Carusel Tours
9 July 2020

Alexandria Park. Must-see on a Day Trip to Peterhof

Gothic Chapel Alexandria Peterhof
Today I will tell you about one of the most romantic places in Peterhof - the beautiful Alexandria Park. It borders with the famous Lower Park with Fountains and it stretches along the seashore to the east, which makes it very convenient to visit both parks on a same day trip to Peterhof.

I have lived in Peterhof for many years, so I am absolutely happy to share my insights with you in this post and I hope that it will make you explore Peterhof and its rich history without hurry on your day trip to this charming town!

If you want to get detailed information on how to get to Peterhof on your own and what to see there, read our post for Coni's Experiencing the Globe.

Peterhof was a favourite summer residence of several Russian emperors and thanks to them now it reminds us more of a park, than a town. Many buildings and parks of Peterhof were badly damaged in the course of the World War Two, as some fierce fighting took place there, but the town has not lost its charm. Alexandria's imperial residences and a chapel have luckily survived the war, so it makes them particularly interesting for a visit.

Alexandria was created as the peaceful retreat for the Romanovs, and its romantic layout with gothic buildings and ruins, inspired by the British parks of the beginning of the 19th century, will calm you down and let you take some rest from the busy Lower Park with Fountains.

Alexandria is open all year round and it is charming in every season. Its royal residences, Cottage and Farm Palace, are a must-see for all those who are interested in the everyday life of several generations of the Romanovs, from Nicholas I to Nicholas II.

If you travel on your own, you can buy entrance tickets to the park and its museums online on the official website of the Peterhof State Museum Reserve or at the ticket booths located at each entrance to the park and inside.

We offer a special tour to Peterhof that includes visits of the Lower Park with Fountains, Alexandria Park and a touristic train ride. The tour can be modified according to your wishes, so please get in touch with us, if you are interested.
Ruin Bridge Alexandria Peterhof
History and Layout of Alexandria

The history of Alexandria starts from Alexander Menshikov, the right hand of Peter the Great, de-facto ruler of the country during the reign of Catherine I and a man of extraordinary fate. Menshikov owned the first stone palace in St. Petersburg and a residence with parks and fountains in Oranienbaum (we will write about the palaces of Oranienbaum in a separate post).

In the 1720-s he decided to create another palace with a residence in Peterhof, but the construction works were left unfinished, as he soon lost the court battle for the throne after the death of Catherine I and got exiled to Siberia with his entire family.

Empress Anna, a daughter of Peter the Great's brother, who ruled the country between 1730 and 1740, turned these lands into the hunting ground. She was actively extending and improving the Lower Park nearby and in her spare time in Peterhof she enjoyed hunting. Just like her famous uncle, Anna had quite a violent temper. She was known as a very accurate shooter.

In the menagerie, a lot of various animals, including such exotic animals as tigers, were kept to please the empress. The menagerie occupied a huge territory, that in the 1820-s were divided into two parks: Alexandria and Alexandrovsky Zverinets (zverinets is the Russian word for menagerie). Both parks exist today and they form the extensive green area, crossed by the Peterhof highway in the middle.
Peterhof Railway Station
Peterhof Railway Station

In the 1820-s the future emperor Nicholas I received these lands from his elder brother, Alexander, and he gradually turned them into one of the most romantic residences of Russian monarchs. The great era of Peterhof started, as Nicholas laid out numerous parks in the town, created a system of artificial lakes, built various pavilions and the entire railway from St. Petersburg with a beautiful neo-gothic Peterhof Railway Station.

Alexandria received its current name in the honour of Nicholas I's wife, Alexandra. Nicholas hired architect Adam Menelaws, who was born in Scotland but spent most of his life in St. Petersburg, to create an architectural ensemble in a romantic gothic style for the summer residence of the royal family.

Empress Alexandra admired gothics and Nicholas did the best to please her - this is the reason why you will find so many beautiful neo-gothic buildings not only in Alexandria, where it is the main style, but all around Peterhof, from monumental Railway Station that reminds a cathedral (and it was built as a copy of a cathedral) to Imperial Stables that I will be writing about later.

