The Catherine palace, situated in a suburb of St Petersburg called Tsarskoe Selo (also known as Pushkin), is one of the most splendid former summer residences of Russian tsars. It’s very popular with both Russian and foreign visitors so it can be hard to get there during the high season (from May to September) because entrance time for non-guided visitors is restricted to several hours a day, while the rest is for pre-booked tourist groups. You can easily spend an hour or even longer in a line for tickets to the Catherine palace if you are unlucky.
The first, much smaller palace, was built here for Catherine I, the wife of the founder of St Petersburg, Peter the Great. The present-day building was constructed during the reign of Peter’s daughter Elizabeth who commissioned its construction to her court architect Bartholomeo Rastrelli. The works were completed in 1756. Russian tsars never seemed to be short of money and Elizabeth ordered to gild the statues of giants on the façade of the palace and100 kg of pure gold were used for that purpose. Later gold on the façade was replaced with paint, but there is still plenty of gold inside: Rastrelli designed a so called “Golden Enfilade” – a suite of state rooms in baroque style very richly decorated with gilded carvings. These rooms were supposed to impress foreign ambassadors and demonstrate prosperity and might of the country and its wise rulers.
During the reign of Catherine the Great baroque style went out of fashion and she invited Scottish architect Charles Cameron to decorate a number of rooms in classical style.
Keep in mind that from May you also need to buy a seperate ticket for the park!
It’s possible to take pictures in the palace (no flash) with the exception of the Amber room!
PLEASE NOTE: Palace ticket is valid for entering the exposition only within one hour after purchase!
You can make pictures inside of the Catherine palace, (no flash or tripod, and unfortunately photographing in the famous Amber room is not allowed at all)
If you visit the Catherine palace independently, you can kill the time walking in the beautiful adjacent parks . In my personal opinion, if you can visit only one of many Russian suburban palaces during your visit, it’s better to go to the Catherine palace during the cold season, while I would recommend Peterhof with its beautiful fountains in summer. (The reason is that Peterhof fountains don’t function during the cold time of the year and the interiors of these two palaces are rather similar as they were built and decorated approximately at the same time by the same architect).