Founded in 1704 by Tsar Peter the Great, St. Petersburg’s Summer Garden is the oldest, and most beautiful, park in the city. The Summer Garden was one of Peter the Great’s personal passions, serving as his private retreat, and the magnificent examples of Russian architecture and landscaping that can be seen all the way through the park is proof of this.
The Summer Garden has always been filled with fine art sculptures, although a number of these were destroyed in 1777 due to damage caused by flooding. However, the garden’s original plan was soon re-instated, and the Summer Garden’s avenues are lined today with 89 different sculptures. This may be a significant reduction from the 250 sculptures that originally lined the park, but are still able to provide almost the same elegant ambiance to the gardens. The majority of these date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, and were imported over from Italy. Many visitors notice a mythological theme running through the statues on display, and this was not at all an accident. The selection of pieces, many of which are related to mythology in some way, were chosen by Peter the Great himself and are aligned with his own personal beliefs.
The Summer Garden used to be home to 70 cascading fountains, and unlike the eighty or so statues that survived the flooding in 1777, the fountains did not, and Catherine the Great decided not to have them rebuilt afterwards. However, the latest restoration project at the park saw eight of the fountains being rebuilt, with four of them located in their exact historical setting.
The Famous Iron Fence
The wrought iron fence that encloses the park almost seems to blend in with nature all around it, with its delicate patterns replicating those on the trees behind it. Gold ornaments punctuate the black iron, instantly adding an aura of elegance and opulence, while 36 polished granite columns help to support the metal grille. The medallions that decorate the fence depict characters from Greek mythology, a theme that ties in to that of the sculptures that line the park.
The Coffee House
A pavilion on the Summer Garden’s Fontanka Embankment, the Coffee House was built in 1826 and serves as a souvenir shop and café for the park. In addition to fresh and delicious beverages and snacks, the Coffee House also displays various pieces of local art, hosts live jazz performances and has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere that makes it ideal for stopping by when visiting the Summer Garden. For those who want to purchase refreshments while exploring the Summer Garden, there are a number of ice cream and beverage vendors located around the park, and plenty of leafy trees to provide some shade from the sun.
The Summer Garden holds a special place in the heart of St. Petersburg, and is well worth visiting when you are in the city. Even if you have visited the park before, its beauty is constantly changing with the seasons, providing a tranquil oasis in the middle of the city.