Peterhof is the former country retreat of the imperial family, a huge palace and park ensemble. It was founded in 1710. The general plan of Peterhof was drawn up upon the sketches of Peter the Great, who wanted to build something even more grandiose than Versailles. The dominant of the ensemble is the Baroque Grand Peterhof Palace of the XVIII century, with 30 richly decorated and gold-studded rooms. The palace rises above the Grand Cascade leading to the garden area.
The garden area of Peterhof has the Upper Gardens and the Lower Gardens, where you can see 5 cascades and over 150 fountains. The Upper Gardens are laid out upon Rastrelli’s design and are notable for a perfect symmetry, its five fountains are also arranged symmetrically. The compositional center here is the Neptune Fountain decorated with a three-stage sculptural group depicting Neptune and other mythical and real sea animals. The Lower Gardens, besides the Grand Palace, also contain the palaces of Monplaisir and Marly, with the adjoining Chinese Garden, several ponds and a large greenhouse. One of the most prominent parts of the Lower Gardens is the Samson Fountain depicting "Samson tearing apart the lion's jaws", which shoots a 20-meter-high jet of water, marking Russia’s victory in the Battle of Poltava. In general, Peterhof is referred to as a capital of fountains because of their number and artistic merit. Moreover, these fountains can operate independently during the day thanks to the water supply system, developed through the offices of Peter the Great.
During the Great Patriotic War Peterhof suffered huge losses. In September 1941, German troops entered the city and almost instantly began to destroy it. Some palaces (like the English Palace) were irretrievably lost, fountains were destroyed, and parks were ruined and partially mined. The restoration, which began in 1944, is still underway! However, most of the former imperial residence has been restored and is open to the public.
It will take at least a day to go around everything described above. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other interesting things in Peterhof, like the Bath House - a guest house and additional buildings for household use, including for hydrotherapeutic procedures. The Catherine Block is worth visiting to see a rare collection of Russian imperial furniture and the Guriev Service of more than five thousand pieces. The Hermitage pavilion stores the only in Russia operating lifting table of the XVIII century, intended to provide guests with dishes from the kitchen which was located on the lower floor. Here you can also find 124 works of European painters of XVII-XVIII centuries. The "Aviary" Pavilion, like 300 years ago, houses birds living surrounded by murals of the XVIII century.