The Peterhof Palace and Gardens are nicknamed the “Russian Versailles” thanks to its more than 140 dazzling fountains. It’s absolutely astonishing to see and a must-visit if you are traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia!
However, as is the theme with most tourist attractions in Moscow and St. Petersburg – it can be rather confusing and frustrating to understand the ticketing system and layout of these palaces. Peterhof is no exception to this – with separate tickets and entrances for its upper and lower parks. This post will help breakdown how to easily plan a day trip to Peterhof Palace and Gardens from St. Petersburg for first-time visitors. I am also happy to answer any questions in the comment section at the end of the post.
- If you are going to be visiting at a time when the fountains are NOT running – I highly recommend visiting Pavlovsk Palace instead. The main reason to visit Peterhof is to see the fountains, and if they are not running, Pavlovsk is a much more enjoyable visit.
How to Get Tickets to Peterhof Palace and Gardens
Getting tickets to Peterhof Palace and Gardens can initially sound a little tricky. It will depend largely too on whether or not you simply want to see the fountains located in the Lower Park or if you also want to visit the Grand Palace and Upper Gardens.
- I’ll explain this more a little later in the post, but if you are on a time crunch or simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting more tickets and fighting crowds – I would say you absolutely do NOT have to visit the Grand Palace or Upper Park. (This is especially true if you are also going to be visiting Catherine Palace and the Hermitage.) The real attraction here is the Lower Park.
Tickets to the Lower Park
If you decide to simply visit the Lower Park (which I highly recommend), then you can easily purchase your tickets online via the official Peterhof Palace website. (At the moment, only the Russian ticket site is working, not the English version.) Buying these tickets online will mean you will not have to wait in line for very long. (Show the entrance workers your printed ticket, and they will point you in the right direction.)
You can also show up the day of and purchase tickets at the entrance. Given how busy this place is in the summer, though, I would not recommend this as you will likely be waiting in line for a long time.
Tickets to the Upper Park and the Grand Palace
This is where it gets interesting. Unfortunately, the Upper Park and the Grand Palace tickets are not available to be purchased online during the months of May-September. Instead, you must purchase these tickets in person at the ticket office during set hours. These hours are 12:00-14:00 and also 16:15-17:45. The lines are, unfortunately, quite long for this.
- Click here to print a free map that shows the location of the ticket office and all of the sights within the Peterhof complex.
If you have your heart set on seeing both the Upper Park and Lower Park and also the Grand Palace… but don’t want to wait in line, then I suggest hiring a tour guide. They will also have early access to the Grand Palace and can get you inside as early as 10 am with a very minimal amount of time waiting in line.
- I recommend this guide for a private tour experience – they will be able to get you into the Grand Palace no later than 10 am (if you choose the 9 am pickup option), and have you waiting for a great view of the start of the Great Cascade before 11 am. All transportation to and from St. Petersburg is also taken care of for you.
- For a more budget-friendly small group tour, I recommend this guide. You will get to see all of the main sights of the Peterhof Complex in a very stress-free and informative manner.
When Do the Peterhof Fountains Run?
The fountains only run from late April/May until early October. Unfortunately, there are no set dates of when they open and close the fountains for the season each year because it is entirely dependent on the weather and temperatures. Be sure to keep an eye on the official Peterhof Palace website for these dates.
- For the 2020 season, the Peterhof Fountains are set to reopen on April 24, 2020 (but again, keep an eye on the Peterhof Palace website for any changes).
If you are going to be visiting at a time when the fountains are NOT running – I highly recommend visiting Pavlovsk Palace instead. The main reason to visit Peterhof is to see the fountains, and if they are not running, Pavlovsk is a much more enjoyable visit.
Hours for Peterhof Palace Complex:
- NOTE: The Grand Palace is closed on Mondays. However, the gardens are still open.
The complex is open daily, from 9 am to 8 pm. Last admission is at 7:30 pm. Fountains operate from 10 am to 6 pm (Saturday and Sunday until 7 pm). The Grand Cascade with the Samson Fountain begins at 11 am and begins with music – it’s fun to watch the fountains come to life! You can see what this event is in the video below.
The Grand Cascade beginning at 11 am!
- To get a decent view of the Grand Cascade (like the one above) – you’ll want to hold down your spot at least 15 minutes before 11 am. This area gets packed!
Best Ways to Get to Peterhof from St. Petersburg
1.) Hydrofoil – a hydrofoil is a fast boat that will take you from St. Petersburg to Peterhof in about 35 minutes. A one-way ticket will be around 950 rubles for an adult (which is roughly $15 USD). This is the most direct and quickest way to get there but is also the most expensive.
- The Hydrofoil pier is located in front of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. It takes you directly to the pier of Peterhof which is located in the Lower Park.