In Alexandria, the empress and her family created the cosy world filled with warmth and peacefulness. Let us see its main sights.
Gothic Chapel Alexandria Peterhof
Gothic Chapel

This chapel on one of the hills of the park is the main symbol of Alexandria – you will find it in most photos of the park in all seasons, covered with snow, surrounded by golden and red foliage of autumn leaves or by lush greens in summer.

Although it looks like a catholic church, it was a functioning Russian orthodox church, its official name is the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky. There the regular services for the royal family took place. It was the private church of Russian emperors Nicholas I, Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II, who all spent some parts of their summer season in Alexandria.

During the World War Two its interior was destroyed, but the building itself survived. After the war, it was slowly decaying up until the 2000-s, when it was finally reconstructed. Its modest interior has been recreated.
Near the chapel, you will see the grave of P. Ehrler. Erhler was the master gardener of Peterhof at the time of Nicholas I and he laid out many parks and alleys in the town. His grave was moved here in the 1970-s from an abandoned cemetery of Peterhof for the noble men and honorary citizens. The cemetery is now overgrown with trees and looks like a forest with bomb craters, the traces of war. You can find it if you move to the west along the coast of the Gulf of Finland, right behind the Lower Park, the Peterhof Lapidary Works and a small harbour for motor boats.
Cottage Alexandria Peterhof
Cottage

Sometimes it is called the Cottage Palace, but to me it looks more like a country house than the imperial palace, especially if you have seen the lavish Grand Palace of Peterhof and Catherine Palace in Pushkin. I think that it is one of the cosiest museums in Peterhof and I definitely recommend you to visit it!

All 7 children of Nicholas I were brought up there, where they lived every summer in very modest conditions (and shared rooms with each other).

The Cottage was designed by A. Menelaws in the style of an English country house of that time, hence its name. The view on the Gulf of Finland from its windows and terraces is stunning, emperor used to enjoy it a lot, and he even watched sea parades from the Cottage.

If you look at the Cottage, you will notice a romantic white and blue coat of arms on all its facades. This is the coat of arms of Alexandria Park that was invented by Vasily Zhukovsky, the Russian poet who was a friend of Alexander Pushkin and helped him in many difficult situations.

Zhukovsky taught Russian to empress Alexandra and he later was a tutor to her children, including the future emperor Alexander II. So, Zhukovsky obviously had an influence on Nicholas I, with whom Pushkin was in really bad relations. Moreover, Zhukovsky passed on his liberal views to the future tsar Alexander II, who is often thought to prepare liberal reforms and abolish the serfdom under the impact of his teacher.

During the war the interior of the Cottage was damaged, but the building itself was not destroyed. The Nazi used it as the hospital. Some original furniture and interior details were evacuated and, thus, were preserved.
Farm Palace Alexandria Peterhof
Farm Palace. Photo Peterhof New Farm Centre

Farm Palace

It was initially constructed as a farm for Nicholas I and his family by A. Menelaws. The neo-gothic farm for the Cottage built in the English style could not do without English cows, so 10 of them were brought to Alexandria from Britain together with their shepherd. Delicious dairy products were produced at the farm.

In the 1840-s, when Nicholas's elder son and the heir to the throne, Alexander, grew up and got married, the farm was transferred into his residence. Alexander lived here throughout the summer months with the family and as it gradually extended, so did the palace. All the later adjustments were headed by А. Stackenschneider. Inside it was kept modest and cosy, just like the Cottage, where Alexander spent his childhood, was.

The Farm Palace is the only residence of Alexander II, he did not build any other palaces for him or his family during his reign. Just like his father, he often worked from his house in Alexandria and many important meetings took place in the Farm Palace.

After the assassination of Alexander II, his son, the emperor Alexander III, also spent summer seasons in the Farm Palace. The son of Alexander III, Nicholas II, grew up there, but when he came to the throne, he built a separate summerhouse for him, on the seashore of Alexandria (I will write about it later).

