Katherine's Palace hall in Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin).

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Catherine Palace

Top choice in Around St Petersburg

The centrepiece of Tsarskoe Selo, created under Empresses Elizabeth and Catherine the Great between 1744 and 1796, is the vast baroque Catherine Palace, designed by Rastrelli and named after Peter the Great’s second wife. The palace can only be visited by individuals between noon and 2pm, and 4pm and 4.45pm, otherwise it's reserved for pre-booked tour groups, such is its rightful popularity. The audio guide is well worth taking, as it gives detailed explanation of what's in each room.

As at the Winter Palace, Catherine the Great had many of Rastrelli’s original interiors remodelled in classical style. Most of the gaudy exterior and 20-odd rooms of the palace have been beautifully restored – compare them to the photographs of the devastation left by the Germans.

The interiors are superb, with highlights including the Great Hall, the Arabesque Hall, the baroque Cavalier's Dining Room, the White State Dining Room, the Crimson and Green Pilaster Rooms, the Portrait Hall and, of course, the world-famous Amber Room. The panels used in the latter were a gift given to Peter the Great, but not put to any use until 1743 when Elizabeth decided to use them decoratively, after which they were ingeniously incorporated into the walls here. What you see is a reconstruction of the original that disappeared during WWII and is believed to have been destroyed.

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