The Gatchina Palace was the favorite palace of Paul I who made it the official royal residence when he became the Russian Emperor in 1796.
The history of the Gatchina Palace dates back to 1760s when Catherine the Great presented these lands to her lover Count Orlov. A large palace and a park complex began to take shape under his ownership. Following Orlov's death she presented Gatchina to her son, future Emperor Paul I, and it was his residence for over 30 years. Paul asked his favorite architect Brenna to refashion the palace to match his pronounced martial tastes.
Following the Revolution of 1917, the Gatchina Palace was turned into a museum. It suffered tremendous damage during the World War II. After the war the palace was used as a military academy. The lengthy restoration works continued until 1985 when the Gatchina Palace reopened its doors to the public as a museum.
All the rooms in the Gatchina Palace are not very large but they are notable for the refinement of their decor. They have almost perfect proportions, superb inlaid parquet floors and inlaid doors edged with artificial marble. The White Hall, the Crimson Room, and the Marble Dining Room are the most impressive interiors of the palace. A rich collection of medieval weaponry is located on the ground floor.
The unique Priory Palace by the Russian architect Lvov is the last surviving example of "beaten-earth" construction in Russia. This earth-made palace was originally intended to serve for only 20 years but it is already its third century in existence. Constructed for a prior of the Maltese Order, the palace never became a priory, although it was presented to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem by Paul I in 1799. For an excellent overview of the history and construction of the palace please visit The Priory Palace.
The delightful grounds of the neighboring parks are the wildest of all palace parks around St. Petersburg. There is an intricate network of interconnected lakes and rivulets sprinkled with floating islands and romantic bridges surrounding the palace. Other places of interest include the Temple of Venus on the secluded Island of Love, the Birch House, and the Eagle Pavilion.