Catherine Park in Tsarskoe Selo is one of the best examples of gardening art in the world. The park houses multiple interesting objects: pavilions, terraces, ponds, and monuments. Read the post to know more about the history and the main attractions of Catherine Park.
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Catherine Park is a part of the Tsarskoe Selo museum complex. It is situated in the suburbs of St Petersburg — in the town Pushkin. It is a former residence of the Romanovs, Russian Imperial family.
CATHERINE PARK — MUSEUM UNDER THE OPEN SKY
Tsarskoe Selo is a former residence of Russian emperors, the Romanovs. The Imperial family had a luxurious palace in Saint Petersburg — Winter Palace. They spent winters there (hence the name of the residence). During summers, the Imperial family lived in their summer residences in the suburbs of St Petersburg. Tsarskoe Selo is one of them.
Summer residences included a palace and, the most enjoyable part, big parks. Catherine Park in Tsarskoe Selo is a museum under the open sky. The park lays around the Grand Pond and hides a lot of pavilions, monuments, and sculptures. Let’s wander in this picturesque place!
The best time to visit Catherine Park is summer and early autumn. During this time, you will see Catherine Park in all its splendour, with abundant greenery and blooming flower beds. A walk in this delightful place will make you feel you are in a terrestrial paradise.
Catherine’s Park consists of two parts: the Old Garden and the landscape English Park. The story of the park begins in the 18th century when Empress Catherine I started to build a palace in Tsarskoe Selo.
Keep in mind that the territory of Catherine Park is vast. You will need at least 4-5 hours to see the main sights. Do not forget to take a map of the park at the ticket office.
Catherine Park is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
HOW NOT TO GET LOST IN CATHERINE PARK
Catherine Park has dozens of places of interest. As soon as you enter the park, you will want to go in all directions as you will notice picturesque spots in all directions!
Probably, the most comfortable way to enjoy Catherine Park is to follow the multiple paths. Wherever you go, you will find plenty of attractions.
The main entrance to the park is near the Catherine Palace and the Palace Chapel. It is the most known entry, and usually, there are quite long lines to the ticket offices.
I would suggest to follow Sadovaya Street and find another entry near the Hermitage Kitchen.
Walk ~ 200 meters along the Small Cascade Canal, and you will see a fancy red-brick building with white decorations. It is the Hermitage Kitchen. There are ticket offices, a souvenir shop, and a restaurant in this pavilion. This entry is usually less crowded than the main entrance near the Catherine Palace.
As soon as you pass the ticket office, you will see one of the most picturesque pavilions of Catherine Park — the Hermitage.
Catherine Park is a museum park. It is not a place for picnics. If you want to relax and take a cup of coffee, there are two cafes and a restaurant.
Please, be a well-mannered visitor and respect the rules of the park. Do not walk on grass, swim in the ponds and climb on the statues.
THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS OF CATHERINE PARK
Hermitage Pavilion in Tsarskoe Selo
The most known sight of Tsarskoe Selo is the marvellous Catherine Palace: large and sumptuous. But even emperors loved intimacy and silence. The Hermitage Pavilion is much smaller than the grand palace and much cosier. Hidden behind the trees, the Hermitage Pavilion was used by the imperial family for relaxing, dining and spending time with close friends.
In summer, the pavilion is open for visiting.
Mirror Ponds and Park Sculpture
Follow the Hermitage Alley until you reach the Mirror Ponds. It is a large area with two symmetrical rectangular ponds. Usually, the water in them is so flat and smooth that indeed they look like two big mirrors. It is a suitable spot for taking a nice photo of the Catherine Palace. From the first sight, this majestic building amazes with its colossal size and lavish decoration.
Turn to the left and head to the Cameron Gallery.
In the 18th century, architect Charles Cameron created the gallery for Russian empress Catherine the Great. The Empress needed a quiet place for strolls and philosophical conversations. At present, you can walk up the stairs and take a tour of the gallery too.
In the gallery, between splendid white columns, you will find a collection of bronze sculptures. These are busts of the great philosophers of Ancient Greece and Rome, Roman emperors, and mythological heroes.
The gallery is also a good observation deck. Make a stop there to savour the view of the Grand Pond, the Admiralty, and the park.
