Saint Petersburg Russia


Saint-Petersburg Guide
Peterhof occupies a distinctive place of its own among numerous world-famous palace complexes such as Versailles, Aranjuez, Caserta, Schonbrunn or Potsdam. Its frequent comparisons with Versailles are rather superficial. Whereas Versailles commands a view over the land around it, Peterhof is given a particular charm by its neighborhood to the sea — it appears to have been brought forth out of sea waves by the will of almighty Neptune. The fountains of Versailles are not inexhaustible. Peterhof is an abode of the sea god. Its fountains are not mere decorative accessories — they are essential for the whole ensemble symbolizing the power of the sea.
Let's take a tour of this remarkable architectural creation!

Peterhof Great Palace
Architect: Francesco Bartolommeo Rastrelli

The estate of Peterhof lies on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, 18 miles to the west of St. Petersburg. Its name was first mentioned in Peter the Greats travel diary for 1705 as a place where the Tsar spent a night on his way to the Kronstadt fortress then under construction.
In 1714, when St. Petersburg became the capital of Russia, the Tsar ordered to build a new official country residence, “similar to the glorious palace of Versailles", on the site of present-day Peterhof and himself sketched a draft plan.
From that time until 1725 three architects, Johann Friedrich Braunstein, Jean Baptiste Le Blond and Niccolo Michetti were successively building the UpperPalace (later named the Great Palace), next to the potciger (“kitchen-garden” in French) or the Upper Gardens, “no less beautiful than that of the King of France”, as well as the Monplaisir Palace, the Hermitage Pavilion, the Marly Palace and the Orangery Pavilion on the sea front.

Interesting facts about Peterhof:

- The first general plan of Peterhof was drawn up in 1716 by the architect Johann Friedrich Braunstein.

- In 1720, work began on the Chateau de Marly, this determining not only the western limit of the park, but also its architectural center from which three avenues fan out across the park from west to east.

- A year later the Hermitage Pavilion was built on the seashore symmetrical with Montplaisir.

- Together with the avenue from the Upper Chambers to Montplaisir and the Marine Canal, the avenue to the Hermitage Pavilion formed another trident running from the terrace to the sea. This completed the main network of avenues.

- The Lower Park was set out like a typical formal French Garden.

- The formal opening of Peterhof took place on 15 August, 1723.

Peterhof Fountains
Essential for the whole ensemble symbolizing the power of the sea

The Lower Park with straight avenues was laid out on the seashore where the clusters of trees and bushes were planted. These were thoroughly trimmed to meet the fashion of the age. These were thoroughly trimmed to meet the fashion of the age. Vases, busts and statues of marble, alabaster and lead were placed alongside the flower parterres, lattices and arbors decorated with climbing shrubs were also built there. All these decorative structures were designed to emphasize the magnificence of the fountains, grand, fantastic and sometimes even bewildering.
On August 15, 1723, Peter the Great invited all ambassadors and foreign ministers to his new country residence to take part in its inauguration ceremony.
In the 1730s, the Russian architect Mikhail Zemtsov was made responsible for the construction work at Peterhof. During this period a system of avenues and roads in the Lower Park was further developed and the Dragon Cascade and the Roman Fountains were built, while the Amphitheater with a pavilion and a maze were constructed near the Eve Fountain. Five fountains decorated with sculpture were built in the Upper Gardens lending it an even more festive air.

Interesting facts

- From 1745 on, in the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna, Peter the Great’s daughter, the Great Palace acquired the appearance it has retained to this day.

- The architect Francesco Bartolommeo Rastrelli, Italian by birth, extended the original Palace of Peter the Great adding low galleries at both sides flanked by medium-sized pavilions — the Chapel Royal on the eastern side and the Coats-of-Arms Pavilion on the western one.

- He also encircled the Upper Gardens with elaborately decorated cast-iron railings.

- The first floor of the Great Palace was designed as a suite of state rooms richly embellished in the Baroque style which matched Elizabeth’s magnificent court both in its scope and spirit.
Saint Petersburg in three days
So much to see, so little time? We understand. If you only have three days in our city, we suggest you see at least the following landmarks:

- The State Hermitage Museum should be on the agenda of any visitor to Saint-Petersburg. One of the largest art museums in the world, the Hermitage Museum is in the top 10 most visited museums in the world. Plan for at least a three hour visit - and that will only scratch the surface.

- The Mariinsky Theater is home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Opera and Mariinsky Orchestra. Attending the Saint Petersburg ballet is a truly magical event.

- St Isaac's Cathedral one the finest cathedrals built in Europe in the 19th century, is a unique phenomenon in Russian architecture. Its golden dome, like the spires of the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Admiralty, is seen from afar.

- No visit to Saint-Petersburg is complete without visiting its royal environs. A hydrofoil will take you to Peterhof - a complex of palaces and gardens laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. These palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the "Russian Versailles".

- Saint-Petersburg Metro is not just a fast transportation system - it is a work of art in and of itself.