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Day Trip to Pushkin (Tsarskoe Selo) or Peterhof?

I'm looking at thoughts on which of these out of town palaces to visit. Peterhof has a hydroboat from St Petersburg so the trip is convenient (and shorter). The trip to Pushkin requires a lot more effort. Wondering if it is worth it to go to Pushkin?

Posted by
58 posts

I was in Pushkin last year and went to Catherine's Palace. While Pushkin is a lovely town, Catherine's Palace was very crowded. I regretted not going to Peterhof. I'm just one person's opinion, but if it's easier for you to get to Peterhof, that's what I would do. Enjoy!

Posted by
321 posts

They are both very well worth seeing, but you only spend about 20 minutes total inside the Catherine's palace -that's the only way they can accommodate all the tourist groups.
The grounds are - arguably - more impressive at Peterhof, especially since you can do both the upper and the lower garden. And I love the Gulf of Finland view.
The grounds at Catherine's palace are a little less manicured, but very romantic in an overgrown garden kind of way, with grottos here and there - and far less people per square foot than the lower garden of Peterhof.

One thing is certain: I wouldn't do both Pushkin and Peterhof on two consecutive days - let alone the same day - for fear of goldleaf overload.
Might work better if you manage to squeeze something less Imperial in between (something like Erarta, Naval Museum, or even the Russian museum).

Posted by
4438 posts

I saw the Peterhof Gardens and the Catherine Palace on the same day. I did it by taking a tour which was very efficient. We didn’t wait in any lines. We took the hydrofoil to Peterhof and then were driven to Catherine Palace.

Are you more interested in gardens or interiors? If the former, choose Peterhof. If the latter, see the Catherine Palace.

Posted by
4438 posts

By the way, if you are planning to do this on your own by public transit, I’d choose Peterhof.

Posted by
29 posts

Thanks for all of the replies. Very good information. I was leaning towards going to Catherine's Palace in Pushkin and taking the public shuttle bus (Marshrutka). The palace is open to non-tour groups only during certain times so maybe I'd escape some of the tour crowds. But after reading the comments, and the fact that I do like gardens (and they hydrofoils are always fun), I think I'll head to Peterhof. The Gulf of Finland sounds cool too. Going in mid-September. I appreciate everyone's insight!

Posted by
29 posts

Thanks Steven -
I'd like to see both Pushkin and Pavlovsk and may end up doing that. It looks like Peterhof's Grand Palace is closed the last Tuesday of every month (and Mondays) and of course that is when we are going. It looks like there's a convenient 15-minute shuttle between Pushkin and Pavlovsk so we'll probably try to see both of these areas. I'll save Peterhof for the day I do a Baltic Cruise.

Posted by
4682 posts

This is not definitive for you, but seeing the (100% reconstructed, but with actual materials) Amber Room at the Catherine Palace was a big deal for me. Luckily our organized (river cruise) tours included all three of these palaces. In case you care, it has to be said that the Catherine Palace was deliberately burned to a masonry shell. So (as I say about Germany and Austria) I would rather see something that ISN'T marked "Wiederaufbauen 19XX" [reconstructed].

Posted by
29 posts

I read that Stalin bombed Peterhof in December of '41 and January of '42 so Hitler couldn't have his New Year's victory celebration there.

Follow Up Question:
When Peterhof is closed, is the entire place closed up or just the grand palace? I was considering going there for an hour or so unless it's completely closed up (to see the grounds, enjoy the hydrofoil ride, see the Gulf of Finland).

Posted by
2933 posts

I can't answer your query about Peterhof , since we eschewed it in favor of Pavlovsk ( We visited Tsarskoe Selo on a previous visit ) , but this place in The Gulf of Finland ( easily reached by Metro and Marshrutka ) was a knockout !! The Naval Cathedral of St Nicholas in Kronstadt ( Naval Base of The Baltic Fleet ) is stunning , and the city is beautiful , with numerous points of interest , If you are interested , I can supply easily followed directions - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kronstadt_Naval_Cathedral

Posted by
2933 posts

You will take the M2 ( blue line ) north to the Chornaya Rechka station . When you exit the station , walk straight out to the street , and turn left . When you see the rank of Marshrutkas , cross the street to the opposite side aimed to your left . That rank will be headed in the correct direction , and board # 405 ( these are large , usually white vans ) The fare is three zones , about thirty rubles per zone . The ride will take you out to Kotlin Island , at which point ask the driver " Pajalusta ( please ) Sobor St Nicholas " He will indicate the stop .Bring a print out of a map of the city to aid your navigation and your smart phone ( I use a small pocket compass ) to determine which direction you face . To return , locate The Gostinny Dvor in town where the returning Marshrutkas rank is located . Here is the St Petersburg Metro map - http://www.metro.spb.ru/uploads/img/map/metromap_wcup2018.jpg Kronstadt Gostinny Dvor here - https://www.google.com/maps/place/Gostinyy+dvor/@59.995449,29.7653114,17z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x46964568e2e25fb1:0xa28ec8f5efafeb80!2sGostinnyy+dvor!8m2!3d59.995449!4d29.7675!3m4!1s0x46964568ff1bc2a3:0x8189f485d416114b!8m2!3d59.995894!4d29.7661062 note the Marshrutka 405 stop . Lots of other places to explore while you are there , leave plenty of time !

