Most visitors to St Petersburg do make it out to Peterhof to see the spectacular Peterhof Museum and Estate, built by Peter the Great as a summer residence on the edge of the Gulf of Finland, and from where he could keep track of building by looking out east towards his city, and north towards the island fortress of Kronstadt. But it would be a shame if a quick 3 or 4 hour bus excursion from the city was all you got to see of Peterhof. The palace can indeed be seen on a brief excursion, but to truly experience the Russian Versailles you need much more time to wander through the elegant parkland and gardens, dotted with world-famous fountains, chapels, cottages, follies and other constructions left by generations of the imperial family over the 200 or so years they lived here.
Peterhof itself is a small and clean town which is worth a walk around to enjoy its early 20th century and Soviet urban architecture, its unique and picturesque ponds and canals which feed into the palace's fountains, and the recently restored polychrome brick church of Sts Peter and Paul, one of the last to be constructed in the country before the revolution and which despite housing the Nazi artillery during the occupation, remained relatively unscathed.
Visit the sanatarium to taste the nutrient-rich mineral waters, housed in brick buildings that look like an Oxford college.
Tour the Raketa watch factory, based in the center of the town, which still makes world-famous Soviet-themed watches for a new audience of fashionistas.
Take a themed bike excursion to learn more about the rich history of this exceptional town and enjoy some fresh air from the nearby Gulf.
Then enjoy a visit to a spa or dinner and drinks in one of the quality hotels that can be found in the center of this small town. By staying over you'll be almost the only visitors left after the crowds of buses and boats have returned to the city, and you can imagine yourself a Romanov as you stroll through the elegant parks in almost splendid isolation!
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