This wonderful half-day excursion takes you to what is thought by many to be St. Petersburg's most well-known and spectacular attraction, Peterhof. Often referred to as the Russian Versailles, this marvelous complex, consisting of a magnificent palace set amongst beautiful fountains and parklands is truly a magical place to visit and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Those who take this tour are provided with the opportunity to visit the most recent acquisitions in the Peterhof palace and park complex by touring the newly restored and absolutely lovely Pavilions that Emperor Nicholas I ordered built for his wife Alexandra and youngest daughter Olga. Both of these superb architectural masterpieces were designed by the famous architect Andrej Shtakenshneider and were built on two small islands in Olga's pond, opposite the Peterhof Upper Garden. Following the revolution of 1917, both Pavilions were neglected and were nearly completely destroyed during 1941-1944 when the Nazis had their observation post there. The restoration of these remarkable Pavilions was finally undertaken in 2001 and opened to visitors in August 2005.
The design of the Tsarina's Pavilion reflects the style of ancient Pompeian villas and includes decorative elements from several different cultures, such as ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantian. Thus, the dining room of the Tsarina's Pavilion has an original mosaic floor from the excavations of ancient Pompeii and Alexandra's study is adorned with two unique Byzantine mosaic columns from the 12th century. The Pavilion also houses an extraordinary collection of porcelain, bronze, clocks and vases, as well as marble and bronze sculptures. Nestled in a setting of beautiful flowerbeds, fountains and Pompeian style murals, the overall atmosphere is one of complete luxury and comfort.
Visiting Olga's Pavilion, you will find that it is of a very different style than the one built for her mother. This Pavilion was constructed in a style typical of 18th-century southern Italy and was intended to remind Olga of Palermo, a city she once visited with her parents. The interior design is considered more modest than that of her mother's Pavilion and also more delicate. Here you will find exquisite stucco moldings and inlaid parquet floors, marble fireplaces and wonderful ornaments. In the Dining Room and Pantry, different items from Olga's dowry, such as silverware, porcelain and linens can be found.
Following your time at the Pavilions, you'll travel to the Lower Gardens, a 300-acre park filled with fountains, pavilions and palaces that overlook the Gulf of Finland. The park is home to around 150 fountains which include four cascades that are decorated with gilded statues of mythological characters. The Grand Palace itself commands a breathtaking view of the Grand Cascade, the largest fountain ensemble in the world that is justly considered the main delight of these marvelous grounds. The water from the fountains as it cascades in broad sheets amidst glittering gilt statues and bas-reliefs creates an incredibly gorgeous effect. Dominating the Grand Cascade is the famous statue Sampson Tearing Open the Jaws of a Lion which is a symbolic representation of Russia's victory over Sweden in the Poltava Battle of 1709. Equally delightful to view are the fountains that feature interweaving water jets which seem to form baskets that are complete with sprouting water tulips.
Although the fountains were largely destroyed during World War II, they were lovingly restored after the war and are enjoyed today by visitors from around the world. Interestingly enough, water is provided to the numerous fountains of the Lower Gardens by means of a nearly 14-mile long gravity-fed water system that skillfully exploits the natural slope of the terrain from the springs of Ropsha toward the sea. This innovative system was constructed by Vasilij Tuvolkov, the first Russian hydraulic engineer. Improvements made in the first part of the 19th century have ensured that the system continues to supply enough water to the fountains to keep them working up to 10 hours a day.
Please note: This tour consists of approximately 2 hours of walking with a considerable number of steps to negotiate. It is not available to wheelchair guests and is not considered suitable for those with mobility concerns. Comfortable, flat walking shoes are strongly recommended. Photos and video shooting are prohibited inside the Pavilions and are only allowed outside the Pavilions and in the Lower Gardens.
In case of rain the Pavilions will be replaced by a visit of the Gold Room at the Peterhof Grand Palace.