Our city tour comprises all major sights and places of St. Petersburg that are absolutely a must to visit. This is one of those things that serve as number 1 priority for the first time visitors, and today stays as the most popular option, the necessity in every single itinerary.
Nevsky Prospekt, the main avenue in St. Petersburg, is one of the best-known streets in Russia. Cutting through the historical center of the city, it runs from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railway Station and then, after a slight kink, to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. In the very first days of St. Petersburg it was originally called the Great Perspective Road and was simply the beginning of the road to the ancient city of Novgorod, but it quickly became adorned with beautiful buildings, squares and bridges and became the very center of the bustling, rapidly growing city. It is 4.5 kilometers long and 25-60 metres wide. It was planned by the French architect Alexandre Jean Baptiste LeBlond, whilst working for the city’s founder Peter the Great.
The part between the Square of Insurrection and the Alexander Nevsky Square is traditionally called Old Nevsky. It appeared in 1710 and soon afterwards became one of the most famous thoroughfares in the world. All major shops, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos and other entertainment spots are located along the way.
Nevsky gradually widens as you travel along its length towards the river and is lined with some of St. Petersburg’s most impressive buildings; note Stroganov Palace, Kazan Cathedral, named after “miracle-making” icon of our Lady of Kazan, on one side and the former building of the Dom Knigi book store, the largest in town, (the former Singer sewing machine company headquarters) on the other and the wonderful view down Kanal Griboedova to the picturesque Russian-style Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood.
In addition to the many different denomination churches that line Nevsky, which prompted the French writer Alexander Dumas to call it “the street of religious tolerance”, there are numerous other attractions. Just a stone’s throw from Nevsky, next door to the Grand Hotel Europe, stand Arts Square and the Russian Museum. Further down the road, you’ll find the largest department store in the city – “Gostiny Dvor”, the Russian National Library (the second largest branch in the country), an impressive monument to Catherine the Great and the Anichkov Bridge, adorned with 4 striking equestrian statues (beautiful Klodt’s horses).
The Palace Square is the most grandiose among the squares of the city and a good example of how different styles can be combined in the most elaborate way. The General Stuff Headquarters Building and State Hermitage can be found here.
On the northern side of the square stands the picturesque Baroque Winter Palace (built in 1754-62). Across the square, on the southern side, there is the classical yellow-and-white General Staff building (built in 1819-29 by Carlo Rossi). This building encircles the Southern side of the square and through its central arch, designed as a Triumphal Arch of the Classical World, you can reach Nevsky Prospect. On the eastern side a building of the former Royal Guards’ General Staff tastefully closes the panorama of Palace Square, while on the West the square borders with the Admiralty and the Alexander Garden. The Alexander Column was erected in the center of the Square to commemorate the victory over Napoleon in the war of 1812, and to honor Emperor Alexander I.
The facade of the Admiralty and the Alexander Garden that is in front of it, link the Palace Square to the Senate Square. In the center of the square there stands an impressive monument to the founder of St Petersburg — Peter the Great — known as Bronze Horseman. Vasilievsky Island is a district of Saint Petersburg, bordered by the rivers Bolshaya Neva and Malaya Neva (in the delta of Neva) from South and Northeast, and by the Gulf of Finland from the West. Situated just across the river from the Winter Palace, it constitutes a large portion of the city’s historic center. Two of the most famous St Petersburg bridges, Palace Bridge and Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge, connect it with the mainland.
Geographically, the island consists of two main parts. The south and east of the island are old, with buildings mostly from the 19th century. The southern embankment has some of the oldest buildings in the city dated from 18th century. That part of the island is notable for its rectangular grid of streets, with three prospects – Bolshoi (Big), Sredniy (Middle) and Maly (Small) – going roughly from east to west, and with 30 Liniya (Line) streets going perpendicularly from south to north.
The easternmost tip of the island, called Strelka (Spit, literally Arrow), features a number of museums, including the Bourse as well as two Rostral columns, and is a popular tourist attraction. Other edifices lining the Neva Embankment include the Menshikov Palace, the Imperial Academy of Arts, the Kunstkamera, and St Andrew Cathedral – all dating from the 18th century.
The western part of the island was developed much later, in the late Soviet times, and has mostly typical Soviet apartment blocks. In contrast with the beautiful Neva embankments in the historical center, the sea coast in that part of Vasilievsky island is still an uncultured wasteland that is not easy to walk on, even despite the fact that the fully populated multi-storey apartment blocks are about 100 meters from the shore. A monument to Vasiliy, a peasant after whom the island had been named, was opened in 2003.
The principal buildings of Saint Petersburg State University are located on the island and include the Twelve Collegia by Domenico Tresini (1722-44) and the former palace of Peter II of Russia.
Across the river from the Peter and Paul Fortress and Peter the Great’s domik is the historic Summer Garden. Peter the Great commissioned the first architect of the city – Domenico Trezzini – to build a small palace in the park. The palace had no heating and was intended for summer time, hence its name – the Summer Palace (Peter had a Winter Palace further down the Neva River) – and the park became known as the Summer Garden. A two-story yellow palace was built in 1710-14, with 7 rooms on each floor. After the Second World War the palace was carefully restored: the older interiors were recreated and a collection of early 18th-century artifacts, many originally owned by Peter the Great, was put on display.
It was with this citadel, founded on 16 (27 New Style) May 1703 by Domenico Trezzini and called “Sankt-Pieterburgh” in a Dutch manner, that the city which was to become the capital of the Russian Empire began.
The ground-plan of the fortress on Hare Island was a stretched hexagon: six curtain walls linked six massive bastions protruding towards an attacker. Peter the Great personally supervised the construction of one bastion and entrusted the others to his closest associates: Menshikov, Golovkin, Zotov, Trubetskoi and Naryshkin. The main gate was placed in the curtain wall between the Tsar and Menshikov Bastions. It faced St Petersburg’s earliest bridge that connected the fortress with the neighbouring Birch Island. A moat was dug out in front of the gate and an earthworks ravelin (V-shaped outwork) piled up to protect it from artillery fire. In order to provide the garrison with water in the event of a siege, a special canal was out the length of the island.
The total thickness of the fortifications, which cconsisted of two walls – the outer, escarp wall, and the inner wall – reached 20 meters in places, while the height was 12 metres. Between those two walls there were two tiers of vaulted casemates, one on top of the other. Artillery pieces were installed in these, ammunition stored there and they were also used as barracks for the soldiers of the garrison. Domenico Trezzini designed this magnificent Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul within the fortress in 1712. He produced a Baroque masterpiece of singular elegance. The interior, with its glittering chandeliers, pink and green Corinthian columns, and overarching vaults, is a far cry from the traditional Russian Orthodox church.
RSPB travel will make sure that you do not miss out on exploring the beauty of Peter and Paul Fortress, simply contact us for more details.