If much of Russia recalls its Eastern rather than Western roots, St Petersburg is where you'll feel Russia's European influences and aspirations. The city was founded under grueling conditions by Peter the Great as his 'window on the West' at the only point where traditional Russian territory meets a seaway to northern Europe. Built with 18th and 19th century European pomp and orderliness, mainly by European architects, the result is a city that remains one of Europe's most beautiful.
Having successfully held the role of the Russian Empire's capital for 300 years, Saint Petersburg is one of the most impressive cities in the world. Dozens of gorgeous palaces and cathedrals, the Neva river and countless canals, the most European city in Russia boasts an unbelievable list of things to see and experience:
- The State Hermitage Museum: being one of the largest art galleries and antiques museums in the world, only comparable to the Louvre in Paris or El Prado in Madrid. Though more than a museum, it is also a palace-museum, as it also contains rooms and spectacular areas from the time of the czars. The Hermitage consists of a complex of several buildings on the banks of the Neva River, the most important of which is the Winter Palace, which was the official residence of the ancient Tsars. The museum’s collection (exhibiting more than 3 million works of art: paintings, sculptures, archaeological pieces, numismatics objects etc.) was formed through the private collection that the czars acquired over several centuries.
- The ‘Aurora’ cruiser moored at the Petrogradskaya embankment – one of the symbols of the October Revolution of 1917. The ship is also one of the few survivors of the Tsushima battle on 14-15 May 1905 (one of the decisive clashes of that war).
- Nevsky Prospect: St. Petersburg's main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia. In St. Petersburg's early years, it was simply the beginning of the road leading to the ancient city of Novgorod. But it quickly grew to be adorned with beautiful buildings, squares, and bridges, and became the very center of the bustling, rapidly growing city. The name of the road was kept after a proclaimed Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexander Nevsky (1220-1263), Prince of Novgorod, Kiev and Vladimir. He was commonly regarded as the key figure of medieval legendary status on account of his military victories over the German and Swedish invaders.
- Alexandrinsky Theater: the Russian State Pushkin Academy Drama Theater - the legendary Alexandrinsky Theater - is the oldest Russian national theater. It was founded on August 30, 1756 by Empress Elizabeth. The building, designed by Carlo Rossi, is one of the outstanding examples of Russian Classicism. The theater is the progenitor of all Russian theaters and the date of its founding is the birthday of Russian professional theater, promoting the Russian state policy in the field of theater arts. The theatre and the square were named after Empress Consort Alexandra Feodorovna. The building is part of the UNESCO heritage site. The New Stage was opened in 2013. The unique high-tech multifunctional complex was designed by a Saint Petersburg architect Yury Zemtsov.
- Kazan Cathedral (The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan): the Kazan Cathedral, named after the "miracle-working-icon of Our Lady of Kazan (holy icon of highest stature within the Russian orthodox church, the protector and patroness of the city of Kazan ), was built in the early 1800s by Alexander Voronikhin on an enormous scale and boasts an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain. Following the Russian victory over Napoleon in the Patriotic War of 1812, the cathedral became a kind of monument to Russian military glory. In 1813, the head of the Russian troops from the war of 1812, M. Kutuzov, was buried in the cathedral. And in 1837, monuments to M. Kutuzov and M. Barklayu de Tolly were erected in front of the cathedral.
- St. Isaac's Cathedral: the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city and it is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who was born on the feast day of Saint Isaac. The cathedral was built over 40 years between 1818 and 1858 by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand. The dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg and its gilded cupola can be seen glistening from all over the city. The cathedral's main dome rises 101.5m and is plated with pure gold.
- The Bronze Horseman: created by the famous French sculptor Falconet between 1716-1791, is an equestrian statue of the founder of St. Petersburg, Peter the Great, commissioned by Catherine the Great as a tribute to her famous predecessor on the Russian throne. It is also the name of a narrative poem written by Alexander Pushkin about the statue in 1833, widely considered to be one of the most significant works of Russian literature.
- The Admiralty: it was one of the first structures to be built in St Petersburg. It was built as a fortified shipyard in 1704 by Peter the Great. At the beginning of the 19th Century, fortification buildings and shipyards were destroyed and then re-built in 1806-1823 by architect A. Zakharov. Its long, gilded 72-meter spire adorned with a ship is recognized as a symbol of the city.
- The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood: its official name is ‘Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ’. This marvelous Russian-style church (with (medieval-Romantic nationalism style- 13 onion shaped domes) was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander-II was assassinated after bomb explosion in March 1881 and was dedicated in his memory. Both the interior and exterior of the church are decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists. The church contains over 7,500 square meters of mosaics. The church was built during 1883 to 1901. Architect was Alfred Alexandrovich Parland.
- Peter and Paul Fortress: founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and built to Domenico Trezzini's designs from 1706-1740. Peter and Paul both were patrons of the Peter the Great. The birthplace of the city never served its intended defensive function. Instead, it has had a rich, hugely varied, and sometimes sinister history as a military base, a home of government departments, the burial ground of the Russian Imperial Family, the site of ground-breaking scientific experiments, and a forbidding jail that held some of Russia's most prominent political prisoners.
- Peterhof Museum Complex: one of the most popular museums not only in Russia, but in the whole world and often referred to as "the Russian Versaille”. It is 30km away from the St. Petersburg. Peter the Great planned Peterhof as the residence of a sea king and place was opened in 1723. Today, the museum complex stretches across five hundred hectares of area. It is regarded as the "capital of fountains." It is the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 1730s, the large Samson Fountain was placed in complex. It depicts the moment when Samson tears open the jaws of a lion, representing Russia's victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War. Perhaps the greatest technological achievement of Peterhof is that all of the fountains operate without the use of pumps. Water is supplied from natural springs and collects in reservoirs in the Upper Gardens.
- Pushkin Summer Palace: the town is located 25 Km from St. Petersburg. Renamed in Soviet times to honour Russia's greatest poet Alexander Pushkin. Catherine Palace is undoubtedly Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin)’s top attraction, particularly renowned for the extraordinary Amber Room. Bartolomeo Rastrelli was the architect. It was the summer residence of the Russian tsars. Empress Elizabeth constructed the new palace from 1752-1756 in a flamboyant Rococo style. More than 100kg of gold were used to gild the sophisticated stucco façade and numerous statues erected on the roof.
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