My first day in St. Petersburg had been quite packed, but I still had so much to see! During the next two days, I continued exploring Peterhof, the summer residence of the tsar, Alexander Nevsky Monastery, and the Hermitage Museum.
Follow the continuation of my discovery of the northern capital of Russia!
I wanted to get to Peterhof Palace as early as possible before it got too busy, and even though I didn't make it on time to take the first hydrofoil, I managed to get the next one at 10:30AM.
The Hydrofoil left from Admiralty Embankment, the exact same place where I took the cruise the previous day. The ride was included with my CityPass, and it only took about 30 minutes to arrive in the summer palace.
The complex has two different tickets: the entrance to the Lower Park and fountains, that you have to purchase as soon as you get off the hydrofoil, and the entrance to the Grand Palace, purchased once inside.
The entrance to the Lower Park has a price of 500 rubles (approx. €7) and gives access to the parkland of the palace with the wonderful gardens and fountain show. The walk is just spectacular, and if you've been to the palace of Versailles, you will notice some resemblance: after all, the gardens were designed in a French style trying to look even more impressive than the original.
I had read everywhere online that queues to visit the interior of the palace could last for hours, and as tickets are limited, I didn't want to miss my opportunity to visit the inside.
I went there at the end of the summer months, and it only took me about half an hour to purchase my tickets and get inside the palace. The ticket had a price of 600 rubles (approx. €9), and there also was an audio guide for an additional 500 rubles (approx. €7.5). Although a bit pricey, it is probably worth it to better understand the history of this magnificent place; I would've definitely got it but I didn't have enough local currency exchanged.
The Grand Palace in Peterhof was built for Peter the Great to compete with the Versailles Palace of the French monarchs. It served as the summer residence of the tsars for centuries; a place of retreat outside of the city centre of St. Petersburg where the Winter Palace was located. The palace was also designed by Rastrelli, but it underwent multiple renovations during the reign of Catherine the Great.
Even though the exterior is not too ornate, the inside has a spectacular decoration that has nothing to envy to its French rival. The biggest highlights were the rich ballroom and the white and turquoise throne room. There aren't enough words to describe the rich decoration, and as photography inside was strictly forbidden and I can't show you, you need to see it yourself!
The visit to the palace and the gardens took me a good 5 hours. After enjoying another stroll through the gardens and waterfalls of the complex, I headed back to the port to catch the next hydrofoil that would bring me to St. Petersburg. They leave every 30 minutes, so it makes it the most convenient way of transport to arrive in Peterhof.
I still had all the afternoon free to explore, but I was exhausted after walking in Peterhof for hours. I realised that my CityPass included the hop-on-hop-off bus, and even though I'm not a big fan of this type of buses, I decided to go for a ride.
It turned out to be quite interesting; the commentary gave me additional information about the monuments of St. Petersburg that I wasn't aware of, and I also discovered some other places that passed completely unnoticed during my first day.
I also took advantage of the bus and visited St Michael's Castle and the Summer Garden. I didn't get that far during my first day, and I loved the area.
The castle was a former royal residence that has been now transformed into an art exhibition. The gardens were founded by Peter the Great and it is one of the favourite spots of the locals to go for a walk. The garden is decorated with marble statues and beautiful fountains; I'd highly recommend it for a relaxed stroll.
After the hop-on-hop-off bus, I headed back to the hotel, visiting the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas on the way. This visit wasn't really planned, but I could see the beautiful blue towers rising among the trees from the distance, so I couldn't resist taking a peek.
This baroque Orthodox cathedral was the shrine of the Russian Navy up until the Revolution, and it consists of two churches: St. Nicholas Church on the first floor, and the Epiphany Church located on the second floor. Such a great discovery to finish my day!
In my third day, the big highlight would be the visit to the Hermitage Museum in the afternoon, but as I had a bit of free time before the guided tour, I visited the Alexander Nevsky Monastery early in the morning. The monastery is located outside the city centre, but easily reachable by metro; the Ploshchad Aleksandra Nevskogo station is right outside the entrance.
The complex is one of the most important monasteries in Russia, and it also has a cemetery where some of the most important figures of the country rest.
I started with the visit to the cemetery, which is actually divided into two sections, each of them with their own entry ticket costing 500 rubles (approx. €8).
I only visited the Necropolis of the Art Masters, which has the tombs of the famous composer Tchaikovsky, the writer of 'Crime and Punishment' Fyodor Dostoevsky, as well as other important names of Russian arts such as Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov
After visiting the cemetery and crossing the bridge, I reached is Alexander Nevsky Monastery, founded by Peter the Great near the place where the Russians defeated the Swedes in the Northern War. The monastery used to have up to 16 churches, but today only 5 remain.
The day was quite rainy, which made it hard to walk through the gardens, but the lack of tourists also made the place even more special. The monastery is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Russia, and almost everyone there were locals going to pray.
When the rain ceased, I took the metro back to the city centre, and before going to the Palace Square for my Hermitage tour, I stopped to visit the Trinity Cathedral.
Built at the beginning of the 19th century, it's one of the biggest in St. Petersburg, with space for over 3.000 visitors. The structure was badly damaged during the wars of the 20th century, but thankfully, it has been recently restored to its original splendour, becoming a World Heritage Site in the 90s.
Like most Orthodox churches, the interior was quite modest, but the outside was just stunning! You can see the massive cupola from the distance, painted in shining blue and decorated with golden stars.
After lunch, I headed towards Palace Square, where I would meet my guide for a 3h private tour of the Hermitage Museum. The Hermitage had been in my bucket list for years, and it didn't disappoint! The museum has one of the best collections of international art, not to mention the impressive decoration of the state rooms.
The tour was one of the highlights of my visit to St. Petersburg; have a look at what this incredible museum has to offer in my post of the Hermitage Museum: a visit to the Winter Palace of the tsars.
My visit to the Hermitage lasted about three hours, but I could've been there for days! My third day in St. Petersburg had come to an end, but I still had two more days to enjoy Catherine Palace in Pushkin and Peter & Paul Fortress!
All opinions are my own.