Often nicknamed 'the Venice of the North', it is a beautiful Russian city.
The canals and waterways of St Petersburg make it one of the most pleasant cities of Eastern Europe, and therefore often nicknamed ‘the Venice of the North’. The Neva River is an essential ingredient to St Petersburg’s charm, and runs right through the city. It was once intended to be ‘the main street of the city’. The Neva is completely frozen during winter making it unnavigable by ship. There are a couple of attractions in St Petersburg that are a must for any visitor. These include the Hermitage, one of the largest museums in the world hosting an impressive European art collection, including works by Michelangelo, Rubens, Rembrandt, Picasso and Matisse. Another one of these must see attractions is the Summer Garden founded in 1704 by order of Peter the Great, from whom the city got its name.
There is only one museum in St. Petersburg which is never closed - the city itself. The panoramic city tour which usually takes three to four hours enables visitors to perceive the beauty of the city as the unique architectural whole which has been created within a relatively short period of time. The tour includes visiting main architectural ensembles such as the Palace Square and Alexander’s Column, the Senate Square and the Bronze Horseman, buildings of Senate and Synod, St. Isaac’s Square with St. Isaac’s Cathedral and monument to Nicholas I, Mariinsky Palace, the Spit (Strelka) of the Basil Island with Rostral Columns and imposing building of the former Stock-Exchange with a marvellous view of the Peter and Paul Fortress, and the Hermitage, the numerous bridges and granite-clad embankments criss-crossing the city in many directions. The tour continues to the Field of Mars, along the Summer Gardens and unsurpassed beauty of their wrought-iron fence, and then to the airy ensemble of the Smolny Cathedral. An unforgettable experience is a drive along the fantastic Nevsky Prospect, the main thoroughfare of the city, lined with innumerable historical buildings, palaces and cathedrals.
The largest museum collection in the world is spread throughout four buildings. You enter the Winter Palace from the Neva Embankment; the next building to the east is the Small Hermitage; further east lies the Old Hermitage (facing the river) and the New Hermitage (facing Palace Square). An arched gallery spans the Winter Canal and leads to the Hermitage theatre.
There are literally a billion things to see in the Hermitage and it is well worth making more than one visit. The overwhelming richness of the museum is all the more enhanced by the incredible splendor of the buildings, inside and out: ornate and regal facades, huge frescoed halls; marble, wood and mosaic floors; and statuettes, figurines, and antique furniture all on such a grand scale that it fascinates the mind.
The Hermitage houses a tremendous collection of Western European art, including such masters as Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. Its collection of Spanish art may be compared only with that in Prado Museum in Madrid; the collection of French art is the largest outside France, displaying works by Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, Goguen and Matisse.
It is the historical nucleus of the city on the Neva river as well as one of the most interesting and beautiful architectural landmarks. Designed to protect newly acquired lands the hexagonal-shaped Peter and Paul Fortress lost its military significance before it was completed. Its guns never saw any action and were put to use as a flood-warning signal, and the fortress housed a political prison for two hundred years.
From as far away as the Gulf of Finland one can see the distant gilded spire of the fortress cathedral which is the main feature of the city skyline. The St. Peter and Paul Cathedral is the burial place of all Russian Emperors from Peter the Great to the last of the Romanovs - Nicholas II.
In the gardens there is an interesting and controversial monument to Peter the Great by the famous artist Shemyakin. Unveiled in May 1991, the monument stirred controversy because it portrays Peter not as a majestic giant on horseback, as is the norm, but as an old man with a remarkably tiny head.
St. Isaac of Dalmatia was the patron saint of the Romanov family. The original St. Isaac’s was a small wooden church where Peter I and Catherine I were married in 1712. The present version of St. Isaac’s, the fourth, was constructed from 1818 to 1858 according to the design of the French architect Montferrand. Everything was done on a grand scale. The monolithic columns of the portico cut from red granite are seventeen meters high and weigh 114 tons each. The mosaic inside has twelve thousand shades and colors, the walls are five meters thick and the main cupola is coated with one hundred kilos of gold. It is the fourth highest cathedral in the world after the world-known St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Paul’s in London and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.
The inside of the cathedral is filled with hundreds of paintings, sculptures and mosaics by 19th century masters, including a huge fresco on the inside of the cupola by Bryullov and a bust of Montferrand made of different colored marbles. Also of note are the intricately sculptured bronze doors, the white marble central iconostasis with mosaic icons and columns of malachite and lapis lazuli.
The richest of non-imperial palaces of St. Petersburg, this palace was the home of the noble and powerful Yusupov family, relatives to the Russian Czars. The Yusupovs were great collectors of art, and their collection was known well beyond Russia. After the revolution most of the collection was moved to the Hermitage, though traces of the incredible wealth that once kept this palace pulsating with life still remain: the various sitting rooms, the intricate chandeliers and candelabras that adorn every room and corridor. The beautiful home theater of the palace looks like a cozy version of the famous Mariinsky theatre. The palace has been registered in the catalogue named “European Private Mansions of Interest”.
