Side Trips from St. Petersburg

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  • 1. Catherine Palace


    The dazzling 18th-century Catherine Palace is a perfect example of Russian baroque, its bright-turquoise exterior distinguished by row after...

    The dazzling 18th-century Catherine Palace is a perfect example of Russian baroque, its bright-turquoise exterior distinguished by row after row of white columns and pilasters with gold baroque moldings running the entire 985 feet of the facade. Although much of the palace's history and its inner architectural design bears Catherine the Great's stamp, it's for Catherine I, Peter the Great's second wife, that the palace is named. Under their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, the original modest stone palace was completely rebuilt. The project was initially entrusted to the Russian architects Kvasov and Chevakinsky, but in 1752 Elizabeth brought in the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Although Catherine the Great had the interiors remodeled in the classical style by a pair of noted architects, the Scottish Charles Cameron and the Italian Giacomo Quarenghi, she left Rastrelli's stunning facade untouched.The InteriorYou enter the palace grounds through the gilded black-iron gates designed by Rastrelli. The E mounted atop is for Catherine ("Ekaterina" in Russian). To your right, a visual feast unfolds as you walk the length of the long blue-and-gold facade toward the museum entrance. Sparkling above the palace at the northern end are the golden cupolas of the Palace Church. Entering the palace by the main staircase (not added until 1861), you'll see displays depicting the extent of the wartime damage and of the subsequent restoration work. Like Peterhof, the palace was almost completely destroyed during World War II. It was used by occupying Nazi forces as an army barracks, and as the Germans retreated, they blew up what remained of the former Imperial residence.The largest and arguably most impressive room is the Great Hall (Bolshoi Zal), which was used for receptions and balls. The longer sides of the hall are taken up by two tiers of gilt-framed windows, with tall, elaborately carved, gilded mirrors placed between them. Light pouring in through the windows bounces off the mirrors and sparkles on the gilt, amplifying the impression of spaciousness and brilliance. The huge ceiling painting, depicting Russian military victories and accomplishments in the sciences and arts, makes the room seem even larger. Here it's easy to imagine the extravagant lifestyle of St. Petersburg's prerevolutionary elite.On the north side of the State Staircase is one of the palace's most famous rooms, the Amber Room (Yantarnaya Komnata), so named for the engraved amber panels that line its walls. The room owes much of its fame to the mysterious disappearance of its amber panels in World War II. In 1979 the Soviet government finally gave up hope of ever retrieving the panels and began the costly work of restoring the room. Leaving the Amber Room, you'll come to the large Picture Gallery (Kartinny Zal), which runs the full width of the palace. The paintings are from Western Europe and date from the 17th to early 18th centuries.The Blue Drawing Room, the Blue Chinese Room, and the Choir Anteroom face the courtyard. Each has pure-silk wall coverings—when the postwar restoration began, this extra supply of the original silk was discovered tucked away in a storage room of the Hermitage.Catherine ParkThe beautiful park, with its marble statues, waterfalls, garden alleys, boating ponds, pavilions, bridges, and quays, is split into two sections. The inner, formal section, the French Garden, runs down the terraces in front of the palace's eastern facade. The outer section encloses the Great Pond and is in the less-rigid style of an English garden. If you follow the main path through the French Garden and down the terrace, you'll eventually reach Rastrelli's Hermitage pavilion, which he completed just before turning his attention to the palace itself. Other highlights of the French Garden include the Upper and Lower Bath pavilions (1777–79) and Rastrelli's elaborate blue-domed grotto.In the English-style garden, the Cameron Gallery (Galereya Kamerona) forms a continuation of the palace's park-side frontage. It's off to the right (with your back to the palace). Open only in summer, it contains a museum of 18th- and 19th-century costumes. From its portico you get the best views of the park and its lakes—which is exactly what Cameron had in mind when he designed it in the 1780s. The double-sided staircase leading down to the Great Pond is flanked by two bronze sculptures of Hercules and Flora. From here, descend the stairs to begin your exploration of the park. Just beyond the island in the middle of the artificially created Great Pond stands the Chesma Column, commemorating the Russian naval victory in the Aegean in 1770. At the far end of the pond is Cameron's Pyramid, where Catherine the Great is said to have buried her beloved greyhounds. If you walk around the pond's right side, you'll come to the pretty blue-and-white Marble Bridge, which connects the Great Pond with a series of other ponds and small canals. At this end, you can rent rowboats. Farther along, up to the right, you come to the Ruined Tower. This architectural folly was built in the late 18th century merely to enhance the romantic ambience of these grounds.Alexander PalaceOutside the park stands yet another palace, Alexandrovsky Dvorets, a present from Catherine to her favorite grandson, the future Tsar Alexander I, on the occasion of his marriage. Built by Giacomo Quarenghi between 1792 and 1796, the serene and restrained classical structure was the favorite residence of Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II. The left wing of the building is open to the public and hosts topical exhibits. Most of the interior was lost, with the notable exception of Nicholas's cabinet, a fine example of art-nouveau furniture and design.LyceumBuilt in 1791 and originally intended for the education of Catherine the Great's grandchildren, the Lyceum later became a school for the nobility. Its most famous student, enrolled the first year it opened, was the beloved poet Alexander Pushkin. The building now serves as a museum; the classroom, library, and Pushkin's bedroom have been restored to their appearance at the time he studied here. In the school's garden is a statue of the poet as a young man, seated on a bench, presumably deep in creative meditation. In summer you can enjoy carriage rides in the park (600R to 1200R), a Great Pond gondola ride (300R), and even electric car tours (250R). In winter you can enjoy sleigh rides in Alexander Park on weekends and holidays (600R-1200R).

