Europe / Russia

4 Best and Most Stunning Russian Palaces to visit in St Petersburg

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 give 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 that 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 not 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, and my four day trip to St Petersburg gave me plenty of time to visit these Russian Palaces as well as many of the 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. I would not have learnt as much as I did about the Russian palaces without my tour guide. I opted for private tours which cost more than group tours but gave me the one-to-one experience that I wanted.

Your guide will sort out buying tickets, getting 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, and therefore 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?

IVisa is a company specialising in arranging travel visas. To check if your country requires a visa for travel to Russia, click here.

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:


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 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

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Winter Palace – State Hermitage Museum

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

Located on the River Neva and built to a colossal scale as the primary residence for the Tsar’s of Russia between 1732-1917, 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 take a tour of 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 would recommend booking a tour as it helps you understand more about the Hermitage’s history and its 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!

The Best Tours of the State Hermitage Museum 


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 to the Tsar’s, 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 yourself!

I would advise booking a tour from St Petersburg to Catherine Palace. Your transport will take you to the area called 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.

Opening times and information for the Summer Palace.

The Best Tours of Catherine Palace

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.

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

The ornate interiors and elaborate Pavlovsk palace halls are exquisite and 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.

The Best Tours of 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 certain 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, known as the Grand Palace, only has 30 rooms. Despite that, it is filled with unimaginable Russian treasures with an interior to rival all 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 is no longer showing as Russia. Peterhof is actually in the Gulf of Finland!

Opening times and information for Peterhof.

The Best Tours of Peterhof

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

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

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

The 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.

He was married to none other than Alexandra Fiodorovna, the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria of England.

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

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About Author

Angela Price

Angie is a full-time travel writer with over 30 years of travel experience. She has always had a passion for travel, and after a 3-month world trip with her 18-year-old son, she created her popular travel blog to share her adventures with a wider audience. When Angie is at home in the UK, she enjoys exploring the English countryside, visiting castles and gardens and planning her next big adventure. Her motto is "Live Life Wandering not Wondering".

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Bhushavali N
8 months ago

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.

Reply to  Bhushavali N
8 months ago

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
8 months ago

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.

Reply to  Raksha N
8 months ago

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

8 months ago

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.

Reply to  Umiko
8 months ago

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

Debra Schroeder
8 months ago

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. 

Reply to  Debra Schroeder
8 months ago

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!

8 months ago

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.

Reply to  Anda
8 months ago

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.

Linda (LD Holland)
8 months ago

Thanks for taking me back to some of the stunning spots we visited in St Petersburg. We had two busy days with tours in the day and night. But would have loved 4 days to see more. I agree that a guide gave us much more insight than if we visited on our own. Next time we won’t miss the Pavlovsk Park and Palace!

Reply to  Linda (LD Holland)
8 months ago

It really is a stunning destination isn’t it Linda. I also visited Moscow on the same trip and found it to be very different to St Petersburg but equally as intoxicating.

8 months ago

Love this we’ve been dreaming of visiting St. Petersburg especially with all the affordable flights from Europe! How is it in terms of safety? And when is the best time of the year to visit, you think? Thanks so much!

Reply to  Marielle
8 months ago

I felt very safe in both Moscow and St Petersburg – if you can I would recommend doing both locations as they are very different and you can catch a train between the two that only takes 4 hours. I visited Russia in June, which was a good temperature (not too hot) with lots of sunshine, and the added bonus was the White Nights when it stays light for 24 hours! I hope you get there when it is safe to travel.

Ambica gulati Ambica gulati
8 months ago

The pictures are as beautiful as the write-up. In fact, you could make a pdf guide to these palaces. And all that gold! It’s stupendous. I have only seen a bit of fabulous Russian heritage once in India. The Faberge collection was exhibited here. Now, your post makes me want to see it in person. I have bookmarked your site for more articles to read.

Reply to  Ambica gulati Ambica gulati
8 months ago

I am so glad you found the post informative. Russia is definitely the land of gold and I have several more posts that I will be sharing about my trip to Russia which I hope you will enjoy.

Kaylini Naidoo
1 year ago

Thanks so much for sharing these gorgeous palaces! St Petersburg is still on my list of palaces to visit. These palaces look incredibly ornate and grand, its wonderful!

Sarah Arnstein
1 year ago

I have been wanting to travel to Russia for some time and this makes me want to go even more! I’ve never seen pictures of these palaces before and frankly, don’t know much about the area. I LOVE how this post explains the history and a little bit about each of them. You’re photos are beautiful as well 🙂

Reply to  Sarah Arnstein
1 year ago

I am glad to have inspired a visit to Russia. I coincided this with a few days in Moscow which I would definitely recommend.

1 year ago

Your photos are gorgeous! They really make me want to visit Russia. I would love to see these someday! I’m definitely pinning your recommendations for a future trip. 😀

Reply to  Steph
1 year ago

I hope you get to Russia one day. It is truly a beautiful place to visit.

Nichole the Nomad
1 year ago

I have always wanted to visit St Petersburg and this guide is one of the most helpful guides I have found for it. Thank you so much for sharing the must-see sights and travel tips!

1 year ago

thank you so much for sharing xx We were supposed to visit St Petersburg back in July this year. Hopefully we get to go in August September next year.

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