St. Petersburg

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  • 1. Alexander Nevsky Lavra

    Vladimirskaya

    The word lavra in Russian is reserved for a monastery of the highest order, of which there are just four in all of Russia and...

    The word lavra in Russian is reserved for a monastery of the highest order, of which there are just four in all of Russia and Ukraine. Named in honor of St. Alexander Nevsky, this monastery was founded in 1710 by Peter the Great and given lavra status in 1797. Prince Alexander of Novgorod (1220–63), the great military commander, became a national hero and saint because he halted the relentless eastward drive for Russian territory by the Germans and the Swedes. Peter chose this site for the monastery, thinking that it was the same place where the prince had fought the battle in 1240 that earned him the title Alexander of the Neva (Nevsky); actually, the famous battle took place some 20 km (12 mi) away. Alexander Nevsky had been buried in Vladimir, but in 1724, on Peter's orders, his remains were transferred to the monastery that was founded in his honor. Entrance to the monastery is through the archway of the elegant Gate Church (Tserkovnyye Vorota), built by Ivan Starov between 1783 and 1785. The walled pathway is flanked by two cemeteries—together known as the Necropolis of Masters of Arts—whose entrances are a short walk down the path. To the left lies the older Lazarus Cemetery (Lazarevskoye kladbische). The list of famous people buried here reads like a who's who of St. Petersburg architects; it includes Quarenghi, Rossi, de Thomon, and Voronikhin. The cemetery also contains the tombstone of the father of Russian science, Mikhail Lomonosov. The Tikhvinskoye kladbische, on the opposite side, is the final resting place of several of St. Petersburg's great literary and musical figures. The grave of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in the northwestern corner, is easily identified by the tombstone's sculpture, which portrays the writer with his flowing beard. Continuing along the walled path you'll soon reach the composers' corner, where Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin, and Tchaikovsky are buried. The compound includes an exhibition hall with temporary exhibits of "urban sculpture." As you enter the monastery grounds, the Church of the Annunciation (Tserkov Blagovescheniya), greets you on your left. The red-and-white rectangular church was designed by Domenico Trezzini and built between 1717 and 1722. It now houses the Museum of City Sculpture (open daily 9:30–1 and 2–5), which contains models of St. Petersburg's architectural masterpieces as well as gravestones and other fine examples of memorial sculpture. Also in the church are several graves of 18th-century statesmen. The great soldier Generalissimo Alexander Suvorov, who led the Russian army to numerous victories during the Russo-Turkish War (1768–74), is buried here under a simple marble slab that he purportedly designed himself. It reads simply: "Here lies Suvorov." Opposite the church, a shop sells religious items and souvenirs. Photocopies stand in for photographs of the Imperial family; pro-monarchy white, yellow, and black flags hang from the ceilings; and passionate adherents have added primitive frescoes to the scene. Nearby, in front of Trinity Cathedral, is yet another final resting place on the lavra's grounds—the Communist Burial Ground (Kommunisticheskaya Ploshchadka), where, starting in 1919, defenders of Petrograd, victims of the Kronshtadt rebellion, old Bolsheviks, and prominent scientists were buried. The last to receive that honor were people who took part in the siege of Leningrad. Entrance to the monastery grounds is free, although you are asked to make a donation. You must purchase a ticket for the two cemeteries of the Necropolis of Masters of Arts and the museum, and (as with most Russian museums) it costs extra to take photos or use a video camera. There are ticket kiosks outside the two paying cemeteries, after the gate, and inside the Tikhvin Cemetery, on the right side.

    1 pl. Alexandra Nevskovo, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191167, Russia
    812-274--1702-information, tours

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Museum of City Sculpture 60R; Necropolis of Masters of Arts 200R, Fri.-Wed. 9:30--5, Closed Thurs.
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  • 2. Peter and Paul Fortress

    Petrograd Side

    The first building in Sankt-Piter-Burkh, as the city was then called, was erected in just one year, between 1703 and 1704, during the Great Northern...