Posted by
2933 posts

This will take about 45 minutes from Nevsky Prospekt

Posted by
1 posts

If you have one full day, you can actually do both - Pushkin AND Peterhof. It will be a long and busy day, but it's doable, however, involves a little bit more planning.

But if you are choosing between the two, then I'd vote for Peterhof. Yes, the hydrofoil ride is a great plus, too. Also, you have more chances to get into the Grand Palace in Peterhof, than to Catherine Palace in Pushkin.

Starting from 2018 (as far as I know), when they started rationing number of tickets per day (due to health and safety regulations) getting inside of Catherine Palace (with famous Amber Room) for individual tourists in peak season is virtually impossible, cos you simply won't be able to purchase tickets, as they all would have been sold to groups... So it's really worth the money to get on an organized tour and have guaranteed access to the Palace.

Another plus for Peterhof is that you can also visit nearby Kronstadt, which was one of Imperial Russia's great naval bases and played a key role in the Revolution of 1917 and in the Civil War which followed. It was also on the front lines during the Siege of Leningrad in WW2. It is located at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland, and until fairly recently was a closed area; no foreigners were allowed near it.

No matter which site you choose, I hope you'll enjoy it!

Posted by
29 posts

Thanks Sean. Sounds like Kronstadt would be good to see. Steven provided Metro and Marshrutka transportation options from St Pete's Nevsky Prospect. Anyone know the route from Peterhof to Kronstadt?

Posted by
321 posts

There are some buses, but I'd just take an uber/yandex. Should be about a 30 to 40 minute drive via Kronshtadtskoe shosse (which is a little ironic as you can clearly see Kronshtadt from the shoreline of Peterhof). The only problem might be limited uber availability in the vicinity of Peterhof.

Posted by
7 posts

We did both Peterhoff and Catherine's Palace on a private tour, and both are marvellous, but I would say somewhat different. In Peterhoff the gardens are lovely and the fountains are gorgeous, but here a lot depends on the weather. It is beautiful on a nice sunny day, but what if it rains? And in mid-September the weather in St Petersburg must be unpredictable. Also, if you opt on the hydrofoil ride, they are dependent on the weather, too. If it is too windy and the sea is rough, they simply don't run.
In the Catherine's Palace, the interiors are stunning, and the Amber Room is fantastic, although it is newly made. But all what was said about the crowds is true. To be honest, the same is true for the Grand Palace in Peterhoff. If you want to visit one of the palaces, I would definitely advise going with a tour. There is a number of tour companies in St Petersburg who can take you there and purchase your tickets in advance.

Posted by
4 posts

I would vote for Peterhoff. Catherine's Palace is beautiful, but it is VERY crowded, and there is absolutely no way you can get there on your own. The gardens there are not as spectacular as in Peterhoff, either. Getting in Peterhoff Grand Palace also can be difficult, but there is a number of small palaces where you can go. Bath House was very cool. There is a "trick shower" - a minute's water show, which is something different from a million of museums and palaces. It was nice to see.

Posted by
2933 posts

It is true that The Catherine Palace is very crowded ( what is not , these days ? ) , but it is accessible by public transportation . A combination of Metro and Marshrutka ( K bus ) will indeed take you there .

Posted by
29 posts

Happy to say we returned from Moscow and St Petersburg safely after an 8-day visit this past September. In St Petersburg, due solely to a lack of days (4), we opted to take the hydrofoil to Peterhof which was very nice. There was some confusing visiting times posted both online and at the palace itself, but we did get in and toured the palace. Coming back, we detoured to The Naval Cathedral of St Nicholas in Kronstadt based on I believe Steven's suggestion above and the cathedral was very impressive, even stunning. We Ubered there from Peterhof and Ubered back to St Petersburg from Kronstadt. The Uber experience in both Moscow and St Petersburg was smooth and very inexpensive. A 40-minute ride back to St Petersburg was around $12 US. Sad we missed Catherine's palace but enjoyed every minute in Russia.

Posted by
2933 posts

Glad you saw the cathedral , my mouth still hangs open when I pull up the pictures .

Posted by
321 posts

In the spirit of Thanksgiving - thanks for coming back with an update!
So, no Uber wait time issues at Peterhof?
I didn't realise you were also doing a Moscow trip - how did it treat you?

