11 things to do and see in St. Petersburg and 2 not to do

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Aina Martin

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St. Petersburg
11 things to do and see in St. Petersburg and 2 not to do

St. Petersburg he spent the years immediately following the dissolution of the USSR "licking his wounds". Priority was rightly given to the most urgent conservation work, in order to save thehuge architectural heritage of the city. At the end of this phase (even if in reality it never completely ends), we moved on to major engineering projects, enhancing land transport (underground) and maritime (port for cruise ships) especially from a tourist point of view. A transition made possible thanks to generous federal transfers, favored by the fact that Valdimir Putin is originally from Leningrad, as the city was called during the Soviet period. So the economic, cultural and tourist revival of St. Petersburg owes a lot to the Russian president who, not surprisingly, organized the G2006 in his city in 8, guaranteeing it an international visibility that it hadn't had for a very long time. That said, the problems are not lacking: above all in terms of economic and social inequality (with reference to the rights of minorities). Net of these aspects, the cultural capital of Russia definitely worth a visit. Below we see together its main points of interest. Happy reading.

1 Hermitage Museum

There are those who argue that St. Petersburg is worth visiting just to admire the treasures of the Hermitage Museum. Such a purpose is enough to make us understand the importance of this museum which is divided into five connected palaces (Winter Palace, Little Hermitage, Great Hermitage, New Hermitage, Hermitage Theater). The works amount to about 3 million and range from prehistoric times to the first half of the nineteenth century. A vast time span to contain which hundreds of rooms are needed, many of which deserve a visit in themselves. Indeed, the stylistic details imprinted by Bartolomeo Rastrelli e Giacomo Quarenghi, the two Italian architects in charge of the construction of the buildings, in many cases are worth as much as the present works. For all these reasons, it has been estimated at 11 years the time needed to admire the museum commissioned by Empress Catherine II (1729-1796). In the impossibility of following up on the enterprise, it is necessary to make a selection of what you intend to see. Great emphasis onEuropean art: That Italian company, represented very well by Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian; that Dutch and Flemish, In which the Rembrandt collection stands out; is that French with Cezanne, Monet and Renoir. In short, the Hermitage Museum is an unmissable stop on a visit to St. Petersburg. For the reasons set out above, it happens to return several times during the stay. It is therefore advisable to rely on the information provided by the Official site (www.hermitagemuseum.org), both for planning the visit and for purchasing tickets. For opening hours see table.

Days Working Time
Mon closed
Mar 10:30
More 10:30
Thu 10:30
Fri 10:30
Sat 10:30
Sun 10:30

Free entry the first Thursday of each month.

2 Palace Square

The visit of the Hermitage Museum obviously also includes that of the square in front of the Winter Palace. A square that is hardly defined as historical, given that it was the scene of one of the most important upheavals of the twentieth century: the assault that, between 23 and 24 October 1917, allowed the Bolsheviks to take power in Russia, ousting the government provisional in office after the abdication of the tsar. But, albeit the most important of all, theassault on the Winter Palace it was not the only event to have had this square as a theater. On 9 January 1905, one of the bloodiest repressions of the 900s took place in Piazza del Palazzo. A large group of workers marching to demand better working conditions were brutally pushed back by the imperial guards. The event, renamed "Bloody Sunday" it greatly discredited Nicholas II in the eyes of the Russians, creating the conditions for the revolution that culminated in the events of 1917 mentioned above. Still, in 1991, more were held in Piazza del Palazzo demonstrations to demand the advent of democracy after the dissolution of the USSR. In short, we are clearly in a historical place par excellence. A place - we have seen with the Hermitage Museum - which also deserves from an architectural point of view. At the center of the square stands the Column of Alexander I, the Tsar who was responsible for the victory against Napoleon Bonaparte. To be seen!

3 St. Isaac's Cathedral

Altra a must of a visit to St. Petersburg is undoubtedly the St. Isaac's Cathedral. He wanted its construction Alexander I. in 1818. The Emperor, architect of the final victory against Napoleon Bonaparte and protagonist of the Congress of Vienna, entrusted the project to the French architect Auguste Ricard de Montferrand. The decision caused internal discontent which, in turn, determined the lengthening of the construction time of the church. The delay in carrying out the works allowed a Nicholas I, in the meantime taking over from his older brother, to remedy with the local architects who were allowed to make numerous changes to the original project. Hence the remarkable pomp of the Cathedral. Just think that only for the dome they were employed beyond 100 kilos of gold foil (see photo), not to mention the colonnade and the mosaics that decorate the walls. The dome is the element that most attracts visitors. 101 meters high, it is the most beautiful viewpoint in the city. To reach it, however, it is necessary to climb over 200 stairs and pay a separate ticket compared to the one that entitles you to visit the church. To be seen!

