Peterhof - the "Russian Versailles"

JUN 30,2015 - JUN 30,2015 (1 DAYS)

Nature

Peterhof Palace and Gardens:

We spent one full day in Peterhof - on the last day of June 2015. The weather had not been as nice as other days in SPB - but, still, it was a WONDERFUL day in an absolutely stunning historical site - in all levels.

Distance: 11-12 km. Duration: 1 day. Take a picnic and make an entire day of Peterhof park. Weather: avoid a windy or rainy day.

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Transportation: Take the RED Metro line (line 1) to Avtovo station (А́втово). The Avtovo station on the Kirovsko-Vyborgskaya Line of the Saint Petersburg Metro was designed by architect Ye.A. Levinson and opened as part of the first Metro line on November 15, 1955. Note: you get coins (Jetons) in place of tickets for entry through the turnstiles. Avtovo is an highly ornate designed station with white marble columns. The walls are faced with white marble and adorned on the north side by a row of ornamental ventilation grilles. At the end of the platform is a mosaic by V.A. Voronetskiy and A.K. Sokolov dedicated to the theme of the Leningrad Blockade during the second world war. From Avtovo - you get to Peterhof via Marshrutka (which is like a shared taxi or mini-bus). You get off from the Avtovo subway and, in front of the Metro station, you find the Marshrutkas waiting for passengers (lines: K424, 424A, K 300, 224). Price: 70-100 RUB. You can take buses 200 and 210 from the AVTOVO subway as well. The ride is approx. 45 minutes. Bus 200 - to Oranienbaum (Lomonosov) thru the Peterhoff compound. Tickets cost 56 RUB. Buses run frequently, every 10-20 min. Bus 404 leaving in front of the BALTIYSKAYA station stopping in front of the Peterhof entrance. Tickets costs one way 70 RUB. The bus runs every 20 min. and takes about 45 minutes. There is, also, hydrofoil service from in the back of the Winter Palace (Neva Embankment), 45 min. approx 750 RUB.

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Peterhof City (Петерго́ф) or Petergof known as Petrodvorets (Петродворец) from 1944 to 1997, is a municipal town in Petrodvortsovy District of the federal city of St. Petersburg, located on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. We do not visit the city in this route. The town hosts one of two campuses of Saint Petersburg State University and the Petrodvorets Watch Factory, one of the leading Russian watch manufactures.

Our itinerary is devoted to the Peterhof palace and Gardens - a series of palaces and gardens, laid out on the orders of Peter the Great, and sometimes called the "Russian Versailles". The palace-gardens-ensemble along with the city center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Some practicalities: The quite extensive compound at Peterhof is famous for it’s Grand Palace and many fountains. You can seemingly walk forever in this magnificent park and have a relaxing day in nature. In summer time, the park comes to life with floods of tourists and locals alike. Another appealing feature of the park at Peterhof is that it’s right on the Baltic Sea. Be ready to take A LOT of pictures.

Try to arrive BEFORE 11.00 when the opening ceremony commences and the fountains launched into action.

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Waiting or queuing up for tickets is a matter of chance. We arrived at 10.45 and waited a couple of minutes for buying tickets. But, it is quite frequent of long queues and waiting for 20-30 minutes for getting entry tickets.

It is the upper garden we walk through from the entrance to. It is quite a long walking distance from bus/Marshrutka stop to the Peterhof tickets booth in the Upper Gardens:

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There are 3 fountains from south to north: Midway Fountain, Neptune Fountain and Oak Tree Fountain.

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Midway (Mezheumny) Fountain. Five bronze statues are set in a pool thirty metres wide, edged with a border of light-coloured Reval stone; they represent a ferocious dragon, with its wings spread, and four dolphins leaping out of the water:

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Neptune Fountain:

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Oak Tree Fountain:

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The park has an upper garden and a lower garden. The upper garden (Verhny Sad) is free of charge and really quite lovely and peaceful. Open: Daily 9.00 to 20.00. Admission: Free. Photo and video: Free. Accessibility note: The garden is wheelchair accessible:

