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4 Best and Most Stunning St Petersburg Palaces

4 Best and Most Stunning St Petersburg Palaces

One of the main reasons I chose to visit St Petersburg was to experience the stunningly beautiful Russian Palaces. Russia’s tsars built these monumental structures in St Petersburg and its outlying areas to show their wealth and power to all nations.

There is nothing quite like seeing the Russian Palaces for the first time. Glimmering gold adorns every surface, marbled floors go on forever, and decadent crystal chandeliers hang from every ceiling. And unimaginable treasures of gold, silver and precious gems are displayed for all to admire.

Palace exteriors are just as stunning, with gold onion-domed roofs indicative of the Russian baroque styling and facades painted in shades of turquoise, yellows, pinks and russet reds, giving a “fairytale” feel to these Russian landmarks.

The elaborately landscaped gardens are just as pretty, with mesmerising fountains and lakes, colossal statues and acres of land to explore.

The four Russian Palaces I visited in St Petersburg are now heritage museums offering the humble visitor a glimpse into a world of wealth and decadence, the likes of which will never be seen again. These extraordinary palaces are works of architectural genius and should feature on your bucket list of things to do and see in Russia.

These images were of the Russia I had imagined. My four-day trip to St Petersburg gave me plenty of time to visit these Russian Palaces and experience many other incredible things to do and see in St Petersburg.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Should I book a tour of the Russian Palaces?

Yes, you should. Without my tour guide, I would not have learned as much as I did about the Russian palaces. I opted for private tours, which cost more than group tours but gave me the one-to-one experience I wanted.

Your guide will sort out buying tickets, get you to your destination (if you opt for a tour including travel options) and also help you find a place to have lunch or dinner during your day trip if you so wish.

Can I visit the Russian Palaces on my own?

Yes, you can. I visited Peterhof independently; however, I didn’t get to find out nearly as much as I had done on my guided tours of the other three Russian Palaces.

When is the best month to travel to St Petersburg?

I travelled in June, and it was perfect. I also got to experience “White Nights” with 24 hours of light each day. It is quite peculiar to be walking about after midnight in bright daylight! Temperatures reach between 15-25 degrees in June, July and August.

How busy will it be in St Petersburg?

St Petersburg will always be busy; however, I never felt overwhelmed while I was there. Book skip-the-line tickets to the Royal Palaces to ensure you don’t spend all your time in queues.

Is English spoken in St Petersburg?

Yes. St Petersburg is a very cosmopolitan city, so you should not encounter any problems.

If you plan to travel to Moscow, you will find it very different, and English is not freely spoken. I spent a lot of time during my 3-Day trip to Moscow using hand gestures and asking my hotel to write things down in Russian for me to show to shopkeepers and train staff.

Google Translate works quite well for English- Russian.

What is the currency of Russia?

Rubles is the currency of Russia; however, just about everywhere you go will accept credit cards.

Do I need a visa to visit Russia?

You will probably need a visa to travel to Russia. Check your Government website for details.

Do I need Travel Insurance for Russia?

Yes, you will need travel insurance to cover medical bills and other unfortunate circumstances if they occur while you are on your Russian trip.

Get a free quote from World Nomads to decide the best travel insurance plan for your trip.

What are the best Russian guidebooks to buy?

I would recommend you choose from these Lonely Planet books:

Russia

St Petersburg

Pocket Moscow and St Petersburg Guide

Russian Phrasebook and Dictionary

Where Should I Stay in St Petersburg?

Belmond Grand Hotel Europe 5-star

Hotel Indigo 5-star  This is the hotel I stayed at on my trip to St Petersburg.

Akyan St Petersburg 4-star

Park Inn by Radisson 4-star

Kravt Hotel 3-star

Margarita Hotel 3-star

St Petersburg Russian Palaces Map

Winter Palace – State Hermitage Museum

The Winter Palace, now the main building for the world-famous State Hermitage Museum and Hermitage Theatre, is probably the best-known of all the Russian palaces.

Located on the River Neva and built to a colossal scale as the primary residence for the Tsar of Russia between 1732 and 1917, this Baroque-style palace showcases the power and might of Imperial Russia.

The tsars are long gone, and now the incredible interior of the State Hermitage Museum, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, houses over three million art pieces. The Hermitage is currently the second-largest art museum in the world.

You don’t have to be an art lover to tour the Hermitage; I only wanted to see the interior, which to me was even more impressive than the art. Apologies to all the art enthusiasts who are reading this!

However, I recommend booking a tour as it helps you understand more about the Hermitage’s history and priceless art collection.

My guide informed me that there were 1000 rooms, 100 staircases, 2000 windows and 1800 doors. I took my guide’s information as accurate as I, for one, would not have wanted to count them all myself; imagine having the contract to clean all those windows!

Opening times and information for the Hermitage.

Gold Columns and crystal chandeliers inside the Hermitage Museum

Summer Palace – Catherine Palace

Whereas the Hermitage was the Winter Place for the Tsars of Russia, Catherine Palace was their Summer country residence. However, this palace didn’t start life quite as elaborate as the one we are now privileged to visit. Neither was it named after Catherine the Great (as I had thought before taking the tour).

Catherine Palace was named after Catherine l, Peter the Great’s wife, who had worked closely with the architect regarding how she wanted “her” palace to look. It was stunning but not quite the spectacle that her daughter, Empress Elizabeth, wanted it to be.

In 1752, many years after the death of Catherine l, Empress Elizabeth commissioned her architect to demolish her mother’s palace.

The build took four years and was upgraded to contain over 100 kilos of gold. The Russian Royalty certainly had a penchant for gold!

