Just outside The Hermitage along the Neva River you will find uniformed sales agents with flyers offering day trips around St. Petersburg including an excursion to Peterhof. You will want to bypass them and get to the docks along the river.
Booking an excursion to Peterhof with a private guide or on a tour bus is easy and can be a more expensive compared to making your own way to Peterhof. Peterhof is accessible through local buses, trains or the hydrofoils. Overall the hydrofoil trip was more expensive and convenient than trains or buses. It took about 45 minutes and it was comfortable.
Peterhof was the Summer Palace built to emulate The Versailles of France. Located on the Gulf of Finland, about 20 miles from St. Petersburg city center, Peterhof is one of the must visit attractions in St. Petersburg after The Hermitage (part of the Winter Palace).
Built in the 18th century, Peterhof is filled with majestic fountains, statues, cascades, tree-lined avenues and alleys, formal flower beds, trees and royal buildings. The grandest of them all is The Great Palace and The Grand Cascade, with 60 fountains and waters that run through a canal to the Gulf of Finland. In the middle of the cascade is Samson tearing a lion’s jaw, a gold statue designed by Rastrelli. There are over 250 relics and statues at The Grand Cascade, making this the world’s grandest fountain.
Some other highlights to look out for at the Peterhof are:
1. Chessboard Cascade
2. Montplaisir Palace
3. Hermitage Pavilion
4. Marly Palace
5. Lion Cascade
6. Sun Fountain
7. Orangery Garden and Fountain (a place to relax, eat your lunch)
8. Adam and Eve Fountains
List of companies that offer hydrofoil services from St. Petersburg to Peterhof:
Peterhof Express (www.peterhof-express.com)
Russian Cruises (russian-cruises.ru)
We went with Russian Cruises. The price was 650 rubles per way and 1,100 rubles for round trip. We had to give the sales agent the time for our return trip. She then printed the time on the ticket.
According to Peterhof Express’s website, the hydrofoils run from St. Petersburg every half hour from 10 am to 6pm. The return trip from Peterhof to St. Petersburg runs every half hour from 10:30 am to 7 pm.
On arrival at Peterhof pier we headed over to the ticket counters. Everyone spoke only Russian. Somehow we managed to purchase four tickets just to visit the Park and unfortunately omitted the Grand Palace tickets.
A separate ticket was required to visit the Grand Palace and the Upper Garden. The Grand Palace tickets can either be purchased at the pier upon arrival or purchased inside the Grand Palace. We gave up on the idea of visiting the Grand Palace after queuing for over one and a half hours outside the palace with those who had tickets only to find out there was another queue inside the palace.
Another place that requires a fee is the Gothic Chapel.
Note: The park opens daily from 9 am to 10 pm. Fountains only operate from May to early October. The Great Palace is closed on Mondays.