Take a break from the hustle and bustle of St. Petersburg and explore this stunning palace and tranquil park.
Catherine Palace and Park in Tsarskoye Selo is a treasure trove of ornate architecture, decadent interiors and peaceful parkland. Follow in the footsteps of Russian royalty, exploring the palace and park, both of which sport the extravagant design characteristic of the Russian ruling classes.
The palace started out as a smaller, unassuming building in 1717 and Peter the Great’s wife, Catherine I, gave her name to the grounds. It was later revamped by their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who converted it into a much grander complex. Numerous architects tried their hand at designing the palace before Chief Architect of the Imperial Court, Bartholomeo Rastrelli, who also worked on the park alongside Johann Busch, took the helm. His mission was to compete with Paris’ Palace of Versailles; visit here today and you’ll see he certainly did.
Take a stroll around the palace and marvel at the breathtaking architecture. The bright blue and white building exterior features delicate golden designs and domes as well as stately white columns.
After taking in the façade, venture inside to discover the palace’s ostentatious décor. There are more than 20 rooms to see. Step into the Great Hall, or the Hall of Light, so named for its copious golden decorations that are illuminated by bright lights. Other standout parts of the palace include the Amber Room, a similarly opulent chamber, which features luxurious amber mosaic on its walls. Interestingly, the present room is actually a painstaking 20-year, $12-million reconstruction to replace the original Amber Room, which was lost following the Nazi invasion.
Leave time to wander the grounds. Although not all areas of the grounds can be accessed by the public, there is still plenty to enjoy here, whether it is the lake-like Great Pond, the small but perfectly formed grotto or the park’s Chinese Pavilion.
The palace and park, located 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) from St. Petersburg, are a train ride away from the city. The park is open daily, however, the palace is closed on Tuesdays. The palace is a busy tourist attraction, so arrive early to avoid queues or book a prearranged tour in advance.