Your journey in picturesque St. Petersburg is a 2-day tour that includes the main streets, 4 palaces, 3 churches, and a metro trip. There’s no doubt that you`ll fall in love with this beautiful city!
On the 1st day we will be walking a lot; be sure, that your clothes and shoes are comfortable.
We begin at Nevsky Prospect, the main street of Saint Petersburg, the oldest (almost 300 years old), one of the widest (up to 60 m) and one of the longest (4.5 km). This street is lively at any time of day and night. There are many restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and, of course, monuments. Every building here has a rich history behind it.
You’ll walk along the Fontanka, a tributary of Neva River, which runs through the entire center of the city. Previously it was called Anonymous, later it received its present name, because it gave water to the fountains of the Summer Garden.
Near the Fontanka`s embankment is the Alexandrinsky Theatre. Also known as Russian State Pushkin Academy Drama Theater, it opened in 1832. Named after the spouse of Nikolay II, Alexandra Feodorovna, the theater was one of the largest in Europe when it opened. The theatre occupied an Empire-style building which was considered to be one of the finest works of architect Carlo Rossi.
As we continue our adventure, we are at Nevsky Prospect again, approaching Gostiny Dvor (Guest Court). It is the oldest (built during the 18th century) and largest shopping mall of Saint Petersburg, constructed in early classicism style. It was erected as the largest shopping space in the Russian Empire (now it’s being converted into a shopping mall). The building has an entrance near the Gostiny Dvor metro station.
One of the most remarkable buildings at the Nevsky Prospect is the Singer House, also known as the House of Books. A six-story loft building with a modernist style, it was built in the early 20th century by the architect Pavel Suzor for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The project was innovative for the technical execution as well as style. The Singer House is crowned with a glass tower, topped by a glass globe. The design was novel since a metal frame was used for the first time in Russia. The building was equipped with the most advanced technology of that time, ranging from elevators to the automatic cleaning of roofs from snow.
The building belonged to the Singer Company until 1917. During the WWI, the US Embassy was located on the ground floor of the building. In the 1920’s some publishers were housed in the building, and since 1938 it was eventually named “The House of Books”. The bookstore remained functioning during the Siege of Leningrad until November 1942, reopening again in 1948. The building was closed for reconstruction between 2004-2006; it now functions as the home of several businesses, including the famous House of Books.
Take a little walk along Griboyedov Canal to see amazing Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, also known as the Church of the Resurrection of Christ. You`ll be astonished by the huge multicolored domes, complex mosaics, and carvings. The cathedral was built on the place where Tsar Alexander II had been assassinated by terrorists. The height of the temple is 81 meters, which symbolizes the year of the death of the Tsar. The construction lasted for 24 years. During the Siege of Leningrad there was a morgue in the cathedral. After the war the church was taken over by the Maly Opera Theatre for storing all its props and decorations. Restoration of the church began in 1970 and it was finally reopened to the public as a museum in 1997, but it has never reconsecrated. The church is notable for its incredibly beautiful mosaics and icons. Inside the church there is an area of mosaic covering more than 7000 square meters. Also in the church, you will see the richest collection of semiprecious stones, jewelry, and colored ornamented tiles.
Next, we come to the Arts Square, where the Mikhailovsky Palace is located. This palace is surrounded by a garden, consisting of a magnificent French and English-style park with ponds. The Mikhailovsky Palace, where the Russian Museum is situated now, was built by the architect Carlo Rossi at the beginning of the 19th century for Alexander II´s brother Mikhail. At the end of the 19th century Alexander III bought this building from his relatives to establish a museum of Russian art. He is considered the founder of the museum, although the museum was opened only after the death of the Emperor, in 1898. The museum also owns collections of sculptures, applied art, and coins. Some of the halls of the palace retain the Italianate opulent interiors of the former imperial residence. The entrance to the Palace is guarded by huge bronze lions.
Be sure to take photos of the Summer Garden with its marble statues. The oldest park in the city, it was founded by Peter the Great just the year after the city was established. Originally Summer Garden was created as summer residence; Peter the Great wanted to set up the big garden with fountains in the Western-European park style, which was popular that time. He actually planned the garden himself. At different times, the garden was constructed and re-designed by various architects with work performed by numerous Italian sculptors. The Summer Garden was completed in 1719. The walks were lined with a hundred marble sculptures. In the late 20th century, 90 ramshackle statues were renovated and moved indoors, while modern replicas took their place in the park. Besides the statuary, the fountains are very famous, the oldest in Russia, representing scenes from Aesop’s fables. Some of them were demolished after the flood in 1777. The fence of the Summer Garden, which was called Nevskaya, is worthy to be seen. It was made Yury Felten and it took him 16 years to finish this project. The total length of the construction is 232 meters.
