About Saint Petersburg
St. Petersburg holds the distinction of being Russia’s imperial capital for two centuries when it was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 first as a capital for the Russian Tsardom and then the Russian Empire from 1713 to 1918. The port city located on the Baltic Sea and near the Neva River, St. Petersburg is the country’s largest city after Moscow. It is often dubbed ‘Russia’s Culture Capital’ because of its historic center where important landmarks and monuments still stand today, and is listed as a World Heritage Site. The city has so many names, including ‘Window to Europe’ and ‘Window to the West’, as well as the ‘Northernmost Metropolis in the World’ and ‘Russian Venice’ or ‘Venice of the North’ for its numerous canals. In summer, it takes on the moniker ‘City of White’ due to the midnight sun phenomenon when the nights don’t get completely dark. St. Petersburg, formerly called Petrograd and Leningrad, is home to one of the world’s largest museums, Hermitage, and boasts around 8,000 architectural monuments. It is also the financial and industrial center of Russia.
The Charm of Saint Petersburg
1. Great Architectural and Cultural EnsembleSt. Petersburg earned a place in the UNESCO World Heritage List for having 36 well-preserved ‘historical and architectural complexes’ as well as about 4,000 architectural, historical, and cultural monuments to boot. These European-inspired architectural styles, all preserved for three centuries, are top attractions in the city. With this achievement, tourism programs have started offering tours around these landmarks and monuments to introduce local cultural heritage. Visitors to St. Petersburg have a choice of the city’s 221 museums, around 2,000 libraries, 45 or so galleries, over 60 cinemas, and over 80 theaters. The city also hosts about a hundred festivals and arts and culture competitions. Its museums are as diverse as it can get with the likes of the Hermitage Museum and the Russian Museum leading the pack.
2. Flourishing Music and Dance CultureSt. Petersburg is known for the diversity of its music and dances, foremost of which is its classical ballet tradition with the Petersburg School of Ballet being one of the best in the world. The city produced ballet greats like Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Natalia Makarova. Besides classical ballet, the city has also produced great talents in the field of avant-garde dance, rhythmic gymnastics, acrobatics, and cinema, among others. In music Saint Petersburg Conservatory is a leading institution founded by Russian composer and pianist Anton Rubinstein in 1862. The Leningrad Symphony Orchestra is also one of the most popular and highly talented symphony orchestras worldwide. The city also doesn’t get left behind with contemporary music with the introduction of jazz in the 1920s, underground rock concerts in the 1960s, and the development of its own rock music in the early ‘70s. Today, the city enjoys many popular musical genres, such as rapcore and metalcore, to name a few.
3. Scenic Canals and Baroque BridgesCanal tours and walking through scenic Baroque-designed bridges are a great way of sightseeing in St. Petersburg, especially in the summer. These tours typically take visitors through the famous Griboedov and Kryukov canals, then Moika River, then out to the River Neva where the Peter and Paul Fortress is located, and then through Fontanka River. Most of the small boat tours are conducted in Russian, but larger boats offer tours in English, with on-board refreshments. Visitors can also rent a small boat and choose their own route. One interesting attraction is the drawing up of nine bridges in the evening to let boats pass by including Palace Bridge, Troitsky Bridge, Volodarsky Bridge, and Alexander Nevsky Bridge.
Saint Petersburg Tourist Spots
1. The Hermitage: St. Petersburg’s Winter PalaceThe world-famous Hermitage, or the Winter Palace, is perhaps the city’s most popular attraction, as well as one of the greatest repositories of art and antiquities in the world. The former imperial residence has been transformed into a huge palace-museum boasting more than 3 million pieces of precious collections in the world of art and antiquities. Here, one can view the masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and other European fine art collection. It also showcases a wide selection of Greek and Roman ancient artifacts, and offers guests a tour of the stately and opulent 18th and 19th century imperial family rooms. Joining a tour group or having a tour guide is highly recommended.
2. Nevsky Prospekt: Pulsing with the City BeatSt. Petersburg main avenue, Nevsky Prospekt, has a dynamic vibe and energy especially during the summer season when the street is so alive with people. The bustling avenue is lined with restaurants, bars, and cafes, along with luxury shops located at its eastern end. The 4.5-kilometer road is a veritable photographer’s dream with its elegant buildings including the Art Noveau Singer Building, the 18th century shopping gallery Gostiny Dvor, the Baroque Stroganov Palace, and the Nee-Classical Kazan Cathedral, among others. This is also where the Horse Tamers statues on Anichkov Bridge are located. It will take about a couple of hours to walk the avenue from one end to another with sightseeing and some shopping combined.
3. Peter & Paul Fortress: A Must-See AttractionThe Peter & Paul Fortress is where the glorious city of St. Petersburg all began and where major parts of the city’s history unfolded. While it was never really used for any military purposes, the Fortress and its more than 300 hundred years’ history became witness to major events. The Fortress is where almost all of the Romanov emperors and empresses were laid to rest. It was also, at one time, became an infamous penitentiary for political prisoners. In more contemporary times, the Fortress also bore witness to numerous significant experiments for the expansion of Soviet rocket technology. All of these and more are highlighted and displayed on several exhibits in its many buildings for visitors to see. In the evenings, the Fortress is a dramatic, grand sight with its well-placed lighting surrounded by water.