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The lower park (Nizhny Sad) (where everyone goes to see the fountains), requires paid entry and is well worth it. You can take a picnic and make an entire day of it. Open: Daily, 9.00 to 20.00. Last admission at 19.30 pm. Fountains operate from 10.00 to 18.00 (Saturdays and Sundays till 19.00). Almost everything is closed on the last Tuesday of each month.  Price: 500 RUB (Russian citizens - 200 RUB). Students and children: 250 RUB. Photo and video: Photo (without tripod) is allowed. Accessibility note: The lower garden is wheelchair accessible in most of the itineraries. The lower gardens, at 1.02 square kilometers, (0.39 sq mi) are comprising the better part of the palace complex land area, and confined between the palace and the shore, stretching east and west for roughly 200 meters (660 ft). The majority of Peterhof’s fountains are contained here, as are several small palaces and outbuildings. East of the Lower Gardens lies the Alexandria Park with 19th-century Gothic Revival structures such as the Gothic Chapel. Near the middle of the Lower Gardens, stands the Grand Palace (Bolshoy Dvorets). To the south of it are the comparatively small Upper Gardens (Verhny Sad). Below the Palace (north) is the Grand Cascade (Bolshoy Kaskad). This and the Grand Palace are the centerpiece of the entire complex. At its foot (further north) begins the Sea Channel (Morskoy Kanal), one of the most extensive waterworks of the Baroque period, which bisects the Lower Gardens from south to north.

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Hunter's pavilion (olgmar) in the lower gardens (west side):

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Peterhof Palace: Like Catherine Palace, Peterhof Grand Palace was built in the early 1700’s and sustained substantial damage from the German invasion during World War II. It has been fully restored, though renovations are still ongoing. The interiors are heavily influenced by French style. There is an overabundance of silk wall coverings, ornamental plaster designs and gold leaf detail in every room. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the Grand Palace. It takes about an hour to walk through the palace. The largest of Peterhof's palaces looks truly imposing when seen from the Lower or Upper Gardens, but in fact it is quite narrow and not overly large. Open: 10.30 - 18.00 (ticket office 10.30 - 17.00), closed on Mondays. There might be a scheme of "tourists visiting hours" and "Locals visiting hours". Please - inquire in advance:

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Peterhof Palace is one of the most popular and most visited sites in Russia. It was popularly called ‘Summer Residence’ of the Emperor in the 18th century. The three-storey great palace sits on top of the ridge that separates the upper and lower parks. At initial stage, it was a simple hut beside Baltic Sea for relaxation purpose, but then the hut was gradually transformed into a grand palace in French style. The Peterhof Palace, also known as Petrodvorets, was founded in the year 1714 by Peter the Great. The palace is the inspiration of Versailles. But the fountain was his own idea, which was developed and built on a grand scale. Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Leblond – the architect was also French. The Main Hall (Throne Hall) is designed by FB Rastrelli. It is a Baroque hall of Elizabethan times. The ceiling of the palace is carved from wood, beautifully painted with shining colors. Special material of wood, mirrors and titled stoves with special marquetry techniques were used in designing the hall. The hall was then redesigned by Y.Velten in the year 1770’s in complete classical style. Another hall is the Chesma Hall because it features a number of paintings belonging to the Battle of Chesma - a stunning naval victory of the Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774. These were painted between 1771 and 1773 by the German artist Jacob Philipp Hackert. These paintings display the victorious naval ships in different forms such as the flying timbers, fireballs, smokes and flames. His first renderings of the great battle scenes were criticized by witnesses as not showing realistically the effect of exploding ships — the flying timbers, great flames, smoke, and fireballs. Catherine II assisted the artist by exploding a frigate in the harbor of Livorno, Italy, for the benefit of Hackert, who had never seen a naval battle firsthand. Hackert also did not research the actual positions of the Russian and Turkish forces during the battle, so the scenes depicted are somewhat fanciful, but do effectively convey drama and destruction of naval warfare. Another room, positioned at the center of the palace, bears the name of the Picture Hall. Its walls are almost entirely covered by a series of 368 paintings, mostly of variously dressed women, differing in appearance and even age, yet most were drawn from a single model. These were purchased in 1764 from the widow of the Italian artist P. Rotari, who died in St. Petersburg. The palace also features Chinese cabinets to the east and west. These cabinets were built between 1766-1769. The walls were decorated with imitation Oriental patterns by Russian craftsmen, and hung with Chinese landscape paintings in yellow and black lacquer. The site was nationalized by special announcement issued by ‘Vladimir Lenin:

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Peterhof Cathedral east to the Grand Palace:

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Big urn on the Grand Palace terrace - overlooking the Grand Cascade:

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Peterhof Gardens: after the palace tour make your way through the gardens to see (and experience) some of the ‘trick’ fountains. These fountains were created by Peter the Great to trick his guests – as they would appear to be small fountains, yet would suddenly burst with water and wet thoroughly the guests.

