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Gatchina Palace (Гатчинский дворец)

Image of Gatchina Palace




Location: Gatchina Map

Build: 1766- 1781 by Antonio Rinaldi

Tel. (81371) 215-09

Open: 11am- 6pm (cash desk till 5pm)

Closed: Mondays, first Tuesday of the month

How to get here: Bus N18 from "Moscow" Subway station

Official site:







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Description of Gatchina Palace

Gatchina Palace is a former royal residence of Russian Imperial Family in Leningrad Oblast in Russia. It is one of the largest and opulent palaces in the country. Gatchina Palace was constructed in 1766- 1781 by the orders of Empress Catherine II the Great for her favorite Count Grigori (or Gregory) Grigoryevich Orlov. It layout and overall design was drawn by a well known Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi. He created a romantic masterpiece with a features of a hunting lodge and a medieval castle with towers, secret passages and underground tunnels.The man building of the Gatchina Palace was connected to a Kitchen and a Stables quads via semicircular open galleries.
The original owner of the Gatchina Palace, Grigori Orlov, belonged to an old Russian aristocratic family. He helped Empress Catherine to overthrow her husband Emperor Peter III in a palace bloodless coup in 1762. Former Emperor was killed shortly thereafter in a town of Ropsha by Orlov's younger brother, Alexei. After Catherine ascended to the throne Grigory Orlov became her lover for several years and de facto ruler of the Russian Empire.
Gatchina Palace had an appearance of a medieval castle and was surrounded by a beautiful park and a small Lake Serebryannoe (Silver Lake). Despite its gloomy exterior the inside of the castle is much more festive. Much of the interior that characterized as a Russian classicism is a modern reconstruction of previous beauty. Like many other castle and palaces in the Leningrad Oblast it was badly damaged by the invading German army during World War II. Nevertheless the residence is returned to its original appearance and glory.
Once Grigory Orlov fell out of favor with the empress, Gatchina Palace was gifted to Catherine's son and future emperor Paul. He cleared the central plaza in front of the Gatchina Palace for marches and army drills that Paul loved. He was obsessed with order and rules and army was his passion, unfortunately for his soldiers. Emperor Paul loved Prussian uniform in color and appearance. He forced his soldiers to give up more comfortable Russian uniforms for Western- type clothes to a great dismay of troops and famous general Suvorov, who was unhappy with stupid moves of the emperor. But the will of the emperor was the law of the land. Suvorov was exiled from the palace and Gatchina units were forced to change their uniforms. Soldiers spent hours marching back and forth in a new Prussian styled cloths across this large open space. The bridges that you pass as you enter the main plaza were constructed in 1851. Original were made of wood and were drawbridges. Every night they were raised and Gatchina Palace turned into a castle. Emperor Paul remembered too well about fate of his father Peter III and tried to avoid assassination by all means. Eventually he was too killed in an another palace coup in Saint Petersburg's Mikhailovskiy Palace.
As you look at the Main Building of the Gatchina castle you can see that the right tower is slightly different. It has a lighting rod and in the old days it had an optical telegraph. Messages could be sent across great distances from the palace with a lighting speed. Thus it gets its second name of a Signal Tower. The left tower has a clock thus its get its name Clock Tower.



Gatchina Palace History

Gatchina Palace was constructed in 1766- 1781 by Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi. It was intended as a present for Catherine's favorite Count Grigori Grigoryevich Orlov, but by the time the residence was completed in 1781 Grigory was extremely sick to enjoy it. He died just two years later. Empress bought back Gatchine and handed it over to her son and future Emperor Paul (Pavel in Russian). Paul hated his mother's numerous lovers and ordered reconstruction of the whole building under guidance of another Italian architect Vincenzo Brenna. Like his father deposed Peter III, Paul was obsessed with military theme and medieval castles. This is reflected in towers that were added to the residence and general citadel like appearance.
After assassination of Paul I the palace passed to her widow Maria Fedorovna and later to their son Emperor Nicholas I who turned this residence in his summer palace. He added Arsenal Halls and spent most of summers here. Same tradition was continued by his son Alexander II and his grandson Alexander III.
After the February Revolution Gatchina lost its role as a royal residence, but did not fade into history. Here democratic Kerensky's Provisional Government fell in 1917 and Kerensky had to escape Bolsheviks who came to arrest him through a tunnel that leads from the Grand Palace to the Gatchina Park. Later Lev Trotsky defeated the final invasion of the White Army from Estonia in July 1919. In fact Gatchina was called Trosk for six years until Stalin did not force him out of Soviet Union after bitter struggle for power in the country.
In 1941 Wehrmacht took Gatchina Palace and established a concentration camp in the park. Most of the inmates were soldiers and officers. Many locals claimed that saw executions carried out within the area of the Gatchina park. Their bodies are probably still buried in the Gatchina park. Years later several people came out claiming they say ghosts of men in old uniform who smoke, talk and walk around the park. Their ghostly figures disappear. Retreating Germans dealt great degree of damage to its structure. Fortunately for history people who worked here hid single examples of chairs, tables, tapestries, and etc. After the war these surviving artefacts were uncovered and next 60 years were spent in careful recreation of the previous decor and appearance.