The palace now contained a Grand Hall, numerous reception halls and the Amber Room, wholly decorated with amber from floor to ceiling.

Nowadays, the Amber room is a reconstruction as the original went “missing” during WWll; it is no less astounding. Sadly, photography is prohibited in the Amber room, so the only way you will see it is to visit it yourself!

I would advise booking a tour from St Petersburg to Catherine Palace. Your transport will take you to Pushkin, previously known as Tsarskoye Selo, where the Summer Palace is situated. Our guide gave us lots of insider information that I wouldn’t have known about without her expertise.

Blue facade of the Catherine Palace

Pavlovsk Park and Palace 

Pavlovsk Palace was built by Catherine the Great for her son Pavel and is a 20-minute drive from Catherine Place.

It is designed on a much smaller scale than her own Summer Palace, but it still features the luxury of other royal residences. It shows the affluence that the Imperial court held.

The ornate interiors and elaborate Pavlovsk palace halls are exquisite. They hold Russian treasures and heirlooms, including a fair amount of armoury. Interiors with names such as Hall of War and Hall of Peace are a nod to the wars that Russia had fought and won.

It was a royal residence until 1917; then it became a museum, and then during WWll, it was burned down. Intensive restoration work has brought it back to its former glory.

The 600-hectare Pavlovsk Park encircles the palace, and with woodland walks, flower gardens, and boating lakes is the perfect place to spend a few hours.

Opening times and information for Pavlovsk Palace.

Peterhof Palace

Unesco World Heritage site Peterhof was built to commemorate Peter the Great’s mighty victory against Sweden, and it is easy to see why it is called the “Russian Versailles”. It exudes pure decadence with 250 gold statues and 150 fountains that cascade down from the palace into the formal gardens.

If you have been to Versailles, you will notice certain similarities of grandeur; however, the gilded statues at Peterhof give it that edge, making it a must to visit.

Its location on the banks of the Baltic Sea also adds a romantic vibe to the acres of gardens and the beautiful daffodil-coloured exterior of Peterhof palace.

The largest of Peterhof’s palaces, the Grand Palace, only has 30 rooms. Despite that, it is filled with unimaginable Russian treasures with an interior rivalling the other royal residences.

If you want to travel to Peterhof independently, you can hop on a hydrofoil from outside the Hermitage State Museum, and the trip takes around 40 minutes.

Don’t be alarmed if you check your GPS locator and notice that your destination no longer shows as Russia. Peterhof is actually in the Gulf of Finland!

Opening times and information for Peterhof.

Conclusion

St Petersburg is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and a trip should be on your bucket list.

It is a city packed to the brim with history, and the Russian Palaces I visited are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the fantastic things you can see and do in St Petersburg.

If you have time, then add Alexander Palace to this list.

The Romanov palace was the country home of the last Russian Emperor, Tsar Nicholas ll Romanov, where he lived with his family until their exile to Siberia in 1917. Alexander Palace is now a state museum and heritage site.

Nicholas ll Romanov was married to Alexandra Fiodorovna, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England.

The Bolsheviks executed the family following the Russian Revolution, leading to the end of Imperial rule.

Pin for Future Travel to Russia

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Bhushavali N

Monday 11th of January 2021

Its been a distant dream for me to visit Russia! St.Petersburg is high up in my wishlist just for visiting Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and see its unique architecture. Experiencing White Nights would be interesting! I've been considering visiting Norway to experiencing that. 2nd largest art museum in the world? I think I'd need 4 days just for that museum! Haha.

WhereAngieWanders

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

The Church of the Spilled Blood is incredible. Its interior is completely covered in mosaic telling the stories from the Bible.The white lights do play with your mind - how can you go to sleep when its light outside!

Raksha N

Sunday 10th of January 2021

Wow St Petersburg is definitely on my list of places to visit. I have heard so much about the exorbitant palaces in Russia and how beautiful they are. I will definitely try to visit them and like you, I will take a private tour to see the palaces and know about them.

WhereAngieWanders

Sunday 10th of January 2021

I hope you get to see them one day. They are quite unique.

Umiko

Sunday 10th of January 2021

Wow! All those gold! Even the garden statues in the Peterhof Palace. These palaces are amazingly beautiful, especially the inside. The tsars of Russia really knew how to impress people of all nations, even long after they departed. I wonder who got to see these palaces before people can visit Russia freely.

WhereAngieWanders

Sunday 10th of January 2021

St Petersburg really is the city of gold - it is everywhere!

Debra Schroeder

Saturday 9th of January 2021

St Petersburg is on my bucket list and I had hoped to visit last year. But that didn't happen... At least I can vicariously visit through your blog post. Great tip about learning more with a guide and to visit in June. You can see a woman's influence in the Summer Place. The design of the Peterhof reminds me of Schonbrunn in Vienna. 

WhereAngieWanders

Saturday 9th of January 2021

Sorry to hear you had to cancel but I hope that you can get to visit St Petersburg in the not too distant future. It is a wonderful city and actually better than I could have ever imagined!

Anda

Friday 8th of January 2021

I've been dreaming about visiting St. Petersburg also, Angie, but you beat me to it, lol! These palaces are absolutely astounding, indeed. So much opulence, such architectural delights! Also, they enjoy such perfect settings. Surely the tsars of Russia knew how to live. Hope to visit these palaces someday. Thanks for the tip of adding Alexander Palace to the list, since it's the place where Tsar Nicolas II lived here thill his tragic end.

WhereAngieWanders

Saturday 9th of January 2021

I'm so pleased you enjoyed the post. St Petersburg is certainly a unique destination to visit. I have travelled around most of Europe but there is nowhere that quite compares to its beauty.