Peterhof Cascades and Fountains: The prime attraction of Peterhof is Lower Park, which has 4-cascades and 150-water fountains. The Great Cascade is most amazing located in front of the Great Imperial Palace. The fountains at ‘Great Cascade’ is truly breath-taking, the complete composition is dedicated the victory of Sweden. It is adorned with statues of Roman & Greek gods and their respective heroes. The interior is fabulous too! Try to watch the fountains either from an higher spot (then the sun is on your back) or from a lower corner where there are less tourists crowding the area. Aside from the beauty, the big attraction to the fountains is that they are all gravity-fed. No pumps are used to power the many fountains. It’s not only an amazing feat of ingenuity, it’s visually stunning. There are around 176-fountains which are connected by a huge network of water pipes. The Great Cascade’ is truly breath-taking, the complete composition is dedicated the victory of Sweden. It is adorned with statues of Roman & Greek gods and their respective heroes.

Grand Cascade - before the 11.00 activation:

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Grand Cascade as the fountains are being activated:

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There are several fountains across the Peterhof Palace--->

Samson Fountain (below, north to - the Grand Cascade):

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The Grand Cascade and the Samson Fountain:

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The Adam & Eve Fountains - along the Sea Channel. Adam on the east side and Eve on the west side - quite distant from each other:

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Dragon Hill Cascade (or Chessboard Cascade) - located in the eastern section of the lower gardens. The water cascades over black and white marble arranged as on a chessboard. The ten statues lining the cascade were buried to keep them safe from the German occupation during World War II:

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Roman Fountain: in the eastern side of the lower gardens, north to the Orangery:

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Lions Cascade - on the western side of the lower gardens, compositionally linked with the Hermitage building. It was built in 1799-1801 and looks like an open Greek temple. The stone foundation is surrounded from three sides by 14 gray granite columns. Among the columns there are marble vases fountains. Standing in the middle of the indoor pool, on the hill of granite stones, is the bronze figure of the nymph Aganipph. From the two sides the cascade is guarded by bronze lions. It is a monument of the age of Nicholas I. The cascade first appeared in the late 18th century (the architect Andrei Voronikhin). It got its name because of the bronze figures of lions placed beside it (sculptor Ivan Prokofyev). In 1854-57 Andrei Stackenschneider built the Classical Greek colonnade of granite columns, which are 8 metres high, in the place of the Voronikhin cascade. The twelve marble bowl fountains were placed inside the colonnade between the columns. The Nymph Aganippe Fountain was erected in the centre of it:

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Memorial Monument of Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna (Memorial bench of Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna) - in the Lower Park, near the Lion cascade is an unusual monument - a memorial bench monument dedicated to Princess Alexandra Nikolaevna. Grand Duchess Alexandra was the youngest daughter of Emperor Nicholas I, died at a young age (19 s) from tuberculosis.The monument was erected in 1844 - 1847 years. The authors of the project were renowned architect A. Shtakenshnejdera and talented sculptor M. soared. The composition is a bench with a beautiful pink marble, which, on a pedestal a bust of Princess. Monument fenced Forged fences and decorative columns, which are planted flowers in pots:

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Golden Hill Cascade or  Marly Cascade is located on the western side of the lower garden (above or south to the Marly Palace):

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Pyramid Fountain - is made up of 505 jets that form a large pyramid of water. This fountain was severely damaged in World War II, but was back in operation in 1953. South-east to Monplaisir Palace and Garden:

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Pavillion near the Pyramid Fountain:
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Sun (Sundial) Fountain is located in the center of the Menagerie Pool. Magnificent !!! It mimics the sun with a disc of water jets. The entire fountain rotates on a vertical axis, changing the sun's direction perpetually. A water-wheel on another fountain drives a small dog chasing four ducks:

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The Sheaf Fountain is another amazing work to catch. It is situated in front of Monplaisir Palace. In French the word "mon plaisir" means ‘my pleasure’:

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North (north-west) to the Grand Palace is the Orangery, built to protect plants and flowers from inclement weather. In front of the Orangery stands the Triton Fountain and to the east are a couple of eighteenth-century marble fountains known as the Roman Fountains:

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The Sea Channel (Morskoy Kanal) - the channel itself was used as a grand marine entrance into the Peterhof complex from the north (Finnish Gulf / Baltic Sea). The Sea Channel (also known as the Marine Canal) is lined with 20 water fountains and bisects the Lower Gardens at Peterhof. It is one of the most extensive waterworks of the Baroque period.

