Petergof is a suburban imperial residence in the vicinity of St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great in honor of the Russian State’s victory in the Northern War. The “Russian Versailles” has formed its unique shape for three centuries, from the laying of the first stone in 1972 till present day, when it had to be literally rebuilt from its ruins after the German occupation. The picturesque palace and parks complex is called the Kingdom of fountains. More than 150 fountains and water slides embellish the composition of the park. The palaces, pavilions, statues, alleys and flower beds, they are all full of grandeur and reminiscent of a great bygone era. Even the trees here have their own history, the oaks, planted by the king founder himself, have been preserved.
The city of Petergof is divided in two zones, the New Petergof and the old Petergof. The major landmarks are located within the limits of New Petergof, between the Petergof street and the Ropshinsky highway.
Buses and route taxis (marshrutkas) are the ways of transportation to get around Petergof. The developed transport network links the city with St. Petersburg and the Museum-Reserves in Strelna and Oranienbaum. The best choice of transport in the warmest time, is the bicycle. To rent an adult bike will cost 200 RUB (~3 EUR) per hour and a children’s bike-100 RUB (~1.4 EUR). In the wintertime the same rental point will offer cross country skiing, Finnish sleighs and “vatrushki” for riding the slide – all for a price of 250 RUB (~3.5 EUR) per hour. Athletes of the local ski school pave the ski tracks for most of the local parks. The ideal location for skiing is the Lower royal road, which runs across the Gulf of Finland up to Strelna. The rental point for sport inventory in Alexandria Park is open all year round.
What to bring back
Unforgettable impressions and photos on the background of the local beauties – this is what every tourist visiting Petergof has to bring back with him. Although family and friends can be treated with more traditional souvenirs, from magnets and calendars to little figurines in the form of local architectural landmarks. Numerous shops have to offer miniature replicas of monuments of Petergof, the “Faberge eggs”, canvas bags and umbrellas with the distinguishable Petergof’s print, captain’s caps with the “Petergof” inscription, puzzles with views of the reserve and noble fans. You can find on the shelves even more original souvenirs. There are for instance, copies of Ancient maps from the Museum of playing cards.
Experts advise do not rush purchasing souvenirs right at the entrance of the park: there are plenty and enough souvenir shops on the territory of the complex; you will have the opportunity to choose from a great variety of items at different prices. Magnets can be bought at 100 RUB (~1.4 EUR), whereas the caps will cost around 500 RUB (~7 EUR).
Cafes and restaurants in Petergof
Across the street from the entrance of the Upper Park, in the hotel “Samson” is located the eponymous restaurant, with a long history starting with 1839, when the fine cuisine was highly appreciated by the famous Alexander Dumas. The establishment offers to connoisseurs of Russian food great dishes at Royal prices: marinated mushrooms, duck breast, whitefish and crepes with caviar. Even though everyone can eat here from 12.00 P.M. till 4.00 P.M., the restaurateurs wait for the guests to eat here a democratic business lunch for a price of 240 RUB (~3.4 EUR) per person.
To dine with an amazing view of the Gulf of Finland is possible in the restaurant “Shtandart”, which is located near the site of meteors mooring. Tourists are offered a menu with Russian traditional cuisine at the price of 950 RUB (~13.5 EUR) per person.
Draught beer and a democratic serving can be found in Duck&Drake gastro pub located in Kolonistski Park. Pizzeria “Amercano” offers for the guests different kinds of pizza on traditional and fluffy though – for a standard sized “Margarita” you would have to pay 365 RUB (~5 EUR). Cafe “Брынза&Шашлык” (brinza&shashlik), located at about two blocks distance from the Grand Palace, is popular for its adequate prices and tasty chebureks. Take a breath and enjoy some cookies in “Chas pick” time-cafe and some complementary tea at a price of 120 RUB (~1.7 EUR) per hour.
Entertainment, tours and landmarks in Petergof
Tourists usually visit Petergof for the eponymous palace and parks complex with its famous fountains. It hides so many beauties and treasures that even a whole day wouldn’t be enough to get acquainted with everything in here. You can go sightseeing as part of a tourist group, with a guide, or individually – the signage and detailed diagrams, which are sold at the souvenir stalls near the Grand Palace, will make it easy to orient oneself and discover the place. In Petergof has been revived the imperial tradition of cycling and are carried out various bike excursions, including on the route where the Romanov family had their cycling days out.
If you want to see Petergof from above, you don’t necessarily need to rent a helicopter for that. The observation platform of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul opens a stunning view of the surroundings. This Orthodox Church is located close to the Petergof palace.
On weekdays there is an opportunity to get a free pass for visiting the factory manufacturing the clocks “Raketa”. The watchmakers are always happy to welcome the factory’s guests and to show around, even if it’s only for one person. So that you don’t waste your time, it is always possible to pre-register for the tour, by phone. Photos are allowed during the excursion.
The Palace and park complexes
Petergof palace and park complex, recognized as a world heritage site, consists of the Upper Garden, the palace and the Lower Park. The Great Cascade is considered the heart of the Lower Park. This is an impressive edifice featuring the statue of Samson grasping the mighty jaws of the lion. The overall impression of Petergof would definitely be incomplete if not visiting the Lower Park with its numerous fountains. Alexandria was the residency of the last Russian emperors and it is surrounded by a two-level maritime landscape park. The complex features a unique and one of a kind style, the design of pavilions, statues and gazebos contain elements of gothic architecture. Of mandatory attendance are the palace Cottage, the Farmer’s palace and the Gothic chapel.
