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Royal palaces of St.Petersburg

St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Moscow was the capital of Russia until the beginning of the 18th century, but there are no royal palaces preserved. The royal and noble palaces of St. Petersburg began to be built almost immediately after the foundation of the city and now they are the main attractions of this city.

In this review on the Geomerid website, you can read about all the royal palaces of St. Petersburg. In another review "Noble palaces of St. Petersburg" you can read about the palaces that belonged to the nobles.

Royal Palaces of St. Petersburg:

1.    Grand Peterhof Palace - 1714-1754
2.    Winter Palace, 1754-1762
3.    Catherine Palace - 1756-1765
4.    Pavlovsk Palace - 1782-1785
5.    Gatchina Palace - 1766-1781
6.    Mikhailovsky castle - 1797-1801
7.    Konstantinovsky Palace - 1720-1850
8.    Monplaisir Palace-1714-1717
9.    Summer Palace - 1710-1714
10.    Alexander Palace - 1792-1796

Follow the hyperlinks to read in detail about each palace and see a large number of photos

Grand Peterhof Palace

The Grand Peterhof Palace with cascades of fountains is so luxurious that it can be considered one of the most remarkable sights of St. Petersburg. It is located on the edge of a natural terrace that slopes down to the Gulf of Finland. There is a regular Upper Garden on top, and a beautiful Lower Park on the bottom.

Peterhof Palace is one of the earliest works of Francesco Rastrelli, the most famous architect of St. Petersburg in the 18th century. Construction began in 1714 along with the Monplaisir Palace. However, if Monplaisir was completed in 1717, then the Great Peterhof Palace began to be actively built only after the tsar's marriage. Catherine I had a large staff of servants, and Monplaisir space was not enough for them.

Despite the luxurious appearance of the palace, especially from the Lower Park, the palace itself is not very large – only 30 halls. As in all Rastrelli palaces, there is a lot of decoration with gilded wood carvings. The fountains of the Grand Cascade, which is one of the most outstanding fountain structures in the world, give a special luxury to the Grand Peterhof Palace. The cascade began to be created in 1715, and its solemn launch took place in 1723.

Winter Palace

The construction of Imperial Winter Palace in St. Petersburg began almost immediately, as soon as Russian troops captured Vyborg, eliminating the possibility of a Swedish attack on the city. However, for many years the most luxurious palace in St. Petersburg remained Menshikov's Palace on Vasilievsky Island. Tsar Peter held receptions there gave dinners and even played a wedding with Catherine I.

The first Winter Palace of Peter I was built on the bank of the Winter Channel (a small channel that connects the Moika River with the Neva). However, the palace was very small, and the Tsar hardly lived there. During the reign of Anna Ioannovna, it was expanded, but still remained insufficiently comfortable.

The Winter Palace of St. Petersburg, which has preserved to this day, is the fifth in a row. Its construction was started in 1754 by the architect Francesco Rastrelli. For several centuries it was the main ceremonial residence of Russian emperors, and now it is the largest museum in Russia. Later, a second name of Palace appeared - the Hermitage.

The main halls of the palace: St. George's (Throne) Hall, Golden Drawing Room, Gallery of 1812, Field Marshal's Hall, White Hall. The Concert Hall houses the Silver Tomb of Alexander Nevsky. Very impressive is the Malachite Hall, where many elements of the interior are made of Ural malachite stone.

Catherine Palace

The Catherine Palace is located in Tsarskoye Selo. After Peter's death, the Russian tsars did not like to go to Peterhof, where a luxurious palace was built. The real royal residence for two centuries became Tsarskoye Selo.

The first small palace with "16 bright rooms" was built in Tsarskoye Selo for the wife of Peter I Catherine, in 1710. However, the magnificent Catherine Palace in the Baroque style was built several decades later. Its construction began in 1756 during the reign of Elizabeth I. The famous architect Rastrelli supervised the construction.

The main masterpiece of the Catherine Palace is the Amber Room. It is so named because all the walls are decorated with amber panels. The Amber Room is located in front of the Throne Room. Foreign ambassadors and state officials were waiting there for the reception of the Empress.

The length of the Catherine Palace is 325 meters. The completion of construction and decoration occurred during the reign of Catherine II, so it became known as the Catherine Palace. 

Pavlovsk Palace

Pavlovsk Palace is located 30 kilometers south of Tsarskoye Selo, where the summer royal residence was located for two centuries. Pavlovsk Palace is quite modest compared to other palaces, however, the landscape Pavlovsk Park has no equal in Russia. Its area reaches 600 hectares, making it one of the largest parks in the world.

The construction of the Pavlovsk Palace was started in 1782 in the hunting grounds on the picturesque river Slavyanka, which Catherine gave to her son Pavel after the birth of Alexander, her grandson.

The first years of the creation of the Pavlovsk Palace and Park were occupied by the Scottish architect Charles Cameron. It was the first palace of St. Petersburg, built in the style of the fashionable Paladianism, which later transformed into the style of classicism.

