How to Visit Tsarskoe Selo and the Catherine Palace?

Why to Visit Tsarskoe Selo?

Tsarskoe Selo is a complex of parks and palaces and the former summer residence of the Romanov-dynasty tsars.  

Set up mostly by Catherine the Great and constructed in the 18th and 19th century, the parks and palaces of Tsarskoe Selo are architectural masterpieces.  

Following the Russian Revolution, Tsarkoe Selo was nationalized in 1918 and turned into a museum.

Visit Tsarskoe Selo to: 

  • Admire the Baroque and Classical style architecture of its palaces and pavilions
  • Walk the alleys of the classical English parks decorated by sculptures.
  • Visit the palaces golden-laid interiors of the Catherine Palace, see the masterpieces of art and royal artifacts.  There are permanent exposition and temporary exhibitions.
  • Discover original small pavilions scattered around the parks 
  • Enjoy the manicured gardens near the palaces (between May and September)
  • Visit the lycee where poet Pushkin studied
  • Walk, jog or take a relaxing stroll
  • Buy souvenirs

The museum has created a series of high-quality videos (in Russian). To sneak peek and get inspired see them here.

Where is Tsarskoe Selo?

Tsarskoe Selo is located approximately 30 kilometers (28 miles) south of the city of Saint Petersburg. 

Tsarskoe Selo is the old name for the town of Pushkin (after the poet Alexander Pushkin). This prestigious suburb of 112,000 inhabitants is known today for its cleanness, well-maintained alleys and parks. It is a popular place for retirees. 

What is a Must-see in Tsarskoe Selo?

The parks are quite vast and you can well spend a day in Tsarskoye Selo.

If you have only half a day, visit the Catherine Palace and stroll through the Catherine Park.

The Catherine Palace has a 300-year history.  The Palace is an outstanding work of architects Braunstein, Rastrelli, Cameron and Stasov.

The large part of the palace was destroyed during the WW2 and later restored.  The interiors are breathtaking. The palace is filled with the works of classical art including the famous Amber Room. 

Find the plan of the palace here.

The Alexander Palace and the Alexander Park (free entry) are less formal.  The Alexander Palace was the last residence of the Russian Tsar Nikolay Romanov and his family before the exile.  The Alexander Palace is сurrently under construction (2020).

How to Get to the Catherine Palace from Saint Petersburg?

By car: 

Tsarskoe Selo is approximately 30-50 minutes by car from Saint Petersburg to Pushkin. Free parking is available at Oranzhereynaya street (Оранжерейная ул.) parking.

Hire Uber or Yandex Taxi to take you there.  There are also options for private transfers between Saint Petersburg and Pushkin.

By train: 

Train to Tsarskoe Selo leaves from the Vitebsky Vokzal train station (Metro Pushkinskaya or Zvenigorodskaya) about every half an hour.  To get to the commuter trains area walk over to the right side of the Vitebsky Vokzal until you reach a small building with signage Пригородные Поезда/Suburban Trails. 

Your destination is station Tsarskoe Selo

See the train schedule from Saint Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo here (Russian only).  Please note that there is usually a service break on weekdays between 10 am and noon.

You can buy a ticket at the ticket desk or from a machine at the Suburban Trains pavilion of the Vitebsky Train Station.  A one-way ticket costs 47-49 rubles (about $0.60).  

You will need to scan the ticket when you enter the platform.  Keep your ticket to present it to controllers and to scan it on the exit from the train station in Tsarskoe Selo.

Pick a train in the direction of Pavlovsk (Павловск) which is less crowded than other trains.  Alternatively, the longer-haul trains to Oredezh (Оредеж), Новолисино (Novolisino), Poselok (Поселок) also stop at Tsarskoe Selo.

A train ride takes approximately 30 to 35 minutes.

Once you disembark, you will need to walk for approximately 30 minutes from the train station to the Tsarskoe Selo park.  Alternatively, take a small bus (marshrutka) number 371, 382, or 377 from the train station.  The small bus will be marked Palaces (Дворцы) or the Catherine Palace (Eкатерининский Дворец).

While the train is an inexpensive way to get to Tsarskoe Selo, it may be hard to navigate.  Plus, the train does not take you directly to the palaces.  

Also, trains gets very crowded especially during rush hour or on the weekends in summer, when Russians flock to their dashas.  There is no AC on the train. 

 

Commuter train pavilion at Vitebsky Vokzal.

By bus:

Catch a bus from Saint Petersburg to Tsarksoe selo:

  • From metro Zvezdnaya (Звездная) or metro Kupchino (Купчино) bus 186, price 50 rubles, 30-40 mins direct to the museum.
  • From metro Moskovskaya (Московская) bus 187 to Tsarskoe Selo train station (change bus there, see above).
  • From metro Moskovskaya (Московская) small bus marshrutka  286, 287, 342, 347, and 545 directly to the museum.
  • From metro Kupchino (Купчино) small bus marshrutka  К-545а, К-286, К-287, and К-347а directly to the museum.

With Private tours and Group Tours from Saint Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo:

How to Buy Entry Tickets to the Catherine Palace and the Catherine Park

Entry tickets are sold onsite, as well through the website of the Museum (currently in Russian only). They are sold for specific date and time.

The museum is very popular.  To avoid disappointment, I recommend to buy tickets in advance.  If you are coming in the high season (June to August), you have to literally start hunting for them at midnight Saint Petersburg time 14 days in advance of your visit.  This is when they go on sale on the website. 

There may be availability a couple of days in advance during the low season.  

You can only buy 4 tickets at a time. You will need to provide names and passport/id numbers (!) for everyone in your party.  The system gives you 30 minutes to complete your purchase.  

When you arrive to the Catherine Palace:

  • Arrive 30-40 minutes earlier than the time on the tickets, as you will need time to exchange your vouchers.  You can enter the Palace 15 minutes before the time on your tickets and no later than 10 minutes after.
  • You can print out electronic vouchers or at least have your order number handy.
  • You will need to present the IDs to the cashier at the park to exchange your electronic vouchers for entrance tickets.

The ticket booths are located at the Palace Chapel Gate or at the Catherine Park Main Entrance.  

The ticket costs 1,200 rubles ($16) for foreign tourists. Students can get a 50% discount and kids under 16 years old are free of charge.  You have to buy at least one ticket at full fare to benefit from the free-ticket deal. 

There are separate tickets if you just want to visit the Catherine Park.  They are 150 rubles ($2). 

Be aware that video and photo equipment, including selfie-sticks are not allowed unless specifically approved by the museum’s administration.

You can skip the ticket lines if you are going with a private guide.  This option is really worth going for when tickets are sold out and there is a 3-4 hour line.

 

The webcam for the Catherine Palace entrance (line) can be viewed here.

Tip: if you couldn’t buy a ticket for the morning, try coming later in afternoon, after 4m or 5pm, when ticket lines are much shorter.

 

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