St Petersburg (previously known as Leningrad and Petrograd) is a major port city located approximately 400 miles northwest of Moscow. Founded in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great, it is the second-largest city in Russia and has played a vital role in molding the Russian history. The city acted as a gateway for Russia into the Baltic Sea and was a place of exchange of different cultures, visible in the picturesque buildings. It made use of French and Italian styles of architecture and at the same time capturing the traditional Russian culture in its many castles, museums, churches, and monasteries.
Here are 15 places to visit in St Petersburg:
1. Church of Savior on the Spilled Blood
This church has a lot of deep-rooted memories as it stands at the very spot where the famous Tsar of Russia – Alexander II, was assassinated. With its gem-laden onion-shaped domes and a multicolored facade and extensively decorated interiors, it is a popular tourist attraction of the city.
2. Peter and Paul Fortress
Located on Zayachy Island, it was among the first built structures of the city to provide a defensive base. Parts of the fort were then taken up by the St Museum of History and converted into a museum. Its golden tower glistens up the area where tourists can spend the entire day learning about the history of the city.
3. St Isaac’s Cathedral
It is one of the oldest and largest cathedrals in Russia. The facade has large granite structures and enormous red granite columns, which add to the aesthetics provided by its gilded dome. Its interiors have detailed mosaic paintings and columns of malachite and lapis lazuli. The cathedral accommodates up to 14,000 worshipers on special occasions.
4. Winter Palace
The Winter Palace is the most famous building in the city and plays a crucial role in its 300-year-old history. The palace dominates over the Palace Square and upholds the political, cultural, and symbolic value of the city. It was the first imperial residence of the empire, which was rebuilt by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The building has a facade richly decorated with two levels of columns and statues and vases on its parapet.
5. State Hermitage Museum
The museum is one of the largest museums with a huge collection of 3 million items, ranging from Impressionist masterpieces to Oriental treasures. Given the large size, tourists often come to visit this place more than one time to fully cherish what the museum has to offer. A large part of the museum’s collection is present in the Winter Palace.
6. Stroganov Palace
The Stroganov Palace is one of the oldest and majestic palaces in St Petersburg, located on the edge of Nevsky Prospekt and Moika River Embankment. In 1918, the palace was nationalized and used as a Museum of Aristocratic Life and later became tied up with the Hermitage Museum. Its facade comprises decorated windows and large white columns and attracts the attention of people.
7. The Palaces and Gardens of Peterhof
Also known as the Russian Versailles, Peterhof is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which acted as the residences of the Czars until 1917. It is located west of St Petersburg (around 30 kilometers). The area is composed of palaces, museums, churches, and other buildings, landscaped with spectacular gardens and fountains.
8. Yusupov Palace
Located on the Moyka river, this palace is one of the two standing residences of the wealthy Yusupov family of St Petersburg. The bright yellow facade with massive white columns attracts a large number of tourists. It acts as a cultural center and hosts various classical concerts and theatre performances in the Palace Theatre. However, it is most famous for being the scene of the assassination of Grigory Rasputin.
9. Shuvalov Palace
The Shuvalov Palace is one of the many palaces along the Fontanka River and was renowned for the balls held there during the first half of the 19th century. Major attractions are the Grand Ballroom, the Naryshkin horn orchestra, and the Picture Gallery (famous western European art). The Grand Ballroom has marble columns and panels having scenes of the Trojan War sculpted on them.
10. Fabergé Museum
It is one of the many museums of decorative art, located in the Shuvalov Palace. It has the world’s largest collection of Fabergé eggs, commissioned by the last of the Russian emperors. The museum focuses on displaying the culturally valuable artifacts and artworks to the public.
11. Grand Market Russia
This is a miniature model of the whole of the Russian Federation, ranging over an area of 800 sq.m. It visualizes the urban and rural scenes across Russia on a scale of 1:87, making it the world’s second-largest model. It took 100 people five years to complete and was opened for public display in 2012.
The Kunstkamera is a museum of Anthropology and Ethnography and is dedicated to the collection and research of human curiosities. It also acts as a research center for the Russian Academy of Sciences. The museum has a total of 1.2 million exhibits, from both the new and old worlds.
13. Tsarskoe Selo
The Tsarskoe Selo was one of the two sub-urban estates established by the Romanov Tsars. It consists of two vast palaces, surrounded by exceptional landscaped gardens. It is home to the famous Catherine Palace and is often found to be laden with tourists during the summers.
14. The Mikhailovsky (St Micheal’s) Castle
The castle was constructed in the romantic classicism style and was a silent witness to several legends and stories. It was later used as the Army Engineers’ School and currently hosts a branch of the Russian Museum.
15. Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps
This museum displays a huge open-air collection of arms and heavy artillery from the Middle Ages up to date. It is located across the canal from Peter and Paul Fortress and is a fun place to visit and learn about the history of wars and associated technology.