    7 ul. Sadovaya, Pushkin, St.-Petersburg, 196601, Russia
    812-465–2024-recorded information in Russian

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Catherine Palace 320R, audioguide in English, German, and French 150R; Alexander Palace 250R; Lyceum 120R; Park 100R in summer, 300R with bathhouses and court carriage exhibition, Catherine Palace: Mon. 10–9, Wed.–Sun. 10–6; closed last Mon. of month. Alexander Palace: Wed.–Mon. 10–6; closed last Wed. of month. Lyceum: Wed.–Mon. 10–6; closed last Fri. of month
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  • 2. Peterhof (Petrodvorets)


    It's hard to believe that virtually all of Peterhof and the other palaces were almost completely in ruins toward the end of World War II. Many...

    It's hard to believe that virtually all of Peterhof and the other palaces were almost completely in ruins toward the end of World War II. Many priceless objects had been removed to safety before the Germans advanced, but a great deal was left behind and was looted. Now, after decades of painstaking work, art historians and craftspeople have used photographs and other records to return the palaces to their former splendor. Peterhof and its neighboring palaces are so vast, however, that renovation work will continue for many years to come.The Lower ParkThe Lower Park is a formal baroque garden in the French style, adorned with statues and cascades. Peter's playful spirit is still very much in evidence here. The tsar installed "trick fountains"—hidden water sprays built into trees and tiny plazas. The fountains come to life when staff press hidden mechanisms, much to the surprise of the unsuspecting visitor and the delight of the squealing children who love to race through the resulting showers on hot summer days. Located in the eastern half of Lower Park is the oldest building at Peterhof, Monplaisir (literally "My Pleasure"), completed in 1721. This is where Peter the Great lived while overseeing construction of the main Imperial residence. As was typical with Peter, he greatly preferred this modest Dutch-style villa to his later, more extravagant living quarters. Some of its most interesting rooms are the Lacquered Study, decorated with panels painted in the Chinese style (these are replicas; the originals were destroyed during World War II); Peter's Naval Study; and his bedroom, where some personal effects, such as his nightcap and a quilt made by his wife, are on display. Attached to Peter's villa is the so-called Catherine Wing, built by Rastrelli in the mid-18th century in a completely different style. The future Catherine the Great was staying here at the time of the coup that overthrew her husband and placed her on the throne; the space was later used mainly for balls.In the western section of the Lower Park is another famous structure, the Hermitage, built in 1725. It may be the first of the great Imperial hermitages (the most famous, of course, still stands in St. Petersburg), or retreats, in Russia. This two-story pavilion, which was used primarily as a banquet hall for special guests, was at one time equipped with a device that would hoist the dining table area—diners and all—from the ground floor to the private dining room above. The center part of the table could be lifted out, and guests would write down their dinner preferences and then signal for their notes to be lifted away. Shortly thereafter, the separated section would be lowered, complete with the meals everyone had ordered. The only way to the Hermitage was over a drawbridge, so privacy was ensured.Almost adjacent to the Hermitage is the Marly Palace, a modest Peter the Great construction that's more of a country retreat than a palace. As with Monplaisir, there's mostly Peter-related memorabilia on display here. The four ponds were used by Catherine the Great to stock fish.The Great CascadeA walk up the path through the center of the Lower Park (along the Marine Canal) leads you to the famous Great Cascade (Bolshoi Kaskad). Running down the steep ridge separating the Lower Park and the Great Palace towering above, the cascade comprises three waterfalls, 64 fountains, and 37 gilt statues. The system of waterworks has remained virtually unchanged since 1721. The ducts and pipes convey water over a distance of some 20 km (12 miles). The centerpiece of the waterfalls is a gilt Samson forcing open the jaws of a lion, out of which a jet of water spurts into the air. The