4 Russian Museum

While not as overwhelming as the Hermitage, the Russian Museum is still worth a visit. The main buildings of this museum complex entirely dedicated to Russian art are Mikhailovsky Palace and l 'Ala Benoit, two contiguous buildings overlooking Nevsky Prospect (the main artery of St. Petersburg) which we will discuss more fully in the next point. In these two buildings, especially in the first one, works of inestimal value are preserved for a period of time ranging from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXst century. The host rooms are worthy of particular mention 6000 and pass icons of Russian sacred art, even here for a very long period of time, roughly from 1100 to 1600. But, as we said, in the State Russian Museum there is much more to see: there are the works ofSt. Petersburg Academy of Art and those of the exponents ofvanguard which made the history of Russian painting at the beginning of the 400.000th century. In all they make about XNUMX works of art which, in addition to being housed in the two buildings mentioned above, are distributed in three other buildings in the historic city center: Marble Palace, Stroganov Palace and Mikhailovsky Castle. Each of these buildings reveals architectural details of great interest, from the Baroque to the Italian influence.
For the visiting hours of Mikhailovsky Palace and the Benoit Wing consult the table.

Days Working Time
Mon 10:00
Mar closed
More 10:00
Thu 13:00
Fri-Sat-Sun 10:00

For more informationi (including the opening hours of the other buildings) consult the Official site: rusmuseum.ru (the English version of which is available).

5 Nevsky Prospect

Nevsky Prospekt is in St. Petersburg as the Champes Elys茅es are in Paris. It is the main shopping street of the city, and for this alone it is a fundamental travel experience. More than shopping, however, what is captivating is the architecture of the buildings on the sides of this road that is over 4 kilometers long. Just to name a few, without claiming to be exhaustive: Singer building, headquarters of the sewing machine company of the same name which opened its branch in St. Petersburg in 1904; Bolshoy Gostiny Dvor, one of the oldest department stores in the world, designed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the architect of many other buildings in the historic city center. Yet, Kupetz Eliseevs magnificent modernist building which still houses a haunted grocery store. The list, as you can easily imagine, is quite long. According to many, the best time to admire theArt Noveaux e Deco of Nevsky Prospect is during Sleepless nights mid-June. In this period of the year, in fact, St. Petersburg is besieged by tourists from all over the world fascinated by a sui generis phenomenon: the sun goes down towards the horizon without setting completely. The result is a twilight atmosphere that enhances the architectural lines of this street where artists of the caliber of Stravinsky e Dostoevsky.

6 Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

The most photographed church in St. Petersburg. Even more than the St. Isaac's Cathedral on which it depends financially. In fact, without the proceeds from the St. Isaac's Museum it would never have been possible to carry out the long restoration work necessary after the years of neglect under the Soviet regime. The building, whose official name is Church of the Resurrection of Christ it is however better known by the name "Savior of Spilled Blood" ("Spas na Krovi") since it stands exactly in the place where Tsar Alexander II, victim of an anarchist attack, lost his life. The son Alexander III wanted to build a temple in memory of the deceased tsar. The works began in 1883 (two years after the attack) but ended only in 1907, when Nicholas II was in power. The reason for such a long time is understandable just by admiring the decorated domes, very similar to those of St. Basil's Church in Moscow. Inside, over 7000 square meters of marble and mosaics with scenes from the New Testament alternating with sacred images of saints venerated by the Orthodox church. In short, what is most striking about the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is the contrast with the prevailing neoclassical style of the historic center of St. Petersburg. Not to be missed!

7 Erarta Museum

St. Petersburg boasts an incredibly large number of museums. To visit them all you would have to go back to the city several times and, even so, it is not certain that you will be able to deepen everything in equal measure. So it's up to you to make a selection. After the Hermitage and the Russian Museum we usually stop at the Erarta Museum on Vasilyevsky Island. Opened in 2010, Erarta took a few years to become the Russia's most important contemporary art museum. The building in which it was allocated is an old five-story building from the Soviet era. Each level houses a different art gallery. On the first floor there is a permanent with thousands of works of art from all corners of the country. Of particular interest is the whole part of the exhibition that concerns the artists active during the communist regime. Like all dictatorships, even the Soviet one, in fact, operated a strong censorship inevitably pushing many artists to produce in hiding. The other four floors of the building, on the other hand, host temporary exhibitions with the possibility, in several cases, to purchase the works on display. For more information on history programming and necessary means of transport to reach the museum consult the Official site: www.erarta.com (English version available).

8 Peter and Paul Fortress

The oldest palace in St. Petersburg without which there would have been no further development of the city. The fortress, in fact, was born on input from Peter the Great who, after winning the war against the Swedes, immediately thought of building a defensive structure to protect the territory from external attacks and at the same time favor urban expansion. The building, which is located on theZayachy island, consists of a Baroque cathedral, a 122-meter bell tower and a prison used both in the Tsarist era and at the dawn of the Bolshevik regime. Let's proceed in order: in Peter and Paul Cathedral the remains of the Romanovs are buried, including those of Nicholas II and his family, moved in 1990 after being found in a mass grave in Siberia (in the city of Ekaterinburg). There Bell tower, on the other hand, easily recognizable because of its golden spire, offers a magnificent view of the city. To enjoy it, however, you need to climb over 300 steps, even if the view is certainly worth the effort. Finally the Trubetskoy Bastion where Peter the Great, in 1718, had his son Alexei (Aleksej) tortured and killed and where Trotsky, Bakunin and Dostoevsky, among others, were later imprisoned. It's not over, because in addition to what has been said so far, there are a museum illustrating the history of the city from the Middle Ages to the present day (www.spbmuseum.ru - English version available) and a river sand beach very popular during the summer. In short, those interested in deepening the history of Petrograd, then Leningrad and finally St. Petersburg, must necessarily pass this way. Not to be missed!

