Built by Peter the Great as Russia’s answer to Versailles, Peterhof is a sprawling Palace estate but 100 yards from the shore of the Baltic. The Grand cascade is iconic, its magnificent fountains line the Sea channel, celebrated each year at the Feast of the Fountains celebration (see pic #3). On the estate, lies the Grand Palace; a building that appears quite large but is in fact narrow and has only thirty rooms. Peterhof became the official residence of Tsar Nicholas I and the summer residence of the Imperial Family from the reign of Alexander II. Notable Romanovs have inf act been born here, including the Grand Duchess Anastasia, Marie and Tatiana, their brother Tsarevich Alexei and their cousin the Princess Irina Alexandrovna. Also featured on the beautiful grounds are the Lower Gardens; a series of geometric hedges and fountains designed to compliment the surrounding cascades. The Sea Channel divides the gardens. To the east of the main park lies the Alexandrine Park and Cottage Palace, named for Tsar Nicholas I’s wife, Alexandra, formally Charlotte of Prussia. Alexandra disliked to pomp of Saint Petersburg court and relished in the tranquility of her Cottage palace, or farm palace.
Peterhof was in fact where Nicholas II and his future wife Princess Alix of Hesse famously scrawled their names into the glass of a surrounding cottage the year of their meeting. Each year they returned to their little paradise, the subsequent dates were etched beside their names, to remain to this day.
Sadly, like many other Imperial Palaces of the time, Peterhof was raided during the Second World War, resulting in widespread damage and looting by German soldiers. But it was also one of the first estates to be restored, and ongoing work by historians and architects have returned this beautiful estate to its former glory.