Spent about 5 hours visiting Catherine Palace on a beautiful day. Got there from St. Petersburg by taking the subway, then a local bus. Total transit time to the site was one hour, which was also very easy and cheap. We arrived at the palace around 10 am. Since we didn't have pre-purchased tickets, we looked at the line of people waiting to purchase tickets when the ticket office opened at noon. Since only about 8 people were in line, we took a chance and decided to walk around the grounds to look at the park. Bad decision! We returned at 11:15 am to find that ~50 people were now in the line. That doesn't sound like much, but what we didn't know is each person was holding a place in line for others. For example, the individual in front of us was holding places for 13 others. So at noon the line went from 50 to ~200 in a matter of minutes. It took us until 1:15 pm to get into the palace. So if there is one recommendation, get there early if you aren't on a tour or have tickets...and get in line. The palace tour itself took ~40 minutes, and was well worth the wait. The place is spectacular and unlike the Peterhof Palace, you can take pictures.The only shortcoming the site lacks given the number of people visiting is sufficient dining facilities. We stopped by one restaurant located beside the lake and had an enjoyable lunch, but their overall dining capacity is limited. Visiting Catherine Palace is a great day trip to take from St. Petersburg, well worth the time and money.
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