statue represents the 1709 Russian victory over the Swedes at Poltava on St. Samson's day. The present figure is a meticulous replica of the original, which was carried away by the Germans during World War II. A small entrance halfway up the right-hand staircase (as you look at the palace above) leads to the grotto, where you can step out onto a terrace to get a bit closer to Samson before going inside to have a look under the waterworks.Bolshoi DvoretsLittle remains of Peter's original two-story house, built between 1714 and 1725 under the architects Leblond, Braunstein, and Machetti and crowning the ridge above the cascade. The building was considerably altered and enlarged by Peter's daughter, Elizabeth. She entrusted the reconstruction to her favorite architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who transformed the modest residence into a blend of medieval architecture and Russian baroque. Before you begin your tour of the palace interiors, pause for a moment to take in the breathtaking view from the marble terrace. From here a full view of the grounds below unfolds, stretching from the cascades to the Gulf of Finland and on to the city horizon on the shore beyond.Main PalaceThe lavish interiors of the main palace are primarily the work of Rastrelli, although several of the rooms were redesigned during the reign of Catherine the Great to accord with the more classical style that prevailed in her day. Of Peter's original design, only his Oak Study Room (Dubovy Kabinet) survived the numerous reconstructions. The entire room and all its furnishings are of wood, with the exception of the white-marble fireplace, above whose mantel hangs a long mirror framed in carved oak. The fine oak panels (some are originals) lining the walls were designed by the French sculptor Pineau.The classically designed Throne Room (Tronny Zal) takes up the entire width of the building and was once the scene of receptions and ceremonies. The pale-green and dark-red decor is bathed in light, which pours in through two tiers of windows (28 in all) taking up the long sides of the room. Behind Peter the Great's throne at the eastern end of the room hangs a huge portrait of Catherine the Great. The empress, the epitome of confidence after her successful coup, is shown astride a horse, dressed in the uniform of the guard regiment that supported her bid for power.Next to the Throne Room is the Chesma Hall (Chesmensky Zal), whose interior is dedicated entirely to the Russian naval victory over the Turks in 1770. The walls are covered with 12 huge canvases depicting the battles; they were created for Catherine by the German painter Phillip Hackert. Arguably the most dazzling of the rooms is the Audience Hall (Audients Zal). Rastrelli created the definitive baroque interior with this glittering room of white, red, and gold.Other notable rooms include the Chinese Study Rooms (Kitaiskye Kabinety), designed by Vallin de la Mothe in the 1760s. Following the European fashion of the time, the rooms are ornately decorated with Chinese motifs. Finely carved black-lacquer panels depict various Chinese scenes. Between the two rooms of the study is the Picture Hall (Kartinny Zal), whose walls are paneled with 368 oil paintings by the Italian artist Rotari. The artist used just eight models for these paintings, which depict young women in national dress.Upper ParkThis symmetrical formal garden is far less imaginative than the Lower Park. Its focal point is the Neptune Fountain, made in Germany in the 17th century and bought by Paul I in 1782. During World War II this three-tier group of bronze sculptures was carried away by the Germans, but it was recovered and reinstalled in 1956.You can reach the palace by commuter train from St. Petersburg but as long as you're visiting in the summer and there isn't too much fog, the best way to go is by hydrofoil. This way your first view is the panorama of the grand palace overlooking the sea. The lines to get into the palace can be excruciatingly long in summer, and sometimes guided tours get preferential treatment. The ticket office for foreigners is inside the palace, and although admission is more expensive than it is for Russians, the lines are significantly shorter. Some park pavilions are closed Wednesday and others on Thursday; visiting on the weekend is your best chance to see everything.In the summer season you can see the ceremony of the Great Cascade fountains at 11 am daily.

