St. Petersburg Feature

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Top Things to Do in St. Petersburg

Palace Square and the State Hermitage Museum

Russia's other historic square is the heart of its imperial past, as well as the host to pivotal moments in Tsarist Russia's demise. On Bloody Sunday in 1905, palace guards shot dead hundreds of peaceful protestors here, sparking the first of Russia's revolutions. Housed in the pastel green and white Winter Palace, the Hermitage museum contains one of the world's most important art collections. On par with the Louvre, the collection is housed in what was once the tsars' family residence.

Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter the Great built the fortress in 1703 to defend Russia from the Swedes, making it the oldest building in the city. Inside the fortress walls, the cathedral's gilded 400-foot spire is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks.

St. Isaac's Cathedral

It took more than 40 years to complete the world's third-largest domed cathedral, now the dominant feature of St. Petersburg's skyline. Climb up the 262 steps of the colonnade to get a spectacular panoramic view of the city.

Nevsky Prospekt

This main drag is the center of the action (day or night) in Russia's second city. Frequently described by Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment, the street is often compared to Paris's Champs-Élysées and contains some of St. Petersburg's most impressive imperial Russian buildings, including the Stroganov Palace and the Kazan Cathedral. Don't miss the shopping arcade at Gostiny Dvor.

Alexander Nevsky Lavra

Peter the Great had this Russian Orthodox monastery built in 1710 and named it after the Russian prince who defeated invading Swedes in 1240. Today the lavra still contains impressive baroque churches and a neoclassical cathedral. Most visitors go to see the graves of several of Russia's greatest names, including Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky.

The State Museum

Housed in a former grand duke's palace, the Russian Museum (as it's known to locals) doesn't get the attention that the Hermitage collection does, but in most Russians' minds, it should. The museum is best known for its collection of paintings, which contains some of Russian art's greatest masters, such as Kandinsky and Chagall. The park behind the museum makes a lovely spot to reflect on what tsarist St. Petersburg might have been like.

Peterhof and Pushkin summer palaces

A hydrofoil cruise on the Gulf of Finland to Peterhof's cascading fountains and lavish gardens gets you in an imperial mood. The ornate, golden interiors and recently reconstructed Amber Room of the 18th-century Catherine's Palace at Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo) offer a look into the extravagance of the Russian royal family.

Updated: 09-2013

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