Peterhof Palace was built outside of the new capital of St Petersburg as the royal summer residence for Russian Tsar Peter the Great, and it is an excellent example of the architectural artistry of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as well as a must-see destination for visitors who are interested in architecture or the history of imperial Russia. Peterhof comprises a palace, fountain, and park and was founded in the early eighteenth century; the complex is so beautiful that it has been called the Russian Versailles. The fountains at Peterhof draw many visitors from St Petersburg, and they are an attraction by themselves. The entire complex is a beautiful place to spend a sunny day, enjoying the palace as Peter the Great envisioned himself spending summers.
The view from the lower and upper gardens toward Peterhof Palace is an impressive one. If you want to tour Peterhof, you can buy a ticket for one of the many guided tours available. Hours can be limited depending on the season, and some visitors are bothered by the fact that the gardens don’t open until 10 or 11 in the morning, but if you plan ahead, you should be able to see the entire complex in a day. A guided tour of Peterhof will bring visitors through some of the palace’s 30 rooms, including highlights such as the Chesma Hall, with its impressive paintings commemorating Russia's 1770 victory in the Battle of Chesma, during the Russo-Turkish War. There are many other opportunities throughout the country to see similar pieces of art and historical significance. From Red Square to the numerous museums, a trip to Russia is filled with historical intrigue.
While the rooms, decorations, and art work of Peterhof Palace are impressive, it is the gardens that etch a place in the memory of visitors. The fountains at Peterhof are located in the Upper Gardens, and are distributed amongst seven large pools. Fountains are absent from the Lower Gardens, where landscape design differs as well. The lower gardens are mostly geometric, while this feature is missing from the Upper Gardens. Sculpture is part of the fountains throughout the grounds of Peterhof as well, and the beautiful Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain are unforgettable sights.
Peter the Great left details of his plans to build Peterhof in the form of a journal. Apparently using Versailles as a model, the emperor wanted a summer palace with a study where he could have a sweeping view of the surrounding area, including St Petersburg. Originally, the upper gardens were used to grow vegetables, and the ponds were for fish, not fountains. Peterhof Palace has changed over the years, and the complex is likely even more impressive today than it may have been during Peter’s time. Some visitors to Russia include a trip to Peterhof as an excursion from a river cruise. This option allows travelers to see a variety of palaces, museums, and monuments in a short period of time.
In a dark period of history for the palace, it was captured by the Germans in 1941. Under German control until 1944, Peterhof experienced terrible treatment, and many of its treasures were stolen; parts of the palace were even left to burn. Restoration work began after the war, and it continues today. Visitors can reach Peterhof easily by public transit, including trains and hydrofoils. For travelers looking to save money, the Upper Gardens can be visited for free, but entry into the Lower Gardens and the Palace itself require a paid ticket and a guided tour.