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The Perfect St Petersburg Tour

Updated on November 18, 2014

St Petersburg Tours

View to the Church of Our Savior in St Petersburg, Russia
View to the Church of Our Savior in St Petersburg, Russia

Welcome to St Petersburg, Russia

What to See

St. Petersburg, with its’ 89 museums, is known as the “Cultural Capital of Russia” and is the most visited city in Russia. The city is full of attractions that will give you the sense of grandeur that is Russia. Here are some of the most popular attractions that are a must-see for your trip to the “Venice of the North.”

The State Hermitage Museum – 6 buildings make up the complex. The Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage, Small Hermitage, Reserve House and Hermitage Theater. The main building contains 2.7 million exhibits in 365 rooms. Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 with public access granted in 1852, the Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. Visitors could spend months in the museum examining all the treasures and still not see everything. This is one of the most visited attractions in Russia. The Orient, Western Europe, numismatic and archaeological pieces from the ancient world are also represented here. The Paleolithic Age collection which is over 20,000 years old has figurines made from bone and stone of birds and women.

The Hermitage (Winter Palace) houses a French Impressionist / Post-Impressionist gallery of paintings including works from famous artists as Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Michelangelo, Raphael Picasso, Rembrandt, Titian, and Matisse among others. The collection is one of the most impressive in the world.

In 2003 The Hermitage opened a new exhibit titled “The Museum of Porcelain”featuring art from the Imperial Porcelain Factory.

The Hermitage and all the wonders it has to offer is certainly the place every visitor to St Petersburg should enjoy. With so much information, history, and items in the collection, many visitors choose to take a private St Petersburg tour with one of the local tour operators to get the most from their visit. A private tour of the Hermitage will give you a more in-depth insight into the treasures in the museum and the stories behind them.

Church of Our Savior – More photos are snapped of this Church than almost any other site in St Petersburg. Since WWII, the Church has been under restoration. Mosaics cover over 7,000 square meters and the glistening golden dome shines for all to see its glory. Alexander II was murdered by a political rival on this very spot. It is a memorial site and does not have services, although you can take a tour of the inside and learn more about the history of this iconic church.

Peter and Paul Fortress – It was constructed to be a fortress to protect the city, by Peter the Great. Peter re-acquired the land on May 27, 1703 and now that date is considered the birthday of St Petersburg. The fortress later became a prison and the son of Peter the Great became one of the first inmates along with Lenin's brother, Alexander. Other famous “guests” include Dostoyevsky, Trotsky, and Gorkiy.

Peter and Paul Cathedral - At 404 feet tall, it is the tallest building in St Petersburg. The shiny gold angel holding a cross on top of the spire is a landmark in the city. The Cathedral is within the safe walls of the fortress and the spire is plated in pure gold, making it shimmering with luxury when the sun basks its' full glory. Russian Tsars from Peter the Great to Alexander III are buried here and it a great place for a historical tour.The original city mint and city history museum are also part of the complex.

The “New Mariinsky” Theater – The world has heard about the beautiful awe inspiring Mariinsky Theater and now it has gotten even better! In 2013 an addition was opened to add performances to delight even more people. An evening of ballet at the Mariinsky is romantic, sensual, and one of the best places to experience Russian culture.

Pushkin or Tsarskoe Selo – This includes the “Summer Palace” or Catherine Palace as most visitors know it. Catherine the Great had her summer home here and it one of the most opulent palaces in Russia.

Catherine’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth, demolished the palace and had it rebuilt in 1752 in her favorite, Rococo style. 100 kilograms of gold were used to trim the beautiful outside of the building.

Empress Catherine the Great was the next to redecorate and built the “Grand Hall” (Hall of Lights). Golden accents and an intricate ceiling were created to lighten up the palace.

The “Amber Room” - the most glorious part of Catherine Palace. Panels 16 feet tall are made from over 100,000 amber stones. In WWII, the Nazi’s stole the original Amber Room and it was never found. The panels were painstakingly reconstructed in 2003 for the delight of everyone who enters

A 1,400 acre park contains a bathhouse, bridges, guest houses, fountains and a Great Pond.

