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12 Things to Know Before Visiting Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia

The outer front façade of Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia is turquoise and white with gold details, and the grounds in front of the Palace are covered in white snow.

No trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, would be complete without a visit to Catherine Palace in the suburb of Pushkin. Catherine Palace (or the Great Palace of Tsarskoye Selo) tops many of the “must-see” lists for planning a trip to this area.

Being armed with a little knowledge before you go can certainly make the visit more enjoyable! Check out all my tips and tricks for getting tickets and visiting, as well as some fun facts about the palace.

12 Things to Know Before Visiting Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia

The exterior of Catherine Palace is a stunning turquoise blue color with white and gold trim and hundreds of windows.

The Logistics: Planning & Preparing for Your Visit to Catherine’s Palace

1.) Buy Your Tickets to Catherine’s Palace Ahead of Time

If there’s only one thing you take away from this post – let it be this one! Just showing up on the day you want to visit Catherine Palace and waiting in line for tickets will not end well. The setup here is similar to the Kremlin in Moscow, you can wait in line for hours on end and hope they allow you a ticket inside (tickets are capped at a certain capacity every day)…or you can book your tickets online up to 14 days in advance.

  • Buy your tickets here – it’s much more English-friendly than the Moscow Kremlin ticket office. However, tickets do sell out, especially during the summer months. (Also, be sure you are booking for the “historic interiors” to get inside the palace.)

After buying your e-ticket, you still have to wait in line at the palace to get your “actual” entry tickets when you arrive (should be less than an hour – however, I assume this varies in the summer months). However, that’s nothing compared to the line you would have to wait if you just showed up the day of! We were there in early January, and the line to get tickets in the freezing cold was nearly 3 hours long! No thank you!

Or if you want to avoid lines altogether, you can book a tour through a private company. Honestly, if you’re only going to splurge on one thing for this trip – I’d say booking a tour of Catherine Palace and the Hermitage would be the best to splurge on! Skipping the lines and having someone to show you the importance of the things you are seeing is absolutely worth it, in my opinion.

  • We booked a 2-day tour private tour, or you can book a 1/2 day tour of Catherine Palace or a 1-day tour featuring Catherine & Pavlovsk Palace.
A stunning gilded gold room inside Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. The room has high ceilings adored with crown molding, high archway windows, parquet wood floors, and stunning décor.

2.) Don’t Be Late for Your Ticket Time!

After you exchange your e-vouchers for an entry ticket – you have exactly 1 hour from the time stated on your tickets to get inside Catherine Palace, or they won’t let you in. (They’re very strict about this!) So, don’t dilly dally!

Tourist mill about in the snow-covered square outside of Catherine's Palace during a Russian winter.

3.) There Are a Few Different Options for Getting to Catherine Palace from St. Petersburg

*You can reach Catherine Palace by using public transport. The museum’s website actually has a detailed list of the various metro lines and buses you can take to get here.

*You can hire a taxi to take you here. This will obviously be more expensive but will take much less time. (You can talk to your hotel or hostel’s front desk about booking a taxi, or the Yandex taxi app does work in St. Petersburg as so does Gett Taxi.)

*Book a group tour. I know, I know, group tours are generally frowned upon. However, if you book this tour and request Eugenia as your guide – you’ll have the best tour of your life. (We’ve used Eugenia as our guide twice now when our friends come to visit – and she was fantastic each time!)

Tourists line up inside a grand room in Catherine Palace, waiting for a tour. The large room has parquet wood floors, gilded gold walls, and high ceilings covered in elegant crown molding.

4.) Prepare Yourself – Catherine Palace WILL be Crowded!

We visited in January – which is technically the offseason for Catherine Palace. I expected to have this palace to myself, haha. I couldn’t have been more wrong! While I’m sure there were fewer crowds at this time than there are in the middle of summer, it was still insanely busy, in my opinion!

One more plug for the tour we did, though. As you can see above, there’s a rope separating a lot of people from basically no one. That rope separates the small group and private tours from the general entry folks. I’m not going to lie, that was a really, really nice perk. (As was not waiting in line!)

An interior image of a large dining room inside Catherine Palace. The grand room features white walls and windows adorned in gilded gold molding, crown-molding covered ceilings, and elegant dining tables set with ornate china.

