For more than two decades, the brilliant and incomparable city of St. Peter the Apostle bears the proud title of the cultural capital of Russia, never ceasing to attract tourists from all over the world. It captivates with its persistent character, cozy atmosphere, and an incredible number of curious places. There are over a thousand of them here! But what can visitors see while making individual excursions around St. Petersburg? We talk about the 10 most striking memorable places. The article is not only an overview of the main points on the map, but also the sights associated with them, as well as a ready-made circular route through the historical center of St. Petersburg.
In the historical center, guests are greeted by a real treasury. These are six buildings of the architectural complex of the Hermitage Museum: the Winter Palace, the Small, the Big (Old) and the New Hermitage, the Hermitage Theater and the General Staff Building.
The collection is huge! You won’t be able to get to know everything at once. This, according to museum guides, will take about 10 years (even with the expectation that the stop time at each object will not exceed one minute). Not surprising! After all, it will take at least 5 hours or 20 km to go around all the existing halls (now there are a little more than 360 of them).
The Hermitage has more than 3 million exhibits, including:
- collection of Italian, Flemish, Dutch, Spanish, French, English and Old Dutch paintings (Titian, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Velasquez, Rembrandt, Rubens, etc.);
- sculptural images (statues, reliefs, portrait plastic) of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, 18-19 centuries;
- the imperial library, ceremonial halls and luxurious private apartments with unique interiors;
- a collection of antique antiquities from the 3rd millennium BC. to 4th century AD;
- collection of decorative and applied art of the East and Europe;
- household items (furniture, dishes, cups, watches, etc.);
- cold and firearms, armor;
- military equipment and much more.
It is easy to get lost in the crowded Hermitage. Finding the right direction is not an easy task, especially for citizens from other countries and cities! It is preferable to trust a personal guide, who, moreover:
- will take a ticket in advance, eliminating the need to push in line;
- will plan the most interesting route;
- talk about any object;
- will provide moral and physical support in an unforeseen situation.
It is called the heart of St. Petersburg. It is also the main square of the city. It was here that the same Admiralty Meadow was once located, where Anna Ioannovna herself hunted hares, Empress Elizabeth’s cows grazed, noisy festivities with fireworks were arranged.
Some historical and even tragic events also took place here:
- “Bloody Sunday” on January 9, 1905, when, as a result of popular unrest, the tsarist troops shot more than 130 people (demonstrators and bystanders);
- The storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917 by soldiers under the command of the Military Revolutionary Committee and the arrest of the provisional government;
- The murder of the revolutionary Uritsky Moses Solomonovich in 1918, after which the square was renamed in his honor; the former name returned only 26 years later (in 1944);
- A demonstration against the actions of the State Emergency Committee in August 1991, which gathered a record number of people in the entire history of the city, according to various estimates, from 300 to 400 thousand people.
On the north side, the territory is limited by the residence of the imperial persons of Russia – the Winter Palace. It was built in 1762 according to the project of B. Rastrelli. However, other masters were already engaged in the existing decoration after the colossal fire of 1837. On the southern border, an arcuate line (its length is 580 m) passes the General Staff, built in the period from 1819-1829 by K.I. Rossi. It is truly grandiose, and therefore especially attracts tourists. Imagine! The two parts are connected by the Arc de Triomphe – a monument to the victory in the Russian-French war. Its height is 28 meters, and at the very top there is a sculpture of the winged victorious goddess Nika on a chariot.
In the center is the Alexander Column – another symbol of the victory of Alexander I in the battle with Napoleon. Its weight is 600 tons!
Nearby is an old street, called Millionnaya. Its length is 1 km. Walking along it, tourists can admire:
- The New Hermitage, created in the second half of the 19th century by arch. Stasov and Efimov, designed by Leo von Klenze, the once former main entrance, decorated with a portico with 10 atlantes, can be seen on many postcards and posters;
- the Winter Canal, which connects two rivers: the Moika and the Neva, and over which the oldest and most picturesque bridges of the city center are thrown;
- the Hermitage Theater, built by the architect Giacomo Quarenghi on the site of the Winter Palace of Peter the Great and including part of the old building;
- Marble Palace, which is an architectural masterpiece and, at the same time, a branch of the Russian Museum;
- a historical site and necropolis of the victims of the revolution called “Mars Field”;
- rectangular square of Suvorov, which seems to be round with a monument to the great commander in the form of a Roman soldier.