Travel Destinations in Gatchina

Gatchina Palace (Большой Гатчинский дворец), 1, Krasnoarmeysky prospekt, ☎ +7 812 958 0366. 10h-18h, closes Mon. Major imperial residence, was begun in 1766–1781 by architect Antonio Rinaldi for Count Grigori Grigoryevich Orlov, favourite of Catherine II. She took such a great liking of the Gatchina Palace and park, that at Orlov's death in 1783, she bought it from his heirs and presented it to her son, the future Emperor Paul I, who went to live there for 18 years. He invested considerable resources and used his experience from his travels around Europe to make Gatchina an exemplary palace and town. During the 1790s, Paul expanded and rebuilt much of the palace, and renovated interiors in Neoclassical style. Paul I graced the park with bridges, gates, pavilions, "The Isle of Love", "The Private Garden" and "The Labyrinth" among many other additions. In 1796, after the death of his mother, Catherine the Great, Paul became Emperor Paul I of Russia, and granted Gatchina the status of Imperial City .
After Paul's death the grand palace and park were owned by his widow, Maria Feodorovna, from 1801 to 1828 and after her by their son, Nicholas I, master from 1828 to 1855. He made the most significant expansion of the palaces and parks, adding the Arsenal Halls to the main palace. The Arsenal Halls served as the summer residence of the emperor. In 1851, Nicholas I erected a monument to his father, Paul I, in front of the Palace. In 1854 the railroad between St. Petersburg and Gatchina was opened. At that time the city of Gatchina's territory was expanded by incorporation of several villages and vicinity.
Alexander II used Gatchina Palace as his second residence. He built a hunting village, and turned the area south of Gatchina into a retreat where the Emperor and his guests could indulge in living in the unspoiled wilderness. Alexander II also made updates and renovations in the main Gatchina Palace.
Alexander III made Gatchina his primary residence, after witnessing the shock and stress of his father's assassination, in a terrorist bomb attack. Gatchina became known as 'The Citadel of Autocracy' after his reactionary stance. He and his family lived most of his time in Gatchina Palace. Here he signed decrees, held diplomatic receptions, theatrical performances, masquerades and costumed balls, and other events and entertainment. Alexander III introduced technological modernizations in the Gatchina Palace and parks such as electric lights, a telephone network, non-freezing water pipes and a modern sewage system.
His son Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar, spent his chidhood and youth in the Gatchina Palace. His mother, Empress Maria Feodorovna, widow of Alexander III, was the patron of the city of Gatchina and Gatchina Palace and parks, and lived here until 1917.
After the Revolution of 1917, the Gatchina Palace was turned into a museum, opened to public on 19 May 1918. The late 18th-century state and private rooms were accessible to visitors, in the main building and the galleries, with all rooms of historical and artistic value displayed. The Arsenal Block housed a museum of palatial furnishings and household utilities of the late 19th century. The rooms which did not retain their original integrity were used for displays of pieces borrowed from the abundant palace stocks. The palace was badly damaged during the 1941-1945 war; the decor suffered most of all. Restoration work is still in progress. adults 200 RUB, students 100 RUB.



Gatchina Park

Gatchina Park was created by Antonio Rinaldi for Count Grigoriy Orlov around the same time as he designed the Grand Palace of this complex. Natural landscape had statues, bridges and smaller palaces. Count Orlov was very proud of his new possession. In fact he boasted about beauty of his park in his letters to Jean-Jaques Rousseau, famous French philosopher. It further was increased under supervision of Vincenzo Brenna for Emperor Paul. The park lies around three elongated lakes including Chernoe (Black) Lake, Serebryanoe (Silver) Lake and Beloe (White) Lake. Many of the original buildings were badly damaged during years of World War II.


