Designed in stages by various architects – most notably Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli – the Winter Palace was the official residence of Russian monarchs from 1732 to 1917. Peter I first commissioned it in 1703 and construction began on the banks of the Neva River in St Petersburg. In early designs, the Winter Palace was a small building consisting of only two floors. Over time, the building expanded to the sprawling beacon that it is today. The exterior is constructed in the Baroque style with the interior boasting of 1500 rooms – throne rooms, bedrooms, offices and galleries.
Situated near St Petersburg in the town of Tsarskoye Selo, the Catherine Palace was the summer residence of the Russian tsars. Commissioned in 1717, the palace is decorated in the Rococo style and is considered an eighth wonder of the world. The opulent building consists of a ballroom, painted ceilings, sculptures, numerous bedrooms and various false windows with mirrors to make the hall appear brighter and longer. The interior is decorated in the baroque style with gilded wall-carvings, flowers, ceiling murals and gilded furnishings.