Peterhof. Home of Peter the Great’s Grand Palace, a collection of 140 fountains, and enough land to run a vineyard. The palace grounds are well landscaped, and you can even walk down to the water where you can picnic overlooking a lovely view of St. Petersburg.
For anyone who has visited France, you’ll quickly pick up on the Grand Palace’s resemblances to Versailles. Inside, you aren’t able to take pictures, you have to wear shoe covers, and there are massive tour groups abound making it difficult to move at your own pace.
Nearly every room is decorated in gold and overly elegant. The wallpaper that lines every inch of the walls would be considered busy and tacky these days, but back then was a sure sign of luxury. My favorite part was the view of the courtyard path leading down to the water. Absolutely beautiful on a sunny day.
So when you go to St. Petersburg, spend a day away from Nevisky Prospect to enjoy one of the area’s grandeur palaces.
How do I get to Peterhof?
Take the red metro line to Avtovo. When you exit the station, go across the street, and catch either the 401, 424, 224, or 300 bus. The ride takes about 30 minutes if there isn’t traffic, it costs 70 roubles, and they’ll drop you off right in front of the gated entrance to the palace.
How much does it cost?
It’s 450 roubles to get into Lower Park where all the fountains are as well as the Grand Cascade. The palace tour is an additional 550 roubles. If you end up eating lunch while you’re there, expect to pay another 300+ roubles for a mediocre meal. Major credit cards accepted everywhere on the grounds.
Before you head back to St. Petersburg, visit Peter and Paul’s Cathedral just a short walk from the palace entrance. You can pay 50 roubles to go up to the top and get a view over Peterhof town and St. Petersburg. You’ll also be able to catch the bus back to the city just out front as well.
Once you’re back in the city, it’s imperative that you round up a few friends, treat yourselves to a nice dinner, and go see Swan Lake at Alexandrisky Theatre. The ballet isn’t for everyone so choose your company wisely. As someone who was a dancer for 13 years, Swan Lake was the cherry on top of my St. Pete sundae.
Where is the theatre?
The theatre is off the Gostiny Dvor stop on the green line. When you exit the station, turn right, and you’ll come across a courtyard with a yellow building. That’s the theatre. If you get turned around, it’ll help to know that the theatre is across the street from the alleyway with Carl’s Jr.
How much does it cost?
The cheapest seats start somewhere around 900 roubles, and they are in the top 2 balconies. The closer to the floor and stage, the more expensive it gets. I bought my ticket off a couple who couldn’t go anymore so they sold it to me for 700 roubles. Score!
What do I wear?
The ballet is a fancy occasion. Ladies, break out your little black dresses, some nice jewelry, and matching heels. Gentlemen should don a nice shirt, trousers, and dress shoes. You will find that some people come underdressed, but as a special night on the town, it’s best that your attire match the class of the evening.
What was it like?
Swan Lake wasn’t too over the top and very classy. The show ran about 2.5 hours with 2 short intermissions. The whole time I was admiring the costumes, the detailed stage sets, and the discipline of the dancers. With those lines, extensions, and pointed toes, their legs went on for days and they’re so poised.
Even if you don’t know the story of Swan Lake, it’s not hard to figure out as you’re watching. You can also buy an English program for a small fee or Google the story before you go. No flash photography allowed inside the theatre.
If you have the pleasure of staying in St. Petersburg for a week or longer, take a day to visit Peterhof and go to the ballet. Both can be accomplished in one day with plenty of time to relax in between.