    2 ul. Razvodnaya, Peterhof, St.-Petersburg, 198516, Russia

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Palace late-Apr.–mid-Oct. 550R, mid-Oct.–late Apr. 450R; Lower Park 450R (100R after the fountains are off); separate admission fees for park pavilions, Great Palace: Tues.–Fri. and Sun. 10:30–7, Sat. 10:30–9. Park daily 9–8; some park pavilions are closed Wed. and others on Thurs.; all closed last Tues. of month; fountains operate summer, weekdays 10–6, weekends 10–7
  • 3. English Landscape Gardens


    After touring the palaces, you may want to head down to the lakes for a little relaxation. Rowboats and catamarans are available for rent—look...

    After touring the palaces, you may want to head down to the lakes for a little relaxation. Rowboats and catamarans are available for rent—look for the bare-chested, tattooed men standing along the lake (you may be asked to provide your passport as a deposit, to make sure you actually return the boat instead of fleeing to Finland). The Gatchina park is laid out around a series of lakes occupying about one third of its entire area. The English Landscape Gardens were built around the White and Silver lakes. On a clear day the mirrorlike water reflects the palace facade and pavilions. The gardens are dotted with little bridges, gates, and pavilions and include the Eagle (Orliny) Pavilion, built in 1792 on the shores of the Long Island, and the so-called Chesma Column, built by Rinaldi in honor of the Orlovs' military deeds. Keep in mind that the signs in the park are in Russian and point to eventual destinations, such as Berlin, but if you keep to the lakeshore, you shouldn't have any trouble.

    1 Krasnoarmeisky pr., Gatchina, Leningrad, 188300, Russia

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: included in admission to Gatchina Palace, Tues.–Sun. 10–5; closed 1st Tues. of month
  • 4. Gatchina Palace


    In 1712, following the final conquest of the area by Russia, Peter I gave Gatchina to his sister, the tsarevna Natalya Alexeyevna. The land...

    In 1712, following the final conquest of the area by Russia, Peter I gave Gatchina to his sister, the tsarevna Natalya Alexeyevna. The land changed hands several times over the years, eventually ending up as a possession of Catherine the Great. She gave it to one of her favorites, Count Grigory Orlov, in 1765. It was during this period that the architect Antonio Rinaldi designed and built the Grand Palace and laid out the park, which was eventually decorated with obelisks and monuments in honor of the Orlovs.In 1783 Orlov died, and Gatchina passed to Catherine's son, Paul I, and his wife. At various times, Gatchina Palace was a residence of Nicholas I, Alexander II, and Alexander III, and it bears witness to many important historic events, as well as the political and personal secrets of the Romanov dynasty.In contrast to the pastel colors and flashiness of the palaces of Pushkin and Peterhof, Gatchina Palace has the austere look of a military institution, with a restrained limestone facade and a blocky structure with little ornamentation. The palace, which is built on a ridge, is also surrounded by a deep moat, which emphasizes the castle design of the facade. Its northern side faces a green forest stretching for some distance. The southern facade opens up to the main parade grounds, which were once used for military displays. Along the outer edge of the parade grounds runs a short bastion with parapets cut out with openings for firing weapons. The palace is also accentuated by two five-sided, five-story towers: the Clock Tower and the Signal Tower.Construction on the palace was carried out in three main phases. The first period began in 1766 under the guidance of Rinaldi. He built the three-story central part of the palace, as well as the service wings and the inner courtyards, known as the Kitchen Block and the Stable Block (later called the Arsenal Block). The second stage of construction began in 1783, when Brenna made the side blocks level with the galleries and installed cannons, adding to the palace's image as a feudal castle. Brenna also integrated new palatial halls, thus turning Rinaldi's chamberlike interiors into ceremonial rooms.The third stage took place under Nicholas I. He hired the architect Roman Kuzmin to reconstruct both side blocks between 1845 and 1856. He also built a new chapel, and living rooms were arranged in the Arsenal Block. Kuzmin's work also eventually led to the restoration of the 18th-century rooms, the construction of a new main staircase in the central section, and the reshaping of the bastion wall in front of the palace.The palace was badly damaged during World War II, and restoration is still underway. Fortunately, a collection of watercolors by the artists Luigi Premazzi and Edward Hau survived. Painted during the 1870s, these watercolors have been a helpful guide for restoring the palace to its prewar condition. Within the palace you can see some partially restored rooms and exhibits of 19th-century arms and clothing. Some rooms are now restored to the appearance they had when they belonged to the family of Alexander III.

