The Catherine Palace is one of the must-see palaces in Saint Petersburg. In winter, if you are hesitation between the Catherine Palace and the Peterhof Palace, I would recommend you the Catherine Palace. Some travelers come here, in Tsarskoye Selo or Pushkin, especially for the Catherine Palace Amber Room and interior, others – for the beautiful colors of this palace, and the locals for the pleasant walk in the park. In high season (summer), it can become quite difficult to find tickets. In this blog post, I will talk about how to get there from St Petersburg, how to buy Catherine Palace tickets, and also share with you some tips!
Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo, Amber Room? What are we talking about?
The Catherine palace is easily recognizable among the all the palaces in Saint Petersburg: it is the blue palace. Its particular color makes it easily recognizable, which also gives it a special charm, in summer and particularly in St Petersburg in winter.
The Catherine Palace is thus named in honor of Catherine 1st, Empress of Russia and wife of Pierre 1st – called Pierre-Le-Grand. Yes, nothing to do with the famous Empress Catherine II, it is even said that she found him old-fashioned. It still enlarged the palace during his reign, it is the gallery “Cameron”, named after the architect.
Tsarskoye Selo was the name of the city – well, of the village – in which the palace is built. This city is now called “Pushkin”. Tsarskoye Selo literally means “village of the tsars”. There are several palaces in Pushkin, but when we talk about Pushkin Palace, we are talking about Catherine Palace.
The Amber Room of the Catherine Palace is a part of the palace, covered with amber. Historically, it was a gift from Prussia to Russia in 1716. In 1755 Catherine II finally decided to install this gift in this palace. Then, it “improves” the room by replacing paint panels imitating amber with real amber. In 1941, Nazis steal the whole Amber Room. Today, nobody knows where the original is: perhaps in the golden train of the Nazis, perhaps at the bottom of the water. The replica of the Amber Room at the Catherine Palace was built in 24 years, from 1979 to 2003.
What to see at Catherine Palace (interior) in Tsarskoye selo?
The Catherine Palace is a monument listed as World Heritage by Unesco among all the monuments of Saint Petersburg. It is a Rococo style palace. Among the most beautiful rooms of the palace, we note mainly the Amber Room and the golden row starting with the grand hall. The palace as it exists today consists of successive enlargements.
You need at least 3 hours to visit the interior of the Catherine Palace and the Park. The park is a nice place to spend your time but it is very large.
- 1717 – Catherine 1er commissions a palace from the German architect Johann-Friedrich Braunstein to make a summer residence.
- 1733 – Empress Elisabeth enlarges the palace and entrusts the works to the architects Mikhail Zemstov and Andreï Kvasov.
- 1752 – Empress Elisabeth finally decides to destroy the palace to rebuild a larger one.
- 1756 – The new palace built by the Italian Bartolomeo Rastrelli is finished: it is the one we can see today.
- 1780 – Catherine II decides to build a new wing which she then entrusts to the Scottish Charles Cameron.
- 1796 – After the death of Catherine II, the palace is gradually abandoned in favor of other palaces, in particular the Pavlosk Palace.
- 1820 – A fire destroys most of the rooms, they are subsequently rebuilt by Vasily Stasov.
- 1941 – Nazi Germany besieges Leningrad (but occupies Tsarskoye Selo), dismantles and takes away the amber chamber.
- 1944 – Nazi Germany then destroys the palace by retreating.
- 2003 – The renovation of the amber room is finally finished.
The Amber Room in Catherine Palace
The jewel of the palace is the Amber Room. Let’s be clear, that leaves no one indifferent: either we love or we don’t like. So there is amber everywhere, gold leaf and precious stones. The Amber Room of Catherine Palace can be considered the 8th wonder of the world. The piece thus is estimated at more than 500 million dollars. Photos are not allowed inside the Amber Room.
The grand hall – The gallery of lights
It is the largest room in the palace, which dates back to the time of Rastrelli. It was a reception room of over 800m2. The room occupies the entire width of the palace and therefore has a window on each side. By day, it is therefore a room bathed in light. We therefore understand his name.