    The first building in Sankt-Piter-Burkh, as the city was then called, was erected in just one year, between 1703 and 1704, during the Great Northern War against Sweden. It was never used for its intended purpose, however, as the Russian line of defense quickly moved farther north, and, in fact, the war was won before the fortress was mobilized. Instead, the fortress served mainly as a political prison, primarily under the tsars. The date on which construction began on the fortress is celebrated as the birth of St. Petersburg. Cross the footbridge and enter the fortress through St. John's Gate (Ioannovskyie Vorota), the main entrance to the outer fortifications. Entrance to the inner fortress is through St. Peter's Gate (Petrovskiye Vorota). Designed by the Swiss architect Domenico Trezzini, it was completed in 1718. After you pass through the gate, the first building to your right is the Artilleriisky Arsenal, where weaponry was stored. Just to your left is the Engineer's House (Inzhenerny Dom), which was built from 1748 to 1749. Now a branch of the Museum of the History of St. Petersburg (as are all exhibits in the fortress), it presents displays about the city's prerevolutionary history. As you continue to walk down the main center lane, away from St. Peter's Gate, you soon come to the main attraction of the fortress, the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul (Petropavlovsky Sobor). Constructed between 1712 and 1733 on the site of an earlier wooden church, it was designed by Domenico Trezzini and later embellished by Bartolomeo Rastrelli. It's highly unusual for a Russian Orthodox church. Instead of the characteristic bulbous domes, it's adorned by a single, slender, gilded spire whose height (400 feet, 120 meters) made the church the city's tallest building—in accordance with Peter the Great's decree—until 1962, when a television tower was erected. The spire is identical to that of the Admiralty across the river, except that it's crowned by an angel bearing a golden cross. The interior of the cathedral is also atypical. The baroque iconostasis, designed by Ivan Zarudny and built in the 1720s, is adorned by freestanding statues. Another uncommon feature is the pulpit. It's reputed to have been used only once, in 1901, to excommunicate Leo Tolstoy from the Russian Orthodox Church for denouncing of the institution. You can exit the cathedral through the passageway to the left of the iconostasis. This leads to the adjoining Grand Ducal Crypt (Usypalnitsa), built between 1896 and 1908. You can identify Peter the Great's tomb by the tsar's bust on the railing on the far right facing the iconostasis. As you leave the cathedral, note the small classical structure to your right. This is the Boathouse (Botny Domik), built between 1762 and 1766 to house Peter the Great's boyhood boat. The boat has since been moved to the Naval Museum on Vasilievsky Island, and the building is not open to the public. The long pink-and-white building to your left as you exit the cathedral is the Commandant's House (Komendantsky Dom), erected between 1743 and 1746. It once housed the fortress's administration and doubled as a courtroom for political prisoners. The Decembrist revolutionaries were tried here in 1826. The room where the trial took place forms part of the ongoing exhibits, which deal with the history of St. Petersburg from its founding to 1917. Across the cobblestone yard, opposite the entrance to the cathedral, stands the Mint (Monetny Dvor), which was first built in 1716; the current structure, however, was erected between 1798 and 1806. The mint is still in operation, producing coins, medals, military decorations, and znachki (Russian souvenir pins). The coins that were taken along on Soviet space missions were made here. In the yard of the fortress there is the most unusual bronze sculpture of Peter the Great. The first Russian emperor is featured sitting on a throne. His body is unproportionally long, the bold head looks too small and pressed into the shoulders. His long fingers are squeezing elbows of the throne. The sculpture was made by eccentric Russian dissident artist Mikhail Shemyakin, who used a living mask of the tsar made by Italian sculptor Karlo Rastrelli. Initially the body was made proportional to the head but then Shemyakin decided to make the body longer to meet the proportion traditional to the Russian icon painting. In the beginning the monument caused negative attitude of the city residents but then became a place of tourists' pilgrimage. Visitors rub the tsar's fingers hoping that it will bring them wealth and take pictures of themselves sitting on Peter's laps. Take the pathway to the left of the Commandant's House (as you're facing it), and you'll be headed right for Neva Gate (Nevskiye Vorota), built in 1730 and reconstructed in 1787. As you walk through its passageway, note the plaques on the inside walls marking flood levels of the Neva. The gate leads out to the Commandant's Pier (Komendantskaya Pristan). Up above to the right is the Signal Cannon (Signalnaya Pushka), fired every day at noon. The honor to fire from the Signal Cannon is given now and then for Russia's known people or people who have done significant things for the city. From this side you get a splendid view of St. Petersburg. You may want to step down to the sandy beach, where even in winter hearty swimmers enjoy the Neva's arctic waters. In summer the beach is lined with sunbathers. As you return to the fortress through the Neva Gate, you'll be following the footsteps of prisoners who passed through this gate on the way to their executions. Several of the fortress's bastions, concentrated at its far western end, were put to use over the years mainly as political prisons. One of them, Trubetskoi Bastion, is open to the public as a museum. Aside from a few exhibits of prison garb, the only items on display are the cells themselves, restored to their chilling, prerevolutionary appearance. The first prisoner confined in its dungeons was Peter the Great's own son, Alexei, who was tortured to death in 1718 for treason, allegedly under the tsar's supervision. The prison was enlarged in 1872, when an adjacent one, Alexeivsky Bastion, which held such famous figures as the writers Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Nikolai Chernyshevsky, became overcrowded with dissidents opposed to the tsarist regime. A partial chronology of revolutionaries held here includes some of the People's Will terrorists, who killed Alexander II in 1881; Lenin's elder brother Alexander, who attempted to murder Alexander III (and was executed for his role in the plot); and Leon Trotsky and Maxim Gorky, after taking part in the 1905 revolution. The Bolsheviks themselves imprisoned people here for a short period, starting with members of the Provisional Government who were arrested and "detained for their own safety" for a few days, as well as sailors who mutinied against the Communist regime in Kronshtadt in 1921. They were apparently the last to be held here, and in 1925 a memorial museum (to the prerevolutionary prisoners) was opened instead. Some casements close to the Neva Gate have been converted into a printing workshop (pechatnya), where you can buy good-quality graphic art in a broad range of prices. Original late-19th-century presses are used to create lithographs, etchings, and linocuts depicting, most often, urban St. Petersburg landscapes, which make nice alternatives to the usual souvenirs. In the basement, the original foundations were excavated; different layers of the history of the fortress can thus be seen.

    3 Petropavlovskaya Krepost, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 197046, Russia
    812-230–6431-information

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Cathedral 550R, combination ticket for all sights and exhibitions 750R, audio guide 350R, Mon.-Fri. 10--7; Sat. 10--6:45; Sun. 11--7, Closed Wed.
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  • 3. St. Isaac's Cathedral

    Admiralteisky

    The grandly proportioned St. Isaac's is the world's third-largest domed cathedral and the first monument you see of the city if you arrive by ship....

    The grandly proportioned St. Isaac's is the world's third-largest domed cathedral and the first monument you see of the city if you arrive by ship. Its architectural distinction is up for debate; some consider the massive design and highly ornate interior to be excessive, but others revel in its opulence. Tsar Alexander I commissioned the construction of the cathedral in 1818 to celebrate his victory over Napoléon, but it took more than 40 years to actually build it. The French architect Auguste Ricard de Montferrand devoted his life to the project, and died the year the cathedral was finally consecrated, in 1858. The interior of the cathedral is lavishly decorated with malachite, lazulite, marble, and other stones and minerals. Gilding the dome required 220 pounds of gold. At one time a Foucault pendulum hung here to demonstrate the axial rotation of the earth, but it was removed in the late 20th century. After the Revolution of 1917 the cathedral was closed to worshippers, and in 1931 was opened as a museum; services have since resumed. St. Isaac's was not altogether returned to the Orthodox Church, but Christmas and Easter are celebrated here (note that Orthodox holidays follow the Julian calendar and fall about 13 days after their Western equivalents). When the city was blockaded during World War II, the gilded dome was painted black to avoid its being targeted by enemy fire. The cathedral nevertheless suffered heavy damage, as bullet holes on the columns on the south side attest. The outer colonnade beneath the dome affords an excellent view of the city, especially at twilight and during the the famous White Nights. To one side of the cathedral, where the prospekt meets Konnogvardeisky bulvar, is the early-19th-century Konnogvardeisky Manège, gracefully designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and decorated with marble statues of the mythological twins Castor and Pollux. This former barracks of the Imperial horse guards is used as an art exhibition hall.

    4 pl. Isaakievskaya, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 190000, Russia
    812-315--9732

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Cathedral 350R; colonnade 1200R, Closed Wed.
  • 4. State Hermitage Museum

    City Center

    Leonardo's Benois Madonna, Rembrandt's Danaë, Matisse's The Dance ... one of the world's most famous museums is virtually wallpapered with celebrated paintings, part of the...

