The Palace and Garden complex of Peterhof is a unique cultural heritage of Russia. It’s a symbol of grace and imperial greatness. The pearl of Russian Baroque and “Russian Versailles”. This magnificent Palace and Garden complex is situated 30 km from Saint-Petersburg. Nowadays, millions of tourists from different countries come to the “capital of fountains”.
Peterhof was conceived by Peter the Great as a triumphal monument in honor of victory of Russia in the Great Northern War and the access to the Baltic Sea. This gorgeous paradise was named after the great reformer (in translation from German “Peterhof” means “the court of Peter”). Peterhof served as a summer residence of Russian emperors for over 200 years.
The first documentary mention of Peterhof dates back to 1705. More than 10 sketches of the Palace survived which were made by the hand of Peter the First, and even more drawings with his own corrections and notes. The southern coast of the Gulf of Finland was chosen as the place for emperor’s residence. It’s situated westward of Saint-Petersburg.
The construction of the Palace started in 1714. It was supposed to be as magnificent and luxurious as the residences of European kings, and particularly, the Versailles in France. The building process was supervised by the best architects of Europe. The prominent garden masters were involved as well.
For supplying of Peterhof fountains a special aqueduct was built. Its total length amounts to 40 km. There are 18 storing ponds on its track with more than 1.3 millions m³ of water; they occupy the area of almost 100 ha. The aqueduct was constructed in 1720-1721 upon the project of Vasiliy Tuvolkov, the hydraulic engineer. In 1721, water-jets were launched. They work on the principle of communicating vessels.
In August 1723, the grand opening of Peterhof took place. By that time, the Lower Park had been laid out. The Sea Channel had been already dug, part of the fountains worked, the Upper Chambers had been decorated and the Monplaisir and Marley had been built. Until 1917, Peterhof was inhabited mostly by palace servants, officers and soldiers of life-guard regiments.
The most significant events in the history of Peterhof:
- since 1762, Peterhof has a status of a town;
- by 1857, Peterhof railway with the length of 30 km was built; it connected Peterhof and Saint-Petersburg;
- in 1918, after the October Revolution, the town became a major educational center;
- during the invasion of fascists, the palaces and the park were savagely destroyed; more than one third of green spaces was cut down;
- in 1944, the restoration of Peterhof began; that was also when it was renamed Petrodvorets, for the German name didn’t look like the right fit taking into account the destruction left by Hitler army; the former name of museum town was restored only in 1997;
- in 1990, Peterhof was included into the UNESCO List of the World Cultural Heritage;
- in 2008, it was acknowledged as one of the Seven Wonders of Russia.
Peterhof in figures:
- 32 museums;
- 322 871 museum pieces;
- 4 cascades and more than 150 fountains;
- gardens and parks cover the area of 414.2 ha.
The Palace and Garden complex of Peterhof consists of two main parts, that is, the Upper Garden and the Lower Park. Its territory also includes Alexandria Park and Kolonistsky’s Park. The highest point on the 16-meter hill is occupied with the Grand Palace, from which a cascade ladder comes down to the Lower Park.
The compositional dominant of Peterhof ensemble is the Grand Palace. It unifies the Upper Garden and the Lower Park in a stylistic harmony and is surrounded by the well-organized system of avenues, architectural structures and fountains. The majestic facade of the Palace stretches for about 300 m.
The emperor’s residence came to its current appearance after almost one and half century. In Peter’s era it was a small two-storeyed building. It was called Upper Chambers and served for receptions and celebrations.
In 1732, two galleries designed by M. Zemtsov were attached to the Palace. F.B. Rastrelli added brilliance and luxury to the building. Thanks to him, the Palace got one more floor. The central space extended significantly with wings of single-floor galleries. These were ended with Church Pavilion and Coat-of-Arms Pavilion.
The interiors of the Palace impressed the visitors with the fabulous luxury and dynamics. The walls of halls were decorated with gilded carving and the mirrors provided feeling of endless prospects. The Oak Study of Peter I reserved by Rastrelli became a relic placed into the splendid frame of the new Palace.
In the 60s and 70s of the 18th century, the Baroque splendour went out of fashion. Its place was taken by Classicism, and stucco decorations have grown extremely popular. Several halls of the Palace were re-designed according to the spirit of the epoch.
In 19th century, some new changes were made to the structure of building. In honor of marriage of emperor’s daughter, at the order of Nicholas I, an additional floor was attached to the Palace and eight new interiors were added.
So, the appearance of the Palace underwent modifications in the course of decades. Artisans of different styles participated in its construction, but still, the building which we can see today is a completed architectural masterpiece.
