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how to travel to St. Petersburg

Welcome to St. Petersburg!

Discover the magic of Russias second city online...
One of the worlds most beautiful cities, St. Petersburg has all the ingredients for an unforgettable travel experience: high art, lavish architecture, wild nightlife, an extraordinary history and rich cultural traditions that have inspired and nurtured some of the modern worlds greatest literature, music, and visual art. From the mysterious twilight of the White Nights to world-beating opera and ballet productions on magical winter evenings, St. Petersburg charms and entices in every season. Saint-Petersburg.Com is here to help you navigate every aspect of this fascinating city, with all the information and travel resources necessary to plan your trip to St. Petersburg.

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Why was St. Petersburg renamed?

The first name given by Peter I has obvious roots: St. Peter + burg (city). The city was renamed Petrograd in 1914 when WWI started to make it sound less German. Then the city was named Leningrad after the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, before it was returned to its original title after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Interesting fact: The surrounding region is still known as Leningrad Oblast.
A century ago, Russias northern capital (then Petrograd) was awash with revolutionary sentiment. Its still possible to soak up the Soviet atmosphere - heres six ways to do it.
If you want to delve further into St. Petersburgs past, you can read our macabre history of this city, and take a tour of five infamous crime scenes.

Was St. Petersburg the capital of Russia?

It was. Peter the Great decided to move the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 1712, a few years before the Russian Empire was established.
The city remained the capital until the Empires demise following the 1917 Revolution. The Bolsheviks moved the capital back to Moscow in 1918 fearing foreign invasion. Next year marks 100 years since the city was finally baptized the center of Russia.

Welcome to St. Petersburg!

Why is St. Petersburg important?

St. Petersburg is Russia`s second largest city after Moscow with more than five million inhabitants. Located on the Neva River, it has a strategically important port on the Baltic Sea.
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St. Petersburg travel guides
The two main questions facing any traveler: What to see and where to go? We have written dozens of articles on the topic. Here are the best:
Cycling around St. Petersburg. Did you know you can visit all major landmarks in the northern capital in just three hours?
Discover America in St. Petersburg. Follow the ambassadorial, industrial, or jazz routes that will show you the American side of the city.
Along with its historical heritage, canals, and imperial palaces, St. Petersburg is considered Russias most romantic city.
Places to see on the sea. Take in the waterfront (rivers and lakes also made the list). By no means is this a complete index but it will give you a good idea where you can cool off in the summer.
A clich-free weekend. If you are tired of tourists and the typical routes, here are the roads less traveled for something a little different.
Soak up the citys atmosphere with these must-do activities.

Top St. Petersburg attractions and experiences

St. Petersburg has a true wealth of attractions and experiences to offer travelers, from spectacular Imperial palaces to quirky and absorbing museums, from boat trips along the citys majestic rivers and canals to walks in the footsteps of St. Petersburgs literary and artistic greats.
In fact, theres more than enough to see and do in St. Petersburg to keep visitors entertained for weeks or even months. One of the biggest challenges for independent travelers is to work out what they will actually have time to fit in to their itinerary, particularly as St. Petersburg is one of Europes largest cities, with the historical centre alone covering several square kilometers and some of the most famous attractions located far out in the suburbs. To help you get the most out of your time in St. Petersburg, our travel writers have drawn on their own expertise and years of feedback from travelers to compile this Top 20 list of attractions and experiences.

The Hermitage (The Winter Palace)

Undoubtedly St. Petersburgs most famous visitor attraction, and universally acknowledged as one of the worlds greatest treasuries of art and antiquities, the Hermitage is a name to be conjured with, and reason enough on its own for many travelers to book a trip to St. Petersburg.
The Hermitage Museum now spans several sites, but for most visitors it is the main collection in the Winter Palace that is an essential component of any St. Petersburg itinerary. Here youll find not only centuries of European fine art and a rich collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, but also the astonishingly opulent 18th and 19th century state rooms of Russias imperial family.
Since the summer of 2014, much of the Hermitages renowned collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art (in terms of artistic quality, undoubtedly the highpoint of the collection) has been transferred across Palace Square to the General Staff Building, so if your main reason for visiting the Hermitage is to see the art, then you have to consider making time for the second location, possibly with a break for refreshments between the two.

The Hermitage (The Winter Palace)

The Mariinsky Theatre

St. Petersburgs other internationally renowned cultural institution, and for some visitors an even greater draw than the Hermitage, the Mariinsky Theatre has profited in recent years from the financial and creative turmoils of Moscows Bolshoi to become the undisputed preeminent musical theatre in modern Russia.
Renowned for the impeccable discipline and devotion to tradition of its ballet company, and blessed in Valery Gergiev with one of contemporary classical musics most exciting and exacting conductors, as well as international stars of ballet and opera including Ulyana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva and Anna Netrebko, the Mariinsky Theatre is a world-class venue for ballet, opera and orchestral music.
Recent years have seen the Mariinsky spread beyond its historic home, the wedding-cake late-19th century opera house on Teatralnaya Ploshchad (Theatre Square), with the addition in 2006 of the Mariinsky Concert Hall, and in 2013 the long-awaited opening of the second opera and ballet stage, Mariinsky II. While most visitors will want to enjoy the rich atmosphere and ornate interiors of the main theatre, both new venues are beautifully designed inside, with state-of-the-art acoustics and stage technology, making them well worth exploring for music enthusiasts.

