It attracts lots of travelers from all over the world. It is the only location in Russia where the annual number of tourists (6,5 million in 2015) exceeds the number of inhabitants (5,2 million).
So what are the most popular tourists attractions in the city? Here is the list of 10 places to see in Saint Petersburg.
10 must see places in Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg’s residents are used to meeting foreign tourists every single day.
Russian people are known to have a serious and gloomy look but it is just their facial expression. Most of them are happy to talk to foreigners and help if they need something.
The girls are also nice and delicate, especially in the big cities which are no less beautiful and magnificent than other European capitals.
St. Petersburg is located in the European part of Russia. It was founded by Peter the Great (Peter I), known for his love and admiration for Europe. The young tsar worked in Holland as a handyman learning to build ships. He led the Russian cultural revolution that brought the country in line with its powerful neighbours.
When building the city’s main architectural masterpieces, Tsar Peter always strived to employ the best of European traditions. That’s why the city is memorable and unforgettable. It embodies the Russian national traditions combined with the best European achievements. The most prominent buildings in the city were designed by Italian architects, as well as several summer palaces in the region.
One of the best ways to admire the city’s attractions is to book a boat tour along its canals. The city is famous for many channels and has been called “The Russian Venice”.
So, if you think about spending a couple of days in Russia with your girl, Saint Petersburg would be the perfect place to meet.
1. The State Hermitage Museum at the Winter Palace
Saint Petersburg is a paradise for those who love museums and art. In the Russian dating culture, it’s considered to be a “promising sign” if a man invites his girlfriend to an exhibition. It shows that he’s probably a serious and educated guy, which is important for women.
The collection of the Hermitage museum comprises of 3 million items. They say it would take 11 years to pay check every exhibit on display. You don’t have to spend there that long. Visit the rooms displaying masterpieces by well-known foreign artists, this would be already a great excursion. Now it’s even easier than ever — load the museum’s application, pick the works you want to see and follow the interactive map. It’s available both in English and Russian.
Funny enough, the museum is home for more than 70 cats that are employed there to control potential mice infestations. Cats have their own rooms that are open for visitors only 1 day in the year, 21 April.
Sometimes cats need to be re-homed for various reasons. It’s considered to be an honor to adopt a hermitage cat. There is even a website for people who are interested to adopt a former “museum worker”.
2. Peter and Paul Fortress
You can enter Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost) for free. If you want to visit museums located inside the fortress, the most expensive ticket (to Peter and Paul Cathedral) will cost you around US $9-10. It is worth noting that the fortress is the first construction in the city, so this is where the city’s history started from.
There is a lot to see inside the complex, e.g. the Trubetskoy Bastion, where the so-called political criminals were kept during the uprising of 1917.
When walking along the fortress, pay attention to Peter and Paul Cathedral. It is one of the main symbols of the northern capital. There is a statue of a golden angel set on top of the spire.
Peter the Great turned the cathedral into a tomb for the entire imperial dynasty. Almost all Russian tsars from the Romanov dynasty were buried here. Peter the Great is buried near the southern wall of the cathedral.
3. Grand Peterhof Palace and Grand Cascade
Peter I was so impressed by Versailles in France that he decided to build his own palace in Russia. The whole complex was constructed under the influence of the European architecture.
It’s located 29 km (20 miles) from Saint Petersburg. It’s one of the most popular day trips among the tourists. You can go there by bus, taxi, or train.
Besides, you can get there by Meteor hydrofoil which starts from the Hermitage wharf in the St. Petersburg city centre. 30 minutes of a pleasant river trip through the Gulf of Finland and you are in Peterhof. It departs every 30 minutes and the price for a 1-way ticket is around 11 dollars (you can book it online here).
Even the most sophisticated tourist will be struck by the awesome beauty of the green parks with exquisite palaces and fountains. An impressive view of a series of more than 140 fountains and canals deserve to be seen.
4. Mariinsky Theatre
For a truly unique theatrical experience book a ticket to Mariinsky theatre. This opera and ballet theatre is loved by thousands of tourists all over the world. A cultural program of the evening with dance and music will give you unforgettable emotions of the Russian theatrical art.
The building of the theatre will also impress. It was constructed in 1783. The magnificent interiors of the theatre are the epitome of the Russian imperial times.
