Catherine Palace and Park#5 in Best Things To Do in St. Petersburg
Though it's located about 20 miles outside St. Petersburg proper, the Catherine Palace and Park certainly merits a visit by anyone in the area, especially enthusiasts of elaborate and fanciful architecture. In 1717, Peter the Great commissioned a building for his wife, Catherine, who succeeded him after his death, but her namesake palace only began taking on its grand stature in 1743, when their daughter, the Empress Elizabeth, engaged a series of architects to expand upon it. The result was a massive building with ornate blue and white facades decorated with real gold. The interior is no less spectacular. What's more, the surrounding 1,400-acre park features multiple fountains and bridges.
Recent visitors offered lavish praise for the palace's extravagance and the opulence of the furnishings. The Amber Room was a particular highlight for recent visitors. The original Amber Room, which was decorated with six tons of amber and other semiprecious stones, was looted by Nazis during World War II. The whereabouts of the original Amber Room remain a mystery, but in 2003 the palace unveiled a reconstruction of the room – which is what visitors can admire today. The only downside to all this beauty? The palace is known to attract crowds year-round, according to reviewers.
The park and palace are located south of St. Petersburg in the town of Tsarskoye Selo. Ticket prices range from 700 to 1000 rubles (or about $11 to $16), depending on how much of the palace you wish to see. The entrance ticket does not include audio guides, which add another 200 rubles (or $3) onto your admission fee. The palace website and previous visitors strongly recommended purchasing tickets in advance to avoid the long lines. You can reach the palace via public transportation (through a combination of the metro and minibus routes), but many travelers choose to take a taxi or visit the palace with an organized tour group. The palace has seasonal hours of operation. Visit the official website for full details. The palace and park form part of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve, which also includes Alexander Park and its namesake palace.
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#1 Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace
Catherine the Great founded the Hermitage Museum in 1764 as a place to house her private art collection. The main museum complex comprises six buildings, including the Winter Palace, which was the home of the czars for almost 200 years. It finally opened to the public in 1852, and since then has been one of the largest and most interesting museums in the world. It draws more than 4 million visitors each year – in fact, this museum is the main reason some travelers visit St. Petersburg in the first place. Recent travelers offered fulsome praise for both the art on display and the opulent building housing the works. For many, the only downside was the constant crowds.
Bursting at the seams with art from masters like Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso, the Hermitage demands a substantial commitment of time to see even a portion of its collection, which encompasses 3 million works of art and artifacts. Some previous visitors reported spending seven hours touring the grounds. If you plan to spend a considerable amount of time admiring the works, consider purchasing the two-day entrance ticket.
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