    Leonardo's Benois Madonna, Rembrandt's Danaë, Matisse's The Dance ... one of the world's most famous museums is virtually wallpapered with celebrated paintings, part of the former private art collection of the tsars. In addition, the walls are works of art themselves, for parts of this collection are housed in the lavish Winter Palace, one of the most outstanding examples of Russian baroque magnificence. The museum takes its name from Catherine the Great (1729–96), who used the palace for her private apartments, intending them to be a place of retreat and seclusion. "Only the mice and I can admire all this," the empress once declared.Between 1764 and 1775, the empress undertook, in competition with rulers whose storehouses of art greatly surpassed Russia's, to acquire some of the world's finest works of art. Sometimes acquiring entire private collections outright, she quickly filled her gallery with masterpieces from all over the world. This original gallery section of the Hermitage, completed in 1770 by Vallin de la Mothe, is now known as the Maly (Little) Hermitage. It's attached to the Stary (Old) Hermitage, which was built in 1783 by Yuri Felten to house the overflow of art (it also contained conference chambers for the tsarina's ministers). Attached to the Hermitage by an arch straddling the Winter Canal is the Hermitage Theater, built between 1783 and 1787 by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi. Yet another addition, the New Hermitage, was built between 1839 and 1852 under Catherine's grandson, Nicholas I; it became Russia's first public museum, although admission was by royal invitation only until 1866. Its facade is particularly striking, with 10 male figures cut from monolithic gray granite supporting the portico. Today's Hermitage is one of the world's richest repositories of art; it was continually enlarged with tsarist treasures and acquisitions, all later confiscated and nationalized, along with numerous private collections, by the Soviet government after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.The entrance to the museum is through the main gates on Palace Square; during peak tourist season and at times of special exhibitions you may encounter long lines. Note that ticket-takers are strict about checking oversize bags and about foreigners trying to enter on Russian-rate tickets. Those experienced employees can easily tell foreigners even if you try to keep silent.With more than 400 exhibit halls and gilded salons, it's impossible to see everything here in a single day. Since you probably only have a few hours, be sure to take in the major attractions, which include Egyptian mummies and Scythian gold; the splendid halls of Russian tsars; the Peacock Clock; the great paintings of Leonardo, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Velázquez; and the outstanding collection of Impressionists and Postimpressionists.The museum's eight sections are not clearly marked, and the floor plans available are not very useful, though they are in English as well as Russian. To orient yourself before your trip, you can go on a virtual tour of the museum on the website. Don't be shy about asking the guards to point you in the right direction. There's also a helpful information desk in the main hall, before you go into the museum, where you can ask specific questions.On the second floor, you can start with the French art of the 19th century, where you'll find Delacroix, Ingres, Corot, and Courbet. You then come to a stunning collection of Impressionists and Postimpressionists, originally gathered mainly by two prerevolutionary industrialists and art collectors, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov. They include Monet's deeply affecting A Lady in the Garden, Degas's Woman at Her Toilette and After the Bath, and works by Sisley, Pissarro, and Renoir. Sculptures by Auguste Rodin and a host of pictures by Cézanne, Gauguin, and van Gogh are followed by Picasso and a lovely room of Matisse, including one of the amazing Joys. Somewhat later paintings—by the Fauvist André Derain and by Cubist Fernand Léger, for example—are also here. Rounding out this floor is the museum's collection of Asian and Middle and Near Eastern art, a small American collection, and two halls of medals and coins. The best deal is to buy a two-day combined-entrance ticket, which allows you to visit the State Hermitage Museum and three other museums: the original, wooden Winter Palace of Peter the Great, accessible through a tunnel from the museum (historians believe this tunnel is the site where Peter died); the General Staff Building; and Menshikov Palace. Tours in English (of several sections of the museum or just the Treasure Gallery) are available. Tours are normally given once or twice a day around noon, 1, or 2 pm, but make sure to call a day before to figure out the exact time. Tours tend to be rushed and you may want to return on your own. Consider hiring a private guide from outside the museum instead—their licensing requires a year of study and training and they'll take their time explaining the artwork to you.

    2 pl. Dvortsovaya, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191186, Russia
    812-710--9625-recorded information in Russian

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 700R, 2-day combined ticket 1020R (purchased only online), personal guide 8000R, Treasure Gallery 700R, Closed Sun. and Mon.
  • 5. State Museum of Russian Art

    City Center

    In 1898 Nicholas II turned the stupendously majestic neoclassical Mikhailovsky Palace (Mikhailovsky Dvorets) into what has become one of the country's most important art galleries....

