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Tsarskoe Selo

TSARSKOE SELO

Few places in Russia are more strongly associated with the country’s history and culture than the palaces at Tsarskoe Selo and Pavlovsk.
The sumptuous palaces and sprawling parks at these neighbouring complexes, can be combined in a day’s visit – but since they’re both good places to relax, you might want to take them more slowly.

The first settlement here was prepared as a surprise for Peter the Great by his wife Catherine who took him here to show him the area and then, much to Peter’s delight, revealed that she’d already had a house built and furnished for him. While Peter was touched, his passionate love of sailing meant that he was only really happy when he was close to the sea, so it was Catherine who spent time here when Peter was out of the capital.

It was under Empresses Elizabeth and Catherine the Great between 1744 and 1796 that both the palace at Tsarskoe Selo and the estate of Pavlovsk were built and extended. The centrepiece is the vast 1752 to 1756 baroque Catherine Palace (Yekaterininsky Dvorets), designed by Rastrelli.
It gradually became the favourite country estate of the royal family and indeed when Russia’s first railway line opened in 1837, it was used to shuttle the imperial family between here and St Petersburg. The town changed its name from Tsarskoe Selo (Tsar’s Village) to Pushkin in 1937 after Russia’s favourite poet, who studied here in the Lycee set up by Alexander I. In the 1990s, the name of the town and the
palace changed back to Tsarskoe Selo.

Of the two estates, many find Pavlovsk’s park of woodland, rivers, lakes, statues and
temples one of the most exquisite in Russia, while its Great Palace is a classical contrast to the florid baroque Catherine Palace.

Transport
Distance from St Petersburg 25km (Tsarskoe Selo) and 29km (Pavlovsk) Direction South
Travel Time 45 minutes to one hour Bus A large number of marshrutkas (30 minutes) leave from outside Moskovskaya metro station in St Petersburg to the town of Tsarskoe Selo’s central square all day long. There are also services from PI Pobedy (bus No 287 or marshrutka No 20).

The lines of people returning at the weekend after about 3pm can be horrendous though. From here it’s a 20 to 30 minute walk to either palace. Marshrutkas K299 and K545 connect Tsarskoe Selo town and Pavlovsk (a 5-to 10-minute trip). Train Suburban trains run from Vitebsk Station in St Petersburg, but they’re infrequent except for weekends. For Tsarskoe Selo get off at Detskoye Selo Station and for Pavlovsk at Pavlovsk Station. It’s about half an hour to either place.
Adv: P57

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