The main places of interest
In addition to the unique Palace complex, there are many splendid historical, natural and cultural showplaces here. Let’s name just a few objects which attract the visitors of Peterhof.
The Hermitage Pavilion
Peter I conducted his meetings with the select circle of persons on the second floor of this house. To prevent interference of servants, the building was equipped with a unique lifting table. When it was time for course, Peter rang, and the table was let down. New dishes and clean plates were placed on it, and afterwards the table “returned” to the first floor, where servants remained.
This palace is located on the west of the Lower park. It got its name in honor of Peter’s visit to the French royal residence near Paris, namely in Marly-le-Roi, in 1717. There are personal things of the emperor in this palace, that is:
- sea coat;
- table with a grapholite made by Peter himself;
- collection of paintings including pictures of little-known Flemish, Dutch and Italian masters of the 17th and 18th centuries.
That was Peter’s favourite cell, as evidenced by the name of the palace (in translation from French it means “my pleasure”). Nowadays, the first Russian collection of European artists of the 17th and 18th centuries is exposed here. The paintings were purchased by the emperor himself. There is also a collection of Chinese porcelain in the Lacquer Study.
Museum of Playing Cards
The basis of the exhibition is presented by the personal card collection of Russian collector A.S. Perelman. As a student, he was a great fan of poker, but later he decided to substitute his game passion for gathering of good-looking playing cards. There are more than 1,000 variants of rare card decks here.
Museum of Clocks
Among the exhibits of this museum you can see the unique models of clocks made of precious materials and decorated with real jewels. The Museum occupies the part of Petrodvorets Watch Factory which was launched nearly 300 years ago. By today, almost the entire territory of the historical factory is available for excursions.
Peter and Paul Cathedral
The luxurious baroque temple is situated on the bank of Red Pond. Its height amounts to nearly 70 m. Beautiful brick of different shades was used for the construction. An interesting feature of Cathedral are large windows situated in its upper part. Now, it’s convenient to admire the city panorama through them.
Fountains and cascades
The most famous are the following:
- the Grand Cascade with the figure of Samson, who’s tearing the lion’s mouth out of which the powerful stream of water gushes (the sculptural composition was dedicated to the victory in the Battle of Poltava – Samson symbolizes the Russian army, the lion serves as embodiment of the Swedes);
- the Lion Cascade decorated not only with the statues of king of beasts, but also with special sculptural elements – mascarons; these are made in form of human heads, and the streams of water gush out of their mouths;
- the Triton fountain with the statue of Triton tearing the jaws of the sea monster;
- tricky fountains (“Oak”, “Fir Trees”, “Little Umbrella”, “Little Sofas”); they are hidden in the Lower Park and are launched unexpectedly, splashing the visitors with water;
- Marble Bench fountains which are known for the gilded sculptures of Nymph and Danaide;
- the Sun fountain which looks like the day star.
And this is only one ounce of what you can find in Peterhof. Let the other places of interest be a discovery for you!
Since launching of fountains (in 2018, it’s 28th of April) the work schedule is as follows:
- the Grand Palace: entrance by ticket only, all days except Monday, from 10.30 a.m. till 7 p.m. (on Saturday till 9 p.m.); the last Tuesday of the month is a cleanup day;
- the Upper Garden: daily entrance is gratis, from 9 a.m. till 8 p.m. (on Saturday till 9.30 p.m.);
- the Lower Park: daily entrance by ticket only, from 9 a.m. till 8 p.m. (on Saturday till 9 p.m.);
- the Grand Cascade: entrance from 11 a.m. till 7 p.m.
- The amateur photo- and video shooting are allowed on the territory of Peterhof; however, for publication and copying of the footage the written permission from administration is needed.
- Fountains start working from 11 a.m., therefore it would be better to pre–empt the most suitable place for photo- and video shooting, that is, little bridge in front of the Grand Cascade.
- After visiting of tricky fountains you may get wet, so don’t forget change of clothes and towel.
- In the hall of the Grand Palace one can purchase an audio-guide (it’s available in Russian, English and French). Russian-speaking citizens don’t need to take it, for they can listen to the guide.
- In the evening the Grand Palace, the Grand Cascade and pavilion museums are illuminated. However, the distant avenues of the Lower Park are not lighted, that’s why a torch won’t hurt.
Let your acquaintance with Peterhof be interesting, useful and memorable. Welcome!
Peterhof – summer country royal residence on the shore of the Finnish Gulf amazing with its luxury. Famous fountains of the Peterhof each year attract thousands of tourists from all over the world. Appreciate and you artifact Russian autocracy preserved in its original form.
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