The land at Pavlovsk had always been the royal hunting grounds, but in 1777 Catherine the Great awarded them to her son, Paul I, upon the birth of his first son, the future Tsar Alexander I. (Pavlovsk comes from "Pavel," the Russian word for Paul.) Construction of the first wooden buildings started immediately, and in 1782 Catherine's Scottish architect Charles Cameron began work on the Great Palace and the landscaped park.
In contrast to the dramatically baroque palaces of Pushkin and Peterhof, Pavlovsk is a tribute to the reserved beauty of classicism. Paul's intense dislike of his mother apparently manifested itself in determinedly doing exactly what she wouldn't—with, most visitors agree, gratifying results. The place is popular with St. Petersburg residents, who come to stroll through its beautiful 1,500-acre park, full of woods, ponds, tree-lined alleys, and pavilions. If you have time to walk around the park you can bring along or buy in the park some nuts to feed local squirrels. Tours to Pavlovsk and Pushkin are often combined. However, it's difficult to do justice to each of these in a one-day visit. If you only have time to visit one of the two, pick Pushkin.