Saint Petersburg is the northern capital of Russia (from 1712 to 1918 it was its official capital). The city was named after its founder – Emperor Peter the Great. This is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with many tourist attractions and monuments. In St. Petersburg, you will be able to see the greatest masterpieces of art, and visit diverse museums and palaces. Its architecture will astonish even the most experienced travelers. Here you will see white nights, admire the bascule bridges and feel the romantic atmosphere of the place. This city inspires and amazes visitors at any time of the year.
Russians call St. Petersburg the cultural capital because many famous writers and poets lived there, and the greatest works of art were created there too. There are 60 theatres, more than 200 museums and thousands of libraries. Diverse festivals and exhibitions take place in St. Petersburg each year.
The city has multiple names. Some people familiarly call it Pityer, while the older generations are used to calling it Leningrad. No matter what one calls it – the Northern Capital, the Cultural Capital, the Northern Venice or the Northern Palmyra – it does not change the fact that the city attracts more than 5 million tourists a year. Once you have visited St. Petersburg, you will always want to come back.
There is one interesting route across the city, which will take three or four hours and during which you will be able to see all the main sights of the center of the city.
However, you could take a week to see all those sights because there are so many palaces and museums. It can take days and days to explore the Hermitage. There are also many bars and pubs along this route.J
St. Petersburg's Main Sights Route
You’ll want to begin the journey from the Gorkovskaya metro station. Which, by the way, has a nice zoo nearby. But our route leads us to the revolution hero – the renowned Aurora Cruiser. It will take 5 minutes to get there on foot. You should then head towards the Neva River, then turn left and walk along the boardwalk, where you will pass the bend in the river. If you are not good at navigating, you can download special tourist apps. Now, the cruiser we are talking about is a museum where you can see interesting exhibits and take good photos.
Now we have to turn back in order to get to the Peter and Paul Fortress. It was built to defend the land gained during the Great Northern War with Sweden. It was the cornerstone of the whole city of St. Petersburg. The fortress is encircled by water, and its walls are around 9 meters high. There are museums, a church and a cathedral within the territory of the fortress. Nowadays the Peter and Paul Fortress is the tomb of Romanov's dynasty. If you climb the wall, you will get the chance to admire a fantastic view over the historic center of the city. You can also take a walk around the fortress, touch the waters encircling it and maybe see some people warming themselves in the sun on the beach near the fortress. In summer, the beach has a sand sculpture exhibition.
If you go further across the Exchange Bridge, you will have the chance to stroll along Vasilyevsky Island. The Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange building and the Rostral Columns are located there. Once, they served as a "lighthouse" in foggy weather. In front of those buildings, you’ll also see the widest point of the Neva River (about 1 kilometer wide). Here, you can come down to the waterfront and admire another amazing view.
There is also a famous Kunstkamera museum on this island. This is a museum of anthropology and ethnography. It is one of the biggest museums in this area. There are rare anatomical anomalies exhibited here.
Now we are heading to the other side of the Neva across the Palace Bridge, where you can admire fantastic panoramic views.
Here we will take a walk along the boardwalk until we reach the Peter the Great Statue. It has become known as "The Bronze Horseman" because A.S. Pushkin's famous poem of the same name. This is one of the symbols of the city.
Near the "Horseman" you will see Saint Isaac's Cathedral. It was designed by the famous architect Montfferand. The cathedral's style and its size are utterly impressive. It is decorated with antique pillars, statues, and a gilded dome. You can climb to the colonnade of the cathedral and enjoy the beauty of St. Petersburg from the observation deck.
After that, we are going to visit the Alexander Garden and see the Admiralty building. This is a historical monument with a long history. Once there was a rocket motors design bureau in this building, then the printing house of the naval publishing house, and after that – a naval museum. The ship on the spire of the building is one of the symbols of St. Petersburg as well.
From the Alexander Garden you will be able to go and see the main square of the city – the Palace Square. In the center of the square, you’ll see the Alexander Column, along with the Winter Palace nearby where the Hermitage museum is situated. In the Hermitage, there are more than 3 million of the greatest and the rarest exhibits, such as artworks by Michelangelo, Rubens and many others.
If you go through the archway of the Palace Square, you will get to the central street of the city, which is Nevsky Prospect, and then you can go to see the Kazan Cathedral. It is one of the biggest cathedrals in the city. It is still a functioning cathedral, where church services are held. There is a special shrine preserved in this cathedral – a holy Our Lady of Kazan icon.
Then you can head to the Griboyedov Canal, cross the street and turn right in front of the Church of the Savior on Blood. The decorated facades and vivid architectural details make this building an outstanding sight. The church got its name after a dreadful event that happened more than 130 years ago. On this very spot, the Russian Emperor Alexander the Second was mortally wounded during an assassination attempt.