From the Trinity Bridge to be crossed behind, a number of sights open up to your eyes:
- the unique lattice of the Summer Garden is one of the symbols of the city with many legends;
- the marvelous Cathedral Mosque with turquoise domes – a grandiose structure, which has no equal in size among similar ones in Eastern Europe;
- Trinity Square is the same age as St. Petersburg.
Peter and Paul Fortress
This is the oldest architectural monument, from the laying of which in 1703 the history of St. Petersburg began. At the same time, the fortress, which was on full alert around the clock, was never used for protection. Its guns fired only for peaceful purposes and during the revolution.
From the first half of the 18th to the beginning of the 20th centuries it served as a prison for political prisoners: writers, Decembrists, revolutionaries and even noble people. The last one, opened at the very end of the 19th century, is located in the Trubetskoy bastion. Since 1924, it has been recognized as a museum and is still operating to this day. The powerful walls of the bastion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hide a lot of interesting things.
But the most famous here is the Peter and Paul Cathedral – the tomb of the Romanov dynasty. It has been preserved in its original form with the exception of the spire, although the angel on the spire has been changed several times. He’s fourth! The first was destroyed by lightning, the wings of the second were torn off by an unprecedented force of the wind, well, and the third was changed when replacing the wooden structure of the spire with a metal one.
On the opposite bank of the strait separating the island with the fortress from the Petrograd side, there is the Kronverkskaya embankment. Walking along it, guests of the city will get acquainted with:
- the Central Museum of Artillery, Engineering and Signal Corps, where guests of the “Venice of the North” will be told about wars, military leaders, and weapons from various eras;
- the Leningrad Zoo, founded in 1865 and housing more than 900 species of representatives of the animal kingdom;
- drawbridge Tuchkov connecting Petrogradsky and Vasilyevsky islands;
- a unique restaurant complex-ship “Flying Dutchman” with a panoramic view of the Palace Embankment and the Neva.
Spit of Vasilievsky Island
Those who are wondering what to see in St. Petersburg are recommended to visit the cape washed by the Bolshaya and Malaya Neva. After all, this is another iconic place, as well as a complex of UNESCO monuments.
The ensemble includes:
- Rostral columns designed by the French architect Thomas de Thomon. The secret of the name lies in the imitation of the rosters (bows) of the ships, which adorn them on the sides. At the foot of the columns you can see statues of sea deities, above – bowls, lit only on special occasions;
- Stock Exchange building in 1810. Initially, it was used for its intended purpose. But after that, a naval exposition was placed in it, and then transferred to the Hermitage branch;
- The Zoological Museum, containing more than 30,000 exhibits: mammals (including permafrost mammoths, a whale of 27 m long, horses and 2 dogs of Peter I), birds, insects, fish, etc.
Nearby is the Palace drawbridge. From it you can see other elements of the ensemble:
the Academy of Sciences, which has existed since 1724, first in the building of the Kunstkamera, and then in a separate permanent building in the style of classicism with columns;
The Kunstkamera, also known for its exhibition of anatomical anomalies. The first museum in Russia. The hall contains: Siamese twins, a two-headed lamb and other rarities.
Going down, it will be useful to enjoy a leisurely and very cozy walk through the Alexander Garden. It will delight not only with its spaciousness, but also with picturesqueness:
- busts (V.A. Zhukovsky, M.Yu. Lermontov, N.V. Gogol, etc.) and a monument;
- a fountain, opened in 1879 and at that time the largest in the city;
- an oak planted at the opening ceremony by Alexander II himself;
- the building of the Admiralty with the famous boat on the spire that used to be shipyard in 18-19 centuries and now houses the General staff of Russian Navy.
In the western side of the Alexander Garden there is a spacious area with incredible landscapes. On it, tourists will see:
- the famous Bronze Horseman – a monument to Peter the Great and a visiting card of the city on the Neva;
- the buildings of the Senate and the Synod are architectural structures in the style of late classicism, united by the Arc. One wing now houses the presidential library of B.N. Yeltsin, another – the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.
