The Peterhof Palace is a series of palaces and gardens laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. These Palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the 'Russian Versailles'. The palace-ensemble along with the city centre is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Peter the Great first mentions the Peterhof site in his journal in 1705, during the Great Northern War, as a good place to construct a landing for use in travelling to and from the island fortress of Kronstadt. And in 1714, Peter began construction of the Monplaisir ('my pleasure') Palace based on his own sketches of the palace that he wanted close to the shoreline. This was Peter's Summer Palace that he would use on his way coming and going from Europe through the harbour at Kronstadt. On the walls of this seacoast palace hung hundreds of paintings that Peter brought from Europe and allowed to weather Russian winters without heat together with the dampness of being so close to the sea. And in the seaward corner of his Monplaisir Palace, Peter made his Maritime Study from which he could see Kronstadt Island to the left and St. Petersburg to the right. Later, he expanded his plans to include a vaster royal château of palaces and gardens further inland, on the model of Versailles. Each of the tsars after Peter expanded on the inland palaces and gardens of Peterhof, but the major contributions by Peter the Great were completed by 1725.

Peterhof originally appeared quite differently than it does today. Many of the fountains had not yet been installed. The entire Alexandrine Park and Upper Gardens didn't exist, the Samson Fountain and its massive pedestal had not yet been installed in the Sea Channel, and the channel itself was used as a grand marine entrance into the complex.

Perhaps the most important change augmenting Peter's design was the elevation of the Grand Palace to central status and prominence. The Grand Palace was originally called simply 'Upper', and was hardly larger than any of the other structures of the complex. The addition of wings, undertaken between 1745 and 1755, was one of the many projects commissioned from the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli by Elizabeth of Russia. Likewise, the Grand Cascade was more sparsely decorated when initially built. The augmentation of Peterhof's original fountains and the addition of new ones continued well into the 19th century.

Peterhof, like Catherine's Palace, was captured by German troops in 1941 and held until 1944. In the few months that elapsed between the outbreak of war in the west and the appearance of the German Army, employees were only able to save a portion of the treasures of the palaces and fountains. An attempt was made to dismantle and bury the fountain sculptures, but three quarters, including all of the largest ones, remained in place. The occupying forces of the German Army largely destroyed Peterhof. Many of the fountains were destroyed, and the palace was partially exploded and left to burn. Restoration work began almost immediately after the end of the war and continues to this day.

The name was changed to 'Petrodvorets' ('Peter's Palace') in 1944 as a result of wartime anti-German sentiment and propaganda, but the original name was restored in 1997 by the post-Soviet government of Russia. In 2003, Saint Petersburg celebrated its 300th anniversary. As a result, much of the building and statuary in Peterhof has been restored and new gilt-work abounds. Today Peterhof is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Saint Petersburg area.

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Founded: 1714
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Russia

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User Reviews

Filipe FB (19 months ago)
One of the most beautiful places in St. Petersburg and in the World to visit and spend the whole day. It's a huge place, with several water fountains which were all working during the Spring, when I was there. The palace itself is huge piece of art and also tells a lot from the Russian history.
Павел Поляков (19 months ago)
It's a tourist trap with marvellous architecture. But with a lot of tourists and ferry trap. If you arrive here by boat you have to pay to exit or go back! Or fall to the sea. I don't think that it's worth to see. It might be better to see Piskaryovskoye cemetery or well yards in the city centre.
Janet For Heaven's Cakes - 4hcakes (2 years ago)
We didn't do the interior but the gardens at Peterhof. Having done the interior at Catherine's Palace. We took the Hydrofoil from outside the Hermatige Museum. It's a short walk then to get onto one of the bridges in time to see the start of the fountains. If my memory serves me right this was at 11am. Give yourself a few hours to walk through the gardens. Spectacular building, gardens and waterfalls.
Irina Tang (2 years ago)
Must visit palace in summer time. So beautiful. We went in the morning to watch the fountains and it’s was very nice. Highly recommend to visit this place. Huge park to walk around and stunning palace.
Andjela Igic (2 years ago)
Although I bought a ticket for Grand Palace and Lower park online, women who were working at the entrance gate didn't want to let me in with this ticket. When I tried to explain everything in English, I couldn't because they do not speak English (even though they work with tourists at such a touristic attraction!) I also tried to talk in Serbian, which is very similar to Russian, unsuccessfully. They were telling me to go to the information centre, so I went and I was waiting there for an hour because the only woman who works there and knows English was eating her lunch. Then I came back to the entrance gate, asked for help and workers were just showing me with their hands that this woman is eating. So I went back and forth few times until eventually, this woman from info center decided to show up. It was around 3 pm and I should have entered Peterhof palace at 2 pm. So at that point she just hopelessly told me that I am late (and I weren't, I was there at 1.30pm!!!) and that I can only enter Lower garden. By the way, she is the one who 'speaks English' and she uses gestures more than actual English words. Lower garden was beautiful, obviously, but this stress and waiting and rude staff who are not at their workplace when they should be just ruined everything. It was not a pleasure, but suffering.
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