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Saint-Petersburg

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BOOK A TOUR TO ST PETERSBURG

St Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and one of the world's major cities. It has more to offer than just the Hermitage Museum and the Kirov Ballet. It is one of the biggest cultural centres in the world, a city with an exceptionally rich history, centuries-old traditions and a promising future.

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Almost all basic trends in world and Russian architecture of the 18th-20th centuries are found in St Petersburg. The city has played a vital role in both Russian and European history. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, it was the capital of the Russian Empire for two centuries.

The city has changed its name three times: St Petersburg (1703-1914), Petrograd (1914-1924), Leningrad (1924-1991) and St Petersburg again from 1991. The world's most fascinating city is built on more than 45 islands, modelled in the French style by some of the world's greatest architects.

The islands are connected by more than 342 bridges, of which 21 are raised at night. This gives the city its other name, «The Venice of the North». It is therefore little wonder that the city is also known as a «Museum in the Open Air». Among the majestic memorials, you can feel the breath of intellectual life, which was brought into St Petersburg by Peter the Great. The most famous professors – people such as Leibnitz from Germany – worked on a project for the creation of the Science Academy and other institutes.

Today, St Petersburg is ranked alongside Paris and Rome as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Essentials

 

Population: more than 5 million.

Area: approximately 600 sq km.

Climate: moderate, maritime. Average temperature in winter: -10C to -8C; spring: 0C to 10C; summer: 18C to 20C; autumn: 0C to 10C. Where to stay: There are few hotels located in central St Petersburg. Most of the hotels can be found outside the centre.

Where to eat: Restaurants and cafes are scattered around the city, with the largest concentration along Nevsky Prospekt.

Shopping: Most shops are located around the city's main streets such as Nevsky, Kamennoostrovskiy and Bolshoy Prospekt. Opening hours are from 10 am till 7 pm.

Places of Interest: inside the city - the Hermitage, St Isaac's Cathedral, the Church on Spilled Blood, Nevsky Prospekt, Mariinsky Theatre, Alexander Nevsky Monastery, SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, Russian Museum, Stieglitz Museum.

Entertainment: St Petersburg is a city of cultural and night-life entertainment. The intensive opera, ballet and classical music programmes run during the White Nights Festival, whereas most of the theatres are closed for the period of July, August and September because their companies go on tour.

Getting around: There are five railway stations, three airports, two bus stations, a seaport and a river station. Public transport is very efficient and cheap, with a highly developed network of underground (Metro) trains, buses, trolleybuses and trams serving all the main sights in the centre.

 

Money 

 

Take US dollars and Euros, then changing money is easy - Petersburg has large numbers of exchange centres, many of them operating 24-hours. This also means that rates are normally competitive, and it's worth shopping around if you want to change a lot. Commission is normally negligible. This only applies to dollars and Euros, though, and British Pounds are normally only changeable at larger banks or central exchange offices.

The easiest way to access funds is through cash machines once you get to St Petersburg. Machines have sprung up all over the city in the last few years, and can be found in metro stations and, of course, next to banks.

Credit cards are accepted at an ever increasing number of shops and restaurants, particularly of the more up-market variety, although their systems can be temperamental. Visa and MasterCard are most widely accepted, and AmEx and Diner's Club are not as useful

 

Must visit places

Smolny Cathedral

Smolny Cathedral was designed by Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who came to Russia as a boy with his father, who was invited to the country by Peter the Great and who constructed the Winter Palace and the palace at Tsarskoe Selo. Smolny Cathedral was one of Rastrelli Jr.'s last projects. His inspiration was to combine baroque details forest of towers and onion domes of an old Russian monastery. It is definitely worth to climb the 277 steps to one of the two 63m-high bell tower for stupendous view over the city.  

 

Nevsky prospect is St Petersburg’s main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia. Cutting through the historical centre of the city, it runs from the Admiralty, symbol of Russian power, to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. It is very beautiful to walk along this street in the evening when all illuminations on. You can see everything here: the most stunning architecture, magnificent palaces, world-famous museums; sparkling five-star hotels and small bed and breakfasts; all manner of restaurants, cafes and nightclubs; people of all ages, walks of life and countries.

State Hermitage Museum, Winter Palace exhibits close to 3 million items and visited by several million people annually.  The main architectural ensemble of the Hermitage (which is one of the world’s oldest and largest museums) is situated in the centre of St Petersburg and consists of the Winter Palace, once the former state residence of the Russian emperors, the buildings of the Small, Old (Great) and New Hermitages, the Hermitage Theatre and the Auxiliary House.

Catherine Palace, Park and Amber room - The Palace is an astonishing example of baroque architecture with its striking interiors that are more than spectacular. The Catherine's Palace is known for its legendary truly unique Amber Room that was destroyed during  World War II and completely recreated only in 2003, a process that took over 20 years and cost more than $12 million.

St. Isaac Cathedral was originally the city's main church and the largest cathedral in Russia. It was built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital. One hundred and eighty years later the gilded dome of St. Isaac's still dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg. We also recommend you to climb the 300 steps up to the cathedral's colonnade, and enjoy the magnificent views over the city. Watch web-cam online (will open in a new window).

