Gold in abundance at the Russian Versailles
Just 25 kilometres to the south of Saint Petersburg, in the town of Pushkin, lies the splendid Tsarskoye Selo imperial palace, also known as Catherine Palace. Stand back and admire the façades all around with their gleaming gilded walls and bright-blue stucco. As you enter the enormous Great Hall, built in 1752 by Empress Elizabeth I, listen to your steps echoing on the parquet floor. Above your head, an 800-metre-square fresco proudly depicts Russia's triumphs using strong allegories and historic figures.
Outside, a park covering over 100 hectares is waiting to impress with its symmetrical flower-beds à la française and its dense wooded areas. As you stroll along the corridors in the small pavilion of the Cameron Gallery, bronze busts of unparalleled craftsmanship depicting great figures from antiquity look down on you from either side. It is hard to imagine a more grandiose palace, leading some to call it the Russian Versailles after the famous palace of Louis XIV of France.
Garden St, 7 Pushkin
Saint Petersburg 196601
+7 812 466-66-69
Discovering the jewels of the tsars
In the Kremlin complex in Moscow, why not visit the unusual Armoury Chamber? Designed as an arsenal for the imperial army, the building combines the symmetry of neoclassical architecture with the exuberance of traditional orthodox arts. In its rooms, the treasures of the Russian tsars are laid out in sumptuously decorated showcases. Look one way and you will see a golden crown, dating from the Renaissance, sitting gloriously on a velvet cushion. Look another way and a Fabergé egg, one of those exquisite pieces crafted as gifts for the tsarinas, catches you eye. Further on, the Orlov diamond cannot fail to dazzle with its whitish tinge and 189 carats. You will leave the palace with stars in your eyes.
+7 495 697-03-49
A break in the green surroundings of Tavricheskiy Palace
Tavricheskiy Palace, one of the most imposing palaces in Saint Petersburg, is a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture. Commissioned in 1783 by Prince Potemkin, it soon became a superlative model for other aristocratic residences with its symmetrical lines, vast dimensions and peristyle with eight columns. Take time out in its extensive parklands laid out in the English style over 21 hectares.
Set in the heart of the city on the banks of the Neva River, the park has become a real haven of peace and quiet for travellers and locals alike. Relax for a while beside one of the lakes and admire the strict Palladian lines of the Tavricheskiy Palace in the distance.
Potomkinskaya Ulitsa, 2
Saint Petersburg 191123
An artistic interlude on the banks of the Neva
With 1,052 rooms, 117 staircases and 1,945 windows, numbers relating to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg are enough to make your head spin. To get some idea of its colossal size, take a look at the building from the opposite side of the Neva. From there, the blue and white façades stretch as far as the eye can see and are mirrored perfectly in the river below. Built by Empress Elizabeth I, the palace is now one of the many buildings that make up the Hermitage Museum. As you walk through its rooms with their opulent decor, stand a while in front of Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna Litta. Or maybe Van Dyck's self-portrait or Monet's Poppy Fields are more to your liking?
Palace Embankment 32
Saint Petersburg 190000
+7 812 571-34-65
In the footsteps of the composer Tchaikovsky
Commissioned by Catherine II, better known as Catherine the Great, the Tsaritsyno Palace in Moscow is the largest Neo-Gothic building in Europe. It is an absolute architectural gem set in the middle of extensive parkland. Take a walk along its pathways and admire the imperial palace from all angles. In a clearing, off the beaten track, you will come across the concert hall. Further on, a cavalry building has been completely restored and causes quite a stir with its red-brick and white-columned walls. As you breathe in the pure fresh air of this vast estate, it is not hard to imagine the great composer Tchaikovsky seeking inspiration among the trees that he loved so much.
Dol'skaya Ulitsa, 1
+7 499 725-72-87