The Neva stretches in the northern part. On the opposite University Embankment it is impossible to ignore:
the Academy of Fine Arts, from whose walls came geniuses who glorified their homeland (the world-famous Surikov, Serov, Polenov, Vrubel, Repin, his student Grabar, portrait painter F. Rokotov, O. Kiprensky, who painted Pushkin, and others);
the Menshikov Palace, which today is one of the branches of the Hermitage and demonstrates to those who wish an exposition of the history and culture of Russia during the time of Peter the Great;
the building of the Twelve Colleges, consisting of 12 equal sections of 3 floors, which is now occupied by the main building of St. Petersburg State University.
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral
This is the most famous city temple, grandiose in size and amazing in beauty. It was built in honor of the monk – St. Isaac of Dalmatia, on the day of whose memory Peter the Great was born. Rebuilt several times, changed location, as well as the architects working on its project. The final version belongs to Auguste Montferrand and took 40 years to build until the middle of the 19th century. The gigantic granite columns of the porticos are made from solid pieces of granite, and the interior decoration is simply amazing with its richness and artistic elegance.
It is located on St. Isaac’s Square, in the center of which there is an equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas I in the neo-Baroque style. There are also:
hotels “Angleterre” and “Astoria”, forming a single hotel complex. At different times, many famous personalities stayed in hotels: S. Yesenin (here he passed away), A.P. Chekhov, M. Bulgakov, M. Plisetskaya, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, musical groups and politicians;
the Mariinsky Palace, named after the daughter of Nicholas I, Grand Duchess Maria;
Almost 100 meters wide, the Blue Bridge spanning the Moika River.
Further – along the embankment, at the intersection with Gorokhovaya Street – there is a magnificent-looking building. This is the Trading House “Esders and Scheifals” from the beginning of the 20th century. It was named after its owners, who traded in clothes. Now it also houses a trading house called “Aut Pont Rouge”, after the name of the nearest bridge across the Moika.
Making private tours along the Moika embankment, you can also see:
Razumovsky Palace. It was built by two talented architects of the time: F.B. Rastrelli and J.B. Vallin-Delamot. At various times, the building was a space for luxurious balls, a shelter for orphans and foundlings, the first women’s pedagogical institute and, finally, the Pedagogical University by Herzen;
colorful bridges preserving their colores since the time they were built of wood;
The Stroganov Palace, which can safely be ranked among the masterpieces of Rastrelli, comparable to the imperial ones.
The main city street deserves the closest attention. Its length is 4.5 km, and the number of sights encountered is more than 40.
The building of the former Dutch Church stretched for a whole block. The history of its origin dates back to 1718, when the owner of the house that used to stand here, Pierre Pouzy, began to rent out part of the interior space to representatives of the Dutch Reformed community. After two years, the building was purchased and turned into a church monastery.
After another century and a little, the object was rebuilt, making it much larger. But after the execution of the royal family, services in it ceased. The house became a receptacle for various organizations, and its decoration gradually collapsed. But later it was restored. And now it houses residential apartments, as well as an art and music center.
The building of the snow-white Petrikirche of 1838 attracts increased attention. This is the Church of Peter and Paul, which stands out not only for its appearance, but also for its unusual history. The fact is that after the revolution it was plundered and then rebuilt as a pool. Imagine: diving towers, a 25-meter reinforced concrete bath, stands, training, competitions!
And yet, at the end of the 20th century, Petrikirche was given a second wind. It has been restored to its original appearance. Today, services are held inside, and exhibitions are organized in the basement – “Catacombs”. There is also an opportunity to see the pool bowl and paintings by A. Schmidt, dedicated to the victims of repression.
At the corner of the avenue and the embankment of the Griboyedov Canal, another recognizable building rises – the Singer House. At the beginning of the 18th century, the first buildings erected on this site served as an opera house. Then they burned down, and they were replaced by a three-story mansion for the confessor of the Empress. Until 1902, he managed to visit a pharmacy, a newspaper editorial office, a bookstore, an atelier and a music shop. Then it was bought by the Singer company (manufacturer of sewing machines), and large-scale construction began. In the Soviet years, the building housed publishing houses and a huge bookstore House of Books, this name is also preserved behind this chic building.
