Do you know what to see in Tsarskoye Selo or in Peterhof? Places of interest in St. Petersburg suburbs
St. Petersburg suburbs are incredibly beautiful and interesting. Unique sights, samples of architecture and heritage-listed buildings are presented here. Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof, Pavlovsk, Gatchina, Kronshtadt – every place has its own colours and forms, every place is one-of-a-kind.
It is with good reason that Tsarskoye Selo is known as one of the most beautiful places near St. Petersburg (this complex is situated in the town Pushkin). It is a unique museum and conservation area, monument of architecture and garden art. The history of Tsarskoye Selo starts from 1710 when tsar Peter the Great ordered to build a royal residence on this place. And during the 18–19th centuries it was the main suburban residence of the imperial family. The centre of the ensemble is the Catherine Palace, it is built in baroque style by architect Francesco Rastrelli, the chief court architect. The magnificent décor of the Catherine Palace is really amazing, visitors can sense the history here, and admire not only architecture but also fine and applied art works. The best world-known pearl of the palace is the legendary Amber Room (now restored). The palace is surrounded by the picturesque park. The landscape park is a part of the panorama, and the regular part is laid out as terraces. The park is decorated with many pavilions and sculptures.
The Alexander Palace (New Tsarskoselsky), is placed in the Alexander Park, which adjoins the Catherine Palace from the side of the parade courtyard. The Alexander Palace was founded in the end of the 18th century as a present of Catherine the Great to her grandson, the future emperor Alexander I. It is one of the finest samples of classicism and one of the masterpieces of Giacomo Quarenghi. The Alexander Palace is the last palace built for Russian imperial family. The last Russian tsar Nikolay II lived namely in this residence. In 1918 the Alexander Palace opened its doors to the ordinary people as a state museum. The Alexander Park also deserves attention and admiration. It is divided into two parts: a regular area (New Garden) and a landscape park.
Tsarskoye Selo is associated not only with imperial family but also with the names of famous Russian poets: Anna Akhmatova, Nikolay Gumilev and, of course, Alexander Pushkin. Here the country house of the poet is preserved, where he spent his honey moon, and the Imperial Lyceum is placed near the Catherine Palace, the first graduates of which brought glory to Russia. Nowadays you can visit the Lyceum as a museum. It was opened on the occasion of the 175th birthday of Alexander Pushkin. During the Soviet times the complex Tsarskoye Selo was turned into a museum, and many buildings in the town – into health and educational establishments for children. Thus, in 1918 the town was renamed, it became Detskoye Selo. Then, in 1937 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Alexander Pushkin’s death, the town got its present name – Pushkin.
Peterhof (Petrodvorets) is the most widely recognized St. Petersburg suburb. Luxurious palaces, splendid parks and gardens, elegant pavilions, overwhelming fountains and cascades – the beauty of this place is famous throughout the world. In 1710 Peter the Great got an idea – to build such a royal residence in the countryside that can obscure the glory of Versailles. The tsar himself worked at layout design of all the parks and palaces. The construction proceeded at a stunning pace. In August, 1723 the ceremonial opening of Peterhof took place ("Peterhof” translated from Dutch means “Peter’s court”). By the opening only part of the complex was ready: Lower park, Sea Canal, the Monplaisir Palace, the Marly Palace, and some fountains were put into operation. Nowadays Peterhof Museum complex includes the Grand Palace, numerous fountains, the Monplaisir and Marly palaces, pavilion “Hermitage” and other architectural monuments.
In 1990 Peterhof was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in 2008 this museum complex was declared one of the seven wonders of Russia.
Tourist attractions in Pavlovsk and Gatchina: what to see
Another famous museum complex “Pavlovsk” is situated not far from Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg suburban area. In 1777 the Empress Catherine the Great presented to her son Paul I the residence Pavlovskoye near the Slavyanka River. In 1780 the architect Ch. Cameron began to build the Pavlovsk Palace – the core of the museum complex. A spacious landscape park was laid out around the palace. Many architects worked at this palace: Ch. Cameron, V. Brenna, A. Voronikhin, G. Quarenghi and C. Rossi. It is important to note that the Pavlovsk Park is the largest one in Europe. Its area is over 600 hectares. The Pavlovsk Palace is the main construction of the modern museum complex. It is built in the form of a horseshoe – the three-storey main building (crowned with a dome) and adjacent to the central building – two small semicircular galleries with in-built auxiliary wings. These semi-circular galleries formed a wide parade ground. The central façade is decorated quite modestly but solemnly, with some sculpture. The natural landscape is in harmony with design of the palace and other buildings. The ensemble of palaces and parks was created in two stages. At the beginning it was a manor in the classical style. When Paul I ascended the throne in 1796, this building was destroyed, and a new imperial residence appeared on its place. In front of the Palace a monument to Paul I was erected. In 1917 Pavlovsk was turned into the museum complex. In 1983 it is declared a conservation area. The expositions of the museum complex Pavlovsk contain 47 337 items – fine art, decorative and applied arts works. Nowadays 45 halls of the Pavlovsk Palace are opened for visitors.
The main attraction of Gatchina town is the museum complex of the same name. The story of the Gatchina Palace and park started in 1765, when Gatchina was presented by Catherine II to count Grigory Orlov, who supported the Empress when she came to the throne. The Gatchina Palace reminds of the architecture of English medieval castles. It was built in 1766–1781 by architect Antonio Rinaldi. The characteristic feature of the palace is the explicit “disagreement” between somewhat grim exterior and refined, elegant interiors. At count Orlov’s death in 1783 Catherine the Great bought the Gatchina Palace and granted it to her son, future Emperor Paul I (it was his summer residence). In 1796 Gatchina got the status of the town. After the death of Paul I the Palace fell into decay, but in the end of the 19th century the Emperor Alexander III made it his residence. During the Great Patriotic war the major part of the interiors were destroyed. The museum was reopened in 1985 with a new permanent exposition “The history of the Gatchina Palace and its owners”. Nowadays the tourists can visit here the great halls of the 18th century and an underground passage to the grotto “Echo”. On the parade courtyard in front of the Palace a bronze monument to Paul I is erected (sculptor I. Vitali, mid-19th-century). The Gatchina Park takes a large territory around White and Silver lakes (about 145 hectares). It is a real landscape park, laid out on the model of the park design in Tsarskoye Selo. The palace dominates in the park composition – placed on the highest point. In the end of the 19th century the park was graced with numerous additions: several terraces, staircases, arch bridges, pavilions and gates. Regular gardens were set out, the largest one – Silvia. Later, no noticeable changes were made in the Gatchina Park, and it was opened for the ordinary visitors after the October Revolution. Among notable constructions that have been preserved up to the present day are two monuments: the Chesme obelisk and the Eagle column, and also the Octagonal Well – which in the 19th century was filled with water from an underground pipe connecting it to the Carp Pond.