With its palaces and cathedrals, museums and ballet and canal cruises, there is never a lack of things to see and do in Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg. Considered the country’s cultural capital, the city boasts over 221 museums, 45 galleries and 100 concerts. While the average visitor won’t be able to see all that this magnificent city has to offer, here are a few places to see and explore in a three-day visit.
Built as a home for Empress Elizabeth (daughter of Peter the Great) in 1762, the green and white Baroque-style Winter Palace and State Heritage Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions. Design enthusiasts will enjoy the opulent gilded interiors of the Palace while art aficionados can view the enormous collection of works from Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Matisse, Rodin, Leonardo da Vinci and Gauguin housed in the museum. The collection is so vast that the museum notes it would take 11 years to fully view the great works of art. And be sure to take in the sprawling Palace Square that connects the Palace Bridge to Nevsky Prospekt for photo ops. As the site of the October Revolution of 1917 and the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1905, the square is rich with history.
Take in a bit of cultural history with Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Regent Choice tour, An Evening of Russian Ballet. In a country where ballet is world renowned and produced choreographers and dancers such as Nijinsky, Balanchine, Nureyev and Pavlova, a performance at one of the city’s 100 theaters is a must.
The Classical St. Petersburg excursion to Catherine’s Palace is definitely worth seeing. Located 14 miles outside of the city in Tsarskoye Selo, the blue and white painted palace is the original summer residence of Catherine l of Russia and later renovated by her daughter Empress Elizabeth and Catherine the Great. Decorated in Russian baroque style by architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the gilded Great Hall (also known as the Hall of Light) is a standout and runs the entire width of the palace. Filled with porcelain, silk covered walls, marble chimneys, ceiling paintings and extravagant carvings, the majestic Grand Staircase, Portrait Hall and the popular Amber Room, a chamber filled with ornate gold panels and mirrors, are equally as impressive. And weather permitting, be sure and finish the day with a stroll through the formal gardens.
A leisurely Canal and Cruise Shopping boat tour in the city that is built on the banks of the Neva River around a grid of rivers and canals is a must. It’s a great way to take in sights of the 18th and 19th centuries such as the Peter and Paul Fortress, Vasilyevsky Island, Winter Palace, the Summer Garden and an assortment of palaces (Shuvalov, Yusopov and Sheremetev), landmarks, bridges and fountains along the way.
St. Petersburg offers some of the most spectacular cathedrals dating as far back to the 14th and 15th centuries. One of the most popular is the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood and features Russia’s largest collection of heralded mosaics. Located in Nevsky Prospekt, the church is a true representation of medieval Russian architecture. The baroque style Peter and Paul Cathedral serves as the burial site for the imperial family and Kazan Cathedral is modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Last but not least, be sure to visit St. Petersburg’s biggest orthodox cathedral, St. Isaac’s and catch the panoramic scenes of the city on the viewing deck.
Next summer, discover the renowned city of St. Petersburg during an all-inclusive voyage through Northern Europe.