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Other Top Points From Saint Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg Port
Alexander Garden
Baptism of Our Lord
Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul
Cathedral of St. Andrew
Catherine Garden
Catherine's Palace
Church of the Annunciation on Vasilevsky
Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Hermitage Museum
Leningrad Zoo
Moscow Victory Park
Museum of Applied Art
Museum of Cosmonautics and Rocket Technology
Museum of Dolls
Museum of Non-Conformist Art
Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas
Oranienbaum (Lomonosov)
Peterhof Palace
Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God
Smolny Cathedral
Ss. Isidor and Nicholas
St. Isaac's Cathedral
Summer Garden
The Cruiser Aurora
Yelagin Ostrov
Zoological Museum

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Address: Gatchina

Perhaps the most neglected of St. Petersburg's suburban palaces in the post-war period, Gatchina is also probably the most lived-in, with four Tsars considering it their family home. First appearing in records in 1499, Khotchino - the old name for Gatchina - was a Russian village under the rule of Novgorod the Great. Won and lost by the Livonians and then the Swedes in the course of the 17th century, it was regained for Russia by Peter the Great during the Northern Wars. Peter founded an Imperial Hospital and Apothecary there, but it was not until 1765, when Catherine the Great bought the village and surrounding lands for her favourite, Count Grigoriy Orlov, that work began on the palace and park.

Orlov employed Italian-born architect Antonio Rinaldi to design the Gatchina Palace. Rinaldi began work in 1766, and took fifteen years to complete the castle-style building. By that time, Orlov had fallen out of favour with Catherine and had only two years left to live. After his death, Gatchina was bought back by the Empress and handed to her son, the future Tsar Paul. Paul had his favourite architect, Vincenzo Brenna, remodel the palace, accentuating its fortress character to suite his militaristic tastes. Gatchina remained the property of his widow, Maria Fedorovna, and was then passed to his son, Nicholas I, who added the Arsenal Halls to the building and used it as his official summer residence, as did his son, Alexander II. Alexander III spent almost the first two years of his reign based at Gatchina, terrified of being assassinated like his father.

During the Revolution and Civil War, Gatchina was the site of two major events - the final fall of Kerensky's Provisional Government in 1917, and Trotsky's defeat of the final advance of the White Army from Estonia in July 1919. The town was renamed Trotsk for six years in the 1920s. The palace and park were opened to the public soon after the Revolution, and served as a museum until occupied by the Nazis in 1941. As elsewhere, occupation brought severe damage to the palace and park, and restoration work is still continuing over 60 years later.

Gatchina is located about 50km south of St. Petersburg, beyond Pushkin and Pavlovsk. The simplest way to reach the town is by marshrutka minibus from Moskovskaya (K-18), Kirovskiy Zavod (K-546), or Prospekt Veteranov (K-631) Metro Stations. Buses terminate next to Gatchina-Baltiskaya Station, which is directly opposite the main entrance to the Grand Palace. Suburban trains also run between there and Baltiskaya Station in St. Petersburg every 40 minutes, and the journey takes slightly less than an hour.

Grand Palace

The Grand Palace at Gatchina is perhaps the most unusual and individual of St. Petersburg's suburban Imperial palaces, although the modesty of its architectural decorations makes it far less striking at first glance than the brightly coloured, stucco covered facades at Pavlovsk and Tsarskoe Selo.

Antonio Rinaldi, the architect who designed the original Grand Palace for Count Grigoriy Orlov, studied and worked in his native Italy under Luigi Vanvitelli, probably that country's greatest neoclassical architect. While traveling in England, from where he took a great deal of the inspiration for Gatchina's Grand Palace and Park, Rinaldi received a commission from hetman Kirill Razumovsky to build a royal residence at the old capital of Baturin. From there he moved on to St. Petersburg, where he became attached to the Imperial Court of the future Peter III, for whom he designed a palace at Orenienbaum. After Peter's deposition and Catherine the Great's ascension to the throne, Rinaldi became the 'pet' architect of Catherine's lover and political ally, Grigoriy Orlov, building for him simultaneously the Grand Palace at Gatchina and the count's St. Petersburg residence, the Marble Palace.

Priory Palace

An extraordinary building that resembles a Gothic country church more than a palace, the Priory Palace was the result of Paul's abiding relationship with the Knights Templar of the Maltese Order of St. John. Compelled to leave Malta by Napoleon, the Knights turned to Russia, with whom they had been allied during the Turkish Wars of Catherine the Great's reign, for assistance and protection. Paul, although officially Russian Orthodox, agreed to take the order under his patronage and, in 1798, assumed the title of Grand Master.

The Priory Palace was intended to be used as a priory for the knights under the auspices of Prince Conde, a French prior of the order who had entertained and impressed Paul during his travels in Europe. Although the Prince never came to Gatchina, and the palace was never officially turned into a priory, the building became the site of meetings for the Order.

Gatchina Park

The park at Gatchina was established at the same time as the Grand Palace, and its development followed much the same pattern as that of the building. Originally laid out by Antonio Rinaldi for Count Grigoriy Orlov, who boasted of his fine landscape garden in letters to Jean-Jaques Rousseau and used the park to indulge his favourite pastime, hunting, the Gatchina Park was developed further for Emperor Paul by Vincenzo Brenna, who added most of the park's stone follies and gave the picturesque wilderness a slightly more formal appearance.

Gatchina Map

Emerald Princess Baltic Cruise Guide
by Fafos & Grjava, 2009
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