Peterhof (from Dutch - PeterHoff, meaning in English - Peter's Yard) is the most spectacular Russian site, often called 'The Capital of Fountains' or 'The Russian Versailles'. It was modeled after the original French Versailles which Czar Peter the Great had visited during his 'Grand Embassy' to Europe in 1697. Peter the Great Palace construction did not start until 1714 when Northern War with Sweden became a lesser distraction and Peter's thoughts could be occupied with creation of his summer residence . He actively participated in drawing up future palace plans and park sketches.
Peter the Great chose the Peterhof location based on its proximity to Kronshtadt, the island fort that then housed his fledgling Russian navy.
By 1723 an army of designers and craftsmen had created a palace so magnificent that even the demanding Peter called it his 'Seaside Paradise'.
Peterhof park has a unique fountain system that requires no pumps. Water for the fountains is supplied by a gravity-fed water system, twenty-two kilometres long, skilfully designed to exploit the natural slope of the terrain. This system operates no pumps and supplies enough water to the fountains and cascades of Peterhoff to keep them working for up to ten hours a day.
At all times, Peterhof was a place of amusements for Russian royalty and nobility. Peter liked playing jokes on his guests showing them the 'trick' fountains. Those would start all of a sudden soaking everyone around. The musical staccato fountains still shoot up at unpredictable intervals and children drench themselves in warm weather while trying to guess which one will go off next.
Today, the Peterhof ensemble amounts over 150 fountains and 4 cascades. Every year hundreds of thousands tourists from all over the world visit this 'Capital of Fountains' to enjoy the unforgettable miracle, as Peterhof has been regarded throughout its history.
Location: 30km (18 miles) south from St.Petersburg, on the shores of the Gulf of Finland.
Open: summer season Lower Park - open daily from 9:00am-7:00pm (fountains - 11:00am-6:00pm), ticket office open until 4:30pm.
Peterhof map (1,76 MB)
" ... If you have kids, they’ll especially enjoy the part of the gardens where stepping on certain stones activates nearby fountains. Accessing the palace itself is only allowed by guided tour, so unless you are Russian-speaking, make sure to call ahead and request an English-speaking tour guide ..."
" ... There is gilt everywhere, both inside and outside the palace. It was so ornate it was overpowering and I never stopped wondering how the Tsars and family could live in such opulence while all around them were peasants either starving or otherwise having a hard time of it ... "
" ... The grounds of the palace are unbelievable! There are three waterfalls, 37 gilded statues, and a canal with a walkway along each side containing more statues and 64 fountains. The fountains receive their water from a reservoir some distance away and the entire system operates without a single pump. When you are on the path and look back at the waterfalls and the palace, it is a very impressive sight. We walked to the end of the canal where at a dock there were hydrofoils that returned us to St. Petersburg and the bus ... "
" ... If you walk east along Marlinskaya aleya and take any path towards the sea, you'll reach Monplaisir, an elegant and cosy palace that was used by Peter the Great to entertain guests. The halls and rooms of the palace are much more splendid than the exterior suggests. The main hall has extravagant marble floors and a wonderful painted ceiling, while the small study overlooking the sea is furnished with a unique Chinese-style writing table and matching showcases. The building adjoining Monplaisir, called Catherine's Building, was used as the living quarters of Catherine the Great when her husband, Tsar Peter III, was arrested and subsequently murdered ..."
" ... When we emerged onto the Peterhof grounds to view the gorgeous cascading fountains, we gasped for a moment at the din as we took in the sight of a line of several hundred tour bus passengers (cruise ships guests among them) waiting to enter the Peterhof Palace. Strolling the beautiful palace grounds, we realized how fortunate we were to have booked a private tour that gave us early admission ..."
" ... The palace and surrounding structures simply feel like a real palace. With many palaces through Europe, you get the feeling Disney was somehow involved in the construction. At Peterhof, there is a definite feeling of elegance, but elegance mixed with a practicality required by day-to-day living. In short, you can definitely image Peter the Great living there in the summer ..."