Catherine's Palace (Tsarskoye Selo), Saint Petersburg, Russia

In the 1600s, before the rise of Peter the Great, there were many fortified manors on the the land around present-day St. Petersburg. Among them was Saari, which in Finnish meant “High Ground” or “Island”. When Peter the Great finally took Ingria he gave Saari over to his new wife, Catherine, in 1708.

Nearly a decade later, in 1717, Catherine had German architect Johann Friedrich Braunstein created a new Summer Palace at Saari (renamed Tsarskoye Selo or Tsar’s Village), for “her pleasure.” The resulting structure served Catherine and her niece Anna during their reigns in the first half of the 18th century, yet Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine I, found the original building not to her liking, and had it destroyed.

The royal home was replaced with a new Rococo-style palace designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, with extravagant exteriors gilded with over 100 kilograms of gold, disproportionate shapes, and long, heavy architectural elements. Indeed, it was rumored the roof was completely covered with the valuable metal, lending to Elizabeth’s reputation that she was one of the most spendthrift monarchs ever. A total of 1.6 million rubles was spent on the construction (an enormous sum at the time). Moreover, it is said that the palace was pulled down and rebuilt six times during construction.

Among the items Elizabeth decided to retain was the famed Amber Room. The original room, however, lasted only until World War II. When the Germans besieged Leningrad, the Wehrmacht set up its headquarters at the nearby Alexander Palace. Despite a hurried effort by the Soviets to disguise the room with simple wallpaper (they found that the panels were not easily removed without breaking them), the invaders uncovered this treasure among the many others left behind. What happened to these rare panels after this greatest of artistic theft remained something of a mystery. In any case, the Amber Room was reconstructed with new amber panels in a project that took nearly a quarter century to finish. Begun in 1979 using black-and-white photographs of the installed panels taken before the Nazi invasion, its restoration, as with the original installation, was also a joint German and Russian project. Indeed, more than 3.5 million USD was donated to the project.

The abundance of art pieces, columns, and gilding of the Catherine Palace could be considered tasteless by modern-day standards, but it speaks to the wealth of the Romanovs. Indeed, all of Tsarskoye Selo served as a refuge for the Royal Family during the February Revolution of 1917. It was here that “Colonel Nicholas Romanov,” the newly-abdicated last Tsar of Russia, rejoined his family after leaving behind his offices at the Winter Palace for the last time.

The Alexander Palace is still under construction, with a date of reopening as a museum still sometime in the hopefully not-too-distant future. But the Catherine Palace makes a perfect day trip from St. Petersburg. Bring walking shoes, as the palace gardens are wonderful to wander around in as well.
Catherine's Palace (Tsarskoye Selo), Saint Petersburg, Russia
Catherine's Palace (Tsarskoye Selo), Saint Petersburg, Russia

See it on following tours

Rating:
4.91
4.90550926633479

Treasures of Two Capitals

Moscow Saint Petersburg

COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Treat yourself to an outstanding experience of Moscow & St. Petersburg with our 5-star small group tour in Russia. An enhanced itinerary of our signature tour with luxury central hotels & extra tours

Rating: 5.00
From
$3,098

Classic Moscow & St. Petersburg

Moscow Saint Petersburg

COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Unmatched in convenience and price, this 4+ star program takes you through main highlights of Russian capitals in our signature style: best guides, downtown hotels & seamless logistics

Rating: 4.95
From
$2,498

Treasures of Two Russian Capitals

9 days / Private tour
Moscow Saint Petersburg
COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Our private tour of Russia's Moscow & St. Petersburg covers all major highlights in a completely carefree fashion. As always offering top-notch quality and service throughout
Rating: 4.98
From
$3,096

Venice of the North

7 days / Private tour
Saint Petersburg
COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Meet Saint Petersburg, Russia's most beautiful city. Our private St. Petersburg tour shows you the very best of what the city has to offer, from canals to remarkable palaces and imperial estates
Rating: 4.89
From
$2,518

Platinum Russia

Moscow Saint Petersburg
COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Be treated like royalty discovering Moscow and St. Petersburg with the best 5-star hotels, thoroughly designed tours, Russian visas, 1st class train tickets and transfers included in our 5+ star luxury tour
Rating: 5.00
From
$6,794

Russia Northern Lights

11 days / Private tour
Moscow Saint Petersburg Murmansk

COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Discover the majestic Russian winter as you explore its two brilliant capitals, the inspiring Karelia region and make your way north to witness the dazzling Northern Lights.

