The story of Tsar's Village or Catherine Palace started int the beginning of the 18th
century when Peter the Great gifted a large piece of land not far from Saint-Petersburg to his wife Catherine the First. She consequently ordered a construction of a palace there, where eventually Peter and Catherine raised their children. Fast forward and when their daughter Elizabeth came to power she decided to construct another palace, much grander than the previous one. The architect was Francesco Rastrelli, a true master of baroque style who perfectly understood the likes and dislikes of Elizabeth, and her adoration of luxury, so all the rooms of her new home were decorated with gold:). Even the outside stucco moldings of the palace were covered with gold, to impress the visitors. The entrance to the building was made far from the main gate so that the newly arrived guests walked along the magnificent building for 300 meters before going inside..
The Grand Palace was passed down from one Russian ruler to the next becoming the official residence of Russian royalty until the end of the monarchy. After the 1917 October Revolution the name Tsars Village was changed to Children's Village as the Soviet government chose this area to construct many recreational grounds and camps for children. In 1937 USSR celebrated the 100th
anniversary of death of the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who lived in Tsar's Village for a long time. To commemorate this event, the city's name was changed to Pushkin, and nowadays both names Pushkin and Tsar's Village are used almost interchangeably.
The main highlight of the Catherine Palace is probably the Amber room, or as many Russians and tourists call it - "eighth wonder of the world. The Amber room was a gift to Peter the Great from the Prussian emperor Frederick William I in 1716. The gift solidified the Russo-Prussian alliance against Sweden, even though Peter never decorated the room with amber panels and kept them in the Winter Palace. After his death the empress Elizabeth wanted the amber panels to be installed and she commissioned Rastrelli to design the amber room anew. During the Second World War, Tsar's Village was occupied by the Nazis and the Amber room was packaged and sent to Konigsberg (nowadays known as Kaliningrad). The plan was to eventually ship it to Berlin but in August of 1944 Konigsberg was heavily bombed and the Amber room disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to it, was it destroyed or hidden? After the War numerous attempts were taken to find it, including expeditions, excavations and various investigations. All of them gave no results. In 1978 the Soviet government decided to recreate the room in its original glory. The main difficulty they faced was the lack of skilled workers, as amber carving was considered a nearly lost form of art. Obviously, the price of such a project was astounding, so it was sponsored by the Russian State and German private companies. After 24 years, in 2003 the Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the room as a present for the 300th anniversary of Saint-Petersburg. Working hours of the palace are 12 a.m. – 6 p.m., Tuesday is a day off.
Territory of Catherine's Park (where the palace is located) is open every day. As Catherine Palace is one of the highlights of Saint-Petersburg, individual visitors have to que for 2-3 hours to get inside. If you plan to go there on your own, make sure that you wear comfortable shoes and an outfit relevant to the weather. Guided tours give you a chance to save time waiting in line and have a knowledgeable guide tell you about the intricacies of the palace. More information you can learn here.