When it came to looking into how to get to the Peterhof, we wanted to get there by ourselves and not part of a tour. The tour offerings were either too expensive or simply too short a time at the palace for us. We ended up spending 5 hours there.
No matter how much time you have in Saint Petersburg, I would make a visit to the Peterhof a priority.
The Peterhof is about 44kms from central Petersburg (The Hermitage). So it is quite a distance to travel when you only have public transport. The bus is the most cost effective. Many people recommend the Hydrofoil (boat) but it is 700 Roubles each. The train is very difficult with many changes to be made.
If you are visiting in high season (June – July) like we were, expect many people queuing and crowds throughout the grounds. We discovered that Russians don’t normally do anything before 10am. Most stores and cafes only open around this time. So to beat the queues, crowds and traffic we opted to be our usual early rising selves and get ourselves to places early. This proved us well as we beat most tour buses and any queues. Also, there is less traffic to sit in on the bus.
How to get there and what to see:
Firstly, to avoid a queue buy your tickets online here. It states on the website they need to be printed or exchanged for tickets, so if printing is not an option (like when your hostel does not speak English and asking them seems a difficult task, or like us, you do not carry a printer with you). You will need to keep your reservation number from the purchase. Or screenshot the confirmation email. Take this to a ticket booth and give them your phone with the confirmation open (easier to hand over phone as language can be a difficulty). They then print them for you and you can enter the gardens. Tickets are 700 rubles each for the lower garden (where all the fountains are) the Upper Garden is free entry. We opted to only see the gardens and their fountains and not the palace. The fountains are, after all, the main reason to visit. Tickets can be purchased separately on the website.
Get yourself to the Metro station Avtovo on the blue line number 2. The metro is a flat fee of 35 Roubles each.
Walk up the steps to the bus stop. At the bus stops are what’s called the “Marshrutka” buses, essentially it is a mini-van. We caught Bus number 424 as there seemed to be many. Otherwise use number 224, 300, 424 or 424A. Apparently there are larger (proper) buses numbers 200 and 210. But we didn’t see these there. The 424 bus was 70 roubles each. The bus should say Петерго́ф on the side. Or say the word “Peterhof” to the driver to make sure they are definitely going there.
To enter the gardens without a queue
Walk West around the side walls where the bus dropped you, walk until the carpark and turn left to get to the entrance. There are a few side entrances into the park, but this is the closest to the bus stop. Using your pre-purchased ticket number, get your tickets from the booth and head on into the park. Walking back East will get you to the main fountains.
The quietest time to arrive would be about 10am as we experienced. The main event “turning on the fountains” starts at 11am. At 10am all the other fountains are turned on so it’s nice to stroll through these areas.
Be sure to make it back to the main event with half an hour to spare. It may seem early, but trust me, it gets packed full of people from 10.30 onwards. Claim your spot early and stay there. The show is well worth the wait.
I was competing with over 100 people to be on my central spot on the bridge, hence some bumps during my precious timelapse.
The main attraction would be the Grand cascade and the Samson fountain in the centre of the gardens. This is directly below the Grand Palace.
Need an unexpected soaking?
If you have a spare change of clothes, enjoy being wet or happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, then welcome to the Trick fountains. Peter the Great liked to play tricks on his visitors and nothing is better than a trick that involves getting someone wet. There are many dotted around. But the largest and most “unexpected” is down a long path. You will hear blood curdling screams at certain times of the day.
To leave, exit through the Upper Gardens on to the main street (where you entered) and walk 200 metres East, on the opposite side of the road to the nearest bus stop. Get on Bus 200 or 210 back to the Metro station. This bus only costs 30 Roubles each.
See more images in the Gallery
Main highlights to take away from this article:
Buses are frequent and cheap.
You will likely need more time there than a tour would allow.
Bring your own picnic lunch with you. Food is expensive inside the grounds.
Buy tickets online to skip the queue.
Use a side entrance to get in.
Get there in time to see the show at 11am.