The Chizhik-Pyzhik near Fontanka is one of the smallest monuments in the world, but it is a symbol of the city. Chizhik-Pyzhik, where have you been? Drank vodka on the Fontanka. Took a shot, took another – Got dizzy. This national rhyme has been famous since 19 century. It is considered that chizhes were students, whose uniform resembled the colors of the bird. The first monument was installed in 1994, and has been stolen 7 times since then. You should make a wish and throw a coin, if it stays on the pedestal, your wish comes true. Give it a try! Good Luck!
Nearby is one of the visual highlights of Saint Petersburg – Palace Square, which represents a beautiful architectural ensemble in the heart of Saint Petersburg. Palace Square connects Nevsky Prospekt with the Palace Bridge leading to Vasilyevsky Island. Palace Square was the setting for many events of worldwide significance, including the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the 1905 Bloody Sunday, where peaceful protesters were gunned down while trying to present Tsar Nicholas II with a petition. The original name of Palace Square, Admiralteisky Lug (Admiralty Meadow, which included the territory of the modern Alexander Garden) was established 1736. In 1766 the square got its modern name thanks to Winter Palace, which is located on the square; its southern façade faces the square.
Next up on our tour is one of the largest art museums in the world – the State Hermitage Museum. The museum occupies a complex of 6 historic buildings: Winter Palace, the former winter residence of the Romanov family, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, Hermitage Theatre, New Hermitage, and the Reserve House.
The Hermitage was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. 1837 was prominent in the Hermitage history because of the big fire, which burned for days in the Winter Palace. It almost destroyed the entire Hermitage collection.
During World War 1, the Winter Palace contained a hospital which was managed by the Red Cross. The hospital was open for two years, 1915 – 1917. Following the February Revolution, it remained in the Winter Palace, where it continued to occupy the state rooms. In October of 1917, after the storming of the Palace, the wounded were relocated to other hospitals. At the end of October, the hospital was closed. Then, the Hermitage and Winter Palace were designated as state museums.
During the Great Patriotic War, the Hermitage collection was evacuated and moved over 1100 miles to Sverdlovsk in the Urals. After the war, the collection was returned and, in 1945, the museum was reopened for visitors.
The museum contains over 3 million pieces of art, dated from ancient Egypt to the present day. There are prehistoric art, antiquity, Western European art, the arsenal collection, Oriental art, Russian culture, numismatic collection, and the amazing treasure gallery. Pass through magnificent rooms: the Armorial hall – all in gold, Great Throne Hall that witnessed official receptions of the Russian emperors, the Malachite room where Nicholas II signed the document announcing war to Germany in 1914, rooms of Alexander II and his wife. In the picture galleries, you will have a chance to see artworks by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Picasso and Van Gogh as well as many others. To view the entire collection you would need almost 15 years, spending 8 hours a day in the museum and taking one minute to glance at each exhibit.
As we finish our visit to the Hermitage, we proceed to the Admiralty Building, which was built by Peter the Great and originally served as a dockyard. Unfortunately, visitors today aren’t able to see the building in its original state. Many of the statues were destroyed in 1860 when the Orthodox Church declared them to be pagan. The building was also damaged during the Siege of Leningrad. It`s dominating 240 foot golden spire, topped with a ship, helps people to get oriented and is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. The building now houses the Dzerzhinsky Higher Naval College.
Next stop is St. Isaac Cathedral, the largest Orthodox church in Saint-Petersburg (101.5 m is the height of the temple; it can accommodate 14,000 standing worshipers), built in a classicism style in 1858 by Auguste de Montferrand. It was consecrated in honor of Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great. In 1712 Peter the Great and Catherine the Great were married here. During the first years after October revolution Saint Isaac’s Cathedral was stripped of religious articles, and services were canceled. In 1931 in the cathedral served as the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. Fortunately, during the Great Patriotic War the temple was hardly damaged. Since 1948, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral worked as a museum.
The cathedral’s facades are decorated with sculptures, high reliefs and granite columns, while the interior is graced with mosaic icons, stained glass, paintings, grand bronze doors and a colonnaded iconostasis made of different items. The decorators utilized over 43 kinds of minerals.
If you are interested, you should climb the 262 steps to the observation area below the cathedral’s dome. There, you will enjoy fantastic views of St. Petersburg.
Despite the fact, that the cathedral is designated as a museum, services are still held on major Church holy days.
We take a metro ride in order to get to The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. See architecturally stunning stations and marvel at their mosaics, relief carvings, crystal chandeliers, marble vestibules and beautiful frescoes.