Catherine Palace park
Again, I love the parks. The grounds of Catherine’s Palace are very pleasant. It consists of two fairly distinct parts: the regular park and the landscaped park.
The regular park is right in front of the palace. It is through the regular park that we access the whole. Many sculptures adorn this part of the park. There is also the Hermitage building, the Grotto.
The landscaped park is all around the lake. This is where the Marble Bridge is located, the Turkish baths, a pyramid (of Freemasonry?), A Chinese summer pavilion … There are many different influences in this part and we are sometimes surprised to find this style.
There is food and drink in the park (cafe and restaurant) and you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride. The park is very large, the carriage ride is a very good plan if you want to avoid getting tired.
Visiting the Catherine Palace St Petersburg in summer, in high season
The Catherine Palace is popular with Chinese tourists. They are very, very numerous. In China, amber is used in ancestral medicine and is credited with many virtues. This is why the amber chamber is so popular with Chinese visitors.
In high season, therefore, waiting often exceeds 3 hours. To increase the capacity of the palace, 3 tours are planned:
- 1. Access by the main entrance of the palace, in the park. Allows the visit of the amber room, the gallery of lights and the rooms of dwellings. Free tour.
- 2. Access to the corner of the palace and the Cameron wing. Allows the visit of the amber room and the gallery of lights. Free tour.
- 3. Access from outside the palace. Allows the visit of the palace chapel (splendid) and rooms of apartments. Visit only by excursion with a guide.
Good to know: If you want to visit the interior of a palace in high season, choose Pavlovsk Palace! It is quieter and more pleasant than the Peterhof Palace, Catherine, or the Yusupov Palace.
Catherine Palace: how to get to there from St Petersburg?
The Catherine Palace is located in the city of Pushkin, on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg. Pushkin is a city in the agglomeration of Saint Petersburg, so it is the same transport network. That is to say that you can go there by bus, with Podorojnik transport card. The Palace is still located 30km from the city center of Saint Petersburg. It is further than Versailles compared to Paris.
Go to the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo by bus
First you have to go to Moskovoskaya station, by metro, then take a bus or minibus. For example, there is bus 187 but you will have to walk 15 minutes in Pushkin (Pushkin is a charming city, walking there is nice). There is also the K-342 minibus which drops you closer to the park. You can use CityMapper in St Petersburg.
- Price: 105 rubles / slightly less with Podorojnik (1 metro ticket and 1 bus ticket)
- Duration: between 1h20 and 1h40 (including 20mn by metro, the rest by bus)
- Frequency: Every 15/20 minutes
Go to Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye selo by train
It is possible to get to the Catherine Palace from Saint Petersburg with an Elektritchka, a type of TER. First you have to go to Vitebsky station in Saint Petersburg, take the train to “Tsarskoye Selo” station, and take a minibus in Pushkin, or walk 30 minutes in the city. Again, the CityMapper app is ideal.
For the record, the very first train in Russia made this journey, from Saint-Petersburg to Tsarskoye Selo. The line went all the way to Pavlosk. It was built so that the imperial family could go faster and more comfortably to their country palace.
- Price: 165 rubles (train: 60 rubles + 1 bus ticket + 1 metro ticket)
- Duration: around 50 minutes (including 10 minutes by metro, 30 minutes by train, 10 minutes by minibus)
- Frequency: Every 30 minutes
Go to Pushkin by Taxi
For taxis, we recommend the Yandex Taxi application. It is a car service with driver like Uber, Lyft to the Private Driver. Uber exists but cannot be used (see transport in Saint Petersburg).
You can book a taxi in advance via KiwiTaxi for the Catherine Palace. The prices are about the same.
- Price: 1500 rubles (one way in Comfort +)
- Duration: 50 minutes
Catherine Palace: Opening hours
Times vary a lot depending on the season.
- The Park is open every day without exception.
- The Catherine Palace is open from Wednesday to Monday. Closed on Tuesdays.
