5 Reasons to Visit Russia’s Imperial Capital: St Petersburg

by Gavin Darvell

I wonder what Peter the Great would make of the city he established, St Petersburg, if he were to stand at its centre and look around? I imagine he’d be fascinated. The colourful buildings, the spires rising into the sky. St Petersburg is one of Russia’s glorious cities. It was once the imperial capital, and like a Formula 1 racing car, what he started will have been tweaked and redeveloped to make one of Europe’s top destinations.

St Petersburg, that has good reason to claim being one of Europe’s top destinations. The city houses perhaps the world’s greatest museum, shows off its Italian influences, and has world standard ballet, opera and classical concerts to enjoy. You only have to walk along the canal, or head across one of its 342 bridges to see the Venice comparisons. There’s even a beach close by. With so much to enjoy and take in, highlighting 5 reasons to visit is a little harsh. We could write an entire book on it!

However, the 5 places chosen are worth your time. Enjoy St. Petersburg and embrace its imperial past and contemporary present.

The Hermitage

The Hermitage in St Petersburg

Go on, just look at it! The outside is as stunning a building as you’ll ever likely to see. Grand enough to be a palace. It incorporates the iconic Winter Palace. Step inside and the awe-inspiring features continue. Oh, and it’s huge! The quality of artwork on display is staggering. It’ll take you years to see it all. Good excuse to come back mind you. You can see art and objects from round the world. Enjoy what you can in the time you have. It’s that impressive.

St Peter and St Paul Fortress

Hello to the Tsars, that’s what a visit to the St Peter and St Paul Fortress is all about. This is the symbol of Peter the Great’s rule. Built to protect his imperial capital. You’ve got the baroque styling of the cathedral, the boathouse, the cells of the prison, among other places of interest. There’s history seeping from every corner. Oh, and lookout for the resident walruses in the river below!

St Issacs Cathedral

You can’t miss the golden dome of St Issacs Cathedral. It monopolises the skyline. There is a lavish museum to visit, but you’ll, like most people, head for the steps. All 262 of them to the drum of the dome. Here you’ll get superb city views across the city. No wonder so many climb those steps to see it.

Nevsky Prospect

The Alexander Nevsky Monastery houses some of St Petersburg’s oldest and most important sacred buildings. Another of Peter the Great’s discoveries (1710) in the complex includes two baroque churches and the Holy Trinity Cathedral. There are many other religious artefacts here, including the Tikhvin Cemetery, a place where plenty of famous people are buried, royal family members and composers such as Tchaikovsky. Need to keep your eyes peeled in here.

City tours

With so many places of interest, a city tour is the best way to cover it all. You’ll see all the above and other important highlights, such as Anichkov Bridge and the Summer Garden.

So, there we are, 5 reasons to visit St Petersburg. The Venice of the North truly delivers on every level from its attractions to art and the culture. A gem of a city that should be on everyone’s visiting list.

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