“St. Petersburg is a gem of world culture and Russia’s most European city.”
Last September, I visited Saint Petersburg, Russia. There’s something about the city and how it gets under your skin and soul. The city of rivers with a heart full of history and secrets, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the city.
If you are a history buff, you have to visit St. Petersburg- Russia’s imperial capital- full of Fortresses, Cathedrals, Palaces and Museums. Read below to find out the ten places that you cannot- absolutely not- miss.
- THE HERMITAGE
Just for the Hermitage alone I could go back to St. Petersburg. Located in the Palace Square- this museum is breathtakingly magnificent. Innumerable number of paintings, statues, figures, pots, intricate designs on ceilings, and the absolutely beautiful ballrooms enchanted me. I spent an entire morning there- and it definitely wasn’t enough. I’m a 100% sure that I didn’t see every room- and a 250% sure that I will find my way to the museum again- someday.
Souvenir to buy: I ended up buying a replica painting of a painting that’s hung at the Hermitage, a coffee table book called ‘My Hermitage’ by Mikhail Piotrovsky (Rizzoli) and lots of postcards.
- Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
The best way to enjoy St. Petersburg- while learning all of it’s history is by hiring a tour guide. Our lovely tour guide took us to all the spots and explained all of their history in great depth. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood- is an architecture to marvel. Built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded, the Church is full of delicate mosaics inside.
- Peterhof Palace
‘The Russian Versaillies’ was laid out of by the Peter the Great. Within the Palace area is the Grand Palace, Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain and the Lower Gardens. Unfortunately, when we visited the Grand Palace was closed for public viewing, the outsides still made for a darn enchanted view. My tour guide did tell us that what you see today of the Peterhof Palace is a reconstruction- after the Germans attacked in WWII.
TIP: The best way to get to Peterhof Palace is to take a Hydrofoil from the city to Peterhof.
- Bridges by the Day and Night
St. Petersburg is a city full of rivers and roughly 800 bridges- big and small. I had heard a lot about the bigger bridges opening up every night to let the ships pass through the city- because it isn’t just one bridge that opens, but about 10 of them on the Neva river (which is the largest river there). We went for a little boat ride during the day to sail under the little city bridges and see the lovely colourful buildings. And we went again in the night to see the bridge openings in a chilly weather. The boat trip by the night is definitely an experience that can’t be missed- because it paints an already impressionable city in a more flattering light.
TIP: Bundle up. While most boats provide blankets- carry something to cover your head and ears with. No matter how exhausted you are- do not miss this!
- Catherine Palace
Have you heard of the famous Amber Room- where the entire chamber is made of amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors? This is where that room is. Another beautiful palace- from the entrance till the garden exit- add it to the itineary to not be missed. Every door leads to a differently influenced chamber with a beautiful idea and extravagant interior. It was ordered by Catherine I or Russia as her summer palace, and was promptly redone by her daughter Emperess Elizabeth after.
When the German forces attacked, they left the palace entirely hollow- thrashing away at all its exorbitant interiors. It was later rebuilt, and restored to its former glory.
TIP: There are plenty of Amber shops outside the Palace- which have beautiful designs of Amber jewellery. It really makes for the perfect souvenir- especially for a extravagant palace 😉
- Swan Lake Ballet at Alexandrisky Theatre
I know Bolshoi Theatre is the best- BUT, it was closed when I visited Moscow, and I ended up visiting this one. It was really magical and completely captivating. You have to see a show at the theatre- it’s beautiful. It’s got these little hallways that you can get lost in or pretend you are in a giant palace looking for Prince Charming.
Souvenir: The little shop inside the Theatre has these beautiful paintings of ballerinas as postcards.
- Folklore Show at Nikolaevsky Palace
This was one of the funnest show’s I’ve ever seen. It was really entertaining and gave us a glimpse into the lives of four different folk groups of Russia. The two-hour performance is a very engaging and lively. The Palace itself is another beautiful sight to see.
- Peter and Paul Fortress
Established by Peter the Great, the Peter and Paul Fortress is by the Neva River, overlooking the beaches of the city. While it doesn’t have the touch of glit like the rest of the city’s historical landmarks, the Fortress still stands a remarkable ground. Though it was the very first fortress, it served as a military base, governmental offices, burial sight for the Romanov family and a jail- that’s popular for its horrific stories. Inside the fortress, the most prominent structure is the Peter & Paul Cathedral which is about 150 years old and is home to the graves of nearly all the rulers of the Romanov dynasty since Peter the Great.
- Nevsky Prospekt
The main street in St. Petersburg- it’s got all the important sights on either side- including the Admirality, Kazan Cathedral, Catherine the Great’s monument, several 18th century Cathedrals and more. I spent an entire evening walking around the street, exploring the many Cathedrals, bookstores around the street.
- St Isaac’s Cathedral
So, I was lucky enough to see this pretty much everytime I left my hotel. We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel which was literally behind the Cathedral. While the interiors are phenomenally spectacular, it’s the dome- in particular- that takes the cake. The main dome is really high and is completely plated in gold. It is the largest Cathedral in the city, and the fourth largest in the entire world.