Peterhof Palace dominates the Lower Park and fountains of the Great Cascade. Fountains are the symbol of Peterhof. The Grand Cascade is the main fountain complex of Peterhof. It’s one of the largest fountains in the world — the Cascade consists of three waterfall stairs and two grottoes, 75 fountains and 255 bronze sculptures, bas-reliefs, as well as other decorative details.
Pay attention: fountains don’t operate the whole year long — because of the weather conditions. If you don’t want to miss this beauty, plan your visit for April – September.
During the high tourist season, the lines on the entrance to the Grand Palace could be really terrifying. In case you are not in the mood to waste your time, remember that there are other Peterhof museums located at the same area: Hermitage Pavilion, Bathhouse Block, Monplaisir Palace, Special Treasury, Marly Palace… Just check thoroughly all the possible tours at the ticket office.
Official website of the Peterhof Museum
Tsarskoye Selo and Catherine Palace
Tsarskoye Selo is a part of Pushkin, a small town lying 25 km away from Saint Petersburg. Two grand palaces, shady parks and rich history are the pride of Pushkin.
Tsarskoye Selo is a brilliant monument of world architecture and landscape art of the XVIII – early XX century. A whole constellation of outstanding architects, sculptors, painters gave life to the exquisite requirements of the Russian Royal family.
The main attraction of Tsarskoye Selo is undoubtedly magnificent Catherine Palace. The palace as impressive outside as inside. Amber Room is probably the most known among royal treasures, but interiors and collections of paintings, furniture, personal belongings of Romanov family astonish even very demanding visitors.
Another pearl of Tsarskoye Selo is Alexander Palace. Nowadays it is still under restoration, but some rooms are already open for tourists.
Parks of Tsarskoye Selo are a separate open-air museum. I can’t even say for sure what is more interesting — to visit palaces or to wander in the parks…
Official website of Tsarskoye Selo
Oranienbaum And Menshikov Palace
The word “oranienbaum” means bitter orange (bigarade orange). It was the famous tree of Alexander Menshikov, the closest companion of Russian Emperor Peter the Great and the founder of local palaces and parks. The Palace is located on a hill by the Finland Gulf. The guests of the Grand Duke could arrive at the palace by ships as there was a canal connecting the palace and the Gulf.
The splendid Menshikov Palace by its magnificence exceeded even the Royal Grand Palace in Peterhof. The luxury rooms were decorated with marble and gold. The eastern gallery of the palace housed a real “eastern wonder” — the Turkish hammam, which Peter the Great himself visited from time to time.
Except for Grand Menshikov Palace, Oranienbaum museums complex includes the Palace of Peter III, Chinese Palace, Sliding hill Pavilion, Stone Hall Pavilion and other museums.
The Palace ensemble of Oranienbaum and the city center are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Fortunately, the history of Oranienbaum is not so sad as the destiny of other imperial palaces in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg, ruined and devastated by Nazi. Oranienbaum palaces were not destroyed during World War II and nowadays are saved in their authentic condition.
Pay attention: Oranienbaum is the name of the palace ensemble. It is located in Lomonosov, downtown of Saint Petersburg.
Official website of Oranienbaum
The Grand Gatchina Palace stands apart from other palace suburbs of Saint Petersburg. The palace was built in the style of an English hunting castle, very unusual for Russia. In fact, lined with limestone, Gatchina Palace looks more like a medieval castle.
The large park with lakes, pavilions, decorative bridges and other embellishments adjoins the Great Gatchina Palace.
The Grand Gatchina palace belonged to different members of the royal family. During centuries it was reconstructed a few times. But still, the palace interiors strike with harmony and luxury.
While visiting the Grand Palace, don’t forget to climb the Signal Tower and to enjoy a lovely view of the park. Don’t miss another Gatchina’s architectural landmark — the Priory Palace built for the Knights of the Maltese order.
In 1990 Gatchina Palace and park received UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Official website of Gatchina Palace
Unlike baroque palaces of Peterhof and Tsarskoe Selo, classic Pavlovsk Grand Palace is refined and strict. But simplicity never satisfied the royal family. And the sumptuous interior decor of emperor palaces — time and time again — amaze us!
The history of the palace goes back to XVIII century when Emperor Paul I gave Pavlovsk the status of the official imperial residence.
The modern collection of the palace originates from the collection collected by the emperor and his wife during their trip to Europe. Richest collections include Roman marble and bronze sculptures, European painting of the XVI-XVIII centuries, porcelain of the XVIII-XIX centuries, genuine furniture and tapestries.
Official website of Pavlovsk Palace
Strelna and Konstantin Palace
The grand residence in Strelna was founded by Peter the Great.
Nowadays Strelna and Konstantin Palace are considered as a “diplomatic window to Europe”. Konstantin Palace combines the functions of a State residence and a modern business, museum, cultural and exhibition centre. It’s a place for the highest rank international meetings and events with the participation of the President, Prime Minister and Administration of the President of the Russian Federation.
Ordinary mortals can visit the Palace and surrounding parks too 🙂 Even to book the Palace for a wedding or a birthday celebration. Or to make a tour of the palace wine cellars and to have a wine tasting.
Official website of Strelna
I hope that this Guide to Royal Palaces in Saint Petersburg will make your tour of imperial suburbs more interesting.
Visiting Palaces in Saint Petersburg: Tips
- If you want to visit those palaces, envisage at least 1 full day for each suburb.
- Grand Palaces (the main palaces) are must-see attractions, but don’t forget — there are MANY smaller palaces and parks around them.
- If you visit Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo during high season (May—September), be ready for long lines on the entry to the Grand Palaces. Other Royal suburb residences are less crowded.
Happy travels! And don’t forget to share your experience if you have visited one of the Saint Petersburg royal palaces!
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Best wishes from Russia,