With more than 150 spectacular fountains, 32 museums, and over 400 hectares of parks and gardens, Peterhof Palace Complex is one of the most popular attractions around Saint Petersburg, and for good reason! This past Saturday, our students got to see the splendor of this UNESCO World Heritage Site for themselves on an unforgetable excursion organized by Derzhavin Institute.
If you missed it, don't worry - there's still another week before the fountains turn off for the winter (October 15, 2017 will be the last day to see the fountains running until next spring), and after that, the entrance to the Lower Gardens is free of charge. Learn more about Peterhof and what you can see there.
Peterhof (Петергоф) History
Peterhof was the summer palace of the Russian tsars. With the help of European architects but based on his own design, Peter the Great began construction on the palace Monplaisir ("my pleasure" in French) in 1714, and the Grand Cascade the following year. Peter later added gardens modeled on Versailles, the gardens of the French kings. Subsequent Russian monarchs continued to add to the palace complex, with additional building wings, fountains and gardens.
Peterhof was converted to a museum following the Russian Revolution in 1917. During World War II, Peterhof was captured by German troops in 1941 and many of the fountains, statues and gardens were stolen or destroyed during the German occupation. After a long period of reconstruction, the first restored halls of the Grand Peterhof Palace were re-opened to the public in 1964.
Grand Peterhof Palace
In Peter I's time a relatively modest two-story palace, the Grand Peterhof Palace now dominates the Peterhof complex, connecting the Upper and Lower Gardens. The Palace was expanded and modified several times to suit the tastes of different monarchs who lived there. Visitors will marvel at the extravagantly decorated interior and artwork inside the Palace.
The Upper Garden, 15 hectares of garden with 5 fountains, is considered the entrance to Peterhof Complex and is free of charge for visitors.
Used for growing vegetables and raising fish during the time of Peter I, the Upper Garden took on its grandiose appearance as a French formal garden in 1730. It remains one of the best examples of French formal gardens in the world.
The Lower Garden and the Grand Cascade
The Lower Garden spans over 100 hectares of gardens and includes several waterfalls and dozens of fountains. The Grand Cascade (pictured above), located just below the Grand Peterhof Palace, is the largest and most impressive of the waterfalls. Today, the Grand Cascade includes 64 fountains and 225 sculptures of people and animals made from bronze, lead and marble.
Samson Fountain of Samson opening the jaws of a lion symbolizes the Russian victory over Sweden in the Great North War in the early 18th century. Shooting a jet of water 20 meters into the sky from the lion's mouth, this is the highest and most famous fountain of Peterhof. The current statue is a replica of the original which was looted during World War II.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of these fountains is that they operate entirely without electricity - they were designed to use gravity and a natural spring flowing from the Upper Garden to the Gulf of Finland and today continue to function completely without electricity.
While the fountains are off, from mid October until April, entrance to the Lower Park is free of charge.
Within the palace complex, there are 32 different museums to visit. Visitors to Monplaisir Palace can get a glimpse of how Peter I lived, while in the Bathhouse Block, they can see inside guest quarters. The Museum of the Fountain Craft (pictured) shows how the palace's fountain system has developed from the time of Peter I until now and explains how the palace's fountains work. The Imperial Yachts Museum displays the history of Russian imperial yachts from Peter I's time. There is even a Museum of Playing Cards, but it is currently closed for renovations.
Derzhavin Institute organizes weekly excursions for our students to the most important and interesting sites in and around Saint Petersburg, as well as daily social and cultural activities during the week. Find out what we have planned for the coming weeks here.