Rivers and canals of St. Petersburg by boat

If youre visiting St. Petersburg from May to October, there are a number of ways to explore the city by boat, from taking the hydrofoil to the suburban palace and park at Peterhof to enjoying dinner and live jazz on an evening cruise along the Neva. When the weathers good, visitors should really take any opportunity to get out on the water, but even the shortest visit to St. Petersburg in summer should include one boat trip along the citys central rivers and canals.
There is a wide range of different offers available at the various quays on or near Nevsky Prospekt, with larger boats offering guided tours (some in English) and on-board refreshments, and smaller boats that you can rent by the hour, choose your own route, and bring your own food and drink. All routes through the centre take in some portion of the Fontanka and Moyka Rivers and the Griboedov and Kryukov Canals. Some also head out onto the River Neva, while around midnight most of the boats in the city offer the chance to watch the opening of the Nevas bascule bridges from the water. Whatever route you end up taking, a boat trip is a fantastic way to see St. Petersburg from a different angle, and perhaps the best possible means of getting an impression of the sheer scope of the citys architectural beauty and romance.


When it comes to visitor attractions, St. Petersburg is as famous for the Imperial palaces and parks in the suburbs as for the museums and palaces in the city centre. Among the former, Peterhof is the one we would class as absolutely unmissbale, especially in summer when the parks incredible collection of fountains is in operation.
It took Peter the Great over a decade and a few false starts before he found the right site for his summer residence. Modelled partly on Versailles, but with many features that reflected Peters specific tastes and interests, the park was expanded under Peters daughter, Empress Elizabeth, to greatly surpass its French antecedent in scope and grandeur. While the Grand Palace at Peterhof is less spectacular than the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof excels in the diversity and range of its attractions, from the charming baroque buildings of the Petrine era to the extraordinary gilded extravagance of the Grand Cascade to the catalog of gardening styles encompassed in the Upper and Lower Parks to the ever-growing number of museums housed in the various buildings on the estate.

St. Isaacs Cathedral Colonnade

The low-rise skyline of St. Petersburgs historic centre is dominated by the grand gold dome of St. Isaacs Cathedral, the lifes work of French architect Auguste de Montferrand and the citys largest and most spectacular religious building.
Completed in 1858, St. Isaacs took over forty years to build and decorate. Its strictly European Empire-style facades and colonnades are made unique by the employment of red Karelian granite, while the interiors also meld Orthodox tradition with Catholic influence and extraordinary extravagance in the choice of materials. Different types of semiprecious stone from all over Russia form the interior walls and columns, while an abundance of original art and sculpture goes only a little way to filling the vast hall of the cathedral, designed to accommodate 14 000 standing worshipers. As well as visiting the Cathedral interiors, travelers can buy an extra ticket to climb the 300 steps up to the colonnade. From here, you can enjoy some of the best views of St. Petersburg available.

The Peter Paul Fortress

The place where the city of St. Petersburg began, the Peter and Paul Fortress never actually saw military action, but has fulfilled a variety of functions over its three-century history, from burial place for nearly all of the Romanov Emperors and Empresses to notorious political prison to the site of key experiments in the development of Soviet rocket technology. All of these aspects of the fortresses history are celebrated in diverse exhibitions across various buildings, and it is the ramshackle charms of these various museums and collections as much as the grandeur of the spectacular Ss. Petersburg and Paul Cathedral that make the fortress an essential visitor attraction.

Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood

While it lacks the authentic medieval charm of St. Basils in Moscow, the Church on Spilled Blood is nonetheless one of St. Petersburgs most instantly recognizable landmarks, its riotously colorful Russian Revival architecture making a stark contrast to the elegant neoclassicism of the State Russian Museum next door. This is part of the churchs charm, in that it serves to constantly remind the visitor to St. Petersburg that, despite the Italianate elegance of most of the Golden Triangle, you are still definitely in Russia. Its extraordinary also that a monument to mark such a tragic event (the assassination of Alexander II) should be so exuberantly colorful.

Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin)

Home to not one but two vast 18th century palaces, surrounded by beautifully landscaped parkland with a rich variety of follies and monuments, Tsarskoye Selo is a testament to the immense wealth and lavishness of the Romanov Imperial family. The rococo Catherine Palace by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, a sister building to his Winter Palace in the city centre, is the most famous attraction, particularly thanks to the extraordinary Amber Room, but there are many other highlights to see, with almost every great St. Petersburg architect of the 18th and early-19th centuries contributing something to the ensemble.

Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin)

Opening bridges

The Neva River connects Lake Ladoga to the Baltic Sea, and during the summer navigation season tens of cargo ships per day follow this important route, making it necessary to open the bascule bridges across the Neva in central St. Petersburg. This is done after midnight, and during the White Nights especially it has long been a tradition for crowds to gather along the embankments to watch the raising of the bridges. The raised arches of Palace Bridge make for one of St. Petersburgs most famous views, but its as much the atmosphere of lazy revelry and contentment inspired by the eternal twilight that makes this such an unmissable St. Petersburg experience.

Nevsky Prospekt

Theres nothing finer than Nevsky Prospekt, at least not in St. Petersburg. So begins Nikolay Gogols famous tale of St. Petersburgs central avenue. While that story may end in disillusion and despair, theres little doubt that Nevsky is one of the worlds greatest streets. Running 4.5 kilometers from the Admiralty in the west to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in the east, Nevsky Prospekt has a hardly single building dating from after 1917. Highlights include the magnificent Art Nouveau Singer Building, the baroque Stroganov Palace, Kazan Cathedral with its curved neoclassical colonnade, the Horse Tamers statues on Anichkov Bridge, and the 18th century shopping arcade Gostiny Dvor.
Nowadays, St. Petersburgs most exclusive shopping area is actually the eastern end of Nevsky, beyond Ploshchad Vosstaniya. As well as landmark buildings and up-market boutiques, however, Nevsky Prospekt also offers an electric atmosphere and energy. Especially in summer, Nevsky is bustling no what the hour, and an increasing number of bars and cafes without outdoor seating give you a better opportunity to enjoy the avenues living theatre.

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