Tsarskoe Selo

It may lack the fountains of Peterhof, but the palaces and estates of Tsarskoe Selo (or Pushkin as it was known during the Soviet period) are still likely to overwhelm with their scale and opulence. The Catherine Palace has a trademark blue and white facade of some 325 metres, room after room of parquet floors, ceiling-high windows, gilded mirrors, exquisite decorations, silk wallpapers, and gold, gold and more gold wherever you look. The palace suffered some of the worst damage during the Nazi occupation, but you wouldn't know it to look at it now, following decades of highly specialized restoration work which is still ongoing. For many visitors, the highlight of the restoration efforts is the famous Amber Room, an assault on the senses of finely wrought red, yellow, and orange panels, the originals of which were looted during the war and remain buried in forgotten eastern European caves, if you believe the experts. 

Once the opulence gets too much, you can wander round the extensive parklands and enjoy the views. Even when the crowds are at their height, you can still find a quiet spot to sit and relax.

Other sites worth visiting if time allows are the Alexander Palace, and the Lycee where Alexander Pushkin studied. There is also a charming house where Pushkin spent his honeymoon, today called the Pushkin Dacha. The town is also worth walking around, with a couple of fine churches and a 19th century shopping arcade similar to the famous Gostinny dvor in the center of St Petersburg.

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