One cannot talk about St. Petersburg without mentioning Peterhof Palace ensemble. Peter 1’s fine residence, Peterhof is dominated by water. This residence was Peter’s creation, containing many personal details and items that evoked his spirit and his vision of the future of Russia. The Gulf of Finland and the fountains mirror Peter’s maritime interests. Alexandder Benois used to say: “If Versailles is a marvelous dwelling for a ruler of the earth, so is Peterhof for a ruler of the waters.”
Today among St. Petersburg museums Peterhof Palace ensemble occupies the foremost place. No trip to our city is complete without a visit to this spectacular out-of-town Imperial summer residence.
Peterhof summer residence is remarkable first of all because of its unique fountain system. 22 km of pipes lead to 150 fountains and 4 big cascades in the park. Altogether the fountains and cascades count two and a half thousand individual jets? Each with its own smaller pipe.
Peterhof fountains are all sorts of curious shapes and fantasies: triton and lion fountains, dragon fountains and fish-tailed boys blowing sprays of water through conches. There’s the Pyramid fountain, that looks like a water obelisk created with 500 water spurts rising in seven tiers. There are the marble Roman fountains that repeat the ones in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican. The so-called Menager or Economical fountains look simpler but derive their name from their cunningly designed jets, which send a plume of water high in the air. It looks impressive but is in fact hollow, saving water consumption. Then there are Peterhof’s famous trick fountains which look like umbrellas, trees or benches, but which soak the unwary visitor who approaches too close.
All these had been created by fountain masters over the course of several centuries. Up till nowadays, as ever, the whole Peterhof fountain system works without any pumping or electricity. The water to the fountains is fed by gravity. The height of the water spurts is regulated through the diameter of pipes and nozzles.
Peterhof Palace through History
Peterhof residence was cherished by the ostentatious tsars as a symbol of power and triumph of Russia. Certainly it was not built in one year. The town of parks, palaces and fountains embraces several epochs of Russia’s artistic development. It’s a chronicle of Russian landscape gardening.
After the 1917 revolution, Peterhof Palace followed the fate of some other residences. It was open as a museum. In early Soviet days people wanted to enjoy a taste of the extraordinary luxury the tsars had permitted themselves. Some Romanov palaces were converted wholesale into orphanages, rest homes and health resorts. There were similar plans about Peterhof. A flower shop at the Aviary? A restaurant in the Monplaisir Palace? Well, that was quite possible. But there were also propaganda plans – to convert Peterhof into a big sociological museum to illustrate the struggle of the classes down the years. In 1930 even a new English language guidebook to Peterhof was produced. The main idea was to tell the world how the serfs, the guards and servants lived, how countless unknown craftsmen worked.
Peterhof after WWII
During WWII, throughout the Siege of Leningrad, this historic museum complex was in the front line. Peterhof Palace was dreadfully damaged. The seaward side of the parks was turned into unrecognizable waste land of broken trees, mud, wreckage and rags, crisscrossed with trenches and barbed wire.
After the Nazi retreat, 72000 mines, booby traps and unexploded shells were lifted from the park. Unbelievable efforts of restorers, museum and fountain workers gave amazing results. On June 17th, 1945, barely a month after the end of war, it was possible to reopen the Lower Park at Peterhof to public. Of course it still looked empty, no trees, and the fountains didn’t play, but it was possible to recognize the former geometry of the park. It was a day of great joy and celebration. It was but the first step in the long process of conservation and restoration that took over half a century.
Three years after that day, in September 1948, the Soviet government decided that Peterhof would be restored…
Today, as a century ago, the visitors to Peterhof enjoy the full beauty of the maritime residence. The vast museum complex offers a great choice of places to visit and activities so a Peterhof tour can be as short as a couple of hours and as long as a few days. You can keep returning to Peterhof and see new things each visit.
Peterhof tour can be a pure outdoors one of the fountains and parks. There are electric cars that take visitors across the Lower Park and electric trains that offer a ride from the Lower Park to Alexandria gardens.
An interesting feature to add to the fountains tour is a visit to the Grottos of the Grand Cascade. This tour will actually take you behind the cascading water steps to show you how the fountain system operates.
Those keen on the Royal history, of course will enjoy a visit to the Grand Palace, will be intrigued to see the Royal Kitchens and Baths (something “behind the curtain”, concealed from the eyes of public). Monplaisir and Marli palaces of Peter 1 are full of the period pieces bringing back early 18th century atmosphere and tell us more about the personality of the most extraordinary Russian tsar. Museum dedicated to Royal Entertainment shows us yet a different side of life in the 18th and 19th centuries: theatres, concerts, parties, gambling, hunting, holidays and fireworks – whatever our imagination tells us about the pastimes of the older days, you will be able to experience in this interactive museum.
Peterhof tickets are a complicated issue. First of all, this is due to the fact, that Peterhof is not just the Grand Palace alone, it’s a whole museum complex that includes over 20 different smaller museums. As a rule, visitors to Peterhof come for the fountains in the first place Peterhof Palace tickets are sold inside the Grand Palace itself. If one cares to avoid lining up for entrance tickets for each visit, various Peterhof tickets can be purchased on-line.
Peterhof Palace ensemble consists of 20 traveller attractions, each of them requires a separate entrance ticket. Most of these are smaller palaces and pavilions located on the grounds of fountain parks, which means an additional admission fee for the parks too. We offer Peterhof complex tickets including parks and several inside visits. You can opt for the Grand Palace, fountain parks and Special Treasury or any other combination that will meet your tastes and interests. Contact us to order and ideal Peterhof tour.