    1 Krasnoarmeisky pr., Gatchina, Leningrad, 188300, Russia
    812-958–0366-administrator (can answer in English)

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 250R, Tues.–Sun. 10–6; closed 1st Tues. of month
  • 5. Konstantine Palace


    Of the palace's 50-odd rooms, several are open to the public on guided tours when no state functions are taking place. Grandest of all is the...

    Of the palace's 50-odd rooms, several are open to the public on guided tours when no state functions are taking place. Grandest of all is the central Marble Hall, used to host official events, which 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. In addition to the rooms, you can see various permanent exhibits: Russian state symbols from the Hermitage; naval memorabilia from St. Petersburg's Naval Museum; the famed Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya art collection; and the Naryshkins' treasure, found in 2011 during the reconstruction works in an old mansion that used to belong to the Russian noble family and including 2,000 silver objects like tea sets made by the best Russian and European jewelers of the 19th to early 20th centuries. The grounds include 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.

    3 alleya Beryozovaya, Strelna, St.-Petersburg, 198515, Russia

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 270R, Thurs.–Tues. 10–4
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  • 6. Lomonosov (Oranienbaum)


    The original palace on the property, Menshikov's Great Palace (Bolshoi Menshikovskii Dvorets), stands on a terrace overlooking the sea and...

    The original palace on the property, Menshikov's Great Palace (Bolshoi Menshikovskii Dvorets), stands on a terrace overlooking the sea and offers visitors a look at a lavishly decorated dining room, study, bedroom, and a number of other rooms. Nearby is Peterstadt Dvorets, the modest palace that Peter III used. That it seems small, gloomy, and isolated is perhaps appropriate, as it was here in 1762 that the tsar was arrested, then taken to Ropsha, and murdered in the wake of the coup that placed his wife, Catherine the Great, on the throne. The building that most proclaims the estate's Imperial beginnings, however, is unquestionably Catherine's Chinese Palace (Kitaisky Dvorets), designed by Arnoldo Rinaldi. It's quite an affair—baroque outside, rococo inside, with ceiling paintings created by Venetian artists, inlaid-wood floors, and elaborate stucco walls. Down the slope to the east of the Great Palace is the curious Katalnaya Gorka. All that remains of the slide, which was originally several stories high, is the fanciful, dazzling pavilion, painted soft blue with white trim, that served as the starting point of the ride, where guests of the empress could catch their breath before tobogganing down again.

    48 Dvortsovyi pr., Lomonosov, St.-Petersburg, 188512, Russia
    812-422–8016-for tours (operators don't speak English)

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Menshikov\'s Great Palace 400R; Peterstadt Dvorets 200R; Chinese Palace 400R, Menshikov\'s Great Palace: Wed.–Mon. 11–6 (closed last Wed. of month); Petershtadt Palace: Tues.–Sun. 11–6 (closed last Tues. of month); Chinese Palace: Wed.–Mon. 11–6 (closed last Tues. of month). Park daily 9–8
  • 7. Naval Cathedral

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    One of Kronshtadt's highlights is the finest example of neo-Byzantine architecture in Russia, built between 1902 and 1913 by Vassili Kosyakov...

    One of Kronshtadt's highlights is the finest example of neo-Byzantine architecture in Russia, built between 1902 and 1913 by Vassili Kosyakov. The Naval Cathedral ( Morskoi Sobor) honors all sailors who ever died in tragic circumstances and also served as a landmark for ships. In 1913, the blessing of the 230-foot-high (70-meter-high) cathedral that could seat up to 5,000 parishioners was attended by the family of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II. However, in 1927 the Bolshevik authorities closed the cathedral and turned it into a cinema, naming it Maxim after Soviet writer Maxim Gorky. Later the cathedral also housed a club and a concert hall, with a stage replacing the altar. After a major interior and exterior renovation, the richly colored and decorated cathedral celebrated its centennial in 2013.

    pl. Yakornaya, Kronshtadt, St.-Petersburg, 197762, Russia

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 8–6
  • 8. Pavlovsk


    The golden yellow Great Palace (Bolshoi Dvorets) stands on a high bluff overlooking the river and dominates the surrounding park. The stone...

