Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city behind Moscow, was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. Because of his love of Holland, he included many beautiful canals and bridges (342 of them) in the design, which is why the city is now also known as Venice of the North.
Beyond the canals though is a city rich in history, culture, art, beautiful gardens and so much more. It’s a popular stop for both Baltic cruises and river cruises between Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Here are 8 treasures not to miss while visiting this fascinating place.
Catherine Palace was built for Catherine I, Peter the Great’s wife. The great grandeur of the design was due to their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who designed it to rival the Palace of Versailles. The interior is spectacular (unbelievable amounts of gold) especially the Amber room, a chamber decorated with panels of amber. The palace became the summer residence for Catherine and other future Russian tsars.
Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood
The church is named as such because it is built on the exact spot where Alexander II was fatally injured by a bomb in 1881. The inside of the church is spectacular – a work of art as the inside is decorated largely with mosaics.
This privately owned museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Faberge masterpieces, featuring nine Easter Eggs made by artisan’s employed by the House of Faberge for the last two Russian tsars. The museum also includes an incredible collection of rare silver and enamel pieces.
Saint Petersburg’s main street has become the commercial and financial center and one of the best known streets in the city. It is lined with some of Saint Petersburg’s most impressive buildings.
Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral
Combining traditional western religious architecture with ancient Russian design, the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is Saint Petersburg’s first and oldest landmark. Sitting inside the Peter and Paul Fortress, it is the burial place of Russian emperors. The fortress itself was never used for military purposes since no enemy made it to its walls. It was, however, at one point, a political prison and torture chamber, holding enemies of the state.
Peterhof Fountain Park and Upper Gardens
This favorite residence of Peter the Great dates back to the early 1700’s. It was originally built to celebrate his victory over Sweden, but was expanded after an inspirational visit to France’s Palace of Versailles. The palace displays many of Peter the Great’s artifacts, but the gardens and 64 fountains are truly the main attraction. Simply magnificent, especially the spectacular cascade of fountains.
Saint Isaac's Cathedral
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral was originally the city’s main church and largest cathedral, named in dedication to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great. The cathedral was turned into a museum in 1931.
The Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum
The palace was originally built between 1754 and 1762 for Empress Elizabeth, Catherine I and Peter the Great’s daughter. However, Elizabeth passed before completion, and thus was first enjoyed by Catherine the Great (Catherine II) and later became the main residence for Russian tsars. It sits on the banks of the Neva River and is now the main building of the Hermitage.
The Hermitage Museum is made up of the Winter Palace plus 4 interconnected buildings. You can spend days exploring the 1500 plus rooms of the museum and still not see all 3 million pieces on display.
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