Top Destinations of St. Petersburg

Peter and Paul Fortress

Head on over to Hare’s island – the small piece of land situated at the mouth of the Neva and the heart of St. Petersburg, on which rests the foundation and first building of the city: Peter and Paul’s Fortress.
Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, St. Peter and Paul Fortress is considered to be a unique fortification monument of XVIII-XIX centuries. Its architectural ensemble is focused around St. Peter and Paul Cathedral where the tombs of all the Russian emperors can be found.
The Cathedral became the first one of the city that was built out of stone, and was built from 1712 to 1733. Previously, from the year of the foundation of the city of St. Petersburg in 1703, a wooden church stood on the island in honour of the holy apostles Peter and Paul. On top of the Cathedral is a gilded spire, and on the peak is a figure of a flying angel holding a cross. This is one of the main symbols of St. Petersburg and is the tallest building in the city with a height of 122.5 metres. The spire is visible from quite far away locations around the city. The interior of the cathedral reminds one of the inside of a palace and is completely authentic and pristinely preserved.
Visitors to the Cathedral are now allowed to ascend the bell tower of the Cathedral, climbing stairs to a height of 43 metres to enjoy panoramic views and perhaps get acquainted with Orthodox music. Here one can look at the church bells and chimes–instruments which are connected to a clock mechanism and a Carillon, an instrument connected to a keyboard and a system of 51 bells, from which any music can be played with this specific and unique sound.
The fortress, and all that lie within the walls and on the island is unique and central to the identity of St. Petersburg, and can justly be called a point of intellectual and active recreation. History buffs will love it and everyone will swoon at the panoramic views from atop the fortress walls, at the foot of which lies a sandy riverside beach, a prime spot for sunbathing.


Peterhof Palace sits in 1500-acres of formal gardens and park 18 miles from Saint Petersburg and its 173 glorious fountains are fed by underground springs that are 14 miles away.
Peterhof was laid out as a summer royal residence on the order of Peter the Great at the beginning of the 18th century. After designing the Grand Palace, the opening of Peterhof was held in the summer of 1723, this solemn ceremony introduced the blooming Lower Garden, operating fountains, palaces “Monplaisir” and “Marly” to the guests.
As of today the Peterhof is decorated by the biggest system of water cascades, fountains and sculptural elements in the world. As the founder of timely European fashion, Peter the Great wanted every little detail of the palace to be perfect. Some talented sculptors like I.P. Martos, G.D. Rashett, F.I. Shubin, I.P. Prokofiev created gilded bronze statues.


The Winter Palace is a fabulously large green, white, and gold building on the side of the Neva River, houses the world-famous Hermitage Museum that epitomizes Russia’s love affair with art and culture. It is the home to the largest collection of paintings in the world.

From the 1760s onwards the Winter Palace was the main residence of the Russian Tsars. Magnificently located on the bank of the Neva River, this Baroque-style palace is perhaps St. Petersburg’s most impressive attraction. Many visitors also know it as the main building of the Hermitage Museum.

The Winter Palace was built between 1754 and 1762 for Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died before the palace’s completion and only Catherine the Great and her successors were able to enjoy the sumptuous interiors of Elizabeth’s home.

The Hermitage’s collections include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, a unique collection of Rembrandts and Rubens, many French Impressionist works by Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet and Pissarro, numerous canvasses by Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin and several sculptures by Rodin. The collection is both enormous and diverse and is an essential stop for all those interested in art and history.

The experts say that if you were to spend a minute looking at each exhibit on display in the Hermitage, you would need 11 years before you’d seen them all.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral

With a gold-plated dome that rises over 300 feet, St. Isaac’s Cathedral is one of the tallest Orthodox churches in the world. While I visited with the expectation of simply climbing the colonnade to enjoy sweeping views of the city, I was more than a little distracted by the enormity of the structure and its richly decorated interior.  After passing through the massive bronze doors that form the entrance, my jaw dropped at the sight of the colorful frescoes, the iconostasis flanked by malachite and lazulite columns and the abundance of gold – gold trim, gold lettering and gold statues!

Yusupov Palace

Once the residence of Prince Felix Yusupov, one of the richest men in Russia, this spectacular mansion has a more practical feel than some of the royal palaces, but manages to dazzle visitors nonetheless. It is probably best known as the site of mystic Grigori Rasputin’s murder in 1916; unhappy with the peasant’s strong influence over Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, Yusupov and other members of the imperial family killed Rasputin in the building’s cellar.  If you are interested in Russian history or the legacy of the Romanov family as much as I am, you should enjoy the Murder of Rasputin Tour, offered several times a day.

Tikhvin Cemetery

Adjacent to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, the Tikhvin Cemetery was established in 1823 and is the burial place for some of the most famous names in Russian history, including composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, author Fyodor Dostoyevsky and scientist Mikhail Lomonsov.  A peaceful escape from the bustle of the city, the cemetery also provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Russian nobility. Mausoleums and grave markers are packed close together, often adorned with intricately sculpted angels, crosses or family coats of arms.

Nevsky Prospekt

Russia’s most famous boulevard, Nevsky Prospekt is also the heart of St. Petersburg. Stretching for 4 kilometers from the Alexander Nevsky Monastery to the Admiralty near the Neva River, it buzzes with energy day and night. A stroll along what was once the grandest boulevard in all of Europe will take you past some of the best that St. Petersburg has to offer. Don’t miss the Kazan Cathedral (modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome), Gostiny Dvor (one of the world’s first indoor shopping malls) or Dom Knigi, arguably the largest and best bookstore in the city.

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