SAINT-PETERSBURG

 

 
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Sights of interests in St. Petersburg. Where to go and what to see in St. Petersburg.

SIGHTS OF INTEREST

You can stay in St. Petersburg for a month and see just half of its riches. You'll agree with us after your visit to St. Petersburg :). 

We'll try to write here about the major sights that you can explore at your leisure. To get the flavor of Moscow, you would walk along Tverskaya Street or Stary Arbat; to sample St. Petersburg, walk down Nevsky Avenue, a long and straight shopping and sightseeing avenue. As most of the sights of interest are located downtown. You are advised to go on foot because the metro and the bus lines are not the most convenient means for getting around. So...

Nevsky Avenue is St. Petersburg's favorite street, the center of business as well as social and cultural activities. There are theaters, concert halls, cinemas, galleries, hotels, restaurants, pubs, shops, and quiet public gardens for you to enjoy. Nevsky Avenue is adjoined by squares and crossed by the Moika and Fontanka Rivers, the Griboyedov Canal. 

The initial road was cut through swamps in 1710 to connect the Admiralty with Aleksander Nevsky Monastery at the other end of this avenue. Paved with the logs, it soon became the main street of the new capital and it was named Nevsky Prospekt (Avenue) in 1730. Many nobles built their mansions along the avenue. For example, the Stroganov Palace, now is a part of the Russian Museum. The well-known baroque architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli built it in 1754 for Count Aleksandr Stroganov, president of the Academy of Arts.

Palace Square (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad') is possibly one of the best starting points for exploring St. Petersburg. Created by architect Carlo Rossi it's the focal point of the city. It was formed after the construction of the Winter Palace (now the part of the Hermitage Museum), the residence of Russian tsars. Two long buildings, with a total length of 1.739 feet and connected by an arch, form a horseshoe around the square in front of the Winter Palace. This ensemble is called the General Staff Building, which traditionally served as Russia's military headquarters. The Triumphal Arch connecting the two parts of the General Staff Building carries the Chariot of Victory drawn by six horses (more pictures here)

In the center of the square is the Alexandr Column, erected in 1834. Both the 155-foot-high column and the arch commemorate the Russian's victory over Napoleon. The angel on the top of the column symbolizes peace in Europe after the Napoleonic invaders were defeated. Palace Square bore witness to many historical events, including Bloody Sunday in January 1905, when tsarist soldiers massacred unarmed demonstrators. Twelve years later, the Bolshevists also attacked the Winter Palace from this square. 

The Winter Palace (so called Hermitage) which dominates the Square replaced earlier crowded royal residences and rose in its present form between 1754 and 1762 in the reign of Empress Elizabeth. Bartolomeo Fransco Rastrelli (later ennobled by his patroness) succeeded in creating an outstanding example of what is known as Russian Baroque. The Palace consists of four large blocks stretching between the Square and the embankment which contain the main State apartments and more than a thousand halls and rooms. 

By the time the building was completed Catherine the Great was on the throne and Baroque was out of fasion, Classicism being the vogue. The outside was not tampered with, but the interiors were entrusted to new craftsmen, Yuri Felten, Vallin de la Mothe and Giacomo Quarenghi, who all worked in the latest style. In 1837 the Winter Palace was gutted by fire, and all that remained was the walls. But within two decades it was restored, and most of its present interiors date from then. Under the czars it was the main Imperial residence, and was used for ceremonial occasions, grand balls, and receptions. 

The complex next to the Winter Palace is the Small Hermitage (more pictures here). Its building was started by Catherine II who wanted to have a home for the art collection connected to her private apartments in the Winter Palace. The whole museum complex (i.e. the Winter Palace and the various Hermitage buildings such as Small Hermitage, Large Hermitage, Old and New Hermitage (sometimes grouped together and called the Large Hermitage), Hermitage Theater) is now known as the "State Hermitage". 

The architectural complex of the Palace Square is completed by the Admiralty (more pictures here). In the early days of St. Petersburg a moated fort containing a well - protected wharf was here. The Admiralty yard with its stores, workshops and slipways was at first the largest industrial undertaking in the new capital. The Admiralty was reconstructed several times and the building was handed to the Russian navy in 1840s. There are 28 statues on the top of upper columns of the tower. The Admiralty spire with the caravelle on top of it is one of the landmarks of St. Petersburg and it can be seen from many parts of the city. The weather vane is in the shape of a sailing vessel. Ships continued to be built here up to the 1840s but, in the later part of last century, canals leading into the site were filled in as the embankment was laid leading away from the Winter Palace to what was then Senate Square and now is the Square of the Decembrists. 

