St Petersburg is one of the most beautiful, historical, and culturally-rich cities in the world. It’s famous for its magnificent architecture, world-class museums, vast network of rivers and bridges, and its centuries of fascinating history.
St Petersburg was the original capital of Russia, until Moscow replaced it after the October revolution in 1917. However, it’s still considered the country’s cultural capital and its historical centre is protected by UNESCO. The vast amount of things to see and do make the city Russia’s most popular tourist destination. Getting there has become easier since the launch of the St Petersburg Visa.
Here are just a few of things which make St Petersburg one of the most famous cities and best places to visit in the world.
St Petersburg is renowned for its breathtaking, eclectic range of architecture which reflects centuries of culturally-rich history. The city has developed a colorful style which includes Baroque, Neoclassical, Modern and Soviet architecture, giving it a truly unique and magical feel.
Visitors to St Petersburg are constantly treated to with sensational views of the city and some of the best photo opportunities imaginable. There is so much to see, but a few of the cities must-see architectural highlights include:
The Winter Palace: The spectacular Baroque palace is the city’s most famous building. It was the home of the Russian Emperors from 1732 to 1917 and still plays a central political role.
Grand Peterhof Palace: Built for Peter the Great, the stunning two-storey palace and grounds include more than 80 original marble statues and sculptures and many of the ruler’s own artifacts.
Catherine Palace: The stunning 18th-century palace is filled with fine art and surrounded by a 1400-acre park with numerous bridges, fountains, ponds and other exquisite features.
If you want to stay in one of the city’s beautiful buildings, and are looking for luxury, consider the highly-recommended Corinthia Hotel.
Thriving arts scene
Russia’s cultural capital is home to some of the best art collections in the world. It has some of the most famous, well-established galleries as well as new ones popping up regularly.
The city boasts collections of contemporary art as well works from the 18th and 19th centuries and before. Artworks by famous artists such as Kandinsky, Repin, Serov, and Chagall are on display.
You can find some of the best collections at:
The State Hermitage Museum: Hermitage is the second-largest, and arguably the greatest, art collection in the world. It’s been open since 1764 and has continued to grow and improve. It’s an absolute must-see.
Erarta Gallery: The largest and best contemporary art gallery in Russia is definitely worth a visit. It homes over 2,800 pieces from over 300 artists from different parts of Russia and always has exciting new temporary exhibitions as well as film screenings and other events.
The Russian Museum: The vast museum includes an incredible range of Byzantine, Baroque, and Soviet works. The building alone, the impressive Mikhailovsky Palace, is worth the trip alone.
Steeped in history
The city tells a fascinating tale and even its name has a story. It changed to Petrograd at the start of the First World War because ‘St Petersburg’ sounded too German. It then changed to Leningrad after Lenin’s death in 1924, and back to St Petersburg 1991 following the fall of the Soviet empire.
Perhaps the most tragic event in the city’s history was the 900-day siege by the German army during World War II when almost a million people died. The city also played a key strategic role in the Russian Civil War.
There are various well-presented museums that display relics and artefacts from bygone periods such as the State Museum of Political History of Russia, the Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad, and the Central Naval Museum.
Bridges, rivers, and picturesque walks
St Petersburg is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ as there are 342 bridges over its network of rivers and canals. They form an integral part of the city’s infrastructure and many of the country’s greatest engineers and architects have left their mark on them.
The bridges and waterways make for unforgettable walks and photos. You’ll inevitably encounter many as you can’t get anywhere without crossing one, but there are a few technical masterpieces which shouldn’t be missed…
The Palace Bridge: Connects Palace Square with Strelka (Vasilevsky Island) and offers one of the most breathtaking views of the city. It’s also one of the main gathering points during the White Nights.
Anichkov Bridge: The stunning 19th-century bridge crosses the Fontanka Bridge and is famous for its four equestrian statues that stand in each corner of the bridge, known as ‘The Horse Tamers’.
Bank Bridge: Possibly the most pedestrian bridge in the city. It’s close to Kazan Cathedral and includes four elegant golden-winged griffons.