9 Peterhof

UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990, Peterhof, together with the parks of Tsarkoe Selo and Pavlovsk, it is among the most beautiful imperial residences in St. Petersburg. It is located about 30 kilometers from the city and can be easily reached by hydrofoil, so much so that from May to October it is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Renamed the "Russian Versailles", the Peterhof complex was there summer residence of Peter the Great. The Tsar personally designed the Lower Park, the area that leads from the hydrofoil docking to the Grand Palace. In between, the Viale d'Acqua, a picturesque canal that ends with the Great Waterfall, a sequence of 140 fountains with a central statue depicting Samson intent on opening the jaws of a lion. The allegory refers to the Russian victory against the Swedish Empire, a circumstance from which the city of Petrograd was born. The Great PalaceInstead, it was designed in the 1940th century by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, even if the residence we admire today is the result of a massive renovation that began after the Second World War. The building, between 1941 and XNUMX, was repeatedly bombed by the Russian air force. Stalin, in fact, had not taken well the German decision to celebrate the New Year in the former imperial residence of Peter the Great. It was the entire estate that was actually bombed, including other beautiful buildings. Over all Monplaisir, Hermitage (not to be confused with the museum), Marly and Alessandra Park. For more information on the Peterhof museum complex consult the place: www. peterhofmuseum.ru (English version available).

10 Tsarskoe Selo

There is not only Peterhof. Among the imperial residences a place of honor also goes to Tsarskoe Selo, the "Tsar's Village". The estate is located 25 kilometers south of St. Petersburg and can be visited from May to October. Don't miss the Catherine Palace (wife of Peter the Great) with adjoining homonymous garden. The building was designed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, even if Elisabetta, second daughter (after Anna) of the imperial couple, modified the original Baroque imprint to the advantage of a neoclassical style. The rooms that make up the building are one more beautiful than the other (Arabesque Room, Knights' Dining Room, Gala Dining Room, etc.) and each deserve an in-depth visit. The most beautiful of all, however, is undoubtedly the Amber room, better known to the general public as theeighth "Wonder of the World". The nickname alone gives the idea of 鈥嬧媡he artistic importance of this room of about 50 square meters, entirely decorated with amber and gold panels. Panels which, however, are not the original ones, donated at the time by the King of Prussia Frederick William I to his ally Peter I the Great. In 1941, in fact, the Nazi army occupied the palace, taking away the most valuable objects including, in fact, the decorations of this room. However, at the beginning of the millennium at the instigation of the Russian government and with the financial help of the German one, the Amber Room was completely rebuilt. In 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerard Schroeder inaugurated the new Amber Room at the end of a multi-million dollar restoration campaign. It's not over why Alessandro's Palace and Park are also worth a visit. Not far from the Catherine Palace, this building was the favorite summer residence of Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar buried in the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul (see point 8).

11 Boat tour through the canals of St. Petersburg

So far we have focused on churches, museums, monuments and imperial estates. Woe to forget, however, that St. Petersburg is a city built on 42 islands, crossed by a multitude of bridges and, above all, crossed by an intricate system of canals around the Neva River. Not surprisingly, it is compared to Venice and Amsterdam, the city with which it shares, in fact, the data of water. Obviously, during the winter the canals are not passable, while from May to October the boat tour is one of the most popular tourist attractions. After all, it is well known that many landscape details are better seen from the water than from land. And, in the case of St. Petersburg, as we have tried to tell so far, there is a lot to see. As for the companies that offer the service, they are different even if, in most cases, the guides speak only Russian. Commendable exception "Anglotourismo" to whose site we refer for all information regarding excursions (anglotourismo.com). To do!

1 Don't come for a week

Those described by us are only a small part of the attractions of St. Petersburg. There are many museums, for example, as are churches and cathedrals. For example, the Kazan Cathedral, which we did not dwell on, is certainly worth a visit. Same goes for the General Staff Building, right in front of the Winter Palace. In conclusion, considering the incredible number of ideas it offers, a vacation in St. Petersburg should be at least 10 days. Better still 2 weeks. There is also another reason not to "overdo it" in too short a time: St. Petersburg, in fact, is not yet completely ready for Western tourism. Of course, incredible progress has been made both in terms of hospitality and in terms of toponymy, but language still remains an obstacle. So it's better to take a little more time to plan your trips in detail.

2 Beware of pickpockets

They apply to St. Petersburg same precautions as any other world metropolis: do not run with a lot of cash; do not leave the bag unattended; pay attention to your objects in crowded places (Nevsky Prospekt, subway etc.); avoid carrying the wallet in the back pocket of the trousers; do not go too far into the peripheral areas, especially alone and at night, etc. For the rest, enjoy the city.

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