Visiting imperial palaces is one great reason to visit St. Petersburg, Russia. These historic complexes--many protected by UNESCO--contain sprawling royal residences, extensive parks and gardens, and architecturally interesting outbuildings. Make a day of one or more of these palaces when you visit St. Petersburg. They're sure to be one of the best parts of your visit to Russia's second capital!
Peterhof was built by Peter the Great and is recognized for its fountain cascades and its level of opulence. Nicknamed "Russia's Versailles," this complex of structures is emblematic of Peter the Great's wealth, power, and love of luxury. Visit the main palace, the grounds, and any of the smaller structures within Peterhof to get a fuller picture of how this Russian emperor lived. View the Peterhof photo tour for an idea of what's in store for visitors to Peter's Court.
Tsarskoe Selo, or Village of the Tsars, is a complex of palaces, parks, and associated structures located in Pushkin, 25 miles from St. Petersburg. Your visit to Tsarskoe Selo will take the better part of the day, so go early to make sure you have time to view all of the best sights within the complex grounds, including the Catherine Palace, the Alexander Palace, and the extensive parkland surrounding these former royal residences. You can even take a ferry around the pond to gain access to the island on the lake and get a unique view of the Tsars' Village.
The Catherine Palace is the most popular sight within Tsarskoe Selo. Home to the Amber Room, the Catherine Palace was not built by Catherine the Great but was used and renovated extensively by her. You'll see the touches of this Russian empress everywhere, even in the surrounding park area, where her favorite architect built palatial outbuildings to improve upon the natural landscape.
Pavlovsk, which was given to Paul by Catherine the Great, was inhabited by both him and his wife, Maria Fyodorovna, who inherited the park and palace after his death. The palace, carefully preserved in the time between the Russian Revolution and WWII, then painstakingly restored to its former splendor, is an attraction that shouldn't be overlooked, even if you also visit Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhov, especially if you love palaces!
Oranienbaum was built in Peter the Great's time and inhabited by Empress Catherine before she was great. This treasure house of period architecture and artifacts is undergoing restoration and doesn't see as many visitors as the other palaces in the area. However, this historically significant complex of palaces and pavillions is a must-see for those interested in Russian imperial history. Its lack of crowds also makes its park area a wonderful retreat for those who have already experienced the popularity of Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof.