Saint Petersburg


A Century of Museums


“A Century of Museums” is the title of a project to celebrate 100 years of the museums in the former imperial residences in the suburbs of St. Petersburg: Gatchina, Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk.

The main event of the year is a major exhibition entitled “Keep Forever. 100 Years of Museum Life in the Suburban Residences”, but that starts only in September. In the meantime, you can take advantage of the warm weather to take a detailed look at the suburban parks. At one time the French ambassador, struck by the beauty of the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, exclaimed that all that was needed was a casket in which to keep this jewel. Experts call Gatchina “the suburban Hermitage” and Peterhof “the Russian Versailles”. The poet Vasily Zhukovsky celebrated Pavlovsk’s “romantic provinciality” and described it as a “ceremonial backwater”.



Gatchina is one of the most dynamically developing and improving suburbs of the Northern Capital and is rapidly gaining in popularity. This summer the new tourist project “Weekends in Gatchina” has been launched. There are two alternatives to choose from. The one-day “Imperial Gatchina” programme includes a visit to Gatchina Palace and a dramatized walking tour of the town. The two-day tour “Gatchina — Heart of the Necklace of Palaces” begins with coach tour entitled “Ensembles of St. Petersburg’s Squares”, continues with a stroll around Peterhof and finishes with the dramatized tour “Secrets of Old Gatchina”. On the second day visitors are taken around Gatchina Palace and on a trip to Tsarskoye Selo. Vasily Pankratov, Director of Gatchina Museum-Reserve, says the idea of weekends in Gatchina was raised long ago and is ideal for the summer season. Also, don’t miss Gatchina’s special events in July: “Night of Music” (7 July), “Operetta-Park” (13—15 July) and “Jazz Weekend” (28—29 July).



Many prominent architects, sculptors and landscape gardeners worked at Pavlovsk, but the leading role in the creation of “ceremonial-provincial” Pavlovsk was played by the Scottish architect Charles Cameron, invited to Russia by Catherine II in 1779. It was he who made Pavlovsk so dissimilar to Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo, whose intricate baroque structure look like quaint toys against the background of the severe northern nature. What strikes you at Pavlovsk is the harmony of the architecture and its natural surroundings. An especially popular summer event is the “Imperial Bouquet” International Festival of Floral and Landscape Art (21—22 July).



That is a soubriquet often applied to the town of Pushkin, which is associated with Alexander Pushkin, Innokenty Annensky, Anna Akhmatova and Nikolay Gumilyov. However, what comes into most people’s minds when the town is mentioned is the Tsarskoye Selo Museum-Reserve. Construction of an imperial residence on the site of the Swedish Saar Manor (from which it gets its name) began in the first quarter of the 18th century. The palace — sumptuous and luxuriant but light and airy, was designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. In Catherine II’s reign Charles Cameron added a section in the ancient style: the Cold Baths with the Agate Rooms, the Hanging Garden and the Cameron Gallery, all reminiscent of Ancient Roman baths. One of the principal attraction at Tsarskoye Selo is the legendary Amber Room in the Catherine Palace. Between 1792 and 1800 Giacomo Quarenghi built the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo — a century later it became the favourite residence of Nicholas II and his family.

Incidentally, the souvenirs on sale here are some of the most original: “Toys of the Imperial Children” (an incredibly attractive range of board games and drawing sets) and “Bathing Imperial-Style” (birch twigs, banya clothes and bags for bathing prerequisites with the museum-reserve’s logo and a picture of the “Lower Bath” Pavilion).



Many people head for Peterhof just to admire the fountains: the captivating panorama of the Grand Cascade consisting of 64 fountains, including “Samson Tearing the Lion’s Jaws” and 225 sculptural decorations. But the fountains are just a small part of Peterhof’s attractions — there is also a Museum of Playing Cards, island pavilions in Kolonistsky Park, shady avenues in the Alexandria Park, the Palace Telegraph Station and the “Farm Palace”.

Another place of interest in Peterhof — not a museum, but a gastronomic attraction — is the “Duck & Drake” pub in the New Peterhof Hotel (34 Sankt-Petersburgsky Prospekt. T: 319 2699). Head chef Nikolay Akulichev treats customers to classic Russian and international cuisine, including dishes with duck (naturally). Check out the special summer offer: “Red and Black” (tomato soup with mussels and garlic buckwheat), “Yin and Yang” (salmon in white and black sesame seeds with buckwheat noodles) and the “Northern Venice” dessert (sour cream and blueberry cake on a bed of savoiardi biscuits).



However, it should not be forgotten that strolls in the suburbs are not limited to the imperial palaces and parks. You can also stroll and breathe the fresh air in Sestroretsk, a small town on the Gulf of Finland, especially as it has places of interest to lovers of Russian history. Not far from Sestroretsk on Razliv Lake there is a museum devoted to Lenin, built on the site of the legendary straw cabin where the leader of the Russian revolution hid from his pursuers. And at Repino there is “Penaty” — the estate of the Russian artist Ilya Repin, now a museum. But if you just want a walk you can head for the shore of the Gulf of Finland with its sand dunes. The waves in the Gulf — transparent blue in sunny weather and steely grey on cloudy days — are conducive to a quiet, unhurried stroll by the water. And when you have worked up an appetite there are lots of restaurants along the coast between Sestroretsk and Zelenogorsk. Connoisseurs of steaks, Russian cuisine and a dacha menu will enjoy the “Stroganoff Bar & Grill” in Repino (418 Primorskoye Shosse. T: 702 4728). It is designed in the style of a St. Petersburg dacha: massive tables, soft leather chairs, large windows, light spacious rooms and two terraces. On the ground floor is the restaurant’s own bakery selling pizzas, bread, pies, cakes and pastries. There is a “Relax Bar” on the roof: a barman, barbecues on a professional grill, concerts and professional deejay sets in the evening. Families with children have all they need for quiet relaxation: a children’s room, an outdoor playground with a little house, swings and everything necessary for open-air activities. The special offers from head chef Vyacheslav Morochkovsky include “Lamb on a Grill” (every Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and interesting sets: “Fish” (grilled squid, tiger prawns in crispy noodles, fish ‘n’ chips with three sauces) and “Meat” (brisket with cole slaw and barbecue sauce, “Buffalo” chicken wings with celery and blue cheese sauce, barbecued pork ribs and nachos with salsa).

The family suburban restaurant “Ryba at the Dacha” (Letter A, 319 Primorskoye Shosse, 41st km. T: 918 6970) invites you to try Italian, Georgian and Russian cuisine prepared by Oleg Babaitsev. The restaurant’s unique location on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, its superb dacha food, its own smoking-shed, its varied menu, its large children’s playground and balloon make it an ideal place for family relaxation in the country. On 7 and 14 July the Juventus FC Academy is holding a football camp for children. Young visitors will be taught football skills on the green by the restaurant. There is no charge for taking part.

There will be a separate Fan Zone on a pier on the bank of the River Sestra for the duration of the World Cup (until 15 July).

Best Places by Where Rating

Where St.Petersburg

August 2019

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