Kazan Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, looks very familiar, because it was created by architect Andrey Voronikhin who based his design on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Kazan Cathedral, erected in 1811 is dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most venerated icons in Russia. The Cathedral has 136 columns, an 80m-high dome, and an elaborate structure and interior. The cathedral’s huge bronze doors are one of three copies of the original doors created by the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Florence Baptistery in Florence, Italy. After the Patriotic War of 1812, Kazan Cathedral became the monument of military glory of Russia. Mikhail Kutuzov, the field marshal of Russian troops in the war against Napoleon, is buried here. There are French military trophies. Since 1991 Kazan Cathedral is a functioning church.
We exit the Cathedral and approach the famous Bronze Horseman – the sculpture of the founder of the city, Peter the Great. Catherine the Great had the statue built in the late 1700s to honor Peter the Great. The horse stands on a rock meant to represent a cliff. This huge block of granite weighs more than 1,600 tons and it took more than nine months to transport him from the Gulf of Finland. Legend says that Saint Petersburg can never be taken by enemy as long as the statue remains standing.
On our 2nd day we discover the “other side” of St Petersburg – the Petrograd Side. Our journey starts with a walk to Vasilyevsky Island, the largest island in the Neva Delta, the district that Peter the Great planned to be the” Russian Amsterdam”. Originally Vasilyevsky Island was designated to be the center of St. Petersburg, where all the most important state facilities were constructed. However, after the death of Peter the Great, the island lost its political importance. But, it did retain its academic importance.
The Strelka (Spit) of Vasilyevsky Island is the stretched part of the island in its eastern side. Peter the Great wanted this territory to be the cultural and business center, so many government and social buildings were erected here. For example, the Twelve Collegia buildings, the Old St. Petersburg Stock Exchange, trade courtyard, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the Kunstkamera, and the Imperial Academy of Sciences. The Spit attracts a lot of tourists who come to enjoy the amazing views of the Neva River, The Hermitage, and Peter and Paul Cathedral. Also, don’t miss the famous Rostral columns, which are one of the main symbols of the city.
Go further to St. Petersburg’s port of Kronstadt to take photos of the cruiser Aurora, a pre-World War I battleship, a symbol of the October Revolution, fought in both World Wars.
Visit the imposing Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg’s original island citadel, founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and designed by the Swiss-Italian architect, Domenico Trezzini. The Fortress is located on Hare Island at the mouth of Neva River. Originally built to protect the city from Swedish attack, but never attacked, the fortress soon became Russia’s Tower of London, a place for political prisoners – including Peter the Great’s own son.
The fortress contains several notable buildings clustered around the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which has a 123-meter bell-tower with gilded spire, topped with the figure of a flying angel. This Cathedral is the oldest one in Saint Petersburg: it was originally constructed of wood and it was built a month after the city was founded. It is considered to be the second-tallest building in the city. It was built in early Baroque style under the influence of Western Europe, so it is a bit unusual for Russian Orthodox churches. The bell-tower contains 51 bells, including a unique set of bells – Dutch and Russian. The iconostasis was carved by Moscow craftsmen in the 1720s and the Cathedral contains 43 original icons from the 18th century. The Peter and Paul Cathedral had for almost two centuries served as a burial-place for Russian emperors. Every tsar and tsarina from Peter the Great to Nicholas II is buried within the Peter & Paul Cathedral, except for Peter II and Ivan VI.
As we walk around, we see Trubetskoy Bastion — the former main political prison of the Russian Empire. In the prison, conditions were hard for the prisoners: any communication was forbidden as well as smoking and reading (except the Bible). During the prison`s heyday, the total number of prisoners was more than 1500 people. Famous political prisoners included Feodor Dostoevsky, Leon Trotsky and Maxim Gorky and then, after the Bolshevik Revolution, members of the Tsarist government. In 1924 the prison became a museum, where currently you can view archival documents, photos, models, multimedia materials, records with the memoirs of the prisoners and authentic cells, walls, and corridors.
There is an old tradition, dating back to Peter’s time; you’ll hear it at noon every day. Don’t be startled. A cannon at the Naryshkin bastion is fired. Traditionally, a cannon shot signaled the beginning and the end of the work day. It also alerted citizens of flooding and a dangerous rise in the Neva River water level.
The Commandant’s House contained the living quarters for the head of the fortress and his family. It also contained a chapel, laundry area, and stables. The Commandant’s House is a museum now houses The Museum of the History of St. Petersburg. The collection holds paintings, maps, archeological finds, and information regarding development of the city. Another exhibition shows life of ordinary people, concerning such themes as commerce and banking, living accommodations, transportation, cuisine and fashion.