During the war the Farm House was turned into the headquarters of the German army. Its main premises survived, and after the war it was used as the residence hall for the workers of the Watch Factory. It was reconstructed only in the 2000-s, but most of what was recreated tragically burnt down in 2005. So, another reconstruction followed, and it was finally open as a museum in 2010.

If you visit the museum, you will discover how the families of Russian tsars Alexander II and Alexander III used to live and you will find out a lot of interesting facts from the history of Peterhof as a popular seaside resort at the turn of the 20thcentury.
The Peterhof Watch Factory, founded in 1721, is the oldest in Russia, and it functions on the base of the Lapidary Works, that use the force of the same water system, that feeds the fountains. The Lapidary Works are situated just behind the western part of the Lower Park and from there you can still hear its roar when it is on.
Gothic Well, Ruin Bridge and Stone Bench

If you wander around the park, you will definitely come across these beautiful structures that are also authentic.

The Gothic Well near the pond was created in 1835 from cast iron. Now it is a very popular spot for romantic and wedding photos! You will find it beneath the Farm Palace.

The Ruin Bridge, that goes through the ravine with a stream, is decorated with stone vases and flower beds. The question that most visitors ask is why is it called the Ruin Bridge? In fact, near this bridge the remains of the palace of Alexander Menshikov, the first owner of these lands, were situated in the 19th century, when the bridge was constructed. This is how it got its name. Now the ruins have been completely hidden under dense vegetation.

At the Stone Sofa, carved in a large boulder, many Romanovs used to sit. This type of material is much more time and damage resistant than the wood! And now you can take a seat there too. In other former estates of Peterhof you can find various carved boulders, including the one that represents the huge head of a warrior and accentuates the spring coming from the ground near its mouth! Lewis Carroll described it in his travel diaries of Russia. May it be that that the romantic spirit of Peterhof found its reflection in his main work, Alice in Wonderland?
Photo of fortress Alexander Club

Children's Fortress and Sports Ground

Alexandria was full of various constructions for the royal children, where they could play and acquire new skills. A wooden country house and a small water mill, built for them, did not survive, but several small gardens with various healing and aromatic herbs, strawberries and vegetables were recreated and you will see them during your visit.

The wooden children's fortress where several generations of Romanovs used to play was also recreated near the Farm House. In between the Cottage and public toilets, you will see the reconstructed sports ground with various gymnastics facilities of that time.

Now these venues are so popular that they often get damaged by children and so most of the time you will actually see them on repair or closed from visitors, but it is very interesting to have a look at them and get the idea on how the children of the royal family spent their spare time!
Lower Dacha Peterhof Alexandria
Lower Dacha

Dacha is the Russian word for a country house. Nicholas II, who, as you already guess, was growing up in Alexandria, decided to build here his proper dacha when he came to power. The house was designed by A. Tomishko and stood right at the seashore, therefore it was named the "Lower" house as opposed to the Farm Palace and Cottage, situated on the hill.

Outside it reminded an Italian villa decorated with yellow and red bricks, inside it was mostly furnished in Art Nouveau. The dining hall of the dacha was decorated as the saloon of the family's favourite royal yacht, Standard. Some of the original Art Nouveau furniture from that house you can now see in the main building of the Hermitage Museum.

There Nicholas II and his wife, who was also baptised as Alexandra, spent the happiest time of their lives. In the Lower Dacha three daughters of Nicholas and his only son Alexey were born. It was also there that the manifesto about Russia's entrance to World War I was signed by Nicholas.

During the war, it was damaged more than other buildings of Alexandria, and by the 1960-s it was demolished to prevent its collapse. Only one picturesque wall with some ruins remained from the dacha.