5. Legendary cruiser Aurora
See the legendary cruiser Aurora to spice up your touring program. St. Petersburg is famous for its ports. Aurora is considered to be the symbol of the city and the Russian fleet.
The cruiser Aurora and its team played an important role during the Russian-Japanese War 1904. But its main legend is linked to the Communist Revolution of October 1917. The cruiser made a blank shot to signal the start of attack on the Winter Palace (now Hermitage Museum).
Today Aurora is a museum where you can experience the marine atmosphere of the city’s history.
6. St. Isaac’s Cathedral
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is a grand Orthodox church and the largest Christian temple of St. Petersburg.
Originally it was the city’s main church.
The cathedral is a perfect example of late classicism of the 19th century. Its admirable interiors impress with their elaborate beauty and refined adornments. You can buy the tickets for various excursions inside the complex. Tours in English are also available.
During summer the museum offers night tours to the cathedral’s colonnade, which is 43 meters high. It offers amazing views over the whole city.
7. Nevsky Prospekt
Nevsky Prospekt is the main street of St. Petersburg, stretching from the Admiralty to the Alexander Nevsky Square. It’s been the most popular promenade of the city since the 19th century.
Taking a girl for a walk along Nevsky prospekt would be a good idea. There are lots of small shops where you can buy some souvenirs, cafes and restaurants offering different cuisine, nightclubs where you can dance till the morning.
The famous Gostiny Dvor department store is also on the way, which can take hours to wander through. Also, take the chance to admire the magnificent Kazan cathedral which is located a couple of blocks pass Gostiny Dvor on your way to Neva’s waterfront.
8. Cathedral of the Savior on the Spilled Blood
The cathedral was built under the dramatic circumstances. It stands on the place where the Russian tsar Alexander II was killed in 1881.
The son of the killed emperor, Alexander III commissioned to erect a church on that site. He ordered to build a cathedral in a traditional Russian style. It strongly differs from the city’s other structures and bears a resemblance to St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.
9. The Catherine Palace
The palace is located in Tsarskoye Selo (now Pushkin), 25 km (15 miles) from St. Petersburg. It’s a very popular place among the locals — they enjoy spending weekends there. So, it is recommended to go to Tsarskoye selo during weekdays.
The Catherine palace is located among beautiful gardens and parks. The palace was loved by the Russian imperial families, especially by Nicholas II who used to live there most of the time.
Its blue and gold facades amaze with the charm of the Baroque style and demonstrate the tsar’s wealth.
The interiors of the palace transmit the exciting atmosphere of the 18th century.
The palace is famous for its Amber room as well. Some tourists go there just to have a look at it. It has its own mysterious story — the room was stolen during WWII by Nazis and its traces were lost forever. The Amber room was later reconstructed from sketches and photos. 6 tons of amber were used to build it. Some people even call the Amber room “The 8th wonder of the world.”
The tours through the palace and the amber room are organized daily and are in high demand.
10. St. Petersburg Cats
There are a lot of sculptures depicting cats in St. Petersburg. They sit on the eaves of houses, rest in parks, and decorate facades of buildings. But why are they so important?
The history holds that cats saved the city during the siege of Leningrad (the former name of the city used in 1924-1991). The siege lasted more than 2 years and people were dying from hunger in the city during WWII.
The city was flooded by rats. Some people say when their colonies were crossing the roads the trams had to stop. When the siege was finally broken, several wagons with cats (!) were sent to the city along with food and medicines. The city citizens were standing in long lines to get a cat. People were sending cats as gifts to their relatives in Saint Petersburg.
That’s why there are so many cat sculptures in the city — these animals helped people to survive and saved the city from an epidemic as well.
One of the most famous sculptures are the monuments of Elisey and Vasilisa located on Malaya Sadovaya street. They were installed on eaves of the houses opposite to each other. Locals believe that if you throw a coin onto the Elisey’s sculpture it will bring you success and good luck. Some say that Elisey helps students to pass their exams.
When you are there, go to a nearby café and have a cup of coffee while looking at students and city guests trying to throw coins into the cat’s paws. They say it’s really difficult to do.
Such small but cute monuments please the eye and create a relaxed atmosphere in the city.
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