Best Things To Do in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is a great city for sightseeing, with an abundance of art-filled galleries and brilliant architecture to explore. Stroll along the Nevsky Prospekt and have a coffee at a local café, explore north end's sites like the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum and the intricately decorated Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. Or take a daytrip to the Peterhof Palace & Garden, Peter the Great's summer palace, which was modeled after France's Versailles.
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Catherine the Great founded the Hermitage Museum in 1764 as a place to house her private art collection. The massive complex has six buildings, including the Winter Palace, which was the home of the Tsars for almost 200 years. It finally opened to the public in 1852, and since then has been one of the largest and most interesting museums on the globe. It draws more than two million visitors each year -- in fact, this museum is the main reason some travelers visit St. Petersburg in the first place. Recent travelers are full of praise, with one TripAdvisor user claiming, "This place makes other museums look unimportant."
Bursting at the seams with art from masters like Da Vinci and Picasso, the Hermitage is "virtually wallpapered with celebrated paintings," says Fodor's, who goes on to suggest you budget a substantial amount of time to explore. "It has been estimated that in order to spend one minute on each object on display, you would have to devote several years to the museum," they write.
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The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main attractions in St. Petersburg, drawing crowds to its ornately decorated onion domes and the stunning mosaics housed within.
Alexander III commissioned the construction of the church in 1883 as a tribute to his slain father, Alexander II, who was assassinated on this site by a group of revolutionaries. The church's name references this murder and much of the art inside has a martyrdom theme.
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The construction of St. Isaac's Cathedral was ordered by Alexander I in the early 1800s. This neoclassical marvel was finally completed in 1858 after 40 years of construction. St. Isaac's has an interesting history: it survived Nazi shelling in World War II and even briefly served as a museum of atheism under the Soviet regime.
St. Isaac's Cathedral possesses an imposing exterior presence with its single massive dome, but you'll also want to check out its opulent interior, which Frommer's calls "as awesome as its exterior, with columns made of single chunks of granite, malachite, and lazurite; floors of different-colored marble; and never-ending frescoes."
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After battling the crowds at the Hermitage and taking in one too many masterpieces at the Russian Museum, you're going to need a place to unwind. So why not go to the same spot Peter the Great used to go for some R&R?
There are some attractions of mild interest here, including the Summer Palace, the Coffee House and the Tea House -- though you will find no coffee or tea at them. Most come to the Summer Garden to just soak in the atmosphere. Classical gardens, Italian statues and lovely fountains will let you know that you made the right call to visit.
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If you're visiting St. Petersburg in the summer, the Peterhof Palace & Garden is an absolute must-do. Frommer's says, "Unquestionably the number-one day trip from St. Petersburg, Peterhof lures visitors with its Versailles-inspired palace, which overlooks a cascade of fountains and gardens opening onto the Baltic Sea." A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Peterhof was the brainchild and summer palace of Peter the Great.
While the palace is an impressive site, the gardens really steal the show. According to one TripAdvisor user, "the best part of Peterhof is its enormous gardens and the hundreds of fountains," but you shouldn't bother with the palace if you have time constraints.
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The Russian Museum boasts the biggest collection of Russian fine art in the city. Its main part has been housed in the neoclassical Mikhailovsky Palace since 1895. The Russian Museum also consists of the Marble Palace, the Mikhailovsky Castle, the Stroganov Palace and the Benois Wing.
The complex is massive, so be prepared to spend a good chunk of time here. It's a good idea to figure out what you want to see beforehand, so you can better plan your tour of this fascinating museum. Frommer's says, "The most popular rooms are in the Benois Wing, where works by … Malevich and Kandinsky attract international crowds. Chronologically, they're at the end of the exhibit, so save time and energy if you want to see them."
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Also known as the Moika Palace, Yusupov Palace is a St. Petersburg landmark. It was the main residence of the House of Yusupov, which was a wealthy family of Russian nobles.
Travelers come here to take in the luxurious interior. Lonely Planet says, "The palace interior is sumptuous and rich, with many halls painted in different styles and decked out with gilded chandeliers, silks, frescoes, tapestries and some fantastic furniture."
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