You can easily spend an entire day exploring Pushkin and the various attractions here.

Yusupov Palace – An interesting place with secret rooms and a Rococo style theater is a place of intrigue. The “story” of the assassination of Grigori Rasputin took place here in one of the hidden rooms. Rasputin was poisoned by Felix Yusupov and 4 of his friends. Poison enough to kill 5 humans was laced into the wine and cake given to Rasputin. He seemed unaffected by the poison so Yusupov shot Rasputin and believed him to be dead. He was not, so they shot him 3 more times. Rasputin was still alive and trying to escape. The “friends” then hit him on the head with a bar made of iron and wrapped him in a blanket and tossed him into the river. His autopsy said he died of hypothermia.

Mysteries aside this palace is another treasure of St Petersburg and each room is a beautiful and opulent masterpiece which visitors can enjoy.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral – St. Isaac, a monk from the 4th century is the namesake of the cathedral. Now a museum, it is the 4th largest cathedral in the world. The semi-precious stones and marble in 14 colors made this 10 times more expensive to build than the Winter Palace. Services are only performed on special days with room for 14,000 people to stand. This was the largest church in Russia. The dome is 300 steps up to the top but it offers the climbers a view of the city that is spectacular. This is one of the best photo stops in the city.

Peterhof Palace and Fountain Park – The beautiful garden of Peter the Great has 80 original sculptures and statues made of marble. Fun and whimsy was the plan, which included a tree shaped fountain, tulip fountain and a rotating fountain that glistens of rainbow of colors when the sun shines through it. Other surprises await, as you stroll thru the gardens and stumble into trick fountains. A thrill for all ages of viewers and children will really enjoy the fountains on a hot summer day.

The State Russian Museum – With over 480,000 pieces of Russian art this museum is a history lovers delight. If you are interested in the history and culture of Russia, a day at this museum will provide you with a glimpse of the long and decorated past of the largest country in the world. The State Russian Museum could be considered a “Russian Tate Gallery.” This is another place where a private guide can come in handy. With so much Russian history behind the pieces you see, a guide can tell you the stories and history behind them to give a richer experience.

Peter & Paul Fortress in St Petersburg, Russia

Peter & Paul Fortress in St Petersburg, Russia
Peter & Paul Fortress in St Petersburg, Russia

Where to Stay in St Petersburg

Choosing a hotel in St Petersburg can be a daunting task as there are really a large variety of options. One of the best solutions is to choose a boutique hotel that combines high quality with a reasonable price. Hotel Vera is one of the most famous boutique hotels in St Petersburg which is located in the center of the city near Nevsky Prospect and the Moscow Railway Station. It is listed in the St. Petersburg Registry of Architectural Treasures as the house of a wealthy merchant Stepnov, so in a way this hotel is also a museum which can be included as part of your tour experience in the city.

Where to Eat in St Petersburg

Looking to try authentic Russian food on a budget? Look no further than Teremok. This is a Russian fast-food chain with locations all over the city. They offer Russian pancakes with a variety of fillings including meat, jam, and fish. Russian pancakes are similar to French crepes and one of the most popular foods to try in Russia. In addition, Teremok offers traditional Russian honey beer, which is similar to a medieval mead. It is sweet with the subtle taste of honey and spices that makes this drink a favorite among adults. Teremok has restaurants and street stalls where you can stand outside in the fresh air and try everything on the menu.

If you are searching for something more upscale, try Demidov restaurant on the bank of the Fontanka river in the center of St Petersburg. The menu is old-style Russian cuisine from the times of Peter the Great. In the evenings there is live Russian and gypsy music which creates a truly authentic atmosphere to go along with the amazing cuisine.

St Petersburg, Russia

Why Choose a Private St Petersburg Tour

© 2014 Brian Schweitzer

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