Saint Petersburg - The Glamour of the Tsar Era
Impressive palace buildings, magnificent churches and grand castles string along the mouth of the Neva River. Saint Petersburg is a city which fascinates with its unique architecture from the Russian tsar era, romantic canals and the phenomenal white nights.
Geography - The Venice of the North
Saint Petersburg is a city in the north-west of Russia at the Gulf of Finland. With almost 5 million inhabitants, it is the country's second biggest city after Moscow and the fourth biggest on the European continent. The cultural metropolis lies at the mouth of the Neva River, at the Neva Bay, is two to four metres above sea level and accommodates over 42 islands. Due to its many bridges and over 60 canals, Saint Petersburg is also called the "Russian Venice" or the "Venice of the North". The city has an administrative area of 1,431 km² and includes suburbs such as Petergof and Pushkin. The climate is a typical maritime climate with sudden changes in the weather, mild summers and cold winters. Due to the city's geographical position, the nights do not get dark at the time of the summer solstice (20th, 21th or 22nd of June) but are in a twilight state. Those are the famous white nights.
Culture - The former seat of the tsar with unique architecture
Saint Petersburg, named after the apostle of Simon Peter (Saint Peter), was founded by the Russian tsar Peter the Great on swampland in 1709 to give the country access to the Baltic Sea. Today, the city accommodates one of the most important Baltic Sea harbours in Russia. The city, which was called "Petograd" from 1914 to 1924 and "Leningrad" from 1924 to 1991, has experienced historic events like the October Revolution with the storming of the Winter Palace and was influenced by famous rulers like Catherine the Great. Although Amsterdam served as the model for the cultural metropolis, it is now compared to Venice. Such comparisons do not really do the city justice because Saint Petersburg has its very own style. Its architectural mix of impressive palaces, magnificent church buildings and grand castles is unique, which caused the UNESCO to declare the historical city centre a World Cultural Heritage site in 1991. The most popular sights in the northern metropolis and its surroundings are the Winter Palace, which contains the world-famous Hermitage Museum, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, St. Isaac's Cathedral, the Peter and Paul Fortress, Peterhof Palace and Catherine Palace with the reproduced Amber Room.
Experience - The magic of the white nights
There is a great number of restaurants in Saint Petersburg, in which you can order local food such as blini and borscht as well as international dishes. Shopping fans will find everything they desire on the shopping mile of the Nevsky Prospect. This famous street does not only accommodate historical palace and church buildings but also the department store of the Great Gostiny Dvor. You can buy haute couture and elegant souvenirs here. Right across, you see the Passage, another shopping centre. If you have got some money left, you can wander through the city's many bars, clubs and discos. Every night in Saint Petersburg is an adventure. The most extraordinary nights, however, are the white nights at the time of the summer solstice. The writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky was fascinated by those night, during which the sun does not set and a fairy-tale silver shimmer seems to fill the air. Numerous shops are opened longer and organise special events such as the festival of the "Stars of the White Nights" hosted by the Mariinsky Theatre. Many people cannot or do not want to sleep but gather at the bank of the Neva River instead to party, watch the bridges close and marvel at a sea of boats and fireworks.
Activities - A romantic boat trip on the Neva River
Besides visiting the sights in the city centre (the Winter Palace, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Peter and Paul Fortress etc.), many travellers go on a trip to the suburbs of Petergof and Pushkin to see Peterhof or Catherine Palace. Another popular leisure activity, especially for people in love, is a boat trip on the Neva River and the city's countless canals. If you find the trip too expensive, you can enjoy Saint Petersburg's wonderful atmosphere on a walk along the river.
Saint Petersburg is particularly popular with tourists at the end of June, at the time of the white nights. Therefore, the city is very crowded at that time. If you like it quiet, you should visit the city in autumn. The temperatures are temperate but not too cold yet, while the sun bathes the colourful city in light. You should beware of pickpockets on a stroll through the city. They often jump at the opportunity in crowds of people, e.g. on shopping miles like the Nevsky Prospect. It is useful to learn some words in Russian. People who know the Cyrillic letters, will find it easier to read the city's signs, guideposts and maps, e.g. in the Metro.
A trip to Saint Petersburg is ideally suited for romantics, culture and history enthusiasts. The city's impressive architecture, cultural events and historical sites fascinate all lovers of culture.