Peterhof Palace

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Peterhof Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site 18 miles (29km) southwest of St. Petersburg, Russia. In the early 18th century, Peter the Great stayed in a small cabin in the area while overseeing the construction of the offshore fortress Kronshtadt. He liked it so much that he later built a small villa here, and then several palaces with extensive gardens.

The larger Grand Palace is extravagant in every sense of the word, a succession of rooms so opulent and lavish it’s no wonder the working class revolted against the tsarist rule. And leading up to the palace from the sea is spectacular Water Avenue, pictured above, resplendent with dozens of gilded statues and 140 gravity-fed fountains.

From central St. Petersburg, we took a 30-minute hydrofoil trip to Peterhof and spent an excellent day touring the Grand Palace and the beautiful gardens. We returned back by hydrofoil and visited another Hermitage Museum site, Menshikov Palace, before an enjoyable meal at Gastropub “Ivan da Marya”.

Below are trip highlights from May 25th, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

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General Staff Building
A clearer view of the imposing General Staff Building now that much of the scaffolding has been removed overnight.
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Peter & Paul Fortress
View to the Peter & Paul Fortress on the River Neva from the Dvortsovy Bridge. Peter the Great built the fortress in 1703 to protect the new seaport he was planning to establish to give Russia access to the Baltic Sea trade.
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Peterhof Express
Today we’ll be spending much of the day at Peterhof Palace, 18 miles (29km) southwest of St. Petersburg. This is our ride there: the Peterhof Express Hydrofoil.
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On Board
On board the Peterhof Express. Boarding was a bit of a struggle, with a large waiting area that funnelled into a single queue. Even though everyone had reserved seats, those behind pushed hard for the narrow entrance and we found ourselves wedged in a jostling crowd for the ten minutes it took to enter.
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Yubileyny Sports Palace
Passing Yubileyny Sports Palace on the Peterhof Express. The stadium seats over 7,000 for hockey and basketball games.
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Coast Guard
Russian Coast Guard vessel moored along the River Neva.
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Lakhta Center
Completed just last year, the 1,516 ft (462 metres) Lakhta Center is the tallest building in Russia and Europe and the 13th-tallest in the world.
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37 mph
Once we left the River Neva, the hydrofoil really stepped out and we ran 37mph much of the way to Peterhof.
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Peter the Great initially stayed in a small cabin in the area while overseeing the construction of the offshore fortress Kronshtadt. He liked it so much that he later built a small villa here, and then several palaces with extensive gardens, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The crowds were already getting thick first thing in the morning. It must be a madhouse here at the height of the season.

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Grand Staircase
In our usual approach of putting the most important first, we went straight to tour the Grand Palace. The palace is extravagant in every sense of the word. This is the Grand Staircase, full of gilded statues and carved bouquets.
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Dance Hall
The Ball Room in the Peterhof Grand Palace was previously called the Merchants Hall. As the story goes, Empress Elizabeth told the designer to use as much gold as possible because the hall originally would be used to receive merchants, who Elizabeth believed admired gold.
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Audience Hall
The Grand Palace is a succession of rooms so opulent and lavish that it’s no wonder the working class revolted against the tsarist rule. This is the Audience Hall, intended for small receptions held by Empress Elizabeth.
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White Dining Room
The White Dining Room laid with a 30-person porcelain setting from then up-and-coming English master Josiah Wedgewood.
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Audio Guide
We’d picked up an audio guide at the entrance and didn’t see anyone else with one throughout our tour—all of the hundreds of other people also inside were on a guided tour, either in large groups or a small private tour.

The audio guide was a slight hassle to get as the ticket counter required a 6,000-ruble deposit and we didn’t have enough cash. We eventually found a cash machine in the gift shop and got our guides. We’re glad we did. Not only was the guide quite informative, but also the museum staff hurried everyone else through each room except us. The audio guides seemed to effectively remove the usual forced time limit. Anyone touring the museum must cover their shoes with supplied booties.

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Water Avenue
Looking down spectacular Water Avenue after completing our tour of the Grand Palace. The waterway leads from the hydrofoil dock to the palace with some 140 gravity-fed fountains.
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An escape from the crowds for a good lunch at Shtandart in a park-like setting at Peterhof.
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Moat surrounding Hermitage, a two-story remote dining room.
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Hermitage contains a unique mechanism allowing diners total privacy. Plates, and the entire center of the table, can be raised and lowered from the kitchen below so diners above never see a servant during their meal.
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Dining Table
The Hermitage dining table. Each place has a circular cutout to raise and lower the plate at the tinkle of a bell, with a larger circular cutout in the center.
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Golden Cascade
The Golden Cascade at the western end of the Peterhof estate. The steps are made of white marble, with gilded copper sheets on their vertical faces.
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Tulips in bloom in the gardens of Montplaisir, one of several palaces on the Peterhof Estate.
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Grand Cascade
Panoramic view of the spectacular Grand Cascade at the head of Water Avenue below the Grand Palace (click image for a larger view).
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Hydrofoil Race
Two competing hydrofoil companies appearing to race to the dock at Peterhof.
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Menshikov Palace
After returning to St. Petersburg on the hydrofoil, we toured Menshikov Palace, built in the early 1700s for Peter the Great’s closest friend Prince Alexander Menshikov. Several of the rooms are lined in Dutch tiles, intended to reduce humidity and ease Menshikov’s tuberculosis.
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Gastropub “Ivan da Marya”
A good meal, and an excellent window seat, for dinner at Gastropub “Ivan da Marya” near our hotel on Nevsky Prospekt.
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Walking back to our hotel we passed a small fair, likely part of the St. Petersburg Day celebrations, where everyone was singing along in Russian with this group of musicians.
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Ice Hockey
We finished the day watching Canada play Czechoslovakia in the Ice Hockey World Championships.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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2 comments on “Peterhof Palace
  1. I am amazed how you go from one country to another with ease. What about visas and berthing? How much pre planning do you need to land in Russia? Do you then pick another country on a whim or is some prior arrangements needed to let’s say going to Finland? What about currency changes, or does credit canards take care of that? G-d speed, safe travels but keep going as I am thrilled to follow your journey!

    • We usually have a reasonable idea of what countries we plan to visit and then research the formalities required. The amount of planning really depends on the country and the destination. Clearing in and out of countries can take upwards of a half-day and be a real hassle. When you’re clearing in an out of countries frequently, such as we were in the South Pacific, it can be a fair bit of overhead. EU countries generally are pretty easy to move between as there is a common customs and immigration zone, so we typically don’t need to do anything to move between those countries. Sometimes we have to report our cat Spitfire (eg. on entering Sweden).

      For docking, we usually contact the marina in advance to ensure we have a spot if we’re making other plans in the busiest season where there might be no space available, or to find out where we should go, especially in the off-season when parts (or all) of a marina might be closed. This summer we’ve booked in advance for Helsinki in May and Stockholm in July. The rest we just contact as we need to. Many of the marinas in Norway though were self-service and don’t take reservations, so you just show up and hope there is a spot. The off-season helps there too.

      To land in Russia with our boat, we would need to get a Russian visas and doing a lot of other planning well in advance. We did what is called a “transit journey” where we took the boat through Russia to reach the Saimaa Lakes. This required a lot of paperwork, but we didn’t need visas because we weren’t stopping in a Russian port. When we visited St. Petersburg, we took a visa-free 72-hour ferry trip there.

      For local payments we rely on credit cards that have no international transaction fees, and local cash machines.


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