Situated in the heart of St Petersburg, Palace square is the main square of the city, adored by its residents and guests. It’s one of the most beautiful architectural ensembles of the world. Best Russian architects worked on its creation. The name of the square comes from the Winter Palace, built by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli in the middle of the 18th century.
Nowadays Palace square is the centre of all public events and concerts, held in St Petersburg. It’s also the most popular place in the city among tourists.
Photo: from spb2018.com
History of the Palace Square
The pre-history of the Palace square relates to the foundation of the Admiralty fortress in 1704. According to the standards of the war times, the Admiralty had to be surrounded by shafts and ditches. There was a wide open space in front of them – a glacis necessary to expose attackers to the fortress defenders’ missiles.
Soon after its foundation, the Admiralty lost its function as a battle fortress, so did the glacis. At first the territory was used for storing the construction fleet forest, high anchors and other admiralty assets. During 1712-1717, the area of former glacis was partly used as a sea market, the territory got covered with grass and turned in the Admiralty meadow.
In 1721 under the initiative of Peter the Great, the basic scheme plan of St Petersburg in the shape of threus from the Admiralty was founded. Two rays (current Voznesensky Prospekt and Nevsky Prospekt) appeared in Peter’s times, the third one (current – Gorokhovaya Street) appeared in 1736-1737.
In Anna Ivanovna’s times, the area was a feast place with fireworks and festivities. Up to 1760s the Admiralty meadow was also occupied as an additional construction site of the Emperor’s Winter Palace. During the reconstruction breaks, it was utilized for combat training and grazing.
In 1753 Franceso Ranstrelli suggested organizing the widely spread area into the architectural central square of the capital. Together with creating the final version of the Winter palace, he also was also projecting the square. He planned to have the statue of Peter the Great in the centre of the square. In 1763 the Commission of Stone Construction published the contest with the aim of creating the general plan of the city. Since then, the formation of the Palace square as we know it now began.
Ensemble of the Palace Square
The square was formed in the second half of the 18th — the first half of the 19th centuries. It’s 5,4 hectares in size and is surrounded by the cultural and historical monuments, such as Winter Palace, Guard Headquarters Building, General Staff Building with the Triumph Arch. The Palace square is included in the list of the World Heritage and serves as a pedestrian area.
From the square you can see the main facade of the Winter palace with the arch of the main passage. The ensemble also includes the Small Hermitage facing Millionnaya Street and the New Hermitage with the portico decorated with the giant statues of Atlants holding the ceiling.
General Staff Building
Along the southern border of the square you can see a long arcuate building of the General Staff, built in 1819-1829 by the architect Carlo Rossi. The complex spread up to 580 meters.
Two wings of the building are connected with the Triumphal Arch entrance that includes three interlinked arches, decorated with bas-relief. Arches are not located one after another, so when passing through each of them, you will gradually view the greatness and spaciousness of the square. On top of the Arch you can see a chariot with six horses that are guided by the majestic Goddess Glory with the laurel wreath in one hand and the standard in another one. The sculptural project was created by Stepan Pimenov and Vasily Demut-Malinovsky. The Arch was opened on October 24th in 1828.
The Alexander Column
In the centre of the square you can see the Alexander Column, created by Auguste de Montferrand in 1830-1834 under the order of Nicolas I. The column is made of a giant polished monolith of pink granite. Together with the pedestal and the figure of an Angel with a cross by the sculptor Boris Orlovskiy, the column is 47,5 meters high.
The Alexander Column and the Triumphal Arch of the General Staff Building are dedicated to Russian victory in the war against Napoleon. On the bottom of the column there is a table with a saying “To Alexander I grateful Russia”.
By the way, the column stays on the pedestal only thanks to its own weight.
Guard Headquarters Building
On the eastern side of the square you can see the building of the Guard Headquarters built in 1837—1843. The architect Alexander Briullov was challenged to create a building that would fit the styles of General Staff building classicism and Winter Palace baroque. Four-floored neutral building perfectly fits the ensemble and locks the Palace square from the eastern side.
Photo: Alex ‘Florstein’ Fedorov, CC BY-SA 4.0
- Just right before World War I all building on the Palace square were painted in dark red colors. So the revolutionary events of 1917 were greater dramatized by such a surrounding. Likely, in the 40s the building on the square got their bright historical colors back.
- After the revolution, the Palace square changed its name to the Square of Uritsky – the Chief of Cheka of Petrograd City, who was killed in the halls of the General Staff building on August 30th 1918. In 1944 the square got its historical name back.
- During World War II, all buildings on the Palace Square were disguised with a grey color.
- During the celebration of the year 2000, a petard got in the construction site around the Chariot and cause the fire. It took almost a year to restore the sculpture. Thereby, the administration of the Hermitage claimed to stop public celebrations on the square that can do harm to the historical heritage of St Petersburg.
No matter what these days the Palace Square attracts millions of visitors every year. It is one of the most popular sights of St Petersburg that you can visit as a part of private guided tour.
|All year round|
|Open all the time|
|Metro / Subway|
|Dvortsovaya Ploshad', Malaya Morskaya Ulitsa||2MA, 3M, 5M, 7, 24, 191|
|Nevsky Prospekt||3, 4M, 4MБ, 5МБ, 22, 27, 100|
|Malaya Morskaya Ulitsa||1, 7, 10, 11|
|Nevsky Prospekt||5, 22|
Palace Square is a part of my private tours:
- City Tour. Sightseeing Excursion
- 1 Day tour in St Petersburg
- 2 Days tour in St Petersburg and Suburbs
- Walking Tour
- Visa Free Shore Excursion
Also, you can customize a tour or book inside excursion to one of the surrounding sights, e.g. Winter Palace and Hermitage.