    In 1898 Nicholas II turned the stupendously majestic neoclassical Mikhailovsky Palace (Mikhailovsky Dvorets) into what has become one of the country's most important art galleries. He did so in tribute to his father, Alexander III, who had a special regard for Russian art and regretted, after seeing Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery, that St. Petersburg had nothing like it. The collection at what's sometimes just called the Russian Museum is now four times greater than that at the Tretyakov Gallery, with scores of masterpieces on display. Outstanding icons include the 14th-century Boris and Gleb and the 15th-century Angel Miracle of St. George. Both 17th- and 18th-century paintings are also well represented, especially with portraiture. One of the most famous 18th-century works here is Ivan Nikitin's The Field Hetman. By far the most important works are from the 19th century—huge canvases by Repin, many fine portraits by Serov (his beautiful Countess Orlova and the equally beautiful, utterly different portrait of the dancer Ida Rubinstein), and Mikhail Vrubel's strange, disturbing Demon Cast Down. For many years much of this work was unknown in the West, and it's fascinating to see the stylistic parallels and the incorporation of outside influences into a Russian framework. Painters of the World of Art movement—Bakst, Benois, and Somov—are also here. There are several examples of 20th-century art, with works by Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich. Natan Altman's striking portrait of the poet Anna Akhmatova is in Room 77. The museum usually has at least one excellent special exhibit in place, and there's a treasure gallery here as well (guided tours only; you need a special ticket that you can only get before noon). The Marble Palace, Engineer's Castle, and Stroganov Palace are all branches of the museum. The square in front of the palace was originally named Mikhailovsky Ploshchad for Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich (1798–1849), the younger brother of Alexander I and Nicholas I and resident of the palace. The square's appearance is the work of Carlo Rossi, who designed the facade of each building encircling it as well as the Mikhailovsky Palace. Each structure, as well as the plaza itself, was made to complement Mikhail's residence on its north side. The palace, which was built between 1819 and 1825, comprises a principal house and two service wings. The central portico, with eight Corinthian columns, faces a large courtyard now enclosed by a fine art nouveau railing, a late (1903) addition. The statue of Alexander Pushkin in the center of the plaza was designed by Mikhail Anikushin and erected in 1957.

    4/2 ul. Inzhenernaya, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191186, Russia
    812-595--4248-information

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 400R, Closed Tues.
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  • 6. Strelka

    Vasilievsky Island

    This bit of land (the name means "arrow" or "spit") affords a dazzling view of the Winter Palace and the Peter and Paul Fortress and...

    This bit of land (the name means "arrow" or "spit") affords a dazzling view of the Winter Palace and the Peter and Paul Fortress and reveals the city's triumphant rise from a watery outpost to an elegant metropolis. Seen against the backdrop of the Neva, the brightly colored houses lining the embankment seem like children's toys—the building blocks of a bygone aristocracy. They stand at the water's edge, seemingly supported not by the land beneath them but by the panorama of the city behind them. Gazing here is a great way to appreciate the scope of Peter the Great's vision for his country. The view also makes clear how careful the city's founders were to build their city not despite the Neva but around and with it. The Strelka is very popular with wedding couples, who traditionally come to visit the sight on their wedding day and often break a bottle of champagne on the ground here.

    St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 199034, Russia
  • 7. Winter Palace

    City Center

    With its 1,001 rooms swathed in malachite, jasper, agate, and gilded mirrors, the residence of Russia's rulers from Catherine the Great (1762) to Nicholas II...

    With its 1,001 rooms swathed in malachite, jasper, agate, and gilded mirrors, the residence of Russia's rulers from Catherine the Great (1762) to Nicholas II (1917) is the grandest monument of Russian rococo, that eye-popping mix of the old-fashioned 17th-century baroque and the newfangled 18th-century neoclassical style. The palace is now part of the State Hermitage Museum, and the only parts you may tour are the relatively few rooms open to museumgoers. Among these are three of the most celebrated rooms in the palace: the Gallery of the 1812 War, where portraits of Russian commanders who served against Napoléon are on display; the Great Throne Room, richly decorated in marble and bronze; and the Malachite Room, designed by the architect Alexander Bryullov and decorated with columns and pilasters of malachite. The exterior—adorned with rows of columns and outfitted with 2,000 heavily decorated windows—is particularly successful and pleasing; note the way the enormous horizontal expanses of outer wall are broken up by vertical lines and variations of lines, pediments, and porches, all topped with a roof balustrade of statues and vases. The palace was created by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli and stretches from Palace Square to the Neva River embankment. It was the fourth royal residence on this site, the first having been a wooden palace for Peter the Great (today, a remnant of this palace exists and has been restored; it can be visited separately within the State Hermitage Museum). Oddly enough, the all-powerful tsar had to observe some bureaucratic fine print himself. Because it was forbidden to grant land from this site to anyone not bearing naval rank, Peter had to obtain a shipbuilder's license before building his palace. The current palace was commissioned in 1754 by Peter the Great's daughter Elizabeth. By the time it was completed, in 1762, Elizabeth had died and the craze for the Russian rococo style had waned. Catherine the Great left the exterior unaltered but had the interiors redesigned in the neoclassical style of her day. In 1837, after the palace was gutted by fire, the interiors were revamped once again.

