The small town of Gatchina is located 40 kilometers south of St. Petersburg. The most interesting attraction of the city is the Great Gatchina Palace and the surrounding landscape Gatchina Palace Park. However, there are other interesting places in the city, so it is better to plan for a visit to Gatchina all day.
The Great Gatchina Palace was built in 1766 by architect Rinaldi for the favorite of Empress Catherine II Grigory Orlov. It is built in the style of a severe medieval castle with a large square between two wings of the palace. After Orlov`s death, the palace became imperial. The heir to the throne, Paul I, lived here. He called the square in front of the palace "platz" and constantly held military parades here.
In 1881, the Gatchina Palace became the only royal residence of Alexander III. Previously, the winter royal residence was the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, and for the summer they went to Peterhof or Tsarskoye Selo. Emperor Alexander III and his family lived in Gatchina all year round and only occasionally went to the Livadia Palace in the Crimea in autumn.
Around the Great Gatchina Palace, on the shores of the White Lake, there is a beautiful landscape Gatchina Palace Park. Here you can see many beautiful pavilions: the Venus Pavilion, the Eagle Pavilion, the Chesmensky Obelisk, the Birch House and the Mask Portal. Many beautiful bridges have been built among ponds and islands.
Of particular interest is the Priory Palace, built in 1799. The Russian Emperor Paul I ordered to build a summer palace for the Prior of the Order of Malta next to Gatchina Park. Its construction is connected with a short period when Russia became a place of refuge for the Knights of the Order of Malta.
In 1798, Napoleon`s expeditionary force captured Malta and expelled the knights from there. Paul I had long-standing ties with the Freemasons, and the Knights of Malta appealed to him to accept the dignity of Grand Master of the Order of Malta. After the assassination of Paul I, the knights left Russia, since his son Alexander I did not maintain such close ties with the Freemasons as his father. After that, the Priory Palace was empty. Now it is a museum. Next to the palace is the Priory Park – a favorite walking place of Gatchina residents. In the middle of October 25 Avenue, a huge Obelisk Constable (32 meters, weight 600 tons) is installed between two parks.
Gatchina has several beautiful cathedrals and churches. In 1851, the Cathedral of St. Paul the Apostle was built in the center of Gatchina. Tsar Nicholas I took an active part in its construction in memory of his father Paul I. Near the Palace Park is the high Intercession Cathedral, a beautiful example of the classical Russian style.
In front of the palace in building of the 218th Aviation repair plant there is a Museum of Aviation Engine Construction. You can see there 15 full-size models of aircraft engines and get acquainted with the history of aviation development. In front of the museum there is a model of the first Farman aircraft and a model of the first Dzhevetsky submarine. This submarine was first tested in 1880 in the Silver Lake of Gatchina Park, and the aircraft began operating in 1910 at the first Gatchina Airfield in Russia.