    The golden yellow Great Palace (Bolshoi Dvorets) stands on a high bluff overlooking the river and dominates the surrounding park. The stone palace was built between 1782 and 1786 as the summer residence of Paul, son of Catherine the Great, and his wife, Maria Fyodorovna, in imitation of a Roman villa. The architect Vincenzo Brenna enlarged the palace between 1796 and 1799 with the addition of a second story to the galleries and side pavilions. Despite a devastating fire in 1803 and further reconstruction by Andrei Voronikhin in the early 19th century, Cameron's basic design survives. The building is crowned with a green dome supported by 64 small white columns. In front of the palace stands a statue of the snub-nosed Paul I, a copy of the statue at Gatchina, Paul's other summer residence.The splendid interiors, with their parquet floors, marble pillars, and gilt ceilings, were created by some of Russia's most outstanding architects, including Quarenghi, who designed the interiors of five rooms on the first floor, and Carlo Rossi, who was responsible for the library, built in 1824. The state apartments on the first floor include the pink-and-blue Ballroom; the formal Dining Hall, where the full dinner service for special occasions is set out; and the lovely Corner Room, with walls of lilac marble and doors of Karelian birch. On the first floor, on the way from the central part of the palace to the southern section, are the Maria Fyodorovna Empress Rooms (Komnaty Imperatritsy Marii Fyodorovny), six rooms that were designed for Maria Fyodorovna after the death of Paul I. The most impressive of these is the Small Lamp Study (Kabinet Fonarik), a light-green room that overlooks the Tsar's Little Garden. The empress's library and other belongings are on display here.Among the lavishly decorated state rooms on the second floor is the famous Greek Hall, with a layout like that of an ancient temple. Its rich green Corinthian columns stand out against the white of the faux-marble walls. The hall, which also served as a small ballroom, linked the state chambers of Paul I to those of his wife. The last room on his side is the Hall of War. Maria's Hall of Peace was designed to correspond to it. The gilt stucco wall moldings of her suite are decorated with flowers, baskets of fruit, musical instruments, and other symbols of peace. Beyond Maria's apartments is the light-filled Picture Gallery, with floor-length windows and an eclectic collection of paintings. From the gallery, via a small, pink, marble waiting room, you reach the palace's largest chamber, Throne Hall. It once held the throne of Paul I, which was removed for a victory party after Napoléon's defeat and somehow never returned.The ParkLike the palace, the design of the park was shared by the leading architects of the day—Brenna, Cameron, Voronikhin, and Rossi. The park differs greatly from park designs of other Imperial palaces, where the strict rules of geometrical design were followed; at Pavlovsk nature was left much less controlled.The combined length of the park's paths and lanes is said to equal the distance between St. Petersburg and Moscow (656 km/407 miles). If you walk down the slope just behind the palace to the Tsar's Little Garden (Sobstvenny Sadik), you can see the Three Graces Pavilion, created by Cameron. The 16-column pavilion encloses a statue of Joy, Flowering, and Brilliance. Directly behind the palace, a stone staircase, decorated with lions, will take you to the Slavyanka Canal. On the canal's other side, down to the left, is the graceful Apollo Colonnade, built in 1783. Its feeling of ruin isn't just due to time: it was struck by lightning in 1817 and never restored. If you bear right at the end of the stairs, you come to the Temple of Friendship, meant to betoken the friendship between Empress Maria and her mother-in-law, Catherine the Great. Beyond it is a monument from Maria to her own parents; the center urn's medallion bears their likenesses. Of the other noteworthy pavilions and memorials dotting the park, the farthest one up the bank is the Mausoleum of Paul I, set apart on a remote and overgrown hillside toward the center of the park. Maria had the mausoleum built for her husband after he was murdered in a palace coup. Paul was never interred here, however, and though Maria is portrayed as inconsolable in a statue here, historical evidence indicates that she was well aware of the plot to kill her husband.

    20 ul. Revolutsii, Pavlovsk, St.-Petersburg, 196621, Russia

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Palace 450R, tours in English 700R; park 150R, Sat.–Thurs. 10–6; closed 1st Mon. of month
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  • 9. Prioratsky Palace


    A 10-minute walk from Gatchina Palace bring you to Black Lake and this white palace, a unique construction made of rammed earth (compressed...

