King Midas would be jealous…
There’s so much gold adorning the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg!
The onion-shaped domes crowning the chapel are all gilded in gold. Chairs and tables and picture frames are gold. And wait till you see the ornate Great Hall – the golden carvings, chandeliers, angel figurines and other ornamentation will really make your eyes pop.
But of course, we shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, this was a palace of the Russian Tsars. (And we all know how lavishly they lived, don’t we?)
We have Catherine, wife of Peter the Great, to thank for building the Catherine Palace in 1717.
But it’s her daughter, the Empress Elizabeth, who turned it into a show-stopper.
Elizabeth thought the palace too old-fashioned when she became its mistress – so she completely rebuilt it in an opulent Rococo style (almost bankrupting the country’s treasury in the process). The exterior was gilded with more than 200 pounds of gold and multiple statues were placed on the roof.
Catherine Palace highlight: the Amber Room
The Amber Room, once known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” is perhaps the palace’s most beguiling room.
During WWII, the Nazis stole all the amber panels (making up the room’s floor, walls and ceiling) and amber clocks, pictures and other amber decorations, and hid this priceless amber collection. It’s never been found – a mystery bedevilling treasure hunters and historians the world over.
Today, the Amber Room is a gorgeous replica (using real amber) of the original room. And one of St. Petersburg’s most popular attractions is the Catherine Palace and its golden-hued Amber Room.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- The history of the Catherine Palace is fascinating – from the time of the Tsars to its destruction by fire at the end of WWII to its painstaking restoration and reopening in 2003.
- The gardens are also beautiful to wander through.
- Catherine Palace is very crowded, especially in the busy, spring-to-fall tourist season. Stay close to your guide so as not to get lost (you can only visit on a guided tour). Pick-pockets are prevalent.
- You’ll need to climb stairs to access the various rooms. Although there’s an elevator for visitors in wheelchairs, the palace isn’t wheelchair-friendly.
- Washrooms are concentrated at the entrance, and there’s always a huge line-up.
IF YOU GO
- Museum website for the Catherine Palace
Be sure to get the whole scoop on the Amber Room and palace on Sand In My Suitcase!
*All photo credits (except Amber Room ones): Janice and George Mucalov
The author visited Catherine Palace on a shore excursion while traveling as a media guest with her husband on a “Viking Homelands” Baltic cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises.
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