Petrodvorets

Lonely Planet review

It’s a tough call, but the gilded fountains and gardens of Petrodvorets give it a slight edge over St Petersburg’s other suburban palace. Hugging the Gulf of Finland, 29km west of St Petersburg, this ‘Russian Versailles’ is a far cry from the original cabin Peter the Great had built here to oversee construction of the Kronshtadt naval base. He liked the place so much he built a villa, Monplaisir, and then a whole series of palaces across an estate originally called Peterhof (pronounced Petergof), which has been called Petrodvorets (Peter’s Palace) since 1944. All are surrounded by leafy gardens and a spectacular ensemble of gravity-powered fountains.

The Grand Cascade and Water Avenue is a symphony of fountains and canals partly engineered by Peter himself. In the Grand Palace, the pendulous chandeliers and paintings are originals. Peter's original villa, Monplaisir, has bright and airy galleries facing the sea - it's easy to see why it was his favourite place to doss. The gardens are dotted with the ubiquitous fountains, charming pavilions, and summer houses, including the ultimate in private dining rooms, the self-contained and moated Hermitage. The whole complex was heavily bombed by both sides in WWII; what you see today is largely a reconstruction from photographs, drawings and anecdotes.