    A 10-minute walk from Gatchina Palace bring you to Black Lake and this white palace, a unique construction made of rammed earth (compressed clay, sand, and gravel, and other materials). It was built at the end of the 18th century by architect Nikolai Lvov, the first person in Russia to introduce cheap, fireproof, construction of this type. The palace was meant for the great French prior Prince Condé (though he never lived here). The southern part of the palace suggests a Gothic chapel, but the rest resembles a fortification. On the first floor are exposed samples of the rammed earth; the second floor has displays on the palace's construction. To reach the palace directly, you can take minibus 18 or 18a and get off at the bus stop for ulitsa Chkalova.

    Ul. Chkalova, Prioratsky Park, Gatchina, Leningrad, 188300, Russia

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 120R, Tues.–Sun. 10–5; closed 1st Tues. of month
  • 10. Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo)


    The town of Pushkin was a summer residence of the Imperial family from the days of Peter the Great to the last years of the Romanov dynasty...

    The town of Pushkin was a summer residence of the Imperial family from the days of Peter the Great to the last years of the Romanov dynasty. Pushkin was initially known as Tsar's Village (Tsarskoye Selo), but the town's name was changed after the Revolution of 1917, first to Children's Village (Detskoye Selo) and then to Pushkin, in honor of the great Russian poet who studied at the lyceum here. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Tsarskoye Selo was a popular summer resort for St. Petersburg's aristocracy and well-to-do citizens. Not only was the royal family close by, but it was here, in 1837, that Russia's first railroad line was opened, running between Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk, to be followed three years later by a line between here and St. Petersburg.

    Pushkin, St.-Petersburg, Russia
  • 11. Valaam monasteries

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    A guided tour of Valaam takes about six hours, although with a break for lunch this isn't at all as arduous as it might sound. You can also...

    A guided tour of Valaam takes about six hours, although with a break for lunch this isn't at all as arduous as it might sound. You can also buy a map of the island (easy to find at any of the many tourist shops here) and strike out on your own. But the tour guides, most of whom live on the island throughout the summer, have an enormous amount of interesting information to impart about Valaam (most, however, don't speak English). The guides also know where the best shady spots to sit and relax are, and while you catch your breath they'll tell you everything about Valaam's history, prehistory, wildlife, geology and geography, religious life, and gradual renaissance as a monastic center. The island's beauty has also inspired the work of many Russian and foreign artists, composers, and writers; the second movement of Tchaikovsky's First Symphony is said to be a musical portrait of the island, and you'll hear it played over loudspeakers as your ferry departs.Most tours to Valaam spend the first half day on a small selection of the skity, a monastery in seclusion. Only four skity are currently used as places of worship, and some of them are in the archipelago's most remote areas. Closest to where the ferries dock is the Voskresensky (Resurrection) Monastery, consecrated in 1906. In the upper church, you can hear a performance of Russian liturgical music performed by a male quartet. Another monastery within easy walking distance is the Getsemanskii (Gethsemene) Monastyr, consisting of a wooden chapel and church built in a typically Russian style, and monastic cells, which are inaccessible to the public. The squat construction next door is a hostel for pilgrims, some of whom you may see draped in long robes on your walk.After lunch, buy a ticket for the ferry that will take you to the 14th-century Spaso-Preobrazhensky Valaamskii (Transfiguration of the Savior) Monastyr, the heart of the island's religious life. You can walk the 6 km (4 miles) from the harbor in either direction, but if you choose to walk back from the monastery, make sure you give yourself enough time to catch the ferry back to St. Petersburg (about 1¼ hours should be enough time to walk back). As you reach the monastery, you'll see tourist stands. The walk up the hill past the bric-a-brac, however, is well worth it, as you reach the splendid Valaamskii Monastyr cathedral (under ongoing restoration). The cathedral's lower floor is the Church of St. Sergius and St. German, finished in 1892, and is in the best condition. It's a living place of worship, as you'll see from the reverence of visitors before the large icon depicting Sergey and German kneeling before Christ. The upper Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior, consecrated in 1896, is still in a terrible state, although the cavernous interior, crumbling iconostasis, and remaining frescoes are still impressive in their own right. Although drinking and smoking are permitted in most areas of the island, you'll be asked to refrain while on the territory of the monasteries. Visitors are also required to observe the dress code on the grounds of the cathedral: women must wear a long skirt and cover their heads (scarves and inelegant black aprons are provided at the entrance for those who need appropriate garb), and men must leave their heads uncovered and wear long trousers—shorts are forbidden. You might want to poke your head into the rather severe bar on the island, but you're unlikely to want to linger.

    Ostrov Valaam, Valaam, Republic of Karelia, 186756, Russia

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