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Gatchina palace

The palace estate at Gatchina, 45km southwest of St Petersburg, was originally home to Peter i the Great’s sister Natalya. It changed hands several times after her death until Catherine bought it and gave it to her lover Grigory Orlov for helping her get rid of her husband Peter III.

It was later passed on to Catherine’s son Paul I, the mentally unstable militarist, who spent most of his time drilling his troops on the parade ground here.

Still impressive, today Gatchina is but a shadow of its former self. The palace, shaped in a graceful curve around a central turret, looks fine from the front, but is falling to pieces around the back. Inside, few of the rooms have been restored (work only began in 1985); the most interesting feature is a tunnel running from the palace to the ornamental lake.

Really, the best reason for coming here is to wander around the leafy park, with its many winding paths through birch groves and across bridges to islands in the lake. Look out for the Birch House (Beriozoy Dom), with a facade made of birch logs, and the ruined Eagle Pavilion (Pavilion Orla).

In the nearby town there are a couple of interesting churches. The baroque Pavlovsky Sobor (ul Gobornaya), at the end of the main pedestrianised shopping street, has a grandly restored interior with a soaring central dome. A short walk west is the Pokrovsky Sobor, a redbrick building with bright blue domes.

Distance from St Petersburg 45km
Direction Southwest
Travel Time One hour
Bus From Moskovskaya metro station bus No 431
(R25, one hour) runs often. In Gatchina it stops on pr
25 Oktyabrya: the park is immediately west.
Train Any suburban train bound for Kalishe or
Oranienbaum from Baltiisky Station stops at Gatchina.
The palace is a minute’s walk from the station.
Sights & Information
Palace estate (271 13492; admission R270; Hi0am-6pmTue-Sun)
Dom Khleba (ul Gobornaya 2) This excellent bakery and cafe is one place where you could grab a snack.
Shankhai Kafe (ul Gobornaya 15) This Chinese restaurant closer to the church serves up typically russified Chinese cooking.

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