Main Building of Gatchina was connected to the park via a tunnel known as locally as "Echo tunnel". It was constructed along with the original residence. Emperor Paul often used this secret passage to disappear from the palace and suddenly appear in other places. Many locals claim to have seen the ghost of the murdered monarch in the park and especially around the underground passage. Russian tourists often stand at the entrance of Echo tunnel and scream "Кто здесь правил?"- "Kto zdes' pravil?" (Who ruled here?). The echo answers "Pavel", which is Russian Love Pavilionversion of "Paul".


During turbulent days of a Russian Revolution, head of the Provisional Government used this tunnel to escape from the Palace. Since main residence had only one main entrance, this was the only way to escape the sailors and soldiers sent by the Bolshevik government.


Many of them still remain in ruins spread throughout the Gatchina park. Birch House constructed in 1780's is one of the few that were reconstructed in the second half of the 20th century. Another interesting building is Brenna's Pavilion of Venus constructed on the Love Island in the middle of the White Lake. It is green and made entirely of wood. It's construction was inspired by visit of future emperor Paul and his wife Maria Feodorovna to residence of Prince Conde in Chantilly.




Priory Palace in Gatchina Park

Priory Palace

Priory Palace is a small residence on the shores of the Black Lake in Gatchina Park. It was constructed by Emperor Paul under supervision of Nikolai Lvov in 1799. It was intended for Knights Templar of the Maltese Order of St. John. Knights of Malta allied with Russia during war with the Turkish Ottoman Empire. However during rise of French Napoleon Bonaparte they lost their island and asked Russian Orthodox monarch for his patronage in 1798. Paul became the Grand Master of the order. Gothic Priory Palace was intended to become their new home. Although it didn't happen it nevertheless became the meeting place of the Order. During World War I it was turned into a hospital for wounded Russian soldiers. Under Soviet rule Priory Palace became House of the Pioneers. Today the palace is restored and became part of the Gatchina Palace complex. Its 30- meter tower offers a great view of the surrounding park.


Underground passages in Gatchina

Gatchina is full of tunnels, secret passages and secret doors. Some claimed that it was intended for the Catherine the Great who visited her lover, but it is more likely an addition of Emperor Paul. He loved romantic medieval history and wanted his palace to look more like a castle. People who work here claim that many ghosts were seen roam empty halls and stairwells of the palace.






Gatchina Palace Before

Image of Gatchina Palace

Not all wings of Gatchina Palace are open to the public. Former magnificent halls were badly damaged by the German troops. Thousands of items were stolen or destroyed. Restoration project continues to this day. As you can see from the old painting there is still a lot of work to do.


Gatchina Palace After








Transport in Gatchina
Public transport
The whole city of Gatchina and Gatchina district has a permanent transport connection, mainly bus. Despite the fact that a walk around the city takes no more than 1-2 hours, all areas of the city are connected to a fairly cheap (18 or 20 p.) Motor transport network. So from Warsaw station to the Palace Park can be reached by buses 7, 22, 27, 28, to Prioratsky: 529, 631, from the microdistrict Entry, and Airfield, on routes 8, 4, 3, 22, 107, from the neighborhood "Marienburg" : 28,3,7. These routes are also connected with the city center. The end of the movement from 20 to 22 hours, the beginning is from 6 to 8.

There are about 10 private transportation companies in the city. The average fare in the city during the daytime is 80 rubles, at night 100 rubles.

"Gatchina" taxi Phone: +7 (81371) 9-46-46
Taxi "Mirage" Phone: +7 (81371) 95-556
Taxi Priory Phones: +7 (81371) 76-156
Taxi "SeDan" Phones: +7 (81371) 20-999 8 (909) 59-20-999
Electric trains
Within the city there are two railway stations and two platforms.

Luga direction:
Tatyanino platform
Gatchina-Varshavskaya (Warsaw Station in Gatchina)
Baltic direction:

platform marienburg
Gatchina-Baltiyskaya (Baltiysky Railway Station in Gatchina, located next to the Great Gatchina Palace)
Railway communication between the two stations is, but rarely, in contrast to the bus. Fare - at current rates.


Hotels, motels and where to sleep



Restaurant, taverns and where to eat



Cultural (and not so cultural) events



Interesting information and useful tips





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