    34 pl. Dvortsovaya, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191186, Russia
    812-710--9079

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 700R (Winter Palace only); 1020R (2-day combination ticket with State Hermitage Museum, bookable online only), Closed Sun. and Mon.
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  • 8. Alexander Column

    City Center

    The 156-foot-tall centerpiece of Ploschad Dvortsovaya (Palace Square) is a memorial to Russia's victory over Napoléon, commissioned in 1830 by Nicholas I in memory of...

    The 156-foot-tall centerpiece of Ploschad Dvortsovaya (Palace Square) is a memorial to Russia's victory over Napoléon, commissioned in 1830 by Nicholas I in memory of his brother, Tsar Alexander I, and designed by Auguste Ricard de Montferrand. The column was cut from a single piece of granite and, together with its pedestal, weighs more than 650 tons. It stands in place by the sheer force of its own weight; there are no attachments fixing the column to the pedestal. When the memorial was erected in 1832, the entire operation took only an hour and 45 minutes, but 2,000 soldiers and 400 workmen were required, along with an elaborate system of pulleys and ropes. Crowning the column is an angel (symbolizing peace in Europe) crushing a snake, an allegorical depiction of Russia's defeat of Napoléon.

    Pl. Dvortsovaya, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 198324, Russia
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  • 9. Alexander Pushkin Apartment Museum

    City Center

    After fighting a duel to defend his wife's honor, the beloved Russian poet Alexander Pushkin died in a rented apartment in this building on January...

    After fighting a duel to defend his wife's honor, the beloved Russian poet Alexander Pushkin died in a rented apartment in this building on January 27, 1837. The poet lived out the last act of his illustrious career here, and what a life it was. Pushkin (b. 1799) occupies in Russian literature the position enjoyed by Shakespeare and Goethe in the respective literatures of England and Germany. He is most famous as the author of Eugene Onegin, the ultimate tale of unrequited love, whose Byronic hero is seen more as the victim than as the arbiter of his own fate (a new sort of "hero" who cleared the path for the later achievements of Tolstoy and Chekhov). At the heart of this story—which involves a young genteel girl who falls in love with Onegin only to be rejected, then years later winds up rejecting Onegin when he falls in love with her—is a sense of despair, which colored much of Pushkin's own life and death. The poet was killed by a dashing count who had openly made a play for Pushkin's wife, Natalya Goncharova, reputedly "the most beautiful woman in Russia." Pushkin actually lived at this address less than a year (and could afford it only because the palace owners, the noble Volkhonsky family, were co-sympathizers with the poet for the Decembrist cause). The apartment museum has been restored to give it the appearance of an upper-middle-class dwelling typical of the beginning of the 19th century. (Pushkin had to support a family of six with his writing, so his apartment was less luxurious than it looks now.) Although few of the furnishings are authentic, his personal effects (including the waistcoat he wore during the duel) and those of his wife are on display. Recently, St. Petersburg forensic experts verified that the bloodstains on the sofa here were indeed left by the poet's gunshot wound. The library, where Pushkin actually expired, has been rebuilt according to sketches made by his friend and fellow poet Vasily Zhukovsky, who was holding vigil in his last hours. A moving tape-recorded account leads you through the apartment and retells the events leading up to the poet's death.

    12 nab. Moika, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 190121, Russia
    812-314--0006

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 100R, Wed.-Mon. 10:30--5, Closed last Fri. of month
  • 10. Anichkov Bridge

    Each corner of this beautiful bridge on the Nevsky Prospekt spanning the Fontanka River (the name means "fountain") bears an equestrian statue designed by Peter...

    Each corner of this beautiful bridge on the Nevsky Prospekt spanning the Fontanka River (the name means "fountain") bears an equestrian statue designed by Peter Klodt, erected in 1841. Removed and buried during World War II, the beautiful monuments were restored to their positions in 1945. The bridge was named for Colonel Mikhail Anichkov, whose regiment had built a wooden drawbridge here in the 18th century; the bridge marked the city limits, and night guards carefully screened those entering the city. As you cross the bridge, pause for a moment to look back at No. 41, on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and the Fontanka. This was formerly the Palace of Prince Beloselsky-Belozersky —a highly ornate, neobaroque pile designed in 1848 by Andrei Stackenschneider, who wanted to replicate Rastrelli's Stroganovsky Dvorets. The facade of blazing red stonework and whipped-cream stucco trim remains the showiest in St. Petersburg. The lavish building housed the local Communist Party headquarters during the Soviet era and is now the setting for classical music concerts.

