One of St. Petersburg's most popular attractions, the palace and park at Peterhof (also known as Petrodvorets) are often referred to as "the Russian Versaille." Peter the Great took his inspiration from Versaille when he chose to build the imperial palace. Like almost all of St. Petersburg's suburban estates, Peterhof was ravaged by German troops during the Second World War. Thanks to the work of military engineers and over 1,000 volunteers, most of the estate's major structures had been fully restored by 1947.
The town of Pushkin, which surrounds the Tsarskoe Selo estates, is St. Petersburg's most charming suburb. Renamed in Soviet times to honour Russia's greatest poet, the town has numerous sights connected to Alexander Sergeevich, including a museum in the former Imperial Lycee, where he was schooled. Built for Empress Elizabeth by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the architect of St. Petersburg's Winter Palace, the Catherine Palace is undoubtedly Tsarskoe Selo's top attraction, particularly renowned for the extraordinary Amber Room.
Presented to Tsar Pavel by his mother, Catherine the Great, Pavlovsk is the youngest of the grand imperial estates around St. Petersburg. While it may lack the dazzling splendour of the estates at Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof, Pavlovsk is well worth visiting – both for the treasures in the elegant palace and for the charming park, which is one of the largest and finest English-style landscaped gardens outside of the United Kingdom.
During the Revolution and Civil War, Gatchina was the site of two major events: the final fall of Kerensky's Provisional Government in 1917 and Trotsky's defeat of the final advance of the White Army from Estonia in July 1919. The palace and park were opened to the public soon after the Revolution and also served as a museum until occupied by the Nazis in 1941. Occupation brought severe damage to the palace and park and restoration work still continues over 60 years later.