Tsarskoye Selo or Pushkin? Both names still apply to one of St. Petersburg's most famous imperial villages.
Just south of Saint Petersburg in the town of Pushkin, lies the popular Tsarskoye Selo, home to The Catherine Palace and Alexander Palace, the Imperial summer residences of the Tzars and today UNESCO site.
Both royal palaces are surrounded by their respective parks which host thoughtfully manicured grounds, natural landscapes, stately pavilions, elegant bath houses, monuments, sculptures, historical exhibits and ruins from Russia's tumultuous past, all of which are now memorialized as the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve.
History tell us that in the early 19th Century, these palatial estates were known as The Tzar's Village, but in 1937, the name was changed to honor Russia's highly-esteemed poet, Alexander Pushkin, who once resided there.
Certainly at the center of the splendor is Catherine Palace. The building is a Baroque masterpiece gifted by Peter the Great to his wife, Catherine in 1708. Originally built to be a country home, it wasn't until years later that Empress Elizabeth hired Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli to expand it into the palace of opulent grandeur we see today.
Tours of The Catherine Palace offer spectacular exhibits, such as the mysterious Amber Room, the Golden Enfilade of staterooms and The Great Hall, where regal dinners and masquerade balls were held. Off the east wing is The Cameron Gallery, an exquisite colonnade designed for strolling, conversing and enjoying the sweeping views of the lush grounds below.
In addition to that you can also take a stroll in the Catherine Park's English and French and Italian-inspired gardens, known as one of Russia's most cherished attractions. Instead, The Alexander Palace is the second royal residence on the grounds of Tsarskoye Selo, and less known than Chaterine Palace so less crowded.
You should know that visitors say they come to explore Tsarskoye Selo multiple times because the more time you spend wandering, the more wonders you'll see.
The creation of the Tsarskoye Selo ensemble in the town of Pushkin, meaning “Royal Village”, is associated with three empresses: Catherine I, Elizabeth and Catherine II. To learn more, click on the links below or scroll down the page.
The Catherine Palace was the summer residence of the Tsars of Russia and their families. It is a simply-shaped block 300 metres long
that is striking for the rich relief work of the walls, making the
building resemble some gigantic organ.
Any visit to the palace starts from the Main Staircase and walk though the so called Golden Enfilade. Once inside you will walk through the following rooms: The Great Hall, The State Study of Alexander I, The Amber Room, The Green Dining Room, The Blue Drawing Room, The White State Dining Room, The Portrait Hall, The Lyons Hall, The Chevalier Dining Room, The Chinese Drawing Room of Alexander I, The Crimson and Green Pilaster Rooms, and many others.
Among them the most impressive rooms are listed below with no particular order.
The Catherine Parks are the most charming places to take a stroll with your family and kids.
The complex park made of beautiful decorative gardens and tree were
created during the reign of Catherine I and II and built by different
European architects. The gardens of the park are filled with quirky monuments, tricky fountains, and a set of different flowers together with neo-classical small and large buildings.
The Catherine Park can be split into two main parts: the Olden Garden and the English Park. The first one is a regular park featuring the following attractions: The Upper Bathhouses, The Lower Bathhouses, The Park Sculpture, The Hermitage, The Hermitage Kitchen, The Morea Column, The Grotto, The To My Dear Comrade in Arms Gate.
The second one is a landscape park featuring the following attractions: The Admirality, The Hall on the Island, The Chesme Column, The Marble Bridge, The Turkish Bath, The Pyramid,
The Gothic Gate, The Tower Ruin, The Red Cascade, The Orlov (Gatchina) Gate, The Granite Terrace, The Girl With a Pitcher Fountain, The Concert Hall, The Kitchen Ruin, The Creaking Summer House, The Evening Hall, The Monument to Alexander Lanskoi, The Kagul Obelisk
Catherine's Private Garden.
The Alexander Palace was begun in 1792 and intended by Catherine II for her beloved Alexander, on the occasion of his marriage to the daughter of the Margrave of Baden. The construction of the building was designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and completed in May 1796.
The palace is known for having been the place where the last Tsars spent their final days before they were arrested by the Bolsheviks and the literary school museum where the poet Alexander Pushkin studied. Today it's currently undergoing restoration and a reopening date has not yet been announced.
