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Plan Your St. Petersburg Vacation

Commissioned by Tsar Peter the Great (1672–1725) as "a window looking into Europe," St. Petersburg is a planned city whose elegance is reminiscent of Europe's most alluring capitals. Little wonder it's the darling of fashion photographers and travel essayists today: built on more than a hundred islands in the Neva Delta linked by canals and arched bridges, it was called the "Venice of the North" by Goethe, and its stately embankments are reminiscent of those in Paris. A city of golden spires and gilded domes, of pastel palaces and candlelit cathedrals, this city conceived by a visionary emperor is filled with pleasures and tantalizing treasures.

With its strict geometric lines and perfectly planned architecture, so unlike the Russian cities that came before it, St. Petersburg is almost too European to be Russian. And yet it's too Russian to be European. The city is a powerful combination of both East and West, springing from the will and passion of its founder to guide a resistant Russia into the greater fold of Europe, and consequently into the mainstream of history. That he accomplished, and more.

With a population of nearly 5 million, St. Petersburg is the fourth largest city in Europe after Paris, Moscow, and London. Without as many of the fashionably modern buildings that a business center like Moscow acquires, the city has managed to preserve much more of its history. Here, you can imagine yourself back in the time of the tsars and Dostoyevsky. Although it's a close race, it's safe to say that most visitors prefer St. Petersburg's culture, history, and beauty to Moscow's glamour and power.

That said, St. Petersburg has begun to play a more active role in politics in recent years, as if it were the country's northern capital. It may be because of the affection the city holds in the heart of the country's political elite, many of whom are natives of the city. New high-speed trains now travel between Moscow and St. Petersburg, a new international airport and metro stations have just opened, and some crumbling parts of the city are undergoing reconstruction. St. Petersburg revels in its historic beauty but also embraces the new.


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Performing Arts

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Be awed by the Hermitage In one of the world's premier historical and art collections, you can see works by Monet, Picasso, and Matisse, the opulence of tsarist Russia, Egyptian mummies, and Scythian gold.
  2. Take in the view from St. Isaac's Cathedral The third largest cathedral in the world, with a gilded dome covered in 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of pure gold, dominates St. Petersburg skyline and affords great views from its colonnade.
  3. Bask in the White Nights If you're planning to visit in May through July you'll be witness to this romantic and beautiful phenomenon the city is aglow in daylight throughout the night.
  4. Enjoy the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet Theatre Ballet stars such as Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov once graced this theater's stage; now it turns out great modern ballet and opera performances.
  5. Pay homage at Peter and Paul Fortress St. Petersburg was founded at this citadel, built by Peter the Great. It never saw battle, and instead became a political prison for Peter's rebellious son, Alexei. It later held Dostoyevsky, Gorky, and Trotsky to name a few. The dynasty of Russian tsars is buried within the fortress.

When To Go

When to Go to St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg's weather is the most pleasant from early May through August. May ushers in the White Nights, when night brings only a couple...

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