St. Petersburg is often referred to as Russia's Northern Capital. The second largest city in Russia, it is considered by many to be unique in many respects. For example, it is the northernmost city with a population of over 1 million and also the youngest of Europe's megacities. In our opinion, it is also one of the most beautiful cities in Europe
The history of St. Petersburg dates back to May 27, 1703, when Peter the Great held the groundbreaking ceremony for Sankt Pieter Burch, or St. Peter's Fortress, on lands he seized from Sweden. The city that was later built around the fortress on Zayachy (Hare) Island in the Neva Delta was called St. Petersburg.
For the first 10 years, St. Petersburg developed as a fortress, a seaport and a dock where the Baltic Fleet moored their ships. However, the flourishing of trade soon turned it into an economic center with rapidly developing crafts and industries.
The royal court moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 1712, which is considered the year when St. Petersburg became the new capital of the Russian Empire
The city was built from scratch by talented architects and engineers from Russia, Switzerland, Italy, France and many other countries too.
From Peter the Great in the 18th century to Nicholas II in the 20th century, St. Petersburg symbolized the greatness of the Russian Empire, as well as progress, order and law. The new Russian capital, which was built from scratch, also symbolized Russia's new future.
St. Petersburg is possibly the world's largest collection of well-preserved neoclassical, eclectic and art nouveau buildings. The city center is like an outdoor museum
As you move from Obvodny Canal to the Bolshaya Nevka River and from St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra (Monastery) to the merchant port, you will see a city that looks almost the same as it did 100 years ago.
By the early 20th century St. Petersburg became a fully European city which produced everything it needed, from ships and modern weaponry to consumer goods. It also became more comfortable for the residents, with dozens of bridges connecting islands on which the city was built and several railway lines connecting the city to the Russian regions and also European countries too.
St. Petersburg witnessed many tragic events in the 20th century. Its name was changed four times over a period of 100 years, from St. Petersburg (until 1914) to Petrograd (1914-1924) and Leningrad (1924-1991). The city regained its original name, St. Petersburg, only after the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991. In 1918, the city lost its status of capital city when the new government moved to Moscow.
The city was the cradle of three revolutions: the first revolution of 1905-1907, the February Revolution of 1917 and the 1917 October Revolution. The civil war that followed the revolution nearly decimated the city's population, which plummeted from 2.5 million in 1917 to barely 600,000 after the famine of 1918-1920.
The most dramatic period in the history of St. Petersburg was the Nazi invasion during World War II. Some 1.5 million of the city residents starved to death during the 872-day long blockade between 1941-1944
St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) was given the title of Hero City for the courage, fortitude and unmatched heroism of its residents.
Today St. Petersburg is a major economic, academic and cultural center and an important Russian transit hub. The country's largest number of car assembly plants is located in St. Petersburg and its suburbs. The city is developing its port infrastructure and hotel and restaurant businesses. St. Petersburg is also one of Russia's most impressive tourist destinations. The historical part of the city and its architectural landmarks are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Russia. History, architecture, mysteries and legends combine with northern nature and everyday life of a big city. The center is one huge cultural monument where a variety of pedestrian, bus and boat tours are available every day. If you have a day at your disposal, you can see the Hermitage, the State Russian Museum, the Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Isaac's Cathedral and Nevsky Prospekt, but it will take much longer than one whole week at least to enjoy all the city's landmarks.
Palace Square is the heart of the Northern Capital and one of the world's most beautiful architectural ensembles. It is framed by the Winter Palace's façade and the General Staff Building, whose two three-floor wings join in a triumphal arch crowned with a chariot commemorating the victory over Napoleonic France in the Patriotic War of 1812. The Alexander Column is the tallest of its kind in the world and forms the focal point of Palace Square. To the east of the square stands the building of the Guards Corps Headquarters.
The square itself was named after the Winter Palace. This was the huge residence of Russian tsars that stands on 9 hectares of land and comprises some 1,500 rooms. Its exterior is a combination of several architectural styles that is almost as impressive as the invaluable collection it houses. The Winter Palace now houses a must-see museum, the Hermitage. It is one of the world's largest museums with thousands of unique works of art from all around the world.
Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress on Zayachy Island is the oldest building in St. Petersburg. The day when the groundbreaking ceremony was held for it is marked as the date of the establishment of St. Petersburg. The fortress occupies the whole of the island. The pentagonal ramparts at its corners were initially made of wood but were later rebuilt in stone.
Inside the fortress stand the city's first large church, the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. In 1731 it was declared the official burial place for the Romanovs. All Russian tsars were buried there, from Peter the Great to Nicholas II. The cathedral with its 122.5-meter steeple used to be the tallest architectural building in the city. The angel on the steeple is considered the symbol of St. Petersburg.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (also referred to as the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ) was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded on March 1, 1881.
The church is a combination of the best examples of Russian 17th century religious architecture, primarily the churches of Yaroslavl and Moscow. It is crowned with nine cupolas, some of them covered with gold leaf and others with enamel, which is why it looks slightly like Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral.
St. Isaac's Cathedral
One of St. Petersburg symbols, St. Isaac's Cathedral is a huge neoclassical style building. It is one of the most beautiful and largest dome structures in Russia and the world: it has enough space for up to 12,000 people.
The cathedral was built in a variety of 43 minerals, with the basement faced with granite and the walls, which are 5 meters thick in some places, with gray marble.
In the strikingly beautiful interior you will find sculptures, paintings, multicolored granite and marble from all over Russia, and also mosaics. The iconostasis is framed by six malachite and two lazurite columns and a 9.5-meter high stained glass window depicting the Resurrected Christ, which is quite unusual for Orthodox churches.
The construction of the cathedral began in 1818 and lasted 40 years.
Another tourist gem, Peterhof, is a town on the Gulf of Finland some 10 kilometers from St. Petersburg. Peter the Great ordered the construction of a royal summer residence there in 1714. He wanted it to rival the Palace of Versailles, the seat of the French kings, which is why Peterhof has palaces and world-famous fountain cascades.
The dominant feature is the Peterhof Grand Palace with a tall ornately shaped roof and gilded cupolas. The façade of the palace has many characteristic baroque elements.
St. Petersburg has the largest number of bridges in Europe, over 800, and the ones in the city center each differs because they were all uniquely designed. Lastly, one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg is its drawbridges. Every night during the navigation period from April to November, 22 bridges across the Neva and main canals are drawn to let ships pass.
The site where the Saint Petersburg Stadium was built has a long sports history. In 1950, the main Kirov Stadium was erected on Krestovsky Island. Its construction spanned 18 years, starting in 1932. The war changed the stadium’s construction time. The opening ceremony was held on July 30 with a game between the Leningrad teams of Zenit and Dinamo, which ended in a 1–1 draw.
The stadium had a seating capacity of 100,000 and underwent four renovations after its opening.
Today, a modern stadium stands in its place. In 2006, Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa’s project was selected for the construction of the new stadium. His design preserved the dimensions of the hill and the pavilions. The location of the football pitch also remained the same, as well as the ticket offices and the Kirov monument.
The main structural decision was a moving roof over the stands with a diameter of 286 meters that rests on eight masts. Another special feature of the stadium is its retractable pitch, which allows for holding any type of events.
In the summer of 2017, the Saint Petersburg Stadium hosted four matches of the FIFA Confederations Cup and was the most filled arena of the Cup. In 2018, seven games of the FIFA Cup were held there.
In 2021, the stadium will host seven games of the UEFA EURO 2020, and in May 2022, the stadium will again become a European football venue – this time for the 2021/2022 UEFA Champions League finals.
It is quite easy to travel to St. Petersburg both from Russian and European cities.
By air: Pulkovo International Airport is the fourth busiest airport in Russia in terms of the number of passengers (after the Moscow hub). It services hundreds of domestic and international flights every day. As it is located close to Europe, it takes a little over four hours to get to St. Petersburg from any European city.
By train: The most convenient way to travel to St. Petersburg from Moscow is by train. Every day, dozens of trains run between the two cities, including traditional night trains with a journey time of eight to nine hours and day-time high-speed Sapsan trains, which are twice as fast.