In addition to visiting the Church of the Savior on Blood there was one thing at the top of my St. Petersburg bucket list. Visiting the Palace of Peterhof couldn’t be missed. It is known as Russia’s answer to Versailles, so on a cold and sunny day we hopped on a hydrofoil by the Winter Palace and were on our way.
A hydrofoil is a fancy name for a boat, by the way.
As soon as you get to the pier at Peterhof (after about 30 minutes of trying to stay warm on the boat) you’ll be met with a ticket boot before you can even see the Palace. You won’t get any further without a ticket so you might as well pay up. They offer discounts, so make sure you bring a student ID if you have one!
Once you are past the first (!!) ticket booth you can roam around the gardens as you please. The walk up to the Palace is so nice, and the closer you get the more details you’ll notice. Those Russians sure knew how to mesmerize..
Now for some history. The Palace was commissioned by Peter the Great in the early 1700s, and was modelled after and inspired by the Palace of Versailles. Hey, if the French can do it.. After his death, several Tsars to come expanded the property and main Palace for almost 100 years. It was called the Summer Palace (as opposed to the Hermitage and Winter Palace in central St. Petersburg), as the Tsars and their families would spend the warmer months here. Seeing it in the sun made it quite clear why they would take refuge there, and I definitely wouldn’t say no to a summer or two there either.
If you want to read about my visit to the French equivalent; the Palace of Versailles, you can check it out here!
Once you reach the Palace you’ll be prompted by the serious Russians at the door (just a heads up, there aren’t many smiles in this country) to queue up for another ticket booth. Since there are no signs whatsoever in English, just thank them and go with it. The original ticket you bought was for the garden only, and you’ll need another one if you wish to enter the actual Palace. The tickets aren’t too expensive, so you won’t really mind. As a student my tickets were 550 RUB, and I believe that was half price of the regular fare. The stubs themselves are worth saving as well, and they even match the ones from the Winter Palace!
Inside the Palace they had a rather strict no photo policy. My sister and I still tried to sneak a couple of snaps for our MyStories in between drooling of envy and planning the lavish dinner parties we would host for our entire family in the dining room. All in all the Palace was a perfect size, and with a mere 30ish rooms I could definitely see myself living there and not getting lost. It would even fit in one picture, which is more than I could say for Versailles.
Visiting Peterhof should be high on your list if you are ever heading to Russia and St. Petersburg. We visited in October, and even though it was extremely cold (even for Norwegians), I believe going outside the main tourist season left us with a great experience. Also on the plus side; there were hardly any people around to photobomb – all though I know a few tour groups that could have used a kick in the behind.