- You can find all the information about opening hours on the official Palace’s website.
Catherine Palace tickets
You need to buy a park ticket, you visit the Catherine Palace interior, because the entry to the palace is from the park.
Ticket price for the park:
- 120 rubles / around 2 $
- Free from the 3rd weekend from October to the end of April
Ticket price for the Palace:
- 1000 rubles / around 17 $.
- 700 rubles from the 3rd weekend from October to the end of April
There is an audio guide in English for the Pushkin Palace. It is necessary to deposit a deposit (identity card or 1000 rubles). The audio guide for the Catherine Palace costs 200 rubles.
Tip! If you book your ticket for the Catherine Palace online, access to the park is free.
How to buy tickets for Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo?
Long wait in high season (summer and especially White Nights = June). During the summer of 2019, it is common that the waits at the ticket offices of the palace exceed 3 hours! Outside of the high season, there is generally much less waiting.
On the spot. Tickets for Catherine’s Palace can be purchased at the entrance to the Palace, on the left after the front door. There are at least three counters. After purchasing the ticket, you can leave your belongings in the cloakroom, in the corridor to the left of the entrance. Access to the halls of the palace is via the corridor to the right of the entrance door. In winter, you need to put on protective overshoes to access the palace rooms. There is often a long wait before entering the palace. Finally, the entry is made by period of 15mn.
Please note: Once the ticket in hand, you have 1 hour to enter the Palace. Beyond that, it will no longer be valid.
How to buy tickets for the Catherine Palace interior online?
On the official website, you can buy a countermark to exchange at the entrance of the Palace.
The advantages are first to avoid waiting at the cash register and then free access to the park.
The ticket price on the website is the same as on site. You will have to pay by credit card. Tickets go on sale 15 days in advance, at midnight in Saint Petersburg (in Italy: 10 p.m. winter, 11 p.m. summer). However, it is not possible to take a ticket valid for the same day. The number of countermarks on sale is limited each day. You can only buy 4 countermarks per purchase.
The countermark is to be exchanged at the entrance of the Catherine Palace interior. From April to October (when the entrance to the park is chargeable), you can exchange your voucher near the “Porte de l’Église” (see photo). To exchange your voucher, you will need your passport and the confirmation received by email. You can exchange your countermark only from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. (2 hours after opening time in winter, therefore).
In the same way, the ticket is only valid for one hour, you will have to enter the palace quickly. Plan your walk in the park later.
To book your ticket, go to the Palace official website (in English). The visit to the Palace is called “Catherine Palace historic interiors”. As Jean underlines in the comments, there are only 100 tickets on sale per day and the sale is made 15 days before the date. In high season, you have to log in very early to get a ticket.
Catherine Palace guided tour (interior, transport, tickets included)
One of the advantages of a guided tour is that you avoid waiting. Also, you cannot find tickets on the Palace’s official site, that is a good idea to take a guided tour. And of course with an English speaking guide, you will learn much more than when you visit alone.
Where to eat in Catherine Palace and in Pushkin?
There is a small cafe inside the palace, just before the exit, on the right. They serve a few typical small snacks: dranikis and cabbage slippers.
In the park, there is a restaurant which offers a lunch formula at 590 rubles (around € 8.50), as well as another cafe which also offers some snacks.
Besides the Palace, in Pushkin, there are also several restaurants. Of course there are some just outside the palace, but you can also walk around a bit, go to the pretty St. Catherine Cathedral and choose a restaurant in the center, for example the restaurant “Traktir” (Трактиръ “Хлебниковъ”).
Visiting the Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin: in summary
You need probably at least 5 hours to visit the Catherine Palace, its interior and park. If you plan to visit without guide, you will probably pay about 1400 rubles per pers. (20$) including the transport (bus and metro). If you plan to visit with an English-speaking guide, you will pay more, put you won’t have to organize transport ans the whole visit, buy tickets etc.
Hope this post was useful for your visit to the Catherine Palace! 🙂 Find out more about other places to see in St Petersburg below.