The Top 10 Attractions in St. Petersburg
It is not by chance that St.Petersburg is known as the Cultural capital of Russia. The city boasts 300 different museums, 80 theatres, 100 concert halls and 45 art galleries and exhibition halls. As such when planning your trip to St. Petersburg, it makes sense to work out an itinerary and make a list of the highlights that you definitely want to see in advance.
The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest art museums in the world housed in the former Tsar’s residence the Winter Palace. This museum contains over 3 million exhibits including some of the world’s greatest works of art fromsuch names as Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, as well as a never-ending gallery of sumptuous rooms.
The Hermitage occupies six grand buildings in the very center of the city. The most important is the Winter Palace, a former imperial palace and the official winter residence of the Russian emperors since its completion in 1762. The building which stands at 22 meters high, features 1080 rooms, 1945 windows and 117 different staircases and stairways. In 1844 Emperor Nicholas the First released a special decree banning the construction of any civil buildings exceeding the height of the Winter Palace. You will see that today the palace is painted mint green and white. Interestingly enough that the palace hasn`t always been that colour and has instead been rotated through red, yellow and even purple throughout its life.
Built as a bastion against Swedish forces in 1703 by Peter the Great, the Peter and Paul fortress was first structure in St. Petersburg, and thus the birthplace of the city, however it never served its intended defensive function. This complex was used as a political prison under the tsars, and now houses the St. Petersburg History Museum, the Mint, and the Peter and Paul Cathedral – which was the first cathedral in St Petersburg, and the burial site of the Romanov dynasty.
The Church of the Savior on Blood is a beautiful onion-domed church built on the place of the assassination of the Emperor Alexander II.
It is decorated with Italian coloured marbles, decorative stones from the Urals and the Altai region, as well as a large collection of Russian heraldic mosaics. In fact the inner and the outer walls of the church are decorated with over 7000 sq.meters of mosaivs making it Russia`s largest collection of mosaics.
This gold-domed, ornate, 19th-century cathedral is the third largest domed cathedral in the world. Conceived as the central Orthodox Church in Russia, it took 40 years to be built and was incredibly richly decorated inside. The cupola colonnade offers visitors a spectacular view of the city.
Peterhof – which means “Peter’s Court” in German, is often referred to as “the Russian Versailles”. Originally planned personally by Peter the Great, this Summer Residence was greatly extended by his daughter Elisabeth. The majestic complex consists of several palaces and two gardens with more that 150 fountains including the truly spectacular Grand Cascade. Earning the title of “The Capital of fountains” the Peterhof Residence is open all year round, although the faountains operate from early May to October, and are, along with the rest of the complex, a Must-See place for all visitors to St. Petersburg.
This blue and white palace is a unique monument to the Russian baroque style. It was the former official Summer residence of all Russian Emperors since Catherine I. The lands where the palace stands were originally presented by Peter the Great to his wife Catherine I, and the palace itself was named in her honour, although it was built on the order of their daughter Elisabeth.
The palace is surrounded by beautiful French and English style parks, and is richly decorated with gold inside. It is especially famous for the Amber Room, a study with all the walls adorned with natural amber.
Formerly the hunting grounds of tsars, this 1,500-acre park contains an aviary, charming foot bridges, trails, ponds, gardens and an elegant neo-classical palace which belonged to Paul I and his wife, Maria Feodorovna. The palace houses a unique collection of paintings and sculptures, including many from ancient Rome. The palace`s perfectly designed interiors help to imagine the life of the Royal family.
The State Russian Museum
Believed to be the most elegant and beautiful neo-classical palace of the early 19th century, The Mikhailovsky Palace was constructed for the younger son of Emperor Paul I. In 1898 it became the first museum of Russian Art in the world.
The State Russian Museum collection contains over 400 000 exhibits covering all major periods, genres, schools and trends over a thousand years of Russian art history, from the 10th to the 21st century.
The Nevsky Prospekt
Since the very beginning of its history Nevsky prospekt has been the main street of St.Petersburg and the center of all cultural and business activity in the city. The Nevsky is great for leisurely walks and is the perfect starting point for a driving tour of the city. Here you can find shops, restaurants, souvenirs and many of the city`s best-known attractions – the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, the Cathedral of the Savior on Spilled Blood, the Palace of Great Prince Michael (aslo known as the Russian museum), the Alexandrinsky Theatre and many others.
The Russian word “prospekt” means a straight and broad street, but Nevsky Prospekt has a bend in the middle. The reason why is quite amusing. The street was built in the 1700s to connect two buildings – the Admiralty Shipyard and the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Workers from the Admiralty started to construct the road from one end, and the monks from the monastery began to build it from the other side. When the two parties met in the middle they found out the street was not straight due to a mistake in calculations, and thus the Nevsky bend was born. You can check it out on Google maps or driving along the prospekt from the Monastery to the Admiralty.
Along the embankments to the Bronze Horseman
To feel the beauty of the city and enjoy its best views you should definitely walk or drive along the embankments. The central embankments of the Neva river (which is sometimes called “the main street” of St.Petersburg) offer the most stricking views of the city. Looking out from the banks of the river it`s easy to understand why Peter I chose this place for the new capital. The most well-known statue to St.Petersburg`s founder depicts the tsar on horseback pointing towards the horizon whilst trompling a snake which represents all the evils of his enemies. They say that the statue symbolizes the power and glory of the Russian Empire, and that Russia will remain both powerful and glorious as long as the horseman stays atop his pedestal.
When you see the monument you won’t have any doubts about Russia’s future. Do you know that this statue has a nickname – the Bronze Horseman, which was given to it by the prominent Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in his poem about St.Petersburg with the same title. Since then everyone calls it this way.
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