The Monument to Peter the Great is in the inner yard of Peter and Paul Fortress. The head of the sculpture is made from the imperator’s death mask and all his features are perfectly true to life.
We travel by car to our next destination, Peterhof, the so-called “Russian Versailles.” After taking a trip to Europe, Peter the Great wanted to build a country residence that would resemble the Versailles. The opening of the Palace took place in 1723, during the culmination of Peter’s reign over the Empire. The main purpose of this palace was to impress foreign guests and to show that Russia was able to compete with Europe in design.
The Peterhof Upper Gardens and Lower Park include 191 fountains and 4 monumental cascades; it is the world’s greatest ensemble of fountains.
Leading from its Central terraces in the Lower Park are two monumental stairs, framing the Grand cascade, the largest fountain construction of the property. The most impressive feature of the Grand Cascade is the golden statue of Samson grasping the jaws of the lion. The Lower Park has a symmetrical design. The sea channel, with an alley of 22 fountains, divides the Park into 2 parts. Other interesting features are the Grotto, hiding behind the Grand Cascade, the Chess Cascade, the Pyramid Fountain, and the popular Joke Fountains ( which spray you when you step on a random paving stone (you never know which one). The water supply and system for the fountains of Peterhof is unique. The idea belonged to Peter the Great. In contrast with fountains of European parks, whose water is supplied by machines, Peterhof uses natural gravitational pressure without any pumps. It still works, although much of the piping system was damaged by mines during WWII, many sections were undamaged and are of the original construction.
The Upper Garden is a typical French-style formal garden with five fountains including one depicting Neptune, the God of the Sea. The fountain of Neptune is a majestic portrait of Neptune on a pedestal surrounded by horses and dolphins.
At the center of the estate is the Great Palace, situated on a natural hill. The Grand Palace was the official summer residence of several Russian Tsars. Originally built by Peter the Great as a small palace, the Grand Palace was later enlarged by the order of Elizabeth and redecorated in a Russian Baroque Style. During the rule of Catherine the Great, many rooms were built or remodeled, including the Chesma Hall, the Throne Hall, and the Western Chinese study. In the Picture Hall the walls are entirely covered by paintings displayed like a tapestry. During the WWII, the interior was destroyed, and the central part of the Palace was blown up. After 8 years of restoration, the Palace was opened to visitors.
Monplaisir Palace, completed in 1723, resembles a Dutch colonial mansion with large French windows. It was favorite building of Peter the Great and the decoration of the Palace was characterized by a combination of grandeur and simple practicality. The Lacquered Gallery features Chinese lacquering with a Russian character, and the Assembly Hall is patterned with latticed panels, representing Asia, Africa and America. It is also contained the first art gallery in Russia with paintings that Peter I brought home from his European travels.
Marly Palace is a lovely baroque mansion that functioned as a retreat for Peter the Great. The Marly Palace complex includes 2 ponds, two gardens (the Venus and Parterre Gardens), a cascade and fountains on the parterre. Destroyed during the WWII, the Palace was restored and opened for visitors in 1982.
Cottage Palace and Alexandria Park is an English-style estate which used to be a summer residence of the Tsar’s family. The Cottage was built in the Gothic Revival style in 1820-s. The interior is filled with romantic medieval spirit: works of porcelain, glass and bronze, a first-class collection of paintings and sculptures. The park was named in honor of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Emperor Nicholas I. The ensemble includes Farm Palace built for the Grand Duke Alexander, where important political events happened, and the neo-gothic Alexander Nevsky Church, that was the domestic church of the royal family.
The Peterhof Hermitage, located west of St. Petersburg, on the picturesque shore of the Gulf of Finland, used to be a gathering place for the royal family and a casual dining room for Peter the Great’s closest friends; it provided total privacy for the royalty.
Tsaritsyn Pavilion located in Kolonistsky Park and resembling an Old Pompeian residence, was created specifically for the Empress. She loved antique furniture, sculptures, fountains with fresh flowers and mosaic floors. The building completely reproduces the appearance of an Italian house.
The Catherine Pavilion was used as an entertainment center for dances, card games, concerts and masquerades, under Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, the daughter of Peter the Great. The pavilion holds 4,500 objects made in Imperial Porcelain Factory in St Petersburg. Here, Catherine the Great lived, and from here she went to St. Petersburg to declare herself Empress a coup in January of 1725.
Extra Hour price: 2000 rub
Duration: 14 hours
Starts at: 10:00
Pick up: hotel
Drop off: hotel
Included: tickets to Hermitage