The Peterhof State Museum-Reserve houses a brilliant galaxy of museums located in palaces and other historical edifices of the eighteenth - nineteenth centuries. They are famous not only as wonderful architectural landmarks with splendid interiors but also as repositories of sculpture, painting and works of the minor arts.
The centerpiece of the complex is the Great Palace which was begun in 1714 and then reconstructed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1747-54. Its clear-cut silhouette, with the steep, silver-glinted roofs and the light, gilt cupolas, towers above the green groves of the Lower Park. The state halls of the palace, designed by Rastrelli, Yuri Velten and Vallin de la Mothe, are remarkable for their rich and varied decoration.
The compositional pivot of the Lower Park's eastern side is the Monplaisir Palace with the adjacent edifices, a unique monument of Russian architecture and artistic culture of the early eighteenth century (1714-1722). Among those who took part in its construction were the architects Braunstein, Le Blond, Michetti, the painters Pillement, Vorobyov, Tikhonov and others. Here Peter the Great arranged his first picture gallery, largely made up of marines by Flemish and Dutch painters. The palace which during the World War II was turned by the Nazis into their barracks has now been fully restored.
Close to the waterfront, in the western part of the park, is the small Hermitage Palace, erected in 1722-1725 by Johann Braunstein. Its central room is decorated with numerous pictures from Peter the Great's collection executed by Western European artists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Near a rectangular pond in the western part of the Lower Park stands the Marly Palace, erected by Braunstein between 1721 and 1723. The palace was intended for "celebrated persons". But already from the middle of the eighteenth century it was turned into a repository of objects associated with Peter the Great. It was used to keep his wardrobe, presents made to him, everyday objects, paintings, furniture, etc.
In the eastern part of the Alexandria Park towers its central edifice, the so-called Cottage Palace put up in 1826-29 by Adam Menelaws for Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas I. The English name of the palace unusual for the Russian ear, its location in a remote corner of the park, its small dimensions as well as the features of its architectural design and inner decor testify to the new function of the building - this was a place of private habitation rather than a formal state residence. This palace with its artistic collection is a veritable jewel of the Neo-Gothic style in Russia.
Between the Lower and Upper Peterhof roads, about 23 kilometers from St Peterburg, in Strelna, bordering with the Port Canal at the west and adjoining the valley of the Strelka River at the east, one can see another Peter's ensemble, the centerpiece of which is the wooden Palace of Peter I. Though designed as a stopping place for temporary accommodation of the Russian Emperors and Empresses on their way from the northern capital to Peterhof, Kronstadt or Oranienbaum, the Palace was beautifully decorated, and its collection comprises many original European and Oriental pieces of art as well as historical belongings of the Imperial Family.
And the last (but not the least) museum of the Peterhof complex is that of the Benois family, exposing brilliant works of these eminent Russian artists as well as their private belongings.
The Great Palace.
The Monplaisir Palace.
The Marly Palace.
The Cottage Palace.
The Hermitage Palace.