Among the interiors of the palace, the most impressive are the huge Throne Room, the Italian Hall and the Greek Hall. The area of the Throne Room is more than 400 m2. After becoming emperor, Paul I made the Pavlovsk Palace his residence, but he did not visit it often. 

Gatchina Palace

Gatchina Palace is located 40 kilometers south of St. Petersburg. This is the most distant country residence of the Russian emperors. Gatchina Palace differs from other palaces of St. Petersburg in that it looks more like a medieval castle than a royal residence.

The Great Gatchina Palace consists of two large quadrangular buildings (Arsenal and Kitchen) with towers on the sides. The quads are connected by a central palace.

The Grand Gatchina Palace was built in 1766-1781 during the reign of Catherine II for her favorite Grigory Orlov. After Orlov's death, Catherine bought the palace and gave it to her son, the future Emperor Paul I. Gatchina has become one of the most beloved residences of Paul.

After the assassination of Paul in 1801, the palace was owned by the Russian emperors. The highest heyday of the Gatchina Palace can be considered the period of the reign of Emperor Alexander III, who made Gatchina his official residence.

Mikhailovsky Castle

In 1797 emperor Paul I wanted to build a new ceremonial castle-like residence. He was the Master of Malthusian Order and loved castles built in the style of medieval fortresses. So was the Gatchina Palace, and so would be the Mikhailovsky Castle.
Paul I himself made the sketches of the castle, and already four years later it was finished.

Engineer Castle was the only structure of St. Petersburg built in the style of Romanesque classicism. It was named after Michael the Archangel, the patron of Romanov Dynasty. In 1801 emperor Paul I was murdered at the bedroom of the Mikhailovsky Castle. Since 1823 it housed army`s Main Engineering School (later to become the Nikolayevskaya Engineering Academy, from which it received its second name – the Engineer Castle and eventually, this name became more common. 

Konstantinovsky Palace

The Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna began to be built by the decision of Peter I in 1710, as a country residence of the tsar in the new northern capital. According to Peter's idea, the Konstantinovsky Palace was to become the "Russian Versailles". He personally chose the location for the palace and park. The work was commissioned by the Italian court architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli.

Full-scale construction of the palace was started in 1720, but when planning the park, the architects faced a key problem – the inability to create cascades of fountains, due to too small a height difference. As a result, the royal residence was moved to Peterhof, and work on the construction of the palace in Strelna was suspended in 1730. In the middle of the 18th century, it was decided to complete the palace and transfer it to the possession of the Grand Dukes. 

Monplaisir Palace

The Palace of Montplaisir in Peterhof  was a favorite country residence of Tsar Peter I. It is located on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland in Peterhof. From here, the tsar could sail by ship to the island of Kronstadt, which protected St. Petersburg from the sea.

The Monplaisir Palace and the Grand Peterhof Palace located on the high bank began to be built simultaneously, in 1714. However, the small Monplaisir Palace was built 4 years later in 1717. Tsar Peter I actively used it. The construction of the Grand Peterhof Palace was completed much later, only in 1754.

The project, as well as the interior decoration of the Palace of Monplaisir (from the French word – My Pleasure), was based on personal drawings and sketches of the tsar. The place of its location was also chosen by Peter I himself. 

Summer Palace of Peter I

The Summer Palace of Peter I is a modest two-story building in the Summer Garden. It does not look like the luxurious royal palaces located in the suburbs of St. Petersburg. However, the historical value of the Summer Palace is very high, as it has been preserved since Peter the Great in its original form. It is one of the oldest stone buildings in the city.

The stone palace in the Summer Garden Peter I began to build only in 1710, and finished in 1714. Until 1710, only wooden buildings were built in St. Petersburg, as the threat of attack from the Swedes remained. In 1710, Russian troops took Vyborg, securing St. Petersburg. After that, the construction of stone buildings immediately began in the city.

Peter I drew the layout of the Summer Palace himself, and the architect Trezzini only brought this project to life. Until 1710, the tsar lived in Peter's Wooden House. Later it was turned into a museum. The walls of Peter Summer Palace are very thin, and the frames in the windows are single, so the tsar could only live here in summer. The layout of the floors is identical – there are only 14 rooms in the palace.  

Alexander Palace

The Alexander Palace is located in Tsarskoye Selo in the immediate vicinity of the Catherine Palace. In 1792, Empress Catherine decided to build another palace next to her palace in honor of the marriage of her grandson Alexander Pavlovich, the future Emperor Alexander I.

The construction of the palace was entrusted to the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi, who built the first palace of St. Petersburg in the classical style. Contemporaries recognized that Quarenghi's creation is perfect. The Alexander Palace is beautiful as a sample of the classicism architecture.

The two-story Alexander Palace has large wings on the sides, connected by a double colonnade. Grand Duke Alexander and his wife made it their summer residence. Then the palace was called the New Palace, but later it was called the Alexander Palace.

After the 1905 Revolution, it was dangerous for the tsar's family to stay in St. Petersburg, and so Tsar Nicholas II decided to move to the country. For 12 years, in the period from 1905 to 1917, the Alexander Palace was the permanent residence of the royal family.