Posted by
29 posts

I thought Moscow was great. Lots of young people enjoying life and great shopping, museums, cathedrals, and subway system. Stayed in the Savoy Hotel near the Lubyanka Metro stop which was within walking distance of the Kremlin. 1st class for around $250/night. Went to the Bolshoi theatre to see Swan Lake. Hung out at both GUM department store and Galeria shopping mall. Went to the Kremlin of course (very cool) and toured the Armory and other buildings there. Even saw Lenin's body which was interesting (white shirt, dark blue suite, polka dot tie, left hand by his side and right hand across the chest in a fist.) Strolled along Ul Arbat and even took the metro out to Ismailovo Market and found one of those classic Russian rabbit hats (not mink like the nice man said). It will be useful for the cold Minnesota winters. Also bought a coffee mug with Putin shirtless on a horse together with Trump shirtless on a different horse. A great gift for a certain friend back home.

Just saw all of the normal touristy things using the metro and Uber. Great interesting museums. Did notice a lot of police and military around town which felt a little odd but considering the location of the Kremlin I guess it makes sense. Didn't hesitate to ask the authorities or others for directions a few times when needed. If they spoke English they were helpful and other locals in town were also friendly. One young gal at a coffee shop was asking us why we would come here. I suppose I didn't have a great answer but we ended up exchanging gift currencies with her. No tours just traveling on our own as we prefer to do. Gorky Park was a little overrated but we did enjoy a nice visit nonetheless. Also saw Novodivechy Convent and Cemetary to see the Yeltsin's and other past Soviet leaders. One of our best trips for sure.

Posted by
29 posts

Oh, and Perilofp - Now that you mention it, we did wait around for a while in Peterhof for an Uber. Maybe 20 minutes or so. Obviously it's very crowded and the logistics of getting picked up were a little bit more confusing for both us and the driver. But overall if wasn't bad at all.

Posted by
29 posts

Thanks Steven - We did an "Ancient Moscow Walk" from one of my books that took us along that area. My memory isn't as good as the pictures shown as I'm trying to remember the colorful church. So much to see!

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience! Envy you a little :)
How was getting around in Moscow by taxi? I heard the traffic there is a disaster.

Posted by
321 posts

Sounds like fun!

As to Gorky park - I agree, I wouldn't do it as a stand alone attraction, but it's great for kids - basically, every single pavilion there has something going on, like a cooking workshop or backyard gardening, or something like that. And the place totally changes after dark - on an average day, there's easily five hundred people doing salsa, flamenco and some obscure Brazilian dancing by the river.

Since Gorky park is more or less a mandatory visit for us, we usually do the route that is good for the kids while keeping the adults relatively happy: we start by Christ the Savior (Kropotkinskaya), cross the bridge behind it and walk past Peter the Great statue to Muzeon park, spend some time there, do a couple of hours at the new Tretyakov, cross the big bridge towards Park Kultury metro for a dinner at a Georgian cafe, and then go to Gorky park proper for kids activities until 8 or 9, followed by dancing on the embankment until about midnight.
Pretty much takes care of the whole day :-)

Posted by
29 posts

Peru logo - Sounds like a nice stroll to the park. We walked along a similar route. Gotta love the massive Peter The Great statue! I also remember getting an inexpensive lunch in the park at an Asian food building.

Beth - We didn’t take any taxis but did Uber a few times. We read that the taxis can be a problem but I don’t know that first hand. Did not experience much road congestion except for our drive in from the airport.

Posted by
7 posts

Escislow, thanks for the info. I am planning to do a land trip to Russia, and maybe do Moscow. I just heard the best way to get around there is underground. Would like to see the famous subway stations looking like palaces.

Posted by
29 posts

Go for it Beth! The subways were neat but be sure to see the palaces, museums, and cathedrals foremost. Just learn the subway routes and study the language a bit and you'll get around very easily. I always like to ride subways and watch the people, look at the clothes they wear, and realize that I'm out of place and not care. Have fun planning.

Posted by
7 posts

Looking forward to it! I remember the subway in St Petersburg, we saw a couple of beautiful stations. That was impressive! I would like to see now the Moscow subway and compare. I guess you saw both? Which one did you like better?

Posted by
29 posts

We wanted to do a "subway tour" in both Moscow and St Petersburg. I believe Lonely Planet has good suggestions for both cities. We only did the book's suggested tour in St Petersburg and it was all right. In either city you can literally get off a stop, walk around for a few minutes, and another train will be there. They seem to stop every 2-3 minutes which was neat. In Moscow, we used the subway quite a lot and the best thing I remember was the super long escalators. Thanks goodness for simple pleasures!

Posted by
11153 posts

The St. Petersburg metro is impressive - until you see the Moscow metro. After Moscow, all the others pale in comparison. Stained glass, mosaics, chandeliers, sculptures - the Moscow metro stations have it all.

Posted by
4124 posts

Been to both Catherines palace and Peterhof. Both are great. I might give Catherine's Palace the edge since it has the amber room.