Next is the Field of Mars, not far from the church. It is one of the biggest parks in St. Petersburg. Its history is closely connected to the history of the founding of the city. Long before the city’s founding, this place was filled with swamps. Then it was turned into a recreation area for soldiers. During the festivals, there were massive open-air parties. Now it is an incredible park where you can enjoy the beauty of the landscape. You can take a guitar or a book with you and have the time of your life there.
There is a famous monument, Chizhik-Pyzhik, in one of the canals of the city (the Fontanka River). It is the smallest monument in the city (only 11 centimeters high!). It is so small that it was constantly getting stolen. There is a legend that if you throw a coin and it hits the foundation of the monument, you will be lucky. If you can’t find Chizhik-Pyzhik, you can go on a boat trip that will definitely take you to this monument.
Across the road from the Field of Mars is another place for walking, which is the Summer Garden. You can also go to the Nevsky Prospect, which is located near the Anichkov Bridge.
Personally, I would recommend you finish your journey in a pub and drink a good old glass of beer. It is extremely good in St. Petersburg.
Anyway, this is only one possible variant of your tour. You are welcome to design your own according to the weather or your mood. You can also take one-day trips to the suburbs of St. Petersburg where you can find many tourist attractions as well.
Things You Should Know Before Coming to St. Petersburg
When you come to St. Petersburg, you shouldn’t forget that the weather in the northern capital is very temperamental so you should be ready for everything. First, you’ll see the sun shining in the sky and the next second a thunderstorm breaks out. It is usually overcast in the city so be sure to take an umbrella with you.
Saint Petersburg was founded on vast swamps in 1703. In a few decades the city had become the center of Russian aristocracy. The emperor and those close to him built houses, palaces, summer and winter residences there. Every place has its secrets and legends about the times of palace intrigues, palace coups, revolutionary events and the military past of St. Petersburg
When you walk along the historical center of the city, always remember that behind the graceful facades of houses, they are built in a way that leaves no gap between them, and there are renowned round courtyards. These are yards surrounded by buildings and are open to the sky. You can only get into one of those through an archway or a front door. However, nowadays all the doors are locked, so you will need someone you know to let you in to this mysterious maze of yards, arches and secret streets.
The ship navigation in St. Petersburg takes place from April to November. During this period the bridges are sometimes raised. Each bridge is raised at a particular time for a certain period of time. You should consider this when planning your night routes. If you stay in the bar until late at night on the other side of the city, you might not be able to get home to the other side because of these bascule bridges.
You should definitely see the rivers and canals of the city. There are 100 rivers crossing the city, with a total length of 300 kilometers. There are lots of different individual and group tours along those rivers. Famous white nights make these voyages very romantic. However, you should bear in mind that this time of the year there are many tourists from all over Russia and from abroad. Don’t forget to listen carefully to your guides because each bridge has its unique history and legend. For example, there is the Bridge of Kisses (Potseluev Bridge), and if two lovers pass under this bridge, there is a tradition that they should kiss there. If they do, they will live happily together forever after.
St. Petersburg is often compared to Venice because there are many rivers and bridges with fancy statues. And even though both cities are incredibly gorgeous, I would still always prefer St. Petersburg. First of all, it is not so crowded here. Furthermore, it is easier to navigate in Saint Petersburg and the air here is fresher. Those who have been to Venice understand what I am talking about.J
The citizens of Saint Petersburg remember and cherish the heroic deed of the soviet people during the Second World War. Saint Petersburg survived the blockade having lost, however, more than a million civilians. The blockade lasted 872 days. It was a severe challenge for the city. Cold, famine, constant bombing and continued shelling became a nightmare for those who didn’t manage to evacuate from the city. If you want to learn more about this tough time, you can go to the Museum of the Defense and Blockade of Leningrad. You can also go to the Lake Ladoga and see where the "road of life" passed. This was the only way into the city, which made it possible to deliver food and ammunition there. Divers still find guns and pieces of military equipment that fell through the ice.
Zenit Football Club is another symbol of St. Petersburg. It was founded in 1925. With all its ups and downs Zenit has always been favorite football club of all citizens of Petersburg. The history of the club is closely connected to the changes of the political situation in the city. Throughout its history, it has had multiple owners, different names and players. Now the players of this club defeat the best football teams and win world cups. The team consists of professional football players from different countries.
Annually Saint Petersburg holds a flamboyant festival – The Scarlet Sails. Its history traces back to 1960. This massive celebration unites graduates from all Petersburg high schools. The day is marked by a great concert program, vivid firework show, and ships with scarlet sails drifting along the shore. The festival is held during the white nights time in Saint Petersburg. The Scarlet Sails Festival offers a spectacular water show with remarkable music and fireworks.
The night life in St. Petersburg is animated and dynamic. There are many clubs that will satisfy the taste of every picky clubber. In Saint Petersburg at night, you will find everything you need: music, delicious cocktails, dazzling fireworks shows and so much more!