Peter and Paul Fortress

#4 in Best Things To Do in St. Petersburg
Peter and Paul Fortress picture1 of 3
Peter and Paul Fortress2 of 3
Philipp Chistyakov/Getty Images

Key Info

Petropavlovskaya Fortress, 3


Churches/Religious Sites, Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend


  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

The Peter and Paul Fortress is where St. Petersburg was founded. Peter the Great commissioned the building of a fort on Hare Island in 1703 and initiated construction of the fortress. Among its attractions is the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which has a bell tower that remains one of the tallest structures in the city. Along with its impressive height, the cathedral also houses the remains of centuries of Russian czars and their families. The Grand Ducal Burial Chapel, which is connected to the older cathedral, contains the tombs of other members of the Romanov family. At various times, including during the Soviet period, the fortress was used as a prison. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Maxim Gorky, Mikhail Bakunin and Leon Trotsky are among the notables who were held there. Now it operates as part of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg. The St. Petersburg Mint also forms part of the fortress.

The fortress exerts a powerful draw for history buffs. Visitors often single out the cathedral as especially impressive. The fortress is a popular destination and can be crowded, especially in summer. Past visitors suggested timing your visit for noon, when the fortress cannon fires a blank shot. The cannon shot was once used to signal the beginning and end of the work day and commemorate special state events, among other things.

Hare Island is accessible daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Peter and Paul Fortress is open to visitors from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Exhibitions within the fortress operate their own hours. Separate tickets are required to enter the various buildings comprising the fortress; a combination ticket granting entrance to all of them is also available for 750 rubles (or about $12). Past visitors strongly recommend purchasing the combo ticket. Guided tours for invidiual visitors is available for an additional 200 rubles (around $3). The grounds themselves can be entered for free. Several places selling food operate in the area. The Gorkovskaya and Sportivnaya metro stations are within walking distance. For more information, visit the museum's website.

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Time to Spend
#1 Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace

Catherine the Great founded the Hermitage Museum in 1764 as a place to house her private art collection. The main museum complex comprises six buildings, including the Winter Palace, which was the home of the czars 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 in the world. It draws more than 4 million visitors each year – in fact, this museum is the main reason some travelers visit St. Petersburg in the first place. Recent travelers offered fulsome praise for both the art on display and the opulent building housing the works. For many, the only downside was the constant crowds.

Bursting at the seams with art from masters like Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso, the Hermitage demands a substantial commitment of time to see even a portion of its collection, which encompasses 3 million works of art and artifacts. Some previous visitors reported spending seven hours touring the grounds. If you plan to spend a considerable amount of time admiring the works, consider purchasing the two-day entrance ticket.

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