Peterhof – the official summer residence of the Russian Court – was conceived and founded by the most prominent Russian Emperor – Peter I and bears his name.
During his tour of Europe, Peter I visited Versailles and was deeply impressed. The Emperor decided to have his own Russian Versailles built which would rival the famous original in beauty.
Upon his return to Russia, Peter I starts choosing the location for his summer residence. The initial intention was to have a residence built closer to St.Petersburg on the site where Strelna is now. Even the foundation for the building was laid. However, soon it became clear that there was no possibility to have fountains there because the site had little water.
Peter I wouldn’t give up his idea of building fountains. An expedition was launched to find a site suitable for building fountains. The result of the expedition was that a site on the shore of the Gulf of Finland was recommended, which is exactly where Peterhof is now, and the famous fountain water supply system was built and became a wonderwork of hydraulic engineering of the 18th century.
Construction works began in 1712, and in 1723 the imperial residence was formally inaugurated. But that wasn’t the end of the story: every future monarch made alterations, extensions, added new fountains or had new palaces built.
So, Peter the Great’s plans were destined to come true – the Russian Versailles was built in full. The residence is really very Russian with numerous fountains, statues and pavilions, abundance of water and gold, and endless water surface of the Gulf of Finland. But which is better –French Versailles or Russian Peterhof – is a matter of taste which every visitor is to decide for themselves.
The most significant sights of Peterhof are:
1. The Lower Park – the main attraction of Peterhof where all most famous fountains are.
2.The Grand Palace. Intended for receptions of high-ranking guests, it was left in ruins by the Nazis in WWII, and later reconstructed and re-opened for visitors.
3. Monplaisir and other lesser palaces of the Lower Park.
4. The Upper Garden – a small garden on the natural terrace behind the Grand Palace which still has regular layout of the 18th century.
5. The Cottage Palace built for Emperor Nicholas I and his family in eclectic style with some elements of the pseudo-Gothic style, then fashionable. The palace exhibits give insight into daily life of the Russian Emperor and family traditions of the Romanovs.
6. Alexandria Park – an English-style landscape park where the Cottage Palace, Farm Palace and Gothic Chapel are.