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Beautiful St Petersburg: an open air museum

Beautiful St Petersburg: an open air museum

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St Petersburg was the second stop in our travels and our first stop in Russia.

We arrived by overnight coach across the boarder.  This was a truly unforgettable experience but for the wrong reasons.  The road between Riga and St Petersburg is bumpy.  Not soothing train bumpy, but extreme “no chance of any sleep” bumpy.  We then had our first experience of the grim, sour faced Russian boarder guards at midnight.  They looked at us with deep suspicion and spent ages analysing, re-analysing and then re-analysing again every singly page of our passports in a room where we were eaten to death by mosquitos.

But, we eventually made it through.

And arriving in St Petersburg really did make everything worthwhile.

The Russian boarder control let in these two into their country:
The Russian boarder control let in these two into their country:

St Petersburg is the former capital city of Russia and quite a young one built in 1703.  It is a beautiful city with lots to look at, set along several canals.

It has therefore been given many descriptions like, the “Venice of the North” or the “Paris of the East”.

Despite the cheesy Paris/Venice comparisons (which every pretty city with old historic buildings with a canal are given), this city really is remarkable.  Money has been spent here over its 300 years of existence, to the joy of its many visitors.

Mihaelevsky palace
Mihaelevsky palace

We stayed in the heart of the historic centre, based along the main road called Nemsky Prospect.

Nevsky Prospect street sign
Nevsky Prospect street sign

Nevsky is a long avenue that connects the main train station to the famous Palace Square.

Along the way it is divided by several canals, beautiful bridges and tree-lined avenues.  The walk along Nevsky is like an open air museum, one which you could spend days exploring.

This is pretty much what we did in our week in St Petersburg.

Our favourite attractions in St Petersburg:

There are so many beautiful buildings in St Petersburg, each with its own story.

Church of Our Saviour On Spilled Blood

Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood
Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood

The spilled blood in this case is of Tsar Alexander II, following his assassination in 1881.

Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood
Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood

Kazan Cathedral

Close up of Kazan Cathedral
Close up of Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral was built to commemorate Russia’s victory over Napoleon in the 1812 War.  It’s one of the many grand buildings along the Nevsky open air museum.  But this one is massive – and stunning.

It also looks a lot like the Vatican in Rome.  In fact when it was built in the 1800s, it was intended to duplicate the Vatican.

Posing outside Kazan Cathedral
Posing outside Kazan Cathedral

San Isaac Cathedral

Admiring St Petersburg's San Isaac Cathedral
Admiring St Petersburg's San Isaac Cathedral

Palace Square

The Palace Square in St Petersburg is the central city square by the Neva River.  The walk along Nevsky Prospect eventually leads here.  This was where the Bolsheviks started everything in 1917.

Admiring Palace Square
Admiring Palace Square

The Palace Square houses the Winter Palace of the Russian Tsars:

Winter Palace on Palace Square
Winter Palace on Palace Square

The Palace Square is also home to the world famous Hermitage Museum.  It has the world’s largest art collection and over 3 million fascinating items

The Jordan Staircase in the Hermitage
The Jordan Staircase in the Hermitage
Seby's Hermitage pose
Seby's Hermitage pose

Peterhof Palace

The Versailles of Russia:

The Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace
The Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace

This Palace was built by Peter the Great in the 1700s, aiming to replicate Versailles.  Peterhof means “Peter’s Court” in Dutch and German.  And just like Versailles, Peterhof Palace and the grounds surrounding it are grand with lots and lots of impressive fountains:

Close up of the fountains of the Grand Cascade at Peterhof
Close up of the fountains of the Grand Cascade at Peterhof
Shrub at Peterhof Palace facing the Gulf of Finland
Shrub at Peterhof Palace facing the Gulf of Finland

A beautiful open air museum city.

That pretty much summarised St Petersburg for us:

Admiring the Admiralty Arch at Palace Square
Admiring the Admiralty Arch at Palace Square

Now to endeavour deeper into Russia and even further away from Europe with the first of our overnight trains, to Moscow:

On the overnight train from St Petersburg to Moscow
On the overnight train from St Petersburg to Moscow
On the overnight train from St Petersburg to Moscow
On the overnight train from St Petersburg to Moscow

For more inspiration, read our article – is Russia safe for gay travellers.

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