The Alexander Park is equally admired for its historical significance, with the Chinese Village and St. Fyodor's Imperial Cathedral gracing its wilder, more natural setting. Nicholas II, who was born at Tsarskoye Selo, gave the palace and the park the status of an official imperial residence. Today the park is divided between the New Garden, and the Landscape Park.
The first one present the following attractions: The Large Chinese Bridge, The Krestovy Bridge, The Mushroom Flowerbed, Mount Parnassus, The Dragon Bridge, The Chinese Theater, The Small Chinese Bridges, The Chinese Village.
The second one hosts the following attractions: The Arsenal, The Chapelle, The Children's House, The Imperial Farm, The Pensioner's Stable, The Horses Cemetery, The Llama Pavilion, The Elephant Gate, The White Tower, The Martial Chamber.
INFO ABOUT CATHERINE PALACE
May and Sep: Wed to Sun 12:00 - 17:00. Jun - Aug: Wed to Sun 12:00 -
19:00; Mondays: 12:00 - 20:00. Closed: Tuesdays. October through late
April entry hours: 10:00 - 17:00 Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 - 20:00 on
working Mondays. Closed on Tuesdays and the last Monday of each month.
Entry hours for individual visitors during national and school holidays: 12:00 - 17:00 (12:00 - 20:00 on Mondays). All other times are reserved for organized groups.
Palace tickets include Catherine Park entrance fee and are available from 10:00 only at two entrances to Catherine Park (Main Entrance near Lyceum and Hermitage Kitchen). Daily quantity of tickets is limited.
Admission: 13:00 - 16:00: Adults - Rubles 720; Students (with ID), Schoolchildren above 16 - Rubles 360; Visitors under 16 - free. 12:00 - 12:40 and 16:20 - 18:40 (Mondays 16:20 - 19:40). Adults - Rubles 520; Students (with ID), Schoolchildren above 16 - Rubles 260; Visitors under 16 - free. Audio-guide (English, French, German, Chinese): Rubles 150.00.
Individual Guided Tour - Rubles 5,000: admission includes park fee, escort to palace via VIP Room, guided tour in English.
INFO ABOUT CATHERINE PARK
Open: Daily, 7:00 - 23:00 (May 1 through Jul 31), 7:00 - 22:00 (Aug 1-30), 7:00 - 21:00 (Sep 1 through Apr 30).
Admission: Adults - Rubles 120, Students (with ID), Schoolchildren above 16 - Rubles 60, Visitors under 16 - free (Ticketed admission 10:00 - 19:00 from April 27 through October 20. Keep your park ticket - you will need it at Catherine Palace's ticket offices!). Park fee currently includes admission to: Grotto, Maids of Honour Garden, Hanging Garden.
Photo and video are included, and both Catherine Palace and the Park complex are wheelchair accessible.
INFO ABOUT ALEXANDER PALACE AND PARK
1 September 2015, the Alexander Palace has been closed for restoration
and is no longer open to the public. The date of re-opening for the
palace has not yet been announced.
Open: Daily, 9 am to 11 pm. Small gates near Alexander Palace and Lyceum open 24/7
Photo and video: Free
Accessibility note: The Alexander Park is wheelchair accessible
You can buy tickets at the ticket office located outside of the main entrance, or much better, through the official online website.
In the event you hire a tour guide or you are part of an organized tour group, tickets will be provided to you by those who organize your tour. The same works for visiting Alexander Palace and the Park. Please remember, if you buy tickets online you have to change them at a small booth upon your arrival in Tsarskoye Selo.
Tsarskoye Selo is 30 kilometers south of St. Petersburg, about 45 minutes drive.
To get there you can take the train and the bus, or go by car. From St. Petersburg's Vitebsk Station, take a train to Detskoe Selo Station, from there you can walk to Catherine's Palace (20min), or you can take the bus N371 or N382, which will take you directly to the park gates.
Otherwise, you can also go to Moskovskaya metro station which is not to be confused with Moskovskaya railway station. After exiting the metro station look for the big statue of Lenin on the big square, and look for the Mashrutkis N342 or N545, both go to Pushkin.
Alexander Palace is around 10 minute walk from the Catherine Palace along Dvortsovaya avenue.
Alternatively, you can rent a car with a driver and travel faster, safer, and stress free.