As the first of the great imperial palatial ensembles to be established outside St Petersburg, Peterhof embodies nearly 300 years of Tsarist rule and self-aggrandizement.
As the name suggests (meaning “Peter’s Court in German, and pronounced “Petergof” in Russian), it’s founder was Peter the Great, and it is said that the architects had a hard time keeping up with the stream of ideas issuing from his pen.
The scale of this project and it’s technical achievement, in particular the 150 fountains, all fed with out pumps, taking water (by gravity alone) from the Ropsha Hills over 22 km away, via 50 km of pipes, 22 locks and no fewer than 18 lakes, can not be underestimated and stands as a rival to France’s Palace at Versailles.
Peterhof comprises a number of Palaces, the grandest and most sumptuous being The Great Palace built during the reign of Empress Elizabeth, when court life became more opulent, reaching its pinnacle when Catherine the Great held all night parties, illuminated by 10,000 candles, in the 102-hectare Lower Park.
Another Palace, Monplaisir (meaning my pleasure) was Peter the Great’s favorite and it was here that he liked to relax (surrounded by it’s both homely and extravagant decor, influenced by Holland and Peter’s love for Amsterdam) and review the construction of Peterhof or look out onto the Gulf of Finland and scrutinize the maneuvers of his fleet.
The Upper Gardens cover over 15 hectares (~37 acres) and are the front yard leading up to the Grand Palace. It is important to note that the fountains you will find in the Lower Gardens do not use pumps, the fountains are at a lower elevation than the ponds so the pressure is enough to power the fountains, including the Grand Cascade. The exception is the Samson fountain, which requires a 4 km aqueduct to create enough pressure.
The Lower Gardens contain most of the more prominent fountains and are featured in a lot of the pictures you will see if you do a search for Peterhof. The Lower Gardens span an area of 102 hectares (~252 acres) and are split in half by the canal into the eastern and western sections. The Lower Gardens were designed in French style and showcase the talents of Peter I, his sense of style, and his sense of humor. In the Lower Gardens there is another ‘Hermitage’, certainly not to be confused with its more famous counterpart, it is a small pavilion surrounded by a moat and containing 124 paintings from different European artists.
Peterhof, its palaces, grounds, ornamental gardens and truly unbelievable and exquisite fountains is a sprawling development so let our guides, who know it like the back of their hand, escort you around and introduce you to its wonders.
Just a few of the highlights of our tour
See the Great Palace with its reception, state and throne rooms and the ceremonial staircase, aglow with gilded statues and vases all beneath a stunning fresco of Aurora and Genius chasing away the night.
Look upon the Sea Canal, which flows through Peterhof’s Lower Park and once formed an approach route for yachts. This granite banked canal is flanked by 22 marble basins all spurting water ” what an entrance!”
We will ensure you see the finest of the fountains such as the Grand Cascade, which honors the Russian victory over Sweden. The Grand Cascade is the most notable and ornately designed of all the fountains in Peterhof. The fountains were severely damaged during World War II and had to be restored from photos. The restoration was painstakingly difficult and took many years, even as recently as 1995 there was restoration projects taking place but today it is fully restored to its majestic self.
The Samson fountain is the center of the Grand Cascade and is the highest fountain in Peterhof. A special 4 km reservoir allows the fountain to shoot 20 meters into the air, easily grabbing the attention of all visitors to Peterhof. The original statue was stolen by the Germans during the war but was reproduced from photos by Vasily Simonov and on display again in 1947.
The Chess board Hill Cascade, boasting three dragons from which water spouts down a chequered chute flanked by statues of Greek and Roman deities. This cascade is one of the main attractions of the eastern section of the Lower Gardens. It contains a small grotto which is the oldest part along with a 4 tiered cascade which is surrounded by statues. The chessboard design was added in the mid-18th century.
The Golden Hill Cascade, a flight of waterfalls issuing from gilded orifices and really too many more fountains to mention here. This cascade is near Marly Palace. It has a statue of Neptune at the top and along the sides are various other Greek mythical figures such as Neptune, Triton, Nymph, Andromeda, Venus, and Cupid.
Sun fountain resembles the sun due to the water coming from the column in the center being a circular shape. At the base of the fountain 20 more jets spray water as the entire structure rotates.
We won’t forget to show you the joke fountains, like the umbrella fountain which starts raining only when you sit beneath it and the spruce fountain, disguised as a tree.
You will learn something of the feat to install the monumental hydraulic system which keeps these fountains flowing.
Hear about the Fascist occupation of Peterhof and which fountain they stole and was eventually tracked down in Germany and re-installed in 1956.
Visit Monplaisir Palace and see and hear why it was such a personal favorite of Peter’s.
Again this is only a taste of what our tour has to offer, please place your trust in us to show you all that is worth seeing and anything that must not be missed.