St Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city and the Northernmost City in the world, once the Imperial Capital of Russia has to be one of the world’s most ornate and beautiful cities. The stunning architecture, maze of canals and mesmerizing skyline make this the ideal place for a long weekend break. In three days the city will unfold before you, to show you some of the most dramatic architecture, stunning gardens and places of worship the like you will never forget.
St Petersburg is situated on the Neva River which flows through the center of the city and is an important Russian port on the Baltic sea. The city has always had an important role in the history of Russia. Founded by Tsar Peter the Great on 27th May 1703 the city was to become the Imperial Capital of Russia between 1732 and 1918. Peter the Great was a very western looking Tsar and this is reflected in the city as the Romanov’s showcase Capital, is the most westernised city in Russia.
It was here in 1905 that the Russian Revolution began, the wave of mass unrest both political and social was to spread throughout Russia. What had started as a peaceful protest escalated at an alarming rate when Tsar Nicholas II ordered his cossacks to open fire on a group of peaceful demonstrators led by the orthodox priest Father Gapon at the Winter Palace. Although the outcome of the Revolution calmed things for a short period, it was not enough to stop the eventual 1917 Russian Revolution which was to topple the Tsarist autocracy.
During these periods of unrest in the city there where also other changes taking place. In 1914 during the outbreak of WW1 the city was to change its name form St Petersburg to Petrograd, then in 1924 it was changed to Leningrad before reverting finally back to St Petersburg in 1991.
In 1918 the other major change for the city and one that was to act in its best interests, was moving the Central Government to Moscow. This loss of Capital status has preserved so much of what we today see in St Petersburg. For here in the city unlike Moscow there are still many pre-revolutionary buildings and not as much modern architecture, as this has all taken place in the new Capital. Instead St Petersburg still has an old charm about it with a skyline that is free from huge skyscrapers and a historic city center that has many Baroque and Neo- Classical buildings that have been largely preserved.
What to do In St Petersburg.
St Petersburg is seen as the Cultural Capital of Russia and is a highly attractive destination for tourists from all over the world because of its cultural and historic heritage. Here you will discover more that 200 museums, 2000 libraries, 80 theatres, 45 galleries and 62 cinemas, as well as hosting 100 festivals a year of which 50 are international. If it is history and culture that you seek then you couldn’t pick a better destination than St Petersburg and in 3 days there are some highlights that you really shouldn’t miss.
The State Hermitage Museum.
Founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, one of the greatest art collector’s of all time, this state museum located in Palace square, is set mainly in the magnificent Winter Palace the former residence of the Russian Emperor’s and has been open to the public since 1852.
Inside are to be found some of the greatest treasures of Russia and Western Europe. One of the oldest and largest museums in the world, there are now over 3 million works of art inside, although only a fraction are on show at anyone time. This is a place that you could spend days looking around and so careful planning is needed to see as much as possible in a short time.
The State Hermitage is made up of five buildings that are all linked, the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage and the State Hermitage Theatre. Inside you will find Egyptian and Classical antiquities and pre-historic art, as well major work’s from the Italian Renaissance, Russian art, the Dutch Golden Age and Impressionist and Post Impressionist works. Guided
tours are available to get you through the main areas to see as much as possible so are well worth taking.
Church on the Spilled Blood.
Without doubt one of the most impressive buildings that you will ever see, this five domed masterpiece is a place you have visit during your stay in St Petersburg. The Church has the official name of Church of the Resurrection of Christ but the assassination attempt in 1881 on Tsar Alexander II led to this name that it usually goes by, Church on the Spilled Blood.
The classic Russian Orthodox exterior and interior took over 24 years to build and went massively over budget. During the Soviet era the Church suffered at the hands of neglect and by the 1970s needed considerable restoration work to be done on it.
Over the last 27 years it has been brought back to its former glory, with pain staking attention to detail. The outside is covered in some 700sqm of mosaics and the inside is just as impressive with almost every square inch covered in gold, art work or mosaics. This majestic work of architecture has been named one of the world’s top ten landmarks by Trip Advisor and is a place that you really must make as a priority during your stay in St Petersburg.
Peterhof Palace and Garden.
Peterhof Palace and Garden which is located in Petergof, St Petersburg are a series of Palaces and gardens and which are sometimes referred to as the “Russian Versailles,” and were laid out under the instruction of Peter the Great.
An entire day can be spent here exploring, in what is seen by many to be the most impressive imperial palace in St Petersburg. Built on the waterfront, this sublime setting is complete with a grand palace and superb highly manicured gardens that contain over 140 fountains. The construction of this amazing place began in 1714 and as you wander around and lose yourself in the opulent atmosphere you can almost imagine being here with Catherine the Great herself, walking the majestic corridors and gazing into the splendid rooms. The rich interiors form an impressive collection that started with the construction of the site in 1714 and tell a rich history of Russia’s past.
Outside in the stunning formal gardens, the top garden is laid out in a French style. Here you will
discover Neptune, God of the Sea in his magnificent fountain. The gardens that are referred to the as the Russian Versailles lie in the lower area, which lies between the palace and the seashore and has a number of very impressive fountains which are actually the world’s largest system of fountains. This amazing feat of engineering was designed in the 18th Century and requires no pumps to operate it.
Peter and Paul Fortress.
The Peter and Paul Fortress is the place to go for anybody who is interested in military history. A trip out to Zachary Island will present you with this large fortress that comprises among other things, a Cathedral where the Romanovs are buried, a former prison and also various exhibitions.
This is the spot that the City of St Petersburg grew from. It’s not just anyone who is interested in history
that should visit, though indeed history enthusiasts will love the place, a climb onto the fortress walls will afford you with some of the most amazing panoramic views and at the bottom of the fortress walls there is a lovely beach where you can go and relax after walking around this defensive fortress.
The fortress founded by Peter the Great in 1703 is the original citadel of the city and was being used as a prison up until the early 20th Century, now though its primary use is of the State Museum of St Petersburg history.
There are various worthy buildings to visit whilst at the fortress, the Cathedral of Peter and Paul were the remains of the Russian Tsars lie is one place to go, as well visiting the functioning mint that is there and also the city museum.If you happen to be in St Petersburg on 27th May, then you will be able to witness the annual city day celebrations that take place at the fortress to commemorate the city on the Island that St Petersburg was born.
Final Words – St Petersburg Points of Interest.
Although a large city, with careful planning three days in the city will give you plenty of time to sample the delights of this stunning cosmopolitan city and all that it has to offer. There are so many beautiful buildings and places to see that even just walking around will give the visitor real pleasure.
The rich colours of the buildings and the amazing architecture draw its visitors down its streets to take in
all the wondrous sights. The city that for many years has been in the shadow of the Capital Moscow has now emerged in its own right as a vibrant center full of art and culture, a place to explore and enjoy and a place to return to time and again.