St. Petersburg is not only Russia’s second most important city, but it is also home to the title of being one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its history, its monuments, the life of its inhabitants and the cultural force that it gives off make it absolutely deserving of its fame.
Despite having lived through some of the most turbulent years of the Russian past, St. Petersburg has been able to remake itself and is now one of the must-see destinations for travel lovers. Will we find Anastasia? Let’s begin!
A bit of history
Tsars, revolutions, communism, world wars, spies… St. Petersburg has a history full of crucial moments that have had repercussions in the world today.
Peter the Great was in charge of creating the former Russian imperial capital, with the purpose of bringing Russia closer to Europe. From that moment on, the “Venice of the North” has witnessed very sweet moments, such as the formation of the first Russian ballet school, and others not so sweet, such as the various political and social revolutions that have plagued the Petersburgers.
The first revolution dates back to 1905, sadly marked by the “Bloody Sunday”, the day on which thousands of demonstrators died in the Winter Palace esplanade at the hands of the Russian Imperial Guard. Later came the assault on the palace in October, Lenin’s rise to power, the Nazi occupation and finally his subsequent liberation to become Russia’s second most important city, behind Moscow.
What to see in St. Petersburg?
Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood
It is one of the most beautiful churches in St. Petersburg. Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral has little to envy, as its five cupolas bathed in copper and the striking colours of these and its façade give it a dreamlike character. In addition, the interior and the history of the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood is no less important, since it was built in the same place where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.
Although not located in St. Petersburg, your visit is a must. Located in Pushkin, this imposing palace is a masterpiece that dazzles all its visitors. Catalina’s Palace was built and rebuilt at a frenetic pace in order to be always in the latest fashion. The different rooms are decorated with mirrors, panels, furniture and all kinds of elements made of amber. However, after the Nazi occupation during World War II, the interior of the palace was completely destroyed.
Don’t worry! The palace was rebuilt to perfection and can be visited in its entirety.
The Hermitage Museum is one of the most important art galleries in the world. Works by Rubens, Titian, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, El Greco or Tintoretto can be admired inside, as well as having exhibitions of all themes. Catherine the Great was in charge of starting this collection, ordering the construction of a building annexed to the Winter Palace to show her most precious pieces. Today, it’s a must for art lovers. You won’t miss a thing with the guided tour of the Hermitage Museum.
Fortress of San Pedro and San Pablo
The Fortress of San Pedro y San Pablo is located on the island of Záyachi. The six strongholds that form it are united with imposing walls, serving as the headquarters of the secret police, one of the most feared prisons in the Russian empire and a laboratory to investigate the use of technology in Russian rockets. Knowing these uses, the location of the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in its interior, protected by the enormous walls, is even more surprising.
St. Petersburg Bridges
We could have continued to select churches or palaces as indispensable in St. Petersburg, but the city’s bridges deserve a place on this list. Each of the bridges that make up St. Petersburg has its own history. Engineering and design blend seamlessly into the more than 500 bridges you can admire. Don’t miss the night boat tour on the drawbridges. You will see the Bank Bridge, the Hermitage Bridge, the Anichkov Bridge, the Trinity Bridge or the Palace Bridge from the water.
Savouring St. Petersburg
One of the best ways to get to know a country is through the palate, and St. Petersburg wasn’t going to be any less. If you’ve ever seen the film ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, you’ll remember the caviar blinis Brad Pitt takes on his trip to St. Petersburg. Listen to him, don’t stop trying this delicacy.
Likewise, the Russian city has classic but daring recipes, with an intense flavour and multicultural influences. Borsch, Olivier salad or Strogonoff veal are some of its most typical dishes. Accompany it with a good vodka, you won’t regret it.
St. Petersburg at a glance
Size: 1,439 square kilometers.
Currency: Russian rouble (RUB)