Once the summer residence of the Russian tsars and now a museum, Catherine Palace was named after Catherine I, who had it built in 1717. The structure was later rebuilt into an elaborately decorated Rococo-style palace in 1756 by Bartolomeo Rastrelli under the direction of Empress Elizabeth, meant to rival the Palace of Versailles in France. Today, the palace is famous for its baroque style and neoclassical interior that exemplifies Russian wealth and extravagance. Its main attractions are the Grand Hall, the opulent Amber Room, which is lined with gilded amber wall panels and ornate furniture, and the 1,400-acre (566-hectare) Catherine Park with its masterful landscaping.
The blue-and-gold Catherine Palace is a highlight for visitors to St. Petersburg, from where it makes an easy half- or full-day trip destination. Many travelers combine a visit to Catherine Palace with a city sightseeing tour of Pushkin or stops at Peterhof Grand Palace and Pavlovsk Palace. It’s also possible to combine a palace tour with a tour of St. Petersburg’s most beautiful Metro stations.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Plan to spend at least three hours exploring the palace’s 18th-century decor and exhibits, plus its sprawling park, to which entry is included in general palace admission tickets.
- Lines can get long, especially in summer; consider purchasing tickets in advance or booking a tour.
- Photography is not allowed in the Amber Room, and selfies are not allowed in Catherine Palace at all.
- Official palace tours are typically in Russian, but most tours from St. Petersburg include an English-speaking guide. Audio guides are also available in English and several other languages.
- The palace is wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
Catherine Palace and Park are located about 12 miles (25 km) outside of St. Petersburg in the town of Pushkin (formerly Tsarskoye Selo). To visit by public transport from the city, take a suburban train from St. Petersburg’s Vitebsky railway station to Pushkin and then catch a bus or minibus to the palace. Alternatively, take the Metro to Moskovskaya or Kupchino and then take a minibus to the palace, or book a small-group or private tour that includes hotel pickup and dropoff in St. Petersburg.
When to Get There
Catherine Palace and Park are open year-round, but the park is best visited in late spring when flowers are in full bloom and in fall when the leaves change colors. The palace’s opening hours vary by season, but the site is generally open to the public Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 5pm or 7pm.
Things to See in Catherine Park
After touring Catherine Palace, travelers should definitely check out Catherine Park. More than a dozen pavilions are spread throughout the green space, including the Grotto, the Upper and Lower Bathhouses, the Cameron Gallery, the Creaking Summer House, and the Concert Hall.