Petergof is not a city of fountains only. It is also famous for its parks, where walking around is a great pleasure. Many of them distinguish themselves by an ideal landscape design, which rather resembles forests with paved alleys in them: and these are basically those so-called landscape parks. Besides the famous Upper garden and Lower Park, included in the Petergof’s ensemble, it is a must to visit “Alexandria” park, which is located nearby. Another Alexandria landscape park was founded as a royal hunting ground. In the memory of the latter it got a second name – “Zverinetz” (the menagerie). Kolokistsky landscape park originated back in the era of the reign of Nicholas I. A great territory of this landscape park is occupied by Olgin Lake, named after the daughter of the king. The Meadow Park is considered one of the most valuable park complexes of the mid-19 century – the trees and shrubs here grow in picturesque groups and remind of some green scenes. The English park in the western part of the city is divided after the model of the English estates. The Oldenburg Park stretches along the sea on the territory of Old Petergof.
5 things to do in Petergof
- Try your luck by running through the trick-fountains.
- Try on the pompous outfit of Catherine II.
- Get lost in the water fountain labyrinth.
- Check the time with the palace sundial.
- Take a selfie with a Petergof’s squirrel.
Famous and little known architects like Rastrelli and Voronikhin, the serfdom, they all had left their mark in the image of Petergof. Peter I himself drafted the project for the “Hermitage” pavilion. The Ceremonial palace for balls and receptions, Catherine’s wing, was built by the architect Bartolommeo Francesco Rastrelli, whose contribution in architecture is so great, that a whole stylistic direction was named after him. Monplaisir Palace was erected as a monument in honor of Russia’s victory in the battle to get access to the sea. The architectural monument Marly Palace is associated with the residency of Louis XIV, Marly Le Roi, from where the Tzar architect got his inspiration from. The marble Voronikhin colonnades were named after their creator, the serf Voronikhin, who thereafter received the title of architect for his successful creation.
The acquaintance with the fountains of Petergof starts with the Upper garden. At the main entrance visitors are greeted by the fountain “Mezhumny”, a round pool with dolphins and sea monsters. Among the fountains of the Lower Park “Samson” is the most popular one and it is located in the center of the Grand Cascade. 3 waterfall staircases, 64 fountains, 255 sculptures and bas-reliefs of ancient themes, they all represent the biggest fountain facility in the world and the business card of Petergof as well. The identical fountains “Adam” and “Eve” are a real model of the “Petrine” sculpture. These are the oldest fountains and the only ones that survived to our day completely unchanged. There is no need to go to Italy to see typical Roman fountains. There are in Petergof two replicas of the fountains installed in the Cathedral of St. Peter’s in Rome.
The trick-fountains of Petergof are the main entertainment for the visitors of the Lower Park. Fountains like “Fir Tree”, “Dubok”, Chinese umbrella”, “Sofas”, operate by the same principle – in the most unpredictable moment water jets and sprays overtake the helpless bystanders. The “Water Way”, a fountain from which it is impossible to get away dry, is opened three times a day, for a minute, as per say, out of compassion for the visitors. An unforgettable attraction is the fountain “Favorite”. Four ducks whirl cheerfully in the pool and the doggie, whose name is Favorite, tries to catch them. The sonorous quacking, followed by the barking of the dog attracts visitors from all over the park.
Petergof has museums for every taste. Jewelry and imperial relics are exhibited in the museum “Special pantry”. In the caves of the Grand Cascade you can walk through the tunnels and watch how the water supply system works. There is a Museum fountain business, dedicated to the work of the engineers, the creators of the grandiose fountain system.
To learn how the rulers washed and treated themselves you should visit the museum of the Bathing building where visitors are being acquainted with the everyday life of the imperial court.
On the shores of the Gulf of Finland is located the “Imperial Yacht” museum. It tells the history of Petergof, as being a summer seaside residence of the Russian emperors. You na find there featured: photographs, models and the furniture of “floating” palaces, imperial and grand-ducal yachts. The “Sovereign’s fun” museum will interest the adults and the children as well. Thanks to multimedia technologies the museum recreates the world of Petrine era.
The climate of Petergof is basically the same as in St. Petersburg, not too mild but pleasant. High humidity, gusty winds and cloudiness, are the usual whether phenomenon for these places. Due to the proximity of the Gulf of Finland, the weather is very unstable and can change several times a day. The presence of an umbrella is an essential condition for a successful excursion. During the warmer months, in any weather it won’t be superfluous to get change of clothing for children. It is unlikely that the young tourists will be able to resist the temptation of experiencing the trick-fountains.
The White nights are the embellishment of Petergof. Officially they last from June 11 till July 2. Hence from mid-May to mid-July you can relish this natural phenomenon, when twilight is gradually being replaced by the morning.
Hotels in Petergof
The hotels of Petergof are a combination of modern civilization and the architecture of 17-19 centuries. Many hotels are either built in the spirit of landed estates, or are located in old historic buildings. The accommodation in Petergof is not that cheap. After all you will spend the night in a museum, and for that you will have to pay a lot. Given the fact that foreign tourists come to Petergof, the city tries to show itself in the best light. Hotels here are on every taste – from standard 3-stars to luxury ones.
Quite often the local hotels constitute whole complexes with restaurants, spa salons, conference rooms, lush gardens and many other pleasures of life. The cost per stay varies depending on the season: from 2000-3000 RUB (~28.5 – 43 EUR) to 20000-30000 RUB (~285 – 430 EUR) per night. You can easily find more expensive rooms, as long as you have golden card.