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Stupendous St. Petersburg, Russia – The Venice of the North

Update 2022: Due to international conflicts involving Russia, the country is currently listed as a “level 4” or “do not travel” country with the US Department of State. It is highly recommended you do not plan to visit Russia until this changes. Feel free to use the article below to make plans for the future, but this should not be construed as current travel advice.

Saint Petersburg is a city in Russia which is located on the Neva River which flows out to the Baltic Sea. Not to be confused with its namesake in Florida, the city has previously been called Petrograd in 1914 and Leningrad from 1924. From 1991 the city has been named St. Petersburg; this is because the city was named by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703.

St.Petersburg is one of a group of 7 cities which are often called “The Venice of the North”; it shares this name with Amsterdam, Bruges, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester and Stockholm. All these cities are in Northern Europe and like Venice have a network of canals, hence “The Venice of the North”.

Mikhailovsky Palace
Mikhailovsky Palace

St. Petersburg is renowned for its arts and culture. Some of the most famous of all Russian landmarks can be found in St. Petersburg. This again aligns to similarities between Venice and St. Petersburg. The city is a throng of arts oriented cultural delights including  Museums, Opera and Ballet. There are over 200 museums in the city, the largest of which the Hermitage Museum was founded by Catharine the Great in 1764 and is located at the Winter Palace. The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest museums in the world. The State Russian Museum is also worthy of mention, this contains a vast collection of Russian art and was established in 1895 by Nicolas II. The State Russian Museum has a number of buildings, the main one being the Mikhailovsky Palace.

St. Petersburg is the home to over 50 theaters. The most famous is the Mariinsky Theatre, this world renowned theater is also home to the Mariinsky Ballet and Opera Company. This Ballet Company has featured dancers such as Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolph Nureyev in the past.

Getting around St.Petersburg is easy due to its fine transport infrastructure. Its Underground Metro opened in 1955 and serves 2.5 million passengers each day. There are 5 lines and 64 stations on this network. If you prefer to stay above ground there are taxis everywhere. It’s advisable to confirm your fare before you set-off as foreign visitors can be exploited on occasions. There are also many buses which travel throughout the whole of the city taking residents to where they need to go. Many tourists though love to cruise along the River Neva and can choose from many forms of sailing boats.

St. Petersburg has many local architectural splendors to visit. There are too many to mention but a few of these are discussed in this article. The Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is named after Saint Isaac of Dalmatia who Peter the Great was devoted to. The Cathedral was finished in 1858 and took 40 years to build.

St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Isaac’s Cathedral

Work on building the Church of the Savior on Blood began in 1883 and concluded 24 years later in 1907. The Church is so named because it was built upon the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated; it is sometimes also called the Church of the Spilt Blood.

Church of the Savior on Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia
Church of the Savior on Blood

The national library of Russia is an immense building and the oldest public library in all of Russia. The library was founded in 1795 by Katherine the Great to house her collections. There are said to be approximately 36 million items in the library including 15 million books.

The Catherine Palace is actually 25 kilometres south-east of the city but is mentioned because of its outstanding architecture. The building was commissioned in 1717 by Catherine I and became a summer residence of the Tsars of Russia.

The Peterhof Palace is frequently called “Russian Versailles”. This compares the Palace to its French counterpart due to its extensive gardens and water features.

Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg - The Venice of the North

While you are in St. Petersburg do try the Russian Cuisine. Bliny is a local favorite; this traditional tasty package is usually served accompanied with a filling such as cottage cheese or jam. Eating out in St. Petersburg starts at economy prices for $5-$10 per person, the best restaurants will charge typically $25+ per person but the meal will be well worth paying for. Restaurants such as Palkin, Stroganoff Steak House and the Old Customs House are all recommended for fine dining.

There is a wide variety of options to choose from with a break to St. Petersburg. Whatever your preference you will be catered for. There is really too much for a short weekend break to pack in, especially as your journey time may be significant. It’s recommended that you visit for a minimum of 4 days and preferably a week.

For a city in Russia, St. Petersburg is remarkably westernized. Visitors will enjoy the complement of culture, architectural heritage and mingling with the locals.

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