Konstantine Palace Review
Nearly destroyed in World War II, this suburban palace dazzles once again. After years of renovation, based on old photographs and plans, the Italian-baroque, coffee-color palace and grounds reopened in 2003. It's now officially the Palace of Congress and is used to host government functions.
In 1720 Peter the Great commissioned work on this maritime country residence that was to be a "Russian Versailles." Italian architect Nicolo Micketti designed not only the palace, but also beautiful fountains and waterworks meant to draw water from the Gulf of Finland. However, the fountains never worked, and the palace itself underwent several fires, was redesigned, and had its name changed from Big Strelna Palace to Konstantine Palace.
The palace offers three different tours. One is a regular, 90-minute excursion to the eastern, historical part of the palace and includes narration about the tsar's family and its members who used to live here. The VIP tour covers the western part of the palace, which is used for official occasions and summits. You'll also see a part of the Russian president's apartments and the boudoir of the first lady. The third tour is a 90-minute amble through the vast park, which frankly doesn't have as many attractive sights as the parks of Peterhof and Pushkin.
Of the palace's 50-odd rooms, several are open to the public when no state functions are taking place. Both the VIP and historic tours visit the Marble Hall and Oval Hall. The central Marble Hall, used to host official events, lives up to its name, with yellow marble pilasters framed by bluish marble walls. A balcony here affords a breathtaking view of the huge park and canals leading to the Gulf of Finland. Next door is the large, pink Oval Hall, also used for official meetings. The VIP tour goes on to visit the Blue Hall, opposite the Marble Hall, with blue walls, high mirrors, and gilt ornamentation. A wine cellar has been reconstructed; it holds Hungarian Tokay wines, as it did when this was a royal residence.
The third-floor belvedere is a new addition. Styled as a ship's hold, it's made of oak, with a spiral staircase leading to an observation deck with lovely views of the grounds. In addition to the rooms themselves, you can see various permanent exhibits, such as Russian state symbols from the Hermitage and naval memorabilia from St. Petersburg's Naval Museum. Also on display is the famed Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya art collection. The grounds themselves are worthwhile, particularly the Upper (English) Park, Big Pond, canals, drawbridges, and the monument to Peter the Great, which stands just in front of the palace.
Before visiting, be sure to call ahead to make sure the palace will not be closed for state functions.
- Address: 3 Beryozovaya alleya, Strelna, Strelna 198515
- Phone: 812/438-5360; 812/438-5884 English-language group tours
- Cost: Eastern palace tour and park: 250R for an excursion with a Russian guide, 2,500R an excursion in English or German for a group of up to 15 people if ordered in advance; VIP tour of western palace 300R; bus excursion from St. Petersburg 600R; excursion to see Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Collection 350R at 2 pm daily. Buy tickets for it in the city's theater box offices or sometimes at the palace's booking office
- Hours: Thurs.--Tues. 10--4, ticket office open until 4. Closed for official events (call in advance).
- Website: www.konstantinpalace.ru
- Location: Konstantine Palace
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