It was in this palace where the assassination of Rasputin, one of the most scandalous figures in Russian history, took place. One can feel the drama of the moment seeing wax figures of the conspirators waiting in a small room on the ground floor. In the cellar where it happened there are two more wax figures: Rasputin and young Felix Yusupov talking over the set table minutes before the assassination.
One of St. Petersburg highest buildings, the Church of the Resurrection of Christ is a superb example of Russian architecture and decorative art of the end of the 19th century. The church was built on the spot where Alexander II was fatally wounded by a terrorist, a member of People's Will revolutionary group in 1881. This event gave its second, more commonly used name - "the Saviour of the Spilt Blood" (often referred to by its Russian name "Spas Na Krovi").
The construction of the memorial church began in 1883 and lasted 24 years. The enormous amount of more than 1? million of silver rubles was allocated for the construction. The church was completed in 1907. Beautiful onion-shaped domes of the cathedral are covered with precious enamel. The facades of the church are adorned with more than 400 square meters of mosaic. The church has a breath-taking interior design with great variety of semi-precious stones, gold and mosaics covering the area of almost 7,000 square meters
The museum is located in the former Mikhailovsky Palace. Built for Paul’s youngest son by Carlo Rossi who devoted his life and work to St. Petersburg, the palace was turned into a museum in 1898 by Nicholas II. The palace has preserved an impressive suite of beautifully decorated gala rooms on the main floor. The largest rooms hold some of the collection's most famous works: Ivan Aivazovsky's huge seascapes The Ninth Wave and The Wave, and Karl Bryullov's acclaimed The Last Days of Pompei. The collection of Russian and Soviet art spans medieval icons to grandiose socialist realism and avante guard paintings and encompasses more than 370,000 items dating from 11th century to the present.
One of Peter the Great's favorites, Alexander Menshikov, was given the whole of Vasilyevsky Island in 1707. Later on, in 1714, the Czar took his present back, though in the time that he owned the island, Menshikov managed to build this palace on the bank of the Neva. The palace was St. Petersburg’s first building of stone. It successfully combines traditional Russian and West European methods and forms of architecture. Dutch and Russian tiles, wooden paneling, carved and gilded decorations, sculptured moldings and monumental decorative painting have been used in its rich and original ornamentation
The main Orthodox monastery of the city was founded by Peter the Great on the site of the legendary 1240 battle between Alexander Nevsky and the Swedes. The term Lavra is usually translated as monastery or abbey, and there are only four "lavras" in all Russia. The metropolitan of the Orthodox Church resides here. The palace of metropolitan, the Church of Annunciation as well as main place of worship in town - The Holy Trinity Cathedral, are located here. Also worth seeing is the Necropolis (Tikhvin Cemetery), two plots of land filled with monuments to the outstanding people of the 18th and 19th centuries including Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky to name a few.
Petrodvorets (also called Peterhof) is the most famous summer residence of Russian emperors. It is located 25 km west on the Gulf of Finland. Its history begins in 1704 when Peter I built a wooden house on the Gulf. In 1723 the enlarged palace became official summer residence, later it was expanded by Empress Elizabeth and called Grand Summer Palace.
The architectural ensemble of Peterhof includes Upper and Lower Parks with more than 170 fountains and 4 cascades as well as several smaller palaces. These are Monplaisir palace with adjoining Catherine's Wing, Assembly Building with Imperial Bathrooms and Kitchen, the Hermitage Pavilion and Chateau de Marly, on the western edge of the park.
The system of fountains was built in 1722. The intricate system of pipes stretches for nearly 13,67 mi. The water flows downhill by force of gravity while the fountains operate according to the principle of communicating vessels. In both artistry and engineering the fountains of Peterhof are truly unique.
Catherine’s Palace is located 25 km south of St. Petersburg in the town of Pushkin originally called Tsarskoye Selo. It was named after Peter the Great’s wife Catherine I and gained a truly regal appearance in 1752.
A summer residence of Russian Tsars, this place was loved by Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Alexander I and especially by Nicholas II, the last Russian monarch.
The palace, a combination of blue, white and gold, looks magnificent. A huge breath-taking ballroom called the Throne Hall, the famous Amber Room, ornately decorated drawing and dining rooms leave unforgettable impressions.
Surrounding the palace is a park covering more than 570 hectares with bridges, terraces, fountains and small galleries.
Named after Paul I, Pavlovsk was founded in 1777 when a small ducal palace was built. A large horseshoe-shaped Paul’s Palace was completed in 1786 and renovated again in 1803 during the reign of Paul’s son - Alexander I.
This palace is often called a pearl of the classical style as many famous architects of the time took part in designing its beautiful interiors which are synthesis of architecture, decorative painting and sculpture.
A beautiful landscape park, the largest in Europe, surrounds the palace.