Senate Square, which is southwest of the Admiralty, together with the Synod was built in 1834. The square originally served as parade grounds. In the garden between the Senate and the Admiralty is the statue Bronze Horseman, made famous by Aleksander Pushkin's poem of the same name. It's a monument to Peter the Great and was erected in 1782 by Catherine the Great. It was sculpted from a granite block that weighed 1,600 tons and took 400 men four months to roll it from the Gulf of Finland. During Soviet times Senate Square was called Decembrists' Square to honor the liberal guard officers who staged an unsuccessful overthrow of Tsar Nicholas I by refusing to swear allegiance to the newly - crowned emperor on December 14, 1825. The five leaders of the Decembrists, now remembered as the participants, were hanged in the nearby Peter and Paul Fortress, and several hundred others were exiled to Siberia. (more pictures here)

Adjacent to the south western corner of Senate Square is St. Isaac's Square with the magnificent gold-domed St. Isaac's Cathedral. Begun in 1818, it took 40 years and more than 400,000 workers to complete. The cathedral's vaults, walls and pylons are decorated with some 150 murals depicting biblical subjects. There are 62 mosaic panels in the cathedral. 

The structure was named after St. Isaac of Dalmatia whose day, according to the church calendar, is May 30, when Peter the Great was born. Three hundred and thirty-five feet high, it's believed to be on of the tallest domed buildings in the world. The cathedral can accommodate 14,000 worshipers. Climb the 262 steps to the colonnade and enjoy the city's panorama. 

Across the square from the cathedral, on the bank of the Moika River, stands Mariinsky Palace, built in 1844 for Nicholas's daughter Mariya.

Kazan Cathedral, constructed in Russian classical style in 1811 on the plans of Count Stroganov's serf, who was eventually granted his freedom. The 70-meter-high cruciform structure is modeled on St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. In 1813, fieldmarshall Mikhail Kutuzov, the commander of the Russian forces during the 1812 Napoleonic invasion of Russia, was laid to rest here. In 1837, monuments to Kutuzov and other heroes of the 1812 war were erected on the Nevsky prospect side of the cathedral. 

Glinka Philarmonic Hall, it was once St. Petersburg's major music center where such illustrious composers as Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt performed. 

 

Church of the Resurrection (Our Savior on the Blood), built in 1907 on the spot where tsar Aleksandr II was assassinated in 1881. Designed in a Russian style, it resembles St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. Mosaic attire of the church (over 7,000 sq.m.) was created to the design of 30 artists, among them Vasnetsov, Nesterov, Ryabushkin, Belyaev, Kharlamov. 

Gostiny Dvor and the Passazh (Arcade), the city's two oldest shopping galleries are at the beginning of the widest part of Nevsky Avenue.

Aleksander Nevsky Monastery, founded by Peter the Great in 1710 on the spot where the Novgorod prince, Alexander Nevsky, is said to have won a great victory over the Swedes and the Teutonic Knights in 1240. In 1797 it became a lavra ( the highest religious status in Russian Orthodox Church). One of the four most important monasteries in pre-revolutionary Russia. 

Aleksander Nevsky Bridge, almost one kilometer long and the longest of all the Neva River bridges. There are some 330 bridges spanning rivers in St. Petersburg.

Mikhaylovskaya Street leads you from Nevsky Avenue to Arts Square, laid out by architect Carlo Rossi. Here is the well-known Russian Museum. This building, erected in 1825, was the palace of Grand Prince Mikail Pavlovich, the younger brother of Emperor Aleksander I and Nicholas I. It was bought by the state at the end of 19th century and turned into a museum of exclusively Russian art. 

The Mars Field, a huge square to the north from Russian museum. It was the scene of 19th -century military parades. Now it honors those killed in the Civil War and the 1917 Revolution (see pictures here).

Summer Garden, laid out in 1704, is to the east from the Field of Mars. It's the first sculpture garden of Russia in the 18th century. There are more than 250 statues and busts here. 

Anichkov Bridge, that crosses the Fontanka River is named after the man who built the first wooden bridge here in the early 18th century. The bridge is interesting for the four rearing horses decorating its corners. In the 18th century Fontanka marked St. Petersburg's boundaries. Anichkov Palace is on one end of the bridge. Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, presented to Count Aleksey Razumovsky, her favorite. Tsar Nicholas I gave balls in this palace. Aleksander Pushkin's wife, Nataliya, often dazzled everyone, including the tsar, with her beauty. 

The Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya krepost') on little Zayachy Island, Peter the Great first broke ground for St. Petersburg and built this fortress in 1703. Peter planned it as a defence against the Swedes but defeated them before it was finished. Its main use up to 1917 was as a political prison; one of its first inmates was Peter's own son Alexey, whose torture Peter is said to have overseen personally. Other famous residents were Dostoevsky, Gorky, Trotsky and Lenin's brother, Aleksander. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are welcome to Saint-Petersburg!

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