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood the world renowned ornately decorated onion domes and stunning breathtaking mosaics on the inside. This marvellous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881.

Peter and Paul Fortress is the very first building of St Petersburg.  The fortress was founded on a small island in the Neva delta on May 27, 1703 and that day became the birthday of the city of St Petersburg. It is immediately recognisable from its extraordinary golden spire, visible all over the city centre at an incredible 122m high. A visit to this large complex is a must: you will see the tombs of the Russian tsars – Romanovs, visit an excellent history museum and even be able to relax on the beach with Hermitage views.

Russian Museum  - the world's largest museum of Russian art – the State Russian Museum. You can see there over 400,000 exhibits, which reflects the history of Russian fine art from the ancient icons to the 20th century avant-garde.

Smolny Cathedral was designed by Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who came to Russia as a boy with his father, who was invited to the country by Peter the Great and who constructed the Winter Palace and the palace at Tsarskoe Selo. Smolny Cathedral was one of Rastrelli Jr.'s last projects. His inspiration was to combine baroque details forest of towers and onion domes of an old Russian monastery. It is definitely worth to climb the 277 steps to one of the two 63m-high bell tower for stupendous view over the city.  

When to come

 

 

 

It is never really cold in St Petersburg - at least by Russian standards - with temperatures rarely dropping much below -10 ºC even in the depths of winter. In summer St Petersburg has this mystic thing, poetically called the White Nights, when the sun never goes down. This makes Saint Petersburg the only city in the world with bright sleepless summer nights when people walk across the city enjoying its captivating beauty.

Public Transportation in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg's public transport network is actually extensive and efficient. The metro is undoubtedly the best bet for visitors, and covers nearly the entire city, with new stations opening almost every year. It also has some spectacular station architecture.

 The only real disadvantage of the public transport system is the lack of night-time services, so if you plan to stay out after midnight, you will have to rely on taxis or your own two feet to get home.

Fares for all forms of public transport are comparatively low (around £0.5 or less for any single journey), but if you are staying in the city for longer than a week, it is probably worth investing in a travel card.

Suburbs

Peterhof

One of St. Petersburg's most famous and popular visitor attractions, the palace and park at Peterhof (also known as Petrodvorets) are often referred to as "the Russian Versailles", although many visitors conclude that the comparison does a disservice to the grandeur and scope of this majestic estate.

Like almost all St. Petersburg's suburban estates, Peterhof was ravaged by German troops during the Second World War. It was, however, one of the first to be resurrected and, thanks to the work of military engineers and over 1,000 volunteers, most of the estate's major structures had been fully restored by 1947.

Watch Peterhof fountains online http://peterhofmuseum.ru/open/

Pushkin Tsarskoe Selo

Home to two glorious palaces, a splendid park, and the world-famous Amber Room.

If any proof is needed for the extravagance of Russia's Imperial rulers, then it can be found in the fact that, in less than two centuries, the Romanov Tsars established not one but two suburban estates - at Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof - that, in terms of grandeur and excess, outstrip even Versailles. What is more, at Tsarskoe Selo, the 18th century saw the construction of two vast and truly exceptional palaces, both surrounded by extensive landscaped gardens with diverse and fascinating decorative architecture.

Built for Empress Elizabeth by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the architect of St. Petersburg's Winter Palace, the Catherine Palace is undoubtedly Tsarskoe Selo's top attraction, particularly renowned for the extraordinary Amber Room. Less well known, and currently much more dilapidated, the Alexander Palace is nonetheless a neoclassical masterpiece, and has a particularly poignant connection with the family of the last Tsar, Nicholas II. Legendary truly unique Amber Room that was destroyed during  World War II and completely recreated only in 2003, a process that took over 20 years and cost more than $12 million.

Like Peterhof, Tsarskoe Selo is one of St. Petersburg's must-see attractions, and can easily occupy visitors for a full day. And, like Peterhof, it can be very crowded during the tourist high-season in the summer. Arrive early or be prepared to join long queues, especially for the Catherine Palace.

 

Pavlovsk
Pavlovsk is the youngest of the grand Imperial estates around St. Petersburg. Named in honour of Tsar Pavel, this fine neo-classical palace and its extensive landscaped gardens are stamped with his taste and even more so with that of his wife, the German-born Maria Feodorovna. Although there was no love lost between Pavel and his mother, Catherine the Great, it was she who originally presented him with the 607 hectares - of land around the Slavyanskaya River.

Although lacking the dazzling splendour of the estates at Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof, Pavlovsk is well worth visiting both for the treasures in the elegant palace and for the charming, rambling park, which is one of the largest and finest English-style landscape gardens outside the UK.

Both the Park and the Palace at Pavlovsk were victims of wanton destruction during the Nazi occupation, and the extraordinary restoration project was not completed until the mid-1950s. Fortunately, there were extensive blueprints available for all aspects of the estate, so what you see now is almost entirely faithful to the original designs.