A few years ago, it was decided to recreate this dacha and now you will see some reconstruction works on the site. A few administrative buildings, constructed to maintain the Lower Dacha, survived, as well as the guardhouse near it. They were built in the same style with the dacha, so by looking at them you can get an idea of how it looked like.
Seashore of Alexandria

The eastern part of the shore of Alexandria, close to the former Lower Dacha, is now overgrown with reeds and wild roses. If you move towards the west, you will see a cap on the stone – it is the Monument to Soviet Landing Force, almost entirely destroyed by the Nazi in 1941. The Soviet soldiers came to Peterhof from Kronstadt by sea in October 1941 and they disembarked in Alexandria. Out of around 500-600 Soviet soldiers only a few people survived. Another monument that commemorates this operation you will find in the Lower Park near the boat pier.

The war history of these lands was terrible and soldier's bodies are still being found during the reconstruction works. It is important to remember what a fierce fighting took place in Peterhof in 1941-1944.

As you move further, you will find several bays and later a beautiful sandy beach with the view of the Monplaisir and the Lower Park. It gets busy in the season, and even though the swimming is forbidden, many people still get into the water.
New Farm Alexandria Peterhof
Photo Peterhof New Farm Centre

New Farm

This beautiful gothic red-brick building that faces the Peterhof highway was designed by A. Stackenshneider in the 1850-s. It was constructed to substitute the old farm transferred from the Farm Palace. It exclusively catered for the needs of the royal family. There the latest agricultural technologies were tried out.

Under the Soviets it was gradually used as the stable, garage and later the art school for children. It functioned as the art school up until the 2010-s and in 2013 it was turned into the museum centre for children where they can learn about the history of Peterhof during interactive classes, lectures and walks.
Telegraph Station Alexandria Peterhof
Photo Peterhof New Farm Centre

Telegraph Station

The beige building nearby, also designed by A. Stackenshneider, housed a Palace Telegraph Station. The locals could use it too, the general entrance was from the side of the road. Supreme telegrams would come out of the opposite side of the building. Now it is an interactive museum where you can learn more about the station and see how it was functioning.
Gothic Stables Peterhof
Gothic Stables or Imperial Stables

This impressive architectural ensemble that you might have already seen in our Instagram was the house to more than 300 horses, who were surrounded by lots of love and care. It is situated just opposite the western wing of Alexandria on its border with the orangeries of the Lower Park. I strongly recommend you to leave the Lower Park from the exit near the orangeries so that you could take a look at the Imperial Stables before diving into Alexandria through its western entrance.

The stables were constructed in the 1850-s to the design by N. Benois, a representative of a prominent Russian artistic family that traces its roots from a French immigrant, who came to Russia to escape French revolutionary events. He also designed a magnificent neo-gothic railway station of Peterhof, that you will see if you come there by train from Baltiyskaya Railway Station.
Imperial Stables Peterhof

The Imperial Stables occupy a vast territory, bounded by 4 streets. At the same time, its quadrangle shape allowed the personnel of the stables move between various wings of the buildings rapidly. Their huge gothic windows that remind us of medieval cathedrals let the day light enter all the corners of the buildings and thus reduced the use of artificial sources of light throughout the day.

Its central manege with a state-of-art wooden ceiling has been recently restored, the rest of the buildings are patiently waiting for someone to take care of them and for now they have been slowly dilapidating. Sometimes it is possible to get inside the manege with a visit, if you are interested, let us know!

After the revolution the stables were closed and the horses, probably, were taken to the front of the Civil War. During the World War II the buildings were used as a hospital and gestapo by the Nazi, and they were not destroyed. In the Soviet Era and up until the 2010-s it was the sanatorium with healing water and a popular place for film shootings.

I am sure that you will like the romantic atmosphere of the old stables and take some lovely photos there!
Farm Palace Peterhof
I hope that you will visit Alexandria on your day trip to Peterhof and appreciate its charm and beauty! The town offers various sources of accommodation, so you can stay there overnight to explore Peterhof and nearby royal estates like Strelna and Oranienbaum in more detail! Let us know if you need assistance with your Peterhof Palace Tour or accommodation in Peterhof.

I will be writing about other non-conventional sights of Peterhof that are barely known to any foreign visitors of St. Petersburg and your feedback will be greatly appreciated!

Text by Alexandra Lyukina
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