Go down to the park by the Ramp and head to the Great Pond. On the bank of the pond, there is a romantic blue-and-white pavilion. It is the Grotto.
This cosy pavilion has another name — the morning Hall. Empress Catherine the Great loved to spend her mornings there. She read and worked in this peaceful place. In the evenings, it was a perfect location to enjoy long northern sunsets and to listen to the music from the Hall on the island (a music hall located on the island in the middle of the pond).
At present, the Grotto is a place for temporary exhibitions. In front of the pavilion, there is a pier where visitors feed local (always hungry) ducks.
We continue going around the Great Pond and come to the Admiralty. It is a red-brick building that reminds of old European houses and towers.
The Admiralty used to be a depot for boats. The imperial family and the courtiers enjoyed taking boat tours on the Great Pond.
Nowadays, the Admiralty houses the Museum information centre, a cafe, and a restaurant.
Turkish Bath is an eastern-style pavilion in Catherine Park. The building looks like a mosque, with its gilded ornamented dome, a minaret, and a crescent moon on the top. Probably, you will be surprised to see such an unusual construction in the residence of Russian emperors.
Turkish Bath in Catherine Park is a memorial to the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829. For inner finishing, the architect used authentic decorations that were brought from Turkey to Russia after the war.
Turkish Bath opened after a restoration only a few years ago. At present, it is one of the exhibition halls of the Tsarskoe Selo Museum. The pavilion opens only from May to October. So if you wander in Catherine park in summer, do not miss the chance to tour this lavish small Eastern “palace”.
The Marble Bridge in Catherine Park looks like a small summer house. In my opinion, this is the most elegant bridge in that area.
The unofficial name of the Marble Bridge is the Gallery of Siberian Marble. The columns, capitals, balusters and other details of the bridge come from the Yekaterinburg Lapidary Factory. In the 1770ies, the craftsmen cut the decoration from local Siberian marbles: blue-grey Gornoshitsky and white Stanovsky marble.
The Granite Terrace overlooks the Great Pond. It is a large “park balcony” with sculptures and flower beds.
Two large staircases lead from the terrace to the pond. At the bottom of one of them, you can find the famous Girl-with-a-Pitcher Fountain.
Standing at the top of the Granite Terrace, look to the left. You will see the Cameron Gallery with its white columns. Thus, we have made a small tour of the Catherine Park in Tsarskoe Selo.
NOT TO MISS IN CATHERINE PARK
We have walked around the Great Pond and have already seen many attractions of Catherine Park.
Nevertheless, if you have time, keep walking around the park. You will also see exotic Chinese-style pavilion — the Creaking Summer House. Not far from the Creaking Summer House, there is a whole Chinese Village. It is a group of houses with roofs with curved corners, decorative dragons, and hieroglyphs on the walls.
Near the Catherine Palace, there is the Private Garden with a large marble fountain, sculptures, and a pergola. Further in the park, you will find the Ruin Tower, several pavilions, decorated gates, and memorial columns and obelisks.
While planning a visit to Tsarskoe Selo, think of spending there a whole day. Start your trip with a tour of Catherine Palace. It may take you 2-3 hours. Spend the rest of the day in Catherine park: enjoy walking in one of the most beautiful European parks.
TICKETS & TRAVEL INFO
Catherine Park in Tsarskoe Selo opens daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
From October to April, the entrance to the park is free.
During the tourist season, a ticket to park costs 150 Rub. (~2 USD)
Usually, travel agencies offer a standard tour program of Tsarskoe Selo that include the Catherine Palace and Catherine Park. But there are many more places to visit in Tsarskoe Selo!
If you want to explore hidden gems, think of touring Tsarskoe Selo with a private guide.
HOW TO GET TO CATHERINE PARK
The most comfortable way to get to Catherine Park is by marshrutka from St Petersburg:
- From metro stations “Zvyozdnaya” or “Kupchino” take the marshrutka (bus) №186. The road takes about 1 hour.
- From metro station “Moskovskaya” take buses К-287, К-347, К-545, К-299. They depart from the stop behind the square with fountains and Lenin monument.
Usually, buses that go to Tsarskoe Selo have large inscriptions in Russian «Дворцы», «Парки», «Пушкин», «Царское Село», «Янтарная комната» (which means respectively: Palaces, Parks, Pushkin, Tsarskoe Selo, Amber Room).
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