Rating: 4.87
From
$3,655

Volga Dream St. Petersburg - Moscow

11 days / 5-star cruise
Saint Petersburg Kizhi Island Yaroslavl Uglich Moscow
FREE FLIGHTS: Reverse sailing of the Volga Dream from St. Petersburg. Free limited-time flight credit for airfares to Russia included.
Rating: 5.00
From
$4,396

Treasures of Three Capitals

13 days / Private tour
Moscow Kazan Saint Petersburg

COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Experience the best of Russia's three capitals: the gorgeous Kremlins of Moscow and Kazan and exquisite palaces of St. Petersburg during the 13-day private tour.

Rating: 4.82
From
$3,768

Volga Dream Moscow - St. Petersburg

11 days / 5-star cruise
Moscow Uglich Yaroslavl Kizhi Island Saint Petersburg
FREE FLIGHTS: Don't miss out on our exclusive limited offer: flight credit for airfares to Russia included for the famous Volga Dream cruise.
Rating: 5.00
From
$4,396

Volga Dream Gold Moscow - St. Petersburg

13 days / 5-star cruise
Moscow Uglich Yaroslavl Kizhi Island Saint Petersburg

Set sail on the Volga Dream Gold cruise and see the best of genuine Russia and its two capitals on a 5-star ship.

Rating: 4.99
From
$4,495

Russian Ancient Kingdoms

Moscow Sergiev Posad Suzdal Saint Petersburg
COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Combine your premium experience of Moscow & St. Petersburg with a visit to the heart of ancient Russia, the Golden Ring. Bimonthly guaranteed departures.
Rating: 4.93
From
$3,298

Winter Treasures of Two Capitals

7 days / Private tour
Moscow Saint Petersburg
COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Experience Russia during winter. Resting under the white blanket of snow, Moscow & St. Petersburg expose guests to exciting winter activities
Rating: 4.76
From
$2,485

Volga Dream Platinum Moscow - St. Petersburg

13 days / 5-star cruise
Moscow Uglich Yaroslavl Kizhi Island Saint Petersburg

Get inspired by the beauty of authentic Russian Volga River towns with the Platinum Volga Dream program.

Rating: 4.99
From
$6,245

Private Tour SPECIAL: Treasures of Two Capitals 5*

9 days / Private tour
Moscow Saint Petersburg

Our 5-star private tour to Moscow and St. Petersburg is a dream come true. Choose one of our fixed dates to benefit from the exclusive hotel rates and have it all with our SPECIAL OFFER.

Rating: 5.00
From
$3,248

Private Tour SPECIAL: Treasures of Two Capitals 4*

9 days / Private tour
Moscow Saint Petersburg

Travel to Moscow and St. Petersburg with our hallmark private tour to Russia and take advantage of the SPECIAL OFFER: pick one of our fixed dates and benefit from the exclusive hotel rates. 

Rating: 5.00
From
$2,916

From Saint Petersburg to Beijing

Saint Petersburg Moscow Kazan Ekaterinburg Irkutsk Ulan Bator Beijing

COMPLIMENTARY VISAS An extended journey from Russia to China starting in one of the most beautiful places on Earth - the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg.

Rating: 4.00
From
$7,368

Wonders of Russia

13 days / Private tour
Moscow Irkutsk Saint Petersburg

COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Explore the most incredible places in Russia and discover the best of Moscow, Irkutsk, St. Petersburg and the gorgeous Pearl of Siberia - Lake Baikal.

Rating: 4.88
From
$4,498

Firebird Cruise Moscow - St. Petersburg

12 days / 5-star cruise
Moscow Uglich Kizhi Island Saint Petersburg
FREE FLIGHTS: Exclusive Suites offer on board the 5-star MS Rostropovich - cruise with free flights, luxurious suites, land tours in small groups
Rating: 4.88
From
$4,981

Firebird Cruise St. Petersburg - Moscow

12 days / 5-star cruise
Saint Petersburg Kizhi Island Uglich Moscow
FREE FLIGHTS: Exclusive Suites offer on board the 5-star MS Rostropovich, included free flights and suites on the ship
Rating: 4.88
From
$4,981

Revolutionary Capitals

9 days / Private tour
Moscow Saint Petersburg

COMPLIMENTARY VISAS Follow the traces of the Russian Revolution while exploring Moscow and St. Petersburg sights in 9 days. Find out many secrets of the revolution leader, Lenin, and get an insight of the life of the Russian royal Romanov family.

Rating: 4.92
From
$2,917