The Peterhof Palace is actually a series of palaces and gardens located in Saint Petersburg
, laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. These Palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the "Russian Versailles". The palace-ensemble along with the city centre is recognised as a UNESCO World
The dominant natural feature of Peterhof is a sixteen-metre-high bluff lying less than a hundred metres from the shore.The so-called Lower Gardens (Nizhny Sad), at 1.02 km sq comprising the better part of Peterhof's land area, are confined between this bluff and the shore, stretching east and west for roughly 200 metres.
The majority of Peterhof's fountains are contained here, as are several small palaces and outbuildings.East of the Lower Gardens lies the Alexandria Park with 19th-century Gothic Revival structures such as the Kapella.Atop the bluff, near the middle of the Lower Gardens, stands the Grand Palace (Bolshoi Dvorets). Behind (south) of it are the comparatively small Upper Gardens (Verhnyy Sad).
Upon the bluff's face below the Palace is the Grand Cascade (Bolshoi Kaskad).This and the Grand Palace are the centrepiece of the entire complex. At its foot begins the Sea Channel (Morskoi Kanal), one of the most extensive waterworks of the Baroque period, which bisects the Lower Gardens.
The Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain
The Grand Cascade is modelled on one constructed for Louis XIV at his Château de Marly, which is likewise memorialised in one of the park's outbuildings.At the centre of the cascade is an artificial grotto with two stories, faced inside and out with hewn brown stone. It currently contains a modest museum of the fountains' history.
One of the exhibits is a table carrying a bowl of (artificial) fruit, a replica of a similar table built under Peter's direction. The table is rigged with jets of water that soak visitors when they reach for the fruit, a feature from Mannerist gardens that remained popular in Germany
. The grotto is connected to the palace above and behind by a hidden corridor.
The Lower Gardens
The expanse of the Lower Gardens is designed in the formal style of french formal gardens of the 17th century. Although many trees are overgrown, in the recent years the formal clipping along the many allees has resumed in order to restore the original appearance of the garden. The many fountains located here exhibit an unusual degree of creativity. One of the most notable designs is entitled 'The Sun'.
The Grand Palace
The largest of Peterhof's palaces looks truly imposing when seen from the Lower or Upper Gardens, but in fact it is quite narrow and not overly large. Of its approximately thirty rooms, several deserve mention.The Chesma Hall is decorated with twelve large paintings of the Battle of Chesma, a stunning naval victory of the Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774. These were painted between 1771 and 1773 by the German artist Jacob Philipp Hackert.
The East and West Chinese Cabinets were decorated between 1766 and 1769 to exhibit objects of decorative art imported from the East. The walls were decorated with imitation Oriental patterns by Russian craftsmen, and hung with Chinese landscape paintings in yellow and black lacquer.Another room, positioned at the centre of the palace, bears the name of the Picture Hall. Its walls are almost entirely covered by a series of 368 paintings, mostly of variously dressed women, differing in appearance and even age, yet most were drawn from a single model.
The Grand Palace is not the only historic royal building in Peterhof. The palaces of Monplaisir and Marly, as well as the pavilion known as the 'Hermitage', were all raised during the initial construction of Peterhof during the reign of Peter the Great. The Lower Gardens also contain a large greenhouse, and in the Alexandrine Park stands the palace of Nicholas I.
Like the Lower Gardens, the Upper Gardens contain many fountains, distributed among seven broad pools. The landscaping, though, is entirely different; unlike the Lower Gardens (which are strictly geometric), the Upper Gardens are not. While a few of the fountains have curious sculpture, the waterworks themselves are comparatively unimpressive.