The lavish estate of Oranienbaum, located some 42km southwest of St Petersburg, offers a sublime vision of royal grandeur. The buildings, which were erected in the 18th century, are part of the Unesco World Heritage Site, and provide a fine window into Russia’s imperial past. The surrounding park is worth a visit in its own right, with beautifully landscaped paths amid the lakes and greenery.
While Peter was building Monplaisir, his right-hand man, Alexander Menshikov, began his own palace, Oranienbaum (Orange Tree), 5km down the coast from Peterhof. This grand enterprise eventually bankrupted Menshikov. Following Peter’s death and Menshikov’s exile, the estate served briefly as a hospital and then passed to Tsar Peter III, who didn’t much like ruling Russia and spent a lot of time there before he was dispatched in a coup led by his wife Catherine (later the Great).