Built in 1811, the temple is a monument to St. Petersburg. This is not just a magnificent and unusual-looking Orthodox cathedral, where services are still held (it is a main city church). Right here:
- some trophies of the war of 1812 are kept (banners, keys of releised cities and fortresses);
- there are the relics of saints (Alexander Nevsky, Seraphim of Sarov, etc.)
- the miraculous list of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God (sinse the name);
- is the burial place of Mikhail Kutuzov.
Walking further down the street, attentive observers will notice:
Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria – a Catholic church of the late 18th century, bright and rather modest inside;
The tower of the former city council, 47.5 meters high, served as both a fire tower and an optical telegraph. Now it houses a banking museum and an observation deck;
covered gallery of boutiques “Passage” and “Grand Palace”;
blue and white one-domed Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Catherine in the style of early classicism;
The large Gostiny Dvor (Merchants Yard) of the mid-18th century, which is under the protection of UNESCO and to this day is the largest shopping complex in the city.
If you go through the shopping center “Passage”, you can get to the Mikhailovsky Square, layed in the first half of the 20th century. In its central part, the famous monument to A.S. Pushkin by sculptor Anikushin, dedicated to the 250th anniversary. The famous Mikhailovsky Opera and Ballet Theater is located nearby, as well as the Ethnographic Museum, which tells about the nationalities, their activities, life, and recreation on the territory of Russia.
The largest collection of Russian art is collected in six museum buildings in different parts of the center of St. Petersburg. This is more than 410 thousand exhibits, which cannot be seen overnight! It is recommended to opt for two buildings.
In the interior space of the Mikhailovsky Palace – the main building of the museum – tourists will see with their own eyes:
- ancient icons of Pskov, Moscow and Novgorod masters;
- paintings by Bryullov, Repin, Aivazovsky, Shishkin, Rokotov, Surikov, etc.;
- magnificent interiors of the 19th century and pieces of furniture;
- sculptural compositions.
You can get to the Benois building, located nearby, through the passage. There visitors are expected:
- canvases by Vrubel, Serov, Korovin, Roerich, Malevich and other painters;
- arts and crafts in Russia of 20th century
- temporary exhibitions.
The embankment of the Griboyedov Canal stretching for 5 km leads to the next attraction.
Savior on Spilled Blood
The temple, built on the site of the assassination of Alexander II, is rightfully considered one of the most beautiful and mysterious in St. Petersburg, and throughout Russia. It is easy to guess that its name is directly related to the blood of the murdered emperor, spilled on the pavement stones. By order of Alexander III, they were kept inside.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood stands out for its collection of mosaics. Just think – for 10 years, more than 30 top artists have been working to create a mosaic carpet covering a space of 7,000 square meters!
A lot of interesting facts and mysterious legends are connected with the monument:
The height of the main dome is 62 meters, which corresponds to the age of the murdered emperor, but the bell tower rises to 81 meters – a mortal wound was inflicted in March 1881;
After the revolution of 1917, it was decided to demolish the temple. Therefore, local residents removed the crosses from its domes and hid them at the bottom of the Griboyedov Canal. However, the demolition was never carried out. Crosses began to search, but all in vain. The secret was revealed by a passer-by, telling the legend about the true place of storage of relics. The crosses were taken out of the water and put back up!
It was here that the morgue was opened, filling it with the bodies of residents who died during the first winter of the siege of Leningrad. In the same place, after the blockade, there was a vegetable store;
In 1961, an unexploded artillery shell was found under the dome in the center. It got there in 1941, but, fortunately, did not work, having lain for 2 whole decades;
Passing through the nearest square – Konyushennaya towards Palace Square, you will also see the Church of the Image of the Savior Not Made by Hands, where the great Pushkin was served after being mortally wounded in a duel. He lived nearby, on the Moika 12 embankment, you will pass this house as well. It now houses the museum-apartment of the founder of the modern Russian language. And now you can see the Alexander Column on Palace Square, from where you started your journey.
This is not the whole list of attractions. But they will be enough to plunge into a special atmosphere, fall in love with St. Petersburg and want to return again and again.