    Nevsky pr., St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191011, Russia
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  • 11. Anna Akhmatova Literary Museum

    City Center

    The famous St. Petersburg poet lived for many years in a communal apartment in a wing of this former palace of Count Sheremetyev. Akhmatova was...

    The famous St. Petersburg poet lived for many years in a communal apartment in a wing of this former palace of Count Sheremetyev. Akhmatova was born in 1888 in Odessa and was published for the first time in 1910. She did not leave Petrograd after the October Revolution, but remained silent between 1923 and 1940. She died in 1966 and is remembered as one of the greatest successors to Pushkin. Her museum is also the venue for occasional poetry readings, other literary events, and temporary exhibitions—in short, a slice of the old-style Russian intelligentsia.

    34 nab. Fontanki, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191104, Russia
    812-272--2211-kassa

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 120R, Tues.-Sun. 10:30--6:30, Wed. 12--8, Closed Mon.
  • 12. Artillery Museum

    Petrograd Side

    You can't miss St. Petersburg's main army museum—just look for the hundreds of pieces of artillery on the grounds outside. Exhibits have a distinctly Soviet...

    You can't miss St. Petersburg's main army museum—just look for the hundreds of pieces of artillery on the grounds outside. Exhibits have a distinctly Soviet penchant for detail—if you're interested in circuit boards inside ballistic missiles, for example, this is the place to come.Due to restorations throughout the museum, different halls of the museum are closed at different times

    7 Alexandrovsky Park, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 197046, Russia
    812-232--0296

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 300R, Wed.--Sun. 11--6, Closed Mon., Tues. and last Thurs. of the month
  • 13. Bolshoi St. Petersburg State Circus

    City Center

    Though not as famous as the Moscow Circus, St. Petersburg's version of this popular Russian form of entertainment dates from 1867 and remains a popular...

    Though not as famous as the Moscow Circus, St. Petersburg's version of this popular Russian form of entertainment dates from 1867 and remains a popular treat for children. Avid young circus fans get a kick out of its adjacent Circus Art Museum, founded in 1928.

    3 nab. Fontanki, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191023, Russia
    812-570--5666-Ticket Office

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 500R–7,000R
  • 14. Chamber of Art

    This fine example of Russian baroque is painted bright azure with white trim and stands out from the surrounding classically designed architecture. Also known as...

    This fine example of Russian baroque is painted bright azure with white trim and stands out from the surrounding classically designed architecture. Also known as the Kunstkammer (from the German Kunst, "art," and Kammer, "chamber") and the Chamber of Curiosities, the building was commissioned in 1718 to house the collection of oddities Peter the Great gathered during his travels. It was completed in 1734, destroyed by fire in 1747, and almost entirely rebuilt later. Today it houses the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography but still includes a room with Peter's original collection, a truly bizarre assortment ranging from rare precious stones to preserved human organs and fetuses. The museum is enormously popular, so buy your entrance ticket early in the day.

    3 nab. Universitetskaya, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 199034, Russia
    812-328--1412-information, excursions

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 300R, Tues.--Sun. 11--6, Closed Mon. and last Tues. of the month
  • 15. Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

    City Center

    The highly ornate, old-Russian style of this colorful church seems more Moscow than St. Petersburg, where the architecture is generally more subdued and subtle; indeed,...

    The highly ornate, old-Russian style of this colorful church seems more Moscow than St. Petersburg, where the architecture is generally more subdued and subtle; indeed, the architect, Alfred Parland, was consciously aiming to copy Moscow's St. Basil's. The drama of the circumstances leading to the church's inception more than matches the frenzy of its design, however. It was commissioned by Alexander III to memorialize the death of his father, Alexander II, who was killed on the site in 1881 by a terrorist's bomb. The height of the cathedral, 81 meters, symbolizes the year of Alexander II's death. The church opened in 1907 but was closed by Stalin in the 1930s. It suffered damage over time, especially throughout World War II, but underwent meticulous reconstruction for decades and finally reopened at the end of the 20th century. The interior is as extravagant as the exterior, with glittering stretches of mosaic from floor to ceiling (70,000 square feet in total). Stone carvings and gold leaf adorn the walls, the floors are made of pink Italian marble, and the remarkable altar is constructed entirely of semiprecious gems and supported by four jasper columns. Blinded by all this splendor, you could easily overlook the painted scenes of martyrdom, including one that draws a parallel between the tsar's death and the crucifixion of Christ. Across the road there's an exhibit that takes a compelling look at the life of Alexander II.

    Griboedov canal embankment, 2б, А, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191186, Russia
    812-315--1636

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 250R, Thurs.–Tues. 10:30--6, Closed Wed.
    View Tours and Activities
  • 16. Dom Knigi

    City Center

    This is where you'll find Petersburgers engaged in one of their favorite pursuits: buying books. The city's largest bookstore, which offers more than 150,000 titles,...

    This is where you'll find Petersburgers engaged in one of their favorite pursuits: buying books. The city's largest bookstore, which offers more than 150,000 titles, occupies one of the most exquisite buildings on Nevsky Prospekt. Until 1917 it belonged to the Singer sewing-machine company, for which Russia was the biggest market after the United States. In the first decade of the 20th century the company wanted to erect a skyscraper similar to the one it was building at the time in New York City, but in old St. Petersburg no structure other than a cathedral could be taller than the Winter Palace. To solve the dilemma, Singer's architect erected an elegant tower above the six-story building and topped it with a glass globe nearly 10 feet in diameter.

    28 Nevsky pr., St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191186, Russia
    812-448--2355-Information Service

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 9--1
  • 17. Dvortsovaya Ploshchad

    City Center

    One of the world's most magnificent plazas is a stunning ensemble of buildings and open space, a combination of several seemingly incongruous architectural styles in...

    One of the world's most magnificent plazas is a stunning ensemble of buildings and open space, a combination of several seemingly incongruous architectural styles in perfect harmony. It's where the city's imperial past has been preserved in all its glorious splendor, but it also resonates with the history of the revolution that followed. Here, the fate of the last Russian tsar was effectively sealed, on Bloody Sunday in 1905, when palace troops opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, killing scores of women and children. It was across Palace Square in October 1917 that Bolshevik revolutionaries stormed the Winter Palace and overthrew Kerensky's Provisional Government, an event that led to the birth of the Soviet Union. Almost 75 years later, during tense days, huge crowds rallied on Palace Square in support of perestroika and democracy. Today, the beautiful square is a bustling hub of tourist and market activity. Horseback and carriage rides are available for hire here. A carriage ride around the square costs about 300R per person. A 20-minute tour of the city in the direction of your choosing costs about 3,000R, for up to six people.

    St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 198324, Russia
    812-380--2478
    View Tours and Activities
  • 18. Egyptian Sphinxes

    Vasilievsky Island

    Two of St. Petersburg's more magnificent landmarks stand on the landing in front of the Repin Institute, leading down to the Neva. These twin statues,...

    Two of St. Petersburg's more magnificent landmarks stand on the landing in front of the Repin Institute, leading down to the Neva. These twin statues, which date from the 15th century BC, were discovered during an excavation at Thebes in the 1820s. They were apparently created during the era of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, whose features they supposedly bear. It took the Russians more than a year to transport the sphinxes from Thebes.

    nab. Universitetskaya, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 199034, Russia
  • 19. Ethnography Museum

    City Center

    Costumes, crafts, and other artifacts provide a look at the various ethnic groups of the former Soviet Union. If you're traveling with kids, the best...

    Costumes, crafts, and other artifacts provide a look at the various ethnic groups of the former Soviet Union. If you're traveling with kids, the best time for a visit may be Sunday afternoons, when they can attend workshops and learn how to paint on wood and clay, model something out of birch bark, or make folk dolls.

    4/1 ul. Inzhenernaya, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191186, Russia
    812-570--5421

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 300R, Tues.– Sun. 11--6, Closed Mon. and last Fri. of month
  • 20. F.M. Dostoyevsky Literary-Memorial Museum

    Vladimirskaya

    Here, in the last place in which he lived, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–81) wrote The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoyevsky preferred to live in the part of the...

    Here, in the last place in which he lived, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–81) wrote The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoyevsky preferred to live in the part of the city inhabited by the ordinary people who populated his novels. He always insisted that the windows of his workroom overlook a church, as they do in this simple little house that has been remodeled to look as it did at the time Dostoyevsky and his family lived here. Perhaps the most interesting section of the museum deals with the writer's stay in prison in the Peter and Paul Fortress, and his commuted execution.

    5/2 per. Kuznechny, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191002, Russia
    812-571–4031-information

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Tues., Thurs.-Sun. 11--6, Wed. 1--8, Closed Mon.

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