The palace and park at Gatchina dates back to the time of Empress Catherine II. In 1765, the tsarina gave her favourite, Count Grigory Orlov, a lavish gift – the Gatchina estate. The picturesque landscape, spring-fed lakes with connecting tributaries and rivers made it possible to create here the unique landscape park with the palace of remarkable architecture as its focal point. The design for the palace was developed by the Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi. The building works were completed by 1781.
The palace that emerged as a result looked like an Italian palazzo with facades faced with natural stone, Pudost limestone. The brilliant nobleman Grigory Orlov was not destined to live in the new estate as he died in early 1783. The empress Catherine II bought back the estate from the count’s heirs and presented it to her son, the Grand Duke Paul Petrovich. Shortly thereafter Gatchina was to become his favourite residence. The palace was altered somewhat under the architect Vincenzo Brenna. In keeping with the pace of fashions, the state rooms were remodelled, formal gardens, park pavilions, stone gates and bridges emerged.
In the reign of Nicholas I, the Palace underwent a major reconstruction and acquired its present-day look. All the stages of reconstruction were carried out under the direction of the architect R. I. Kuzmin from 1844-1856. Nicholas I and his son Alexander II seldom visited Gatchina. Alexander III, son of Alexander II, chose Gatchina as his principal residence. Gatchina Palace remained a beloved home for the tsar’s family for many years.
On May 19, 1918, the Gatchina Palace was opened to the public. The Palace and its parks suffered significant damage during World War II. Restoration work began as late as 1976. The first 18th-century state rooms were opened to the public in 1985, including the Anteroom, the Marble Dining Room, Paul’s Throne Room and the exhibition installed on the second floor of the Central Building. Now you can see more than 50 rooms with recreated interiors and interesting thematic exhibitions at Gatchina Palace.