What comes to mind when you think of Russia? Is it the cold war, soldiers in drab green, and blocky uninspired Soviet era architecture? Not so, in St Petersburg where you will find many beautifully restored palaces and museums that are reminiscent of other great cities in Europe, yet uniquely Russian.
Love exploring Europe’s great museums? Tour the Hermitage Museum, containing over 15 miles of galleries and nearly three million works of art. Considered by many to contain some of the finest European art, not because of the size of the collection, but because of the body of art. Those in the know get a tour with early entry to avoid the crowds, and allow lots of time
Enchanted by France’s architecture? Inspired by Versailles, Peterof Palace is a UNESCO world heritage site. A hydrofoil is the fastest and the most comfortable way to arrive. Alight, after your scenic cruise on the Neva River, and marvel at the gilded statues and fountains stretching toward the palace. Stroll through the ornate flower gardens with fountains gurgling around every corner. Inside Peterof Palace, take in the gilded walls, intricate inlaid wood floors, and sparkling chandeliers.
Visit Catherine’s Summer Palace, enchanting periwinkle blue and peach walls, topped by gilded domes give the palace a fairy tale quality. Inspired by the French, but definitely Russian, these palaces deliver stunning design.
Do you love seeing Europe’s greatest cathedrals? Visit the Church of the Spilled Blood. An eclectic mix of brick, tile, cornices and pilasters and topped by enameled domes with swirled ice cream shapes. Inside a jumble of arches and domes, with gold glittering everywhere. Intricate mosaic scenes covering every surface of the walls were nearly destroyed during the Soviet era when the cathedral was used to store potatoes.
The last emperors of Russia, the Romanovs are buried at the Peter and Paul Fortress. More like a palace, huge crystal chandeliers sparkle above you, and gilt-framed paintings adorn the mint green walls. Elaborate tombs carved of precious stones mark the final resting place of the Russian kings and queens.
Finally, St Isaacs Cathedral, crowned by a 333-foot gilded dome, rises above the city’s skyline. Inside walls are embellished with semiprecious stones, paintings, frescoes and gilding. Ceilings covered in frescos rise to dizzying heights. St Petersburg’s cathedrals are among the worlds finest.
Traveled on Europe’s metros? Alight on a fast moving escalator and whoosh 344 feet below the ground. Marvel at sparkling crystal chandeliers, iconic Italian marble statues, marble covered walls, and a complete absence of litter or graffiti. Reminiscent of a museum, St Petersburg’s metro is a delight. Fast, efficient and beautiful, it is what every metro should be.
Love Venice’s canals? Try sipping champagne on a barge while you glide by historic buildings. Much larger than Venice, and designed to accommodate cars using 342 bridges, canals are still a great transportation option. Snap your photos, or just kick back, cruising the rivers, and canals of St Petersburg is a relaxing way to spend the day.
Whether by ocean cruise liner or on a river cruise ship, enjoy cosmopolitan St Petersburg and immerse yourself in the surprising European beauty and splendor.