What is Gatchina famous for in the first place? Of course, the former imperial residence, which is now a museum. But there are other interesting places in the vicinity of Gatchina. They can be visited as part of a one-day tour.
Great Gatchina Palace
The architectural structure, which is under the protection of UNESCO, looks more like a castle than a traditional Russian palace in the classical style. The residence, built by Rinaldi according to the project of Catherine II the Great as a gift to Grigory Orlov, has become one of the most monumental palaces in St. Petersburg.
What’s interesting to see inside:
You can go down into the tunnel from the ground floor of the palace, near the entrance and ticket offices. Be sure to take a jacket or blanket, which is given at the entrance to the tunnel – even in summer it is very cold downstairs. The tunnel used to lead to Silver Lake, but now the back door is closed.
Marble dining room
This dining room was only used for special occasions. The interior is decorated with 16 columns carved out of Carrara marble, as well as paintings depicting scenes from the life of Dionysus, the god of wine.
If you’re wondering how the mighty slept in the 18th century, don’t miss this room. You will be amazed by the luxurious design, the oversized bed and the overall color scheme, combining light blue silk textiles and gold details.
Upper throne room of Paul I
The walls of the throne room are decorated with French tapestries. The throne itself is carved out of wood, completely covered in gold and red velvet.
Gatchina Park is included in the must-see list of objects that should be seen in Gatchina in one day. It is located behind the palace and is focused on three elongated lakes: Black, Silver and White.
The park was founded at the same time as the Grand Palace. Count Orlov boasted of the beautifully landscaped garden in letters to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and used the park to indulge in his favorite pastime, hunting.
Today, the park is gradually returning to its splendor, but some historic buildings are still destroyed, formal gardens have all but disappeared, and vast parklands are mostly overgrown.
Of the 18th century buildings that have been completely restored, the most interesting is the Birch House. Built in the 1780s as a gift to Paul from his wife Maria Feodorovna, from the outside it resembles a woodpile, but inside it has unusually richly decorated interiors, with exquisite plasterwork and original mirrors.
Also of interest is the Venus Pavilion, which was erected after the visit of Paul I and Maria Feodorovna to the residence of the Prince of Condé in Chantilly.
Another interesting place in Gatchina is the Priory Palace, an extraordinary building that looks more like a Gothic suburban church.
The Priory Palace was to be used as a monastery for knights under the patronage of the Prince of Condé, the French predecessor of the order, who impressed Paul on his travels in Europe. Although the prince never visited Gatchina, and the palace never officially turned into a monastery, the building became a meeting place for the Order.
Later, the Priory Palace became the home of court singers and then hunting masters during the reign of Nicholas I. During the First World War, the palace was used as a hospital, and under the Soviet Union it became the House of Pioneers.