- Hydrofoil tickets can be purchased at the time you arrive or online ahead of time. Once you get off the Hydrofoil at the pier of Peterhof, you can then present your printed Lower Park tickets or wait in line to purchase tickets on the pier.
2.) Taxi – a direct taxi ride from your hotel to Peterhof is also a good option. It will take around 30-40 minutes of driving – provided there is no rush hour traffic. The average price to take a taxi from St. Petersburg near the Hermitage Museum to Peterhof is around 1,300 rubles… which is about $20 USD.
- This can be easily arranged through your hotel…
- …or by using the Gett Taxi or Yandex Taxi apps (the Uber and Lyft equivalents in Russia).
3.) Metro + Bus – All bus routes will take you to the Upper Park entrance. Times will vary depending on which metro station you are arriving – but on average, the bus portion will take 40 minutes in addition to the time you spend on the metro or walking to the metro station. (The bus ride will cost around 80 rubles which is roughly $1.20 USD.)
From Avtovo metro station:Take minibusses: K-224, K-300, K-424. Municipal buses: №200, №210
From Leninsky Prospekt metro station:Take minibuses: K-103, K-420
From Prospekt Veteranov metro station:Take minibusses: K-343, K-639Б
From Baltiysky Railway station to New (Noviy) Peterhof stationTake the train to New (Noviy) Peterhof station. Once in Noviy Peterhof, take buses № 356 or №351-A
Is it Worth Going Inside the Grand Peterhof Palace and the Upper Garden?
I had been told by locals and also had read over and over that the Lower Park is really the only reason to go to Peterhof Palace. The Palace itself and the Upper Gardens are pretty “meh” in comparison to the Lower Park and also the likes of Catherine Palace and the Hermitage Museum.
However, I knew I wanted to write this post… and how was I going to give decent advice if I didn’t see the palace and Upper Garden with my own eyes? So, I went ahead and visited the Upper Gardens and Grand Palace the last time I was in St. Petersburg. I did this with a tour guide, as frankly, I didn’t want to wait in line for potentially 3 hours to get inside the Grand Palace. I wanted this all taken care of ahead of time, so I could maximize my time at Peterhof.
Grand Peterhof Palace Interior Photo Gallery – Feel Free To Click on Photos
For the sake of this post, I am glad I visited the Peterhof Grand Palace and Upper Garden. However, I would not be able to recommend this as a “must-do” thing for Russia – especially given how much of a hassle it is to get inside (or how much extra it costs if you decide to go the guide route). And the Upper Garden is really just a garden… it’s doesn’t hold the same “wow” factor as the Lower Park at all.
You’re also being rushed through the palace by the palace workers who adhere to a very strict time schedule. You’re only going to get a few minutes in each room before you’re being ushered to the next room. I suppose this is good, as it gives everyone a better chance of seeing the palace… but it also means you don’t really get much of a chance to enjoy it. And there are SO many people in here.
- If you’re going to St. Petersburg and want to see grand palaces – then you’ll absolutely want to go to Catherine Palace in Pushkin and also the Hermitage Museum (near where the Hydrofoil pier is located).
The Lower Park
The Lower Park, on the other hand, is absolutely astonishing. You could easily spend an entire day enjoying this grand park.
It’s incredible too, because this fountain system (that was designed in the 18th century and commissioned by Peter the Great), doesn’t require the use of any pumps to operate the fountains. The elevation difference creates the pressure that drives most of the fountains of the Lower Gardens, including the Grand Cascade.
The Grand Cascade is easily the most impressive fountain. It’s located directly below the Grand Palace and features an impressive golden statue of Samson grasping the mighty jaws of the lion. The park’s other cascades feature black and white chessboard designs, Chinese dragons and… even some fun “trick” fountains. The trick fountains are only activated when you walk across a certain area of the park – they’re a hit with the kiddos, who want to see if they can outrun the fountain without getting wet. (Some of them were successful!)
It’s also worth noting that much of Peterhof has been restored to its former glory after WWII. While significant damage was caused by the Germans, the palace suffered the worst under Soviet bombing raids in December 1941 and January 1942. This is because Stalin was determined to disrupt Hitler’s plan of hosting a New Year’s victory celebration here.
Lower Park Photo Gallery – Feel Free to Click on the Photos
How Much Time Should You Dedicate to Peterhof Palace?
There are 2 restaurants within the Lower Park and also a couple of cafes/fast food type restaurants. So, you can easily spend an entire day enjoying the Lower Park and get lunch/dinner here. At the very least, I would say to dedicate 5-6 hours to this trip from St. Petersburg to Peterhof and back.
The moral of this post, though, is that the Lower Park is a must-do! Whereas the inside of the palace and the Upper Garden, are really not a must-see. However, if you do really, really want to see the inside of the Palace, then I recommend hiring a guide, so you are not spending so much time waiting in line.
If anyone has any questions about visiting Peterhof Palace, please feel free to reach out in the comments section at the end of this post.
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