Fun Facts to Know About Catherine Palace

5.) Catherine Palace is the “Summer Palace”

Catherine Palace is the “summer palace” to the Russian tsars, and the “winter palace” is the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

6.) Catherine Palace Has Nothing to Do with Catherine the Great

Not going to lie, I thought this palace was named after Catherine the Great. (Doh! My research for St. Petersburg was embarrassingly bad!) I found out while visiting that it’s actually named after Catherine I. (Peter the Great’s wife). This is because in 1717, Catherine I had German architect Johann Friedrich Braunstein create this new summer palace for her. However, the palace she had created was much more modest and looks nothing like the current palace. Which is because…

7.) Empress Elizabeth is Responsible for the Current Design of the Palace, Not Catherine

An interior image of another grand gilded-gold room inside Catherine Palace. Ornate gold molding covers the walls and surrounds mirrors, archways, and windows. Crowds of tourists gather to see tour the palace.

Empress Elizabeth would be Catherine’s daughter. She has a reputation for spending crazy amounts of money. (She apparently had over 16,000 dresses because she would never wear a dress more than once.) In 1752 Elizabeth commissioned her court architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli, to demolish the palace and replace it with a much grander palace. Construction lasted for four years.

two giant gold columns adorn a wall inside Catherine Palace in Russia, surrounded by gold molding around doorways, mirrors, and lining the ceiling.

8.) There are over 100 Kilos (200 Pounds) of Gold in the Palace!

So, yeah, there’s a lot of gold in Catherine Palace! It’s honestly hard to comprehend how lavish this place is.

9.) Catherine Palace Has Been Completely Restored

As was the case with Peterhof and Pavlovsk Palaces, Catherine Palace had to be completely restored after World War II. Many of the artifacts are replicas, but there are a few originals that museum workers had hidden in the gardens of the palace and in walls.

A giant hand-painted mural expands across a tall ceiling inside Catherine Palace in Russia. The mural depicts a heavenly scene with angels and nymphs dancing among the clouds.
This amazing mural on the grand ceiling within the palace is original artwork that has been restored.
Stunning patterned inlay wooden floors in a hallways inside Catherine Palace. There are two decorative chairs against either wall in the small oval-shaped hallway.
The floors throughout Catherine Palace are all original.

10.) The Amber Room is the Real Gem of Catherine Palace

The Amber Room is what has really put Catherine Palace on the map! It’s exactly what it sounds like – a room decorated in real amber panels. Honestly, I wasn’t that blown away by it. This is likely because I had built it up in my mind as the coolest thing I would ever see. So, going in with lowered expectations might have helped. It also doesn’t help that you’re walking through a palace that has over 200 pounds of gold decorating it, but I digress. (Also note, NO PHOTOS ARE ALLOWED INSIDE THE AMBER ROOM. Don’t be that person.)

Sadly, though, as with the rest of the palace, the original Amber Room was lost in WWII to looting by the Nazis. This is a reconstructed version that was done after the war. The location of the original Amber Room is still a mystery…

A grand hall inside Catherine Palace, covered with gilded gold and elegant parquet wood floors.
This gilded gold hall inside Catherine Palace takes tourists’ breath away!

Don’t Forget…

11.) Take Time to Wander the Parks & Surrounding Buildings (Even in Winter!)

Don’t leave Catherine Palace without wandering the surrounding grounds. They’re beautiful – even in winter! The Hermitage is particularly interesting to see. This is where Elizabeth would dine with her guests in a private area of the park. The inside of this pavilion has a series of mechanisms that enable the tables to be raised and lowered, so the servants would never see who Elizabeth was entertaining. (Secrets!)

The exterior of The Hermitage near Catherine's Palace in St. Petersburg Russia. The building has a white and turquoise exterior with elegant gold molding.
The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia on a snowy winter day.

12.) Catherine Palace is Close to Pavlovsk Palace and Feodorovskiy Gosudarev Cathedral (Make a Day of It!)

I LOVED Pavlovsk Palace, which is only a 10-15 minute drive from Catherine Palace. I highly recommend visiting it, especially if you’re there during winter. I would suggest visiting Pavlovsk first, then going to Catherine Palace. This is because when you book your tickets online for Catherine Palace, you can’t get in until after 12 p.m. Whereas Pavlovsk you can easily enter at 10 am.

Feodorovskiy Gosudarev Cathedral is also within a 10-15 minute drive of Catherine Palace. It is a very beautiful and quiet cathedral. Unlike the rest of the cathedrals you’ll find in St. Petersburg, this one will hardly have any people visiting it – but it is still equally beautiful, inside and out. (No photos are allowed inside – and ladies, cover your heads with a hat or scarf before entering.)

