Saint Petersbourg is the number one stop of travelers who are looking for unique experiences and attractions. There are actually so many things to do and see in the area that can keep you entertained and occupied for weeks or months.
A very common challenge among independent travelers, however, is to try to determine if they got the time to squeeze everything to their itinerary. This is not a big surprise considering that it is one of the largest cities in Europe. Its historical center alone already covers several square kilometers, with some of its most popular attractions found in the distant suburbs.
To make sure that you can have the best time of your life in Saint Petersbourg, listed below are the top experiences and attractions you shouldn’t miss if you ever find yourself wondering and wandering around this city:
Ride a Boat to Explore the Canals and Rivers of the City
If you happen to be in St. Petersbourg from the months of May through October, you can ride a boat to explore the area. On a good weather, visitors usually grab the chance to get out on the water.
In fact, no matter how short your visit might be to the city during summer, your itinerary must definitely include even a single boat trip along the central canals and rivers of the city.
Whatever route you choose, a boat trip is no doubt one of the most fantastic ways to enjoy the scenic city from a completely different point of view.
The Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress is the very place where this city all started. The notable thing about the fortress is that it may not have seen military action yet it was able to fulfill various functions through its history that spans for three centuries. It served as a burial place for almost all the Romanov Empresses and Emperors, became an infamous political prison, and even a site of major experiments in developing the Soviet rocket technology.
All aspects of the history of the fortresses are celebrated in different exhibitions across several buildings, and the ramshackle charms of the various collections and museums combined with the grandeur of the stunning Saints Petersburg and Paul Cathedral make this fortress a must visit attraction.
The Mariinsky Theatre
The Mariinsky Theatre is the globally acclaimed cultural institution of the city and it has benefited for the past few years from the creative and financial turmoils of Bolshoi of Moscow to become modern Russia’s acknowledged top musical theatre.
Popular for the immaculate devotion to tradition and discipline of the ballet company and even blessed in Valery Gergiev with among the most exacting and exciting conductors of contemporary classical music and even international stars of opera and ballet including Anna Netrebko, Diana Vishneva, and Ulyana Lopatkina, the Mariinsky Theatre is the place to be if you are looking for a topnotch venue for orchestral music, ballet and opera.
The Hermitage (The Winter Palace)
The Hermitage is hands down the most popular attraction among tourists in Saint Petersbourg as it is universally famed as one of the greatest treasuries of antiquities and art in the world. This is a name you will hear anywhere you go in the city and is also one of the top reasons why travelers book their trip to this city in the first place.
There are now several sites that make up the Hermitage Museum but for many visitors, it is Winter Palace’s main collection that is a crucial addition to any travel itinerary while in the city. This is where you can find centuries of fine art of Europe and an extensive selection of Roman and Greek antiquities as well as the remarkably opulent 19th and 18th century state rooms of the imperial family of Russia.
As far as attractions are concerned, Saint Petersbourg is as renowned for the parks in the suburbs and imperial palaces as for the palaces and museums located in the heart of the city. Peterhof belongs to the latter as this is among one of those places that are hard to miss, particularly during summer months when the stunning fountain collection of the park is in full operation.
It took more than 10 years and several false starts before Peter the Great discovered the right spot for his summer residence. Taking inspiration partly from Versailles, but with most features that reflected the unique interests and tastes of Peter, the park was further expanded under Empress Elizabeth, Peter’s daughter, to notably surpass its French precursor in terms of grandeur and scope.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral and Colonnade
St. Isaac’s Cathedral’s grand gold dome dominates the low-rise skyline of the historic centre of the city. This is the life’s work of Auguste de Montferrand, a French architect, and the biggest and most impressive religious building of the city.
Completed in 1858, it took more than 40 years to decorate and build St. Isaac. The colonnades and facades that are firmly European Empire-style are made more unique with the use of red Karelian granite, with the interiors melding Orthodox tradition with the influence of Catholic and stunning extravagance in the chosen materials.
Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin)
Tsarskoye Selo is the home to two enormous 18th century palaces, with beautifully landscaped parkland surrounding it that boast of an extensive variety of monuments and follies. This serves as the testament to the immense lavishness and wealth of the Romanov Imperial family.
Bartolomeo Rastrelli’s rococo Catherine Palace is the sister building to his Winter Palace located in the city center. This is the most popular attraction because of the one of a kind Amber Room. However, there are still many other interesting highlights you can check out, with the ensemble made even better by the contributions of St. Petersburg architects during the 18th century and early part of the 19th century.
The next time you plan your trip to Europe, make sure you consider Saint Petersbourg and add it to your itinerary to see these attractions with your own two eyes!
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