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Strelna & Around/Russia

Introducing Strelna & Around

Six kilometres east of Petrodvorets is the town of Strelna, where you'll find two more palaces originally built for Peter. The butterscotch-painted Konstantinovsky Palace was chosen by Vladimir Putin as his St Petersburg residence, renovated to host 2003's Russia-EU summit and reopened as the Palace of Congress (Dvorets Kongressov; 438 5360; www.konstantinpalace.ru; Beryozovaya alleya 3; adult/student R200/100, plus R200 for Russian language tour, R2500 for English-language tour; 10am-5pm Thu-Tue). Visits here are by appointment only, and although the palace is not a must-see sight, it nonetheless provides a fascinating glimpse of how a modern-day tsar (sorry, president) likes to entertain his guests. There's a small collection of medals from the Hermitage's collection here and some reconstructed rooms from the time of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstanovich, the palace's last Imperial owner and something of a poet and musician. As you'd expect, security is tight; you must bring your passport and it will be checked at regular intervals on the tour.

The compact, and infinitely more charming Peter I's Palace at Strelna (427 7425; www.peterhof.org/museums/strelny/; adult/student R100/50; 10am-4pm Tue-Sun) lies a short walk to the west of the Palace of Congress. This is one of the first palaces that Peter the Great built out this way while supervising his far grander enterprise down the road. It has some well-furnished interiors with interesting exhibits, most notably a combined travelling chest and camp bed belonging to Alexander III.

Midway between Strelna and Petrodvorets is the tourist 'village' Shuvalovka (331 9999; www.shuvalovka.ru/english.htm; Sankt-Peterburgskoe sh 111; 10am-10pm). This complex of traditional-style wooden buildings is both quaint and kitsch but it does have plus points, namely an excellent restaurant and the opportunity to see Russian craftspeople in action.

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