The exterior Feodorovskiy Gosudarev Cathedral in Russia on a snowy winter day. The large building is mostly white with green roof detailing and a giant gold obelisk at the very top. The grounds in front of the cathedral are covered in snow.
Feodorovskiy Gosudarev Cathedral

Travel Insurance

It’s a good idea, no matter where your adventure takes you, to have travel insurance. You never know what might happen! Whether you get sick before your trip and can’t go, or you become sick or injured while on your adventure – being covered with travel insurance is a must. Some credit card companies do provide this service (check with yours), or you can get a quote from companies such as Squaremouth to find the best plan for you and your adventure. (This is the company I, personally, use. They are even recommended by Forbes!) You can even get a free quote.

Visa Requirements

Check if your country requires a Visa for traveling to Russia.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

If you have any questions at all about Catherine Palace, feel free to ask away in the comments section! And were any of these things surprisingly to you? I’d also love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Photo Gallery: Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia

Feel free to click on the photos below to make them full-sized.

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  1. Mila Professional St. Petersburg Guide says:

    Hey Lindsey, thank you for such a great overview of the Catherine’s Palace, your photos are beautiful!

    Like you said, the original Amber panels were stolen and were never found. There is an interesting theory though, regarding the location of the Amber panels. Some historians say that they might be buried in the catacombs under the ruins of Königsberg Castle that got bombed in 1944.

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Thank you so much! Ooh, and how interesting is that? I hadn’t heard that theory before.

  2. Jyoti basu says:

    Wao! This is amazing blog post. They are very useful content nd beautiful picture. Thanks for sharing your information.

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:


  3. Željko Šuput says:

    Hi Lindsey. I just can’t figure it out those thing with queues and e-tickets. Ok… so there are awful queues… and if I buy e-ticket i’ll get voucher which i need to exchange for an real ticket. But how will this save time for me… will I be able to skip some queue and go straight to the palace entrance or what.. i’ve read a lot today but with no success unfortunately. I see thet there is 28 e-tickets available at the moment for date which suits me. Tnx in advance. Zeljko.

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Hi Zeljko! Yes, buying an e-ticket will save you a significant amount of time queuing. If you show up at the palace to buy a ticket without reserving an e-ticket you may wait at least 4 hours and are not guaranteed a ticket (especially at this time of year). You will still have to queue and exchange your e-ticket for a real ticket, but this wait time should be less than 1 hour (max).

      This is where the website says to currently exchange your e-voucher for a ticket:
      NOTE: Voucher is not an entry ticket.
      In order to exchange Voucher for an actual entry ticket, you have to present the ID you used at registration along with your printed voucher (or your voucher number from the email you received) at:
      – (during winter season October to April) Ticket Office No.4 in the Main Vestibule of the Catherine Palace, which you enter from the Catherine Park;
      – (during summer season May to September) Ticket Booth near the Chapel Gate, through which you enter the Catherine Palace after you exchange your voucher for actual entry tickets (you have fast-track entry to the palace, but you visit the park only after a palace tour)

      However, if you want to avoid queues altogether, your best bet is to book an organized tour.

  4. Just gorgeous!! I too would have thought that it was named after Catherine the Great! Thank you for the background information! Very interesting…this blog should be used in school, in a European History class!

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Oh gosh, wow! Thank you so much, Rebecca! I’m so happy you loved this post.

  5. Christina says:

    I have never seen so much GOLD and VIBRANCE of colors than this palace. Thank you for sharing these beauitful picture and a lovely post. I have added it high on my bucket list now.

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Aw, thank you! It’s pretty crazy, isn’t it?

  6. Thanks so much for the tips! Wow what a place.

    Gemma x

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Fabulous place to be, thanks for the tips. If I ever happened to be there, then I shall surely visit the place.

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Sounds great!

  8. Life Of A Med School Wife says:

    Oh my goodness..Catherine Palace is STUNNING! The details are just amazing. I have always wanted to visit a palace. I really want to visit Russia too. Your posts are giving me wonderlust. These are such great tips. If a place offers tickets to be purchased ahead of time it is so much easier.

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Ahh! I’m so excited you’re interested in Russia! Thank you! I hope you get to visit one day. 🙂

  9. Gosh, I’m just in awe of the places you are experiencing, Lindsey!! And I always love your suggestions. We are the type that love a guided tour. I just feel like I learn so much more than just walking around on my own. Not that I remember everything…LOL!!
    And my history is even worse than yours. I didn’t even know about this palace. But it’s gorgeous. I don’t think my mom visited it when she was out there. But I definitely would!

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Oh gosh, thank you so much, Jodie! That makes me so happy! I do feel like a learn a lot more doing tours in museums vs. just reading the signs on my own, too.

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