St. Petersburg's oldest gardens, the Summer Gardens were founded in 1704. They were laid out according to the original designs proposed by Peter the Great and are a magnificent example of early 18th century Russian landscape gardening. The gardens comprised a grid like formation of verdant avenues, tree tunnels and ornamental walls of shrub, adorned with marble statues imported from Italy and punctuated with bubbling fountains.
Did you know? The Summer Gardens (Letnii Sad) did not take their name from the season (leto) but from some of the early flowers that were planted there - letniki, or annual flowering plants.
The Fontanka River running through St Petersburg was so named as it supplied the water to the Summer Gardens’ fountains.
This pleasure garden was the first of its kind in Russia, and quickly became the centre of court life as Peter hosted legendary court festivities there. By the beginning of the 19th century the gardens were opened up to St Petersburg’s residents.
Did you know? It was during such celebrations that Peter the Great popularised the notion of downing your drink in one (пей до дна). Those drinking with him had to turn their cups upside down to prove their emptiness!
Peter the Great’s Summer Palace was constructed in the gardens by famed architect Domenico Trezzini (also architect of the Peter and Paul Cathedral and Alexander Nevsky Monastery). In honour of the Tsar’s effort towards constructing the first Russian fleet, his palace was decorated with 29 bas-reliefs commemorating Russia's naval glory.
Did you know? The Summer Palace was the first palace built in the city. Its modest design contrasts with the opulence which has come to epitomise St Petersburg’s palaces.
Explore the Summer Palace to get a glimpse into 18th century court life, see the personal effects of Peter the Great and his wife, and admire period interiors, artwork and furniture. Despite flooding and wartime damage the palace has undergone extensive renovations.
Did you know? The Summer Palace originally housed Peter the Great’s Amber Room. After his death the Amber Room was transferred to Tsarskoe Selo. It remains there today, and is one of the Catherine Palace’s most mesmerising rooms.
A walk around the Summer Gardens makes for a perfectly peaceful afternoon. Visitors can enjoy beautiful fountains, ponds and marble sculptures, and explore the labyrinthine hedges and long tree tunnel.
Did you know? Terrible flooding and the Second World War blighted the gardens. Of the 250 marble sculptures crafted by the Italian masters, only 89 have survived, and of 70 fountains, only eight have survived.
Located in the Dovecote Pavilion, this is a small exhibition featuring interesting artefacts discovered whilst renovating the Summer Gardens.
Address: Naberezhnaya Lebyazhyey Kanavki, St Petersburg, 191186
Metro: Gostiny Dvor (1km), Chernyshevskaya (1.5km)
Summer period from May to September: daily from 10 am - 10 pm, except Tuesdays
Winter season from October to March: daily from 10 am - 8 pm, except Tuesdays
In April, the Summer Gardens are closed
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