The canal from the Grand Cascade:

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Sea Channel (Morskoy Kanal) from north to south:

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The northern edge of the Sea Channel (Morskoy Kanal) - near the Finnish Gulf:

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Peterhof small Palaces:

Peterhof Hermitage: standing on a moted island right on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, the graceful two-storey Peterhof Maly (small) Hermitage was envisioned by Peter the Great as an informal dining room for his closest associates, with a system of pulleys used to serve food and ensure the privacy of the diners. Built to the design of Braunstein, 1721-1724. With your back to the Marly Palace - walk along the ramparts (the Baltic Sea on your left) (south-eastward) and you see the Hermitage pavilion:

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Marly Palace: This is the main structure of the lower park. Located in the western half of the Lower Park. Three avenues radiate from the palace, one crossing the Sea Channel. The Marly Palace is a charming Baroque mansion that was built on the orders of Peter the Great as an intimate retreat in the grounds of the Grand Palace.Peter's inspiration was the royal hunting lodge at Marly Le Roi, just outside Paris. Louis XIV had commissioned his residence there as a private, peaceful alternative to Versailles. Peter visited Marly Le Roi during his visit to France in 1717, and, when creating the "Russian Versailles" at Peterhof, he decided to have his own personal sanctuary built in the grounds:  Fine examples of antique furniture within; an old lady stands guard in each room, some even with a smile. Open only on SAT and SUN:

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Marly Rampart in the Lower Park of Peterhof:

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Monplaisir: Peter the Great's pet project at Peterhof was this small but charming summer palace, which the Tsar designed by and for himself, although he sought the help of several architects to do so. It is located near the Gulf. If you arrive in Peterhof by boat, Monplaisir is one of the first sights to greet you. Sitting in the eastern corner of the Lower Park, right on the shoreline of the Gulf of Finland, Monplaisir vaguely resembles a Dutch Colonial mansion, with its high gabled roof over the central corpus and narrow rectangular windows to keep out the wintry north wind. The facade on the opposite side of the palace is quite different, with long single-storey galleries topped by a balustraded terrace and supported by slender columns. Here, large French windows allow natural light to pour into the rooms, giving the whole building a summery, almost tropical feel. It also has three avenues radiating from it:

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Faun and a Kid Cloche fountains are located in the Monplaisir Garden:

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The Sheaf Fountain:

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On the north side of the Mon Plaisir Garden or Mon Plaisir Palace compound - there is terrace overlooking a stunning views of the Finnish Gulf (the Baltic Sea):

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Alexandria Park (east of lower gardens): to the east of the main park at Peterhof lies an expanse of landscaped parkland in the English style, named after Alexandra Fedorovna, wife of Nicholas I. The land was used as a royal hunting ground for most of the 18th century, and then left to go wild after the court moved to Tsarskoe Selo. Open: daily, 9.00 to 22.00.
Price: 9.00 to 17.00: 150 RUB,  17.00 to 22.00: Free. Photo and video: Free:

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The Cottage Palace in Alexandria Park: building here began in 1826 with the Cottage, a palace built in the neo-Gothic style characterized by the use of Gothic architectural features without any organic link between function and construction. In 1829 the architect Adam Menelaws completed work on its decor. This compact, three-storey building, almost square in ground plan, has a roof with steep gables painted the colour of thatch, yet another reminder of its purpose as a country villa. The wrought-iron lattice work of the balconies, the bay windows and terraces, the window grilles, and the moulding of the cornices are all done in the English style of Tudor Gothic. The deep loggias of the east and west facades are also in this style. The details of the decor are painted white to contrast with the ochre of the walls. The colored glass in the casements of the arcades on the ground floor is also reminiscent of Gothic. Some very fine flower-beds were laid out around the Cottage and the other buildings in the park. In 1842 the architect Andrei Stakenschneider added a dining room, pantry and marble terrace with a fountain to the Cottage, which had become somewhat cramped for the royal family. This upset the strict symmetry of Menelaws' building, but made it look more homely and attractive:

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An arbour near the Cottage Palace:

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The Gothic Capella (The Church of St Alexander Nevsky): at the request of Nicholas I the German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed a Gothic church (Capella) for the Alexandria Park in 1829. In 1831-1833 the church was built in the western section of the park on the edge of the upper terrace (architects Adam Menelaws and Ludwig Charlemagne):

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