Peterhof is one of the most visited former residences of Russian tsars which is mainly known for its beautiful park with several dozens of fountains and the baroque Grand palace. Peterhof was conceived by Peter the Great as a luxurious summer residence that would stress might of Russia and symbolize its victory in the Nothern war. The gardens are filled with different fountains that function most of the day. The “trick fountains” of Peterhof can be a real delight for children as you can suddenly become poured over with water. The Grand palace and the fountains are situated in so called Upper and Lower gardens (in fact, the majority of them are in the Lower garden). Peterhof fountains function arrpoximately from early May to the beginning of October, exact dates change every year depending on weather conditions.
Peterhof palaces and pavillions.
The main palace in Peterhof is the Grand palace, but there are also many beautiful restored small palaces and pavilions like Monplaisir, Marli, Hermitage, Catherine’s wing or even Royal bathhouse on the territory of Lower garden. Each of them requires a separate ticket that can be pricy. If you want to visit the Grand palace, keep in mind that during the high tourist season they restrict time for non-guided visitors to a few hours a day.
Important notice! The majority of Peterhof fountains are situated in the Lower garden. The ticket to the Lower garden allows you only one entrance! It is very important because if you, say, arrive to the Lower garden by hydrofoil from the center of St Petersburg and have your return tickets with you and then suddenly decide to go to the Upper garden, Alexandria park or whatever place outside the Lower garden, you will be unable to return to the Lower garden unless you buy another admission ticket.
Pavillions on the islands
Group tours usually visit only the Lower and Upper gardens and miss many other palaces and romantic corners of Peterhof. In fact Peterhof has more imperial residences than any other suburb of St Petersburg and they are all different in style. My personal favorites are the pavilions on Kolonistsky pond (so called Tzarina’s and Olga’s pavillions) which are Italian style villas built on the order of Nicholas I for his wife and daughter. They are situated on small picturesque islands.
Alexandria park palaces of Peterhof
You can find two other palaces – so called Cottage and Farmer palaces – of Nicholas I in Alexandria, a vast English-style park that is separated by a wall from the Lower gardens. They are not like palaces, but rather cottages, as they were built not to impress the guests, but to live “like simple landlords”. I personally prefer the Cottage palace.