Petersburg has so much to offer in terms of stunning palaces nearby such as Peterhof, The Peter and Paul Fortress with its dramatic spire, beautiful art at the Hermitage and of course it’s world renown ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre.
Saint Petersburg city has changed its name several times. It was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 as Petersburg. In 1914, the name was changed from to Petrograd, in 1924 to Leningrad, and only in 1991 back to Saint Petersburg again. Between 1713 – 1728 and 1732 – 1918, Saint Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia meaning that there are various beautiful Imperial Palaces to view. In fact it was only in 1918 that the government bodies moved to Moscow.
Petersburg is situated on the lowlands along the shores of the Neva Bay and Neva River, and islands of the river delta and is therefore criss-crossed with canals and rivers. We would recommend a great introduction to the city is to take a river cruise where you can see many of the Palaces on the shoreline.
It you were looking for the top tips on things to do in St Petersburg we would recommend the following.
The Hermitage museum contains one of the largest art collections in the world. Commissioned by Catherine the Great the Hermitage houses over three million items which of course cannot all be on show; the highlights of the collection are the Italian masterpieces, French Impressionists and the Russian Royal family jewellery including the Faberge collections. It can get incredibly busy in the summer with lengthy queues, and we are thrilled to have managed to organise for our Weekend a La Carte clients the unique opportunity to enter 1hr earlier than the masses so you can admire the world-famous paintings in piece and calm.
Peterhof Palace and Gardens
This world renowned palace is most famous for its fountains in its gardens. In the summer 176 fountains play in the gorgeous gardens making it a very special and peaceful visit. Traffic in St Petersburg is becoming notorious so we suggest you return to St Petersburg by hydrofoil which is a pleasant journey in itself, as well as avoiding the jams.
Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress is now the final resting place for most of the Romanov emperors including Nicolas II, who was executed with his family in 1918 and who was very recently reburied here, and is a must for first time visitors to this city.
Catherine’s Palace and Pavlovsk
This is a must to see the extraordinary amber room where over 100,000 perfectly fitted pieces of amber adorn the walls of the room. Originally constructed in the 18th century it covered more than 55m2 and contained over 6 tons of Amber. The Amber Room disappeared during World War Two with its current whereabouts still remaining a mystery. Decades of work culminated in its recreation and unveiling in 2003.
Pavlovsk was the last of the imperial estates to be built and has an elegant simplicity in contrast to the much more decorated and Catherine’s Palace.
Leningrad Defence Museum
Not on the usual tourist route but for those looking to learn more about history then we would recommend a visit to the Leningrad Defence museum which is a memorising and shocking account of the resilience and ingenuity of the citizens of the city during the 1000 days Nazi’s siege during the second world war.
A trip to St Petersburg would not be complete without a visit to see the famous Ballet in one of the three theatres The Hermitage, The Mikhailovsky and the most famous The Mariinsky. The Mariisnky has a very full Ballet Schedule which has been released up to May 2017. Covering some of the traditional ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle, Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, there are also some more unusual Ballets for the experienced Ballet goer and we can organise tickets in the very best seats.
The White Nights
Finally for those looking for something even more special we would recommend you travel to St Petersburg during the White Nights which usually lasts from June 11th to July 2nd when the sun does not descend beneath the horizon enough for the sky to grow dark. Indeed the authorities do not turn on the city’s streetlights at all! This is because of St Petersburg very northerly geographical location – approximately the same as the southern tip of Greenland.
Indeed it is easy to understand why St Petersburg is again voted the European Destination of the year! For inspiration see our Russia Breaks