The Grand Peterhof Palace with its cascading fountains is so luxurious that you may consider it one of the most wonderful sights of St. Petersburg. It is located on the edge of a natural terrace descending to the Gulf of Finland. The Upper Park is up and the Lower Park is down.
Peterhof Palace is one of the earliest works of Bartolomeo Rastrelli, most famous 18 century architect of St. Petersburg. Apart from the Grand Peterhof Palace, Rastrelli also designed the Winter Palace and the Smolny Convent, the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, as well as many other palaces for the local nobility.
They began to build the Peterhof Palace in 1714, at the same time as the Monplaisir Palace, which is directly on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, at the Lower Park.However, if the Monplaisir Palace was finished still under Peter the Great and was often visited by him, the active construction of the Grand Peterhof Palace was started only after the wedding of Peter I, when the Monplaisir Palace could no longer accommodate the enlarged staff of servants of Catherine I.
In spite of its luxurious appearance, especially on the side of the Lower Park, the Peterhof Palace isn’t very large – it has only 30 rooms. As in all palaces of Rastrelli, there are a lot of such decorations as gilt woodcarving at the Peterhof Palace. Here are the most famous rooms of the Grand Peterhof Palace: the Throne Hall, Chesma Hall (in honor of the victory over the Turks in the Battle of Chesma in 1770), Dance Hall or Ballroom, the Audience Hall, and the Picture Hall.
Fountains add a special luxury to the Peterhof Palace. The Grand Cascade is one of the most outstanding fountain systems in the world. The construction of the The Grand Cascade was started in 1715. Its formal opening took place in 1723.
The largest Peterhof fountain, Samson tearing the lion`s jaws, is at the foot of terrace. It is an allegory of the victory of the Russian army over the Swedish army. The Large and Small grottoes are above this fountain. They are finished with tuff. There are also fountains in the grottoes. The Grand Cascade is made especially beautiful by gilt sculptures. They include the original works of the best Russian sculptors of that time. Now you can see 37 gilt sculptures, 16 vases, and 29 bas-reliefs within the Grand Cascade.
The Peterhof Palace is flanked by two beautiful blocks. The Family Chapel is to the left of the palace. Today it houses the «Church Building» museum. The pavilion, which was called the «Building under the Coat of Arms», is to the right of the Peterhof Palace. Now it houses the «Special Treasury» museum.
The Grand Peterhof Palace complex was built for many decades and was finished only by 1754, in the reign of Empress Elizabeth. But already in the next decade, under Empress Catherine, the imperial summer residence was moved from Peterhof to Tsarskoye Selo, in another palace designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli.