Saint Petersburg: The Venice of the North
Over 200 years has this beautiful city, situated on the banks of the Neva River, been the capital of Czar Russia. Today, Saint Petersburg is a huge monument of baroque and neoclassical architecture, and it hosts one of the most important art collections in Europe – the Hermitage. Theater and ballet of St. Petersburg are worldwide famous. The city has today also vivid cultural life: Every year, more than 40 international festivals take place in Saint Petersburg: many of them in the streets and squares, and on Neva and the canals.
Facts & History
St. Petersburg, situated at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, is the largest city in the North-West of Russia. It is one of the largest cities in the world, with over 4.5 million inhabitants. It is also a crossroad of many air routes, rail roads, water-ways and highways.
Founded in 1703, it developed quickly, beginning with the Peter and Paul Fortress. 10 years later Peter the Great transferred here the capital from Moscow. The famous Italian architect Domenico Trezzini was the first of many eminent Western and Russian architects to be involved in planning the city. In 1736-1737 the city was heavily destroyed by fires, and the rebuilding plan involved relocating the city centre to a new borough called Admiralty (today known as Nevsky Prospekt). After the Winter Palace was built, the rule was issued that no other building in St. Petersburg should be higher than this royal palace (even today the prohibition of building for instance sky scrapers in the centre stands). Catharina the Great allowed finally constructing bridges over Neva, which banks had been now lined with granite.
In the second part of the 19th century, various romanticist styles began to dominate in architecture; the city line has been enriched by The Church of the Savior on Blood, designed in the Russian revival style.
In 1861 the Czar emancipated the serfs, and soon it was time for the industrial revolution, that put St. Petersburg among the largest industrial hubs and cities in Europe. Poor proletariat districts spontaneously emerged on the outskirts of the city, and the first Russian revolution in 1905 begun here, as well as the following ones - the February and the final one, the October revolution. (When the WWI broke up, the name of the city was perceived too German and it was changed to its Russian version: Petrograd.) Lenin found Moscow to be the strategically better location for the new government, and the capital was moved there. Soon Petrograd got also a new name, Leningrad - three days after Lenin died in 1924.
Depopulated for a while by the Red Terror, the city grew later in its outskirts, now it was quarters of countless communal apartments, typical for the soviet era. Stalin´s mania of relocating everything affected also Leningrad, the centre was now on Moskovsky Prospect, close to the new city hall. During the Great Purge in the 1930s, minorities were expelled from the city.
The siege of Leningrad by the Nazi troops during the WWII would be remembered as the most lethal sieges of major cities during the modern times. One million people starved to death during 872 days of the siege.
The name of the city was restored after the fall of Soviet Union in 1991.
Attractions/Things to do
The Hermitage Museum / The Winter Palace; one of the finest art collections in the world;
Peter and Paul Fortress;
Nevskij Prospekt, Saint Petersburg's Champs-Élysées, lined with fancy shops and department stores;
Alexander Nevskij Monastery;
Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood;
In summer: canal boat tours;
A stroll in Europe´s largest English gardens in Pavlovsk;
- Opera & ballet: And at least one theater show should be on visitor´s the to-do-list, preferably Mariinsky (former Kirov) Theatre, Musorgsky Opera and Ballet Theatre
Many of St. Petersburg's theatres have a long history and fine traditions. Such are, for example: the Major Dramatic Theatre, the Alexandrinsky Theatre, the Musical Theatre of the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, the Komissarzhevskaya Dramatic Theatre, the Large Puppet Theatre.
Nightlife, entertainment, leisure
The city is one of Russia's main entertainment centers. The majority of most well-known Russian rock bands have originated from here. St. Petersburg has also a vast range of high-quality restaurants, bars and night clubs.
Pulkovo Airport (IATA: LED), located about 17 km south from the center, serves a wide variety of destinations both international and domestic.
By train and coach:
Train from Helsinki (Finland) is one of the most comfortable ways to reach the city. The journey lasts about 5 hours. There are also railway connections with Moscow, Baltic States and Central Europe. The alternative is long distance buses.
Helsinki and Tallinn have summer cruises to Saint Petersburg. Many cruise lines to Scandinavia and St. Petersburg offer a one-day stop in the city.
Preferably using the elaborated subway system (metro). Taking buses, trams and trolleybuses allows to see much more of the city. The public transport does not thou work during the night. It is not advisable for tourists to take a ride in private taxis. Except winter month, all bridges on Neva are drawn up at night; therefore try to get home on the right side of river before that.
Humid continental climate, the average annual temperature is +4 °C (39 °F), recorded extreme temperatures was +35°C in summer and -35°C in winter, but the average wintertime is -9°C and +20°C during three summer months, the period that is also known for the “white nights”.
Time zone: UTC (GMT) +3. Daytime saving time (DST) is observed.
Currency: Rubel (RUB).