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Peterhof (in Russian: Петерго́ф) or Petergof (Dutch/German for "Peter's Court"), known as Petrodvorets (Russian: Петродворец) from 1944 to 1992, is a municipal town within Petrodvortsovy District of the federal city of Saint Petersburg, on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland.
The town is famous for its a series of palaces and gardens known as the Peterhof Palace, laid out on the orders of Peter the Great, and sometimes called the "Russian Versailles", but also for the "Petrodvorets Watch Factory - Raketa", a 300 years old Russian watch manufacture. The palace-ensemble along with the city center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area was extensively damaged during World War II during occupation by Nazi Germany. Reconstruction efforts began almost immediately following the war, and they are still underway. Peterhof also hosts one of two campuses of Saint Petersburg State University.
Peterhof is a Dutch and German word meaning "Peter's Court". Peter was fascinated by the West and took on many of its customs in his court, switched to the Julian calendar, and so on. Western European influence is abound in the Peterhof, called the Russian Versailles. Peter played an active role in the layout and design of the Peterhof ensemble that he started in 1714, although it continued to be developed after his death. In 1721 Peter the Great also founded next to his palace the Peterhof Fabric that later became the "Petrodvorets Watch Factory - Raketa" producing since 1962 the famous Russian watches under the brand "Raketa" in honor of Yuri Gagarin.
New and Old Peterhof
Sometimes it is useful to speak of New Peterhof (Russian: Новый Петергоф, Novy Peterhof) and Old Peterhof (Russian: Старый Петергоф, Stary Peterhof). New Petergof is in the area with the palaces and parks. Old Peterhof is that area to the west, on the way to Lomonosov.
World War II
Before the German occupation of Peterhof, attempts were made to remove or bury Peterhof's treasures. The efforts were somewhat successful. Despite the attempts, the area was extensively looted, vandalized, and damaged during the war. It was renamed Petrodvorets (Russian: Петродворец, Peter's Palace) following World War II because of anti-German sentiment. In 1997, it was renamed back to Петергоф.
Visitors on a tour package are likely to have Peterhof on their itinerary. Nonetheless, there are several methods for travelers to visit Peterhof.
Visitors can take a hydrofoil between Peterhof and Saint Petersburg. Tickets can be bought behind the Hermitage museum (also known as the Winter Palace) on the Neva River. The time to Peterhof is roughly 45 minutes. It is the fastest and most expensive (about 450 RUR for a ticket) way to get from Saint Petersburg to Peterhof. The trip is often touted as offering great views. Some, however, find this a disappointing overstatement.
There are two hydrofoil companies (Russian Cruises , 450 RUB one-way ticket and Vodokhod ), each offering a discount rate for a return ticket if original ticket from their company is present. However, from time to time one of them becomes out of service--which leads you to paying full amount for a return trip as well.
If you arrive by hydrofoil and want to leave lower park for eating out, there's a trick on how to return without paying admission fee for the second time. Ask for details upon arrival in the ticket office at the pier.
In Saint Petersburg take the train from Baltisky station to New Peterhof.
Buy the ticket to ‘NOVYJ PETERHOF’ (means ‘new Peterhof’) and get into the commuter train. In 45 minutes you will be in Peterhof. Watch station signs closely and know the cyrillic spelling beforehand as there are no announcements or signs on the train. After you get off the train you shall take one of the buses that park on the square in front of the train station. Numbers are 350, 351, 352, 356. Fifth stop is yours – Peterhof Parks. You can also walk from the station to the park which takes approx. 40 minutes. Get to know the route beforehand - there are no signs in town.
Bear in mind that commuter trains from Baltisky station go to different routes, so you need to get into the train to Oranienbaum 1 (Russian: Ораниенбаум 1), Kalische (Russian: Калище), Lebyazhye (Russian: Лебяжье) or straight to Novyj Peterhof (Russian: Новый Петергоф).
Buses run from Baltisky station to Peterhof. Bus numbers are this an that. Tickets are inexpensive and buses run frequently. Bus number 200 will bring you to the fountains and palace.
By Metro and Minibus
Take the subway down to ‘AVTOVO’ station (red line), cross the street and take one of many minibuses, for ex. #424, #224. They all have big sign ‘ФОНТАНЫ’ which means ‘fountains’. Minibus will bring you directly to the entrance of the Upper Park in 30 minutes. Don’t forget to tell the driver where you want to get off the bus.
These are the yellow minivans. They are small and pack as many passengers as possible inside them.
Could be expensive, however.
Highway A121 (several local names) which goes east-west.
Walking is the practical way to get around Peterhof.
There is a gas station in Old Peterhof (near the old watch factory).
Peterhof  offers the visitor a suburban atmosphere with plenty of parks, gardens, fountains, and palaces to see.
The "Petrodvorets Watch Factory - Raketa" is open for visits from Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm. call before hand: +7 926 633 73 68 . It is worth to visit both in one day, Peter's Palace and the watch factory.
The Peterhof ensemble
Many of the palaces are now museums. Hours and days of operation vary, however, almost everything is closed on the last Tuesday of each month.
The fountains operate from May to mid-October every day of the week from 11AM-5PM.
The Petrodvorets Watch Factory - Raketa
While you are there you may visit one of the last watch manufactures in the world producing its own movements from A to Z and certainly the last one in Russia. It is Russia's oldest factory in activity. It was founded by Peter the Great in 1721 and watches are produced under the Raketa brand since Gagarin's flight to space in 1961. It is best to call the factory before hand to organize the visit. (+7 926 633 7368 / [email protected]) closed on week-ends.
While you are there go and see the beautiful church directly opposite upper park entrance.
World War II memorial
This memorial is known locally as The Cannons. The memorial is located in Old Peterhof at the T-intersection of A121 and Petergofskaya Ulitsa (Russian: Петергофская Улица, Peterhof Street). On the east side is a small graveyard and obelisk and on the west side are some disabled artillery pieces.
Walk up and down the street to Saint Petersburg and see the palace, gardens, and fountains for which Peterhof is known.
Note: The word "dvoika" implies a not-so-sharp person, someone who scored "2" in lots of classes.
In this particular case, the word "dvoika" comes from the Soviet time, when all shops in every city had their unqiue numbers. Cafe Dvoika is located on the premises of the old groceries store no.2, that is where the name comes from.
Most, likely all, kiosks along your way and near the bus stops offer alcoholic drinks.
There are a few hotels in Peterhof. Saint Petersburg, however, has plenty.
There is a free Wifi access point "Obit" around the palace.