Sightseeing in St. Petersburg
Almost every landmark has an intriguing story to tell in St. Petersburg. Set in the beating heart of the city close to the Field of Mars, you'll find yourself gravitating towards the spellbinding pull of The Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood (known as 'Spas Na Krovi' in Russian). As you admire its bulbous onion domes bursting with hues of cobalt blue, powder pink and glistening gold, it's worth remembering that Alexander II was assassinated on this very spot in 1881. It's proof that even at this richly detailed site of intricate carvings and shimmering mosaics, Russia's turbulent past rears its head.
Displaying a complete contrast of style but with just as great a spiritual significance, Saint Isaac's Cathedral is the epitome of neoclassical design. A glorious golden dome sits atop its marbled Corinthian columns, while its elaborate interiors recall Renaissance Florence.
Such sights show that St. Petersburg is certainly no stranger to extravagance. It's an approach that is enforced by the sheer number of palaces you'll stroll past in the city. Of all the attractions you can witness here, they serve as the strongest reminders of Russia's rigidly imperialist age. From the golden halls of Catherine Palace, to the Grand Cascade fountains of Peterhof Palace and the sprawling gardens of Pavlovsk Palace, each one reveals an unimaginable scale of opulence.
Again, you'll find that such residences are intimately involved with Russian history, especially at Moika Palace. It is here that Rasputin suffered his grisly death in 1917, elevated to a legend after he was tossed in the icy waters of the Moika River.
There's much that will make you recall the city's grand creator, Peter the Great, too. You can even visit the place where it all began – Peter's Cabin, a diminutive log cabin built in 1703 as the Tsar's first palace in St. Petersburg. From these humble beginnings, he went on to establish the mighty Peter and Paul Fortress, where you can visit the prison that held Trotsky and the towering, cream-coloured Cathedral at its centre.
Romantic breaks in St. Petersburg
The mighty sights of St. Petersburg are always best shared, and you'll find that despite the city's huge size, its most alluring streets and attractions are all condensed into a concentrated central area.
It makes it all the more easy to wander hand-in-hand along elegant thoroughfares such as Nevsky Prospekt. It's huge canary yellow townhouses cast an impressive shape in the bright white light of early spring in St. Petersburg. Plus, as well as admiring the romance of such a perfectly formed sight, capped with the soaring belfry of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in the distance, you'll have the chance to visit some incredible shops for some retail therapy. As is always the case with St. Petersburg, the shops here have an enduring legacy, from the 18th century market centre to the 19th century department stores Singer House and The Passage.
From here, it's just a short stroll to the achingly beautiful Anichkov Bridge. Just standing at on this famous bridge, lined with the iconic equine statues of the Horse Tamers and looking out on the silvery waters of the Fontanka River is certain to put you in the mood for love.
Although if you'd really like to set the scene, there are no views in St. Petersburg finer than at the Strelka on Vasilyevsky Island. Lying at the eastern tip of the city centre looking out upon Neva Bay, over springtime you'll enjoy glorious views of the blue waters as sun glades ripple along the outlines of Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum in the distance.
While St. Petersburg is a thriving city filled with life, there are actually plenty of places to take some time out together. These include the numerous squares dotted around its centre, most notable of which are Senate Square and Palace Square. As a huge open expanse, the Senate Square was the scene of the Decembrists' Revolt in 1825 and is also where the unforgettable landmark of Peter the Great, the Bronze Horseman, resides.
Not to be outdone, the Palace Square was the site of both Bloody Sunday in 1905 and the October Revolution in 1917, its sparse landscape only punctuated by the towering angel atop the Alexander Column.
For a beautiful finish to an evening spent in St. Petersburg, pay a visit to the Mariinsky Theatre. This world-famous venue captures all the classical beauty of Russia, with grand golden balconies, plush crimson seats and an elaborately attired stage. Many of Tchaikovsky's works were premiered in this very building, the Mariinsky Ballet company is internationally renowned for its breathtaking shows.
Family fun in St. Petersburg
Although St. Petersburg is famed for its plentiful palaces and seemingly endless artistic inspiration, there’s still plenty to do if you’re visiting this splendid city as a family.
To enjoy an educational yet unusual day out for all ages, you should first see the Peter the Great Museum. It seems the Tsar was a rather emphatic collector of oddities and eccentric artefacts, such as two-headed animals and preserved organs. The collection was put together with a purpose though, to try to discredit the concept of monsters and curses through scientific presentation.
A sense of history flows through other family-friendly attractions too, such as the Cruiser Aurora. This huge battleship creates an impressive setting for the small and big kids alike, especially as it has an interesting museum onboard. Yet it also served in the First World War and has an enduring connection with the infamous October Revolution of 1917.
For a rather more modern activity, you can also all visit the Oceanarium. It features a huge display of marine life, including freshwater and seawater fish, sharks and seals. Plus, the Dino Park is conveniently in the same complex and features huge full-scale models of dinosaurs, mazes and mini-trains to really bring the Jurassic age to life!
Activities in St. Petersburg
From regal palaces to colossal monuments, every attraction in St. Petersburg seems to be accompanied with a grand statement, and none more so than the State Hermitage Museum. Founded in 1764 and partly made up of the Winter Palace, it is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, with a staggering three million pieces in its collections. Step inside its grand facade and you'll be transported across eras and civilisations, with artefacts from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. It also houses an array of artworks from the Renaissance to recent times, featuring renowned masters as diverse as Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, Goya, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso.
However, if you have a hankering for something more modern, the Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art takes a thoroughly innovative approach to the idea of art galleries. Featuring more than 2,000 works by exclusively Russian artists, the Museum puts a unique spin on exhibitions such devised as immersive 'U-Spaces', animated films and emotive literature.
For a little light relief after such a smorgasbord of art, the Russian Vodka Museum is well worth a visit. Russia is widely regarded as the home of Vodka, and the crystalline, powerful spirit is revealed in all its varieties in the museum. During your tour, you'll see the old methods of production, historic vodka bottles, and you'll even get to try the tipple for yourself at the end!
Back on to something a little weightier, the Russian State Museum is like a condensed version of the State Hermitage Museum but with a distinctly Russian focus. Housed in the grand Mikhailovsky Palace, you'll see hundreds of artworks spanning from the 12th to 20th centuries.
Top tips for St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Metro
While you're in St. Petersburg, you simply must take a journey on its underground metro system. As well as offering cheap and reliable service, the stations are a tourist attraction in their own right, thanks to their opulent designs. With bright chandliers, ice-white tiles and wrought iron columns, Avtovo Station is like the grandest ballroom you could imagine. Sportinavya imitates ancient Greece and Kirovsky Zvod imitates a neoclassical style. You're allowed to take photos too!
Admire the bright lights!
As Jet2.com flights to St. Petersburg are available in May, you'll arrive at a beautiful time of year for the city. Amazingly, the city's northerly location means the days are incredibly long and bright – you can expect dusk to fall just before midnight. All the better for enjoying the city's bars and clubs in blazingly bright surroundings!