Peterhof is Peter the Great’s grand palace, located on the Gulf of Finland outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. On my first trip to Russia, I unfortunately missed visiting, due to getting sick and losing several precious days. I told all my friends who visited or studied in St. Petersburg that they absolutely had to go to Peterhof, since I missed it and I had wanted to go so bad. On my most recent trip back to Russia, I was adamant that I would see Peterhof as a daytrip from St. Petersburg. It was the thing I was most looking forward to seeing.
It did not disappoint.
Peterhof is divided into three mains sections: the Upper Gardens, the Palace, and the Lower Gardens.
You need to buy a ticket to visit the Lower Gardens, but this is absolutely worthwhile as this is where the world-famous fountains are located. You can stroll along the Gulf of Finland, admire the gardens, pop into various small buildings/museums (all with separate entrance fees, none of which seemed worthwhile) and more—but the main attraction is the fountains.
And wow. Those fountains. Peter the Great himself designed several “trick fountains” throughout the park. They’re hidden away but all of a sudden will turn on and spray any unlucky passerbys with water. It’s hilarious watching people get soaked!
By far, the Grand Cascade is the highlight of the entire Lower Garden. These start at the palace and continue all the way to the gulf. The Grand Cascade is made up of 64 different fountains, and over 200 bronze statues and decorations. All of the fountains operate without the use of pumps—the water is supplied from natural springs! Finally getting to see those fountains was such a great moment for me!
Other notable fountains include the Lion Cascade, Chess Mountain, the Sun.
Peterhof Palace is also an impressive site. Unlike Catherine’s Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, it’s much easier to navigate on your own (without a tour group)—there are information panels (in English) in each room. You might have to fight your way through groups or get stuck between them, but it’s a much easier experience.
The rooms are spectacular and ornate. Peter the Great built Peterhof to show off a modernized Russia to Europe and to the world. With Peterhof Palace, he certainly succeeded.
It’s important to remember that entrance for foreign visitors (not on guided tours) is closed from noon to 2:30pm during the summer high season, June through September. Unless you’re Russian, you’ll need to plan your visit to the palace around those times. When you get into the palace, you’ll need to buy tickets for the palace. Turn left and you’ll see the ticket office (it’s not signposted when you get in). You’ll have to put shoe coverings on your shoes, to help preserve the palace.
The Upper Gardens are free to visit, and while they’re nowhere near as impressive as the Lower Gardens, I definitely recommend strolling through (if only on your way towards the exit). You can get quite nice photos of the palace itself from here as well.
There are several different ways to get to Peterhof. One option is to take a train to Novuyi Peterhof (Новый Петергоф), and then walk аbout 30-40 minutes to a far entrance of the Lower Gardens. The far better option is to take the Metro in St. Petersburg to Avtovo station, and then take a marshrutka (minibus) to the gates of the Upper Garden. You take marshrutka #K424 to Peterhof—looks for “Петергоф” (Peterhof) or “фонтаны” (fountains) on the windows on the side of the bus.
I took the train to Peterhof, and then the marshrutka back. The marshrutka was way easier than the train, and also definitely the cheapest option! You can also take a hydrofoil boat cruise from near Palace Square to the Lower Gardens, if you want to splurge—it’s about 400 rubles one-way.
Seeing Peterhof was truly a dream come true. The palace and the gardens (especially the fountains) made for an amazing daytrip from St. Petersburg, and it’s firmly cemented as one of my favorite places in Russia. If I had to pick between Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof, I would pick Peterhof unless you’re a big fan of the Romanov royal family. This is one magnificent daytrip you can’t miss!
Have you ever been to a place like this? Let me know in the comments!