Peter and Paul Fortress
A monument of military engineering and architecture, Peter and Paul Fortress is the historical nucleus of St. Petersburg around which the construction of the city began. It was laid by the order Peter the Great on May 27th 1703 at Zayachiy Island on the banks of Neva River during the war with Sweden. This date now is celebrated as the Foundation Day of St. Petersburg.
The spire of the fortress is 122,5 meter high. The golden angel on its top is one of the most known city symbols. Built in baroque style, St. Peter and Paul cathedral is the greatest building and the oldest shrine of the northern capital. It hosts the Burial Vault of Russian Emperors. 43 Royal Family members are entombed here, including Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II, with his wife Alexandra and five children. Every day at noon a shot is fired from the cannon on the Naryshkin bastion, and every year, on May 27th, Peter and Paul Fortress is the site of celebrations marking the Day of the City.
St. Isaac Cathedral
St. Isaac's Cathedral is one of the largest domed structures in the world, and now is the 4th highest cathedral in the world after the world-known St. Peter's in Rome, St. Paul's in London and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. The golden dome of St Isaac's Cathedral dominates the St. Petersburg skyline. Over 100 kg of leaf gold was used to cover the 21,8 meter high dome. With an area of 4000 square meters, the Cathedral can accommodate up to 14000 standing worshipers at a time. Its walls are 5 meters thick. The long spiral staircase leading up in 562 steps to more than 101,5 meters' height of the balustrade of the dome is open for anyone who is able to ascend it.
Hermitage and Winter Palace
Situated in the center of St. Petersburg, the State Hermitage occupies six magnificent buildings along the embankment of Neva River. The Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian Emperors constructed between 1754 and 1762 by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, occupies an important place amongst the other buildings of the overall Museum ensemble. The Hermitage is one of the world's greatest art museums and Russia's largest art repository. Put together throughout two and a half centuries, the Hermitage collections of works of art (over 3 million items) presents the development of world culture and art from the Stone Age to the 20th century.
Russian State Museum
Russian State Museum is the world's largest museum of Russian art. It is located in the center of St. Petersburg. The collection of the Russian Museum numbers some 400 thousand works and covers the entire history of Russian art from the tenth century to present. The Museum boasts a unique collection of Old Russian icons, works of painting, graphic art and sculpture, decorative and applied art, folk art and numismatics, as well as the world's finest collection of Russian avant-garde.
The Kunstkammer, or Cabinet of Curiosities, is one of the world's oldest ethnographic museums. It was opened in 1714 by decree of Peter I and became the first Russian public museum. In 1727 it was moved to a building on the spit of Vasilievsky Island, which was specially constructed for the collection between 1718-34. An example of Petrine Baroque, the Kunstkammer is one of the few architectural monuments to have survived from the first quarter of eighteenth century. The nucleus of the museum was made up of Peter the Great's personal collections.
The ethnographic, anthropological and archaeological collections reflect the culture and everyday life of many of the world's peoples. It houses an early anatomical collection (bought in 1717 from the Dutch anatomist Fredrik Ruysch), a collection of monsters from Peter's Kunstkammer, and a wide variety of artifacts collected in the 18th and 19th centuries during the expeditions to Siberia and Kamchatka. Of particular interest is the collection amassed by the celebrated Russian scholar and traveler, Nikolai Miklukho-Maklai, in New Guinea and Polynesia. The museum's exhibition traces the history of the origin of man and human race, and dwells on the principal phases in the evolution of primitive society and the cultural traditions of various peoples. There are unique specimens of the minor arts from Japan, China, Polynesia and Australia, as well as models of dwellings, original domestic utensils and samples of handicrafts and items reflecting the notions and beliefs of the peoples of Africa, Asia, North and South America, Kamchatka and the Far East.
Church on the Spilled Blood
This marvelous Russian-style multicolored, onion-domed church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated on March 1st, 1881. In 1883 his son, Alexander III, began construction of the memorial church, which was completed in 1907 during the reign of Nicholas II. The church resembles Church of St. Basil, located on Red Square in Moscow, and its flamboyant Russian style can be attributed to the rise in national consciousness at the turn of the century. Architecturally it revives the traditions of the 17th-century Russian church building.
The Yusupovs Palace represents a rare combination of an architectural monument and a temple of art. This palace is one of the most sumptuous non-imperial palaces in St. Petersburg. It was home of the rich and influential Yusupov family, descendants of powerful Tatar rulers who entered Russian service in the reign of Ivan the Terrible. Not only is the Palace a remarkable architectural monument, but it is also a historical site, tied to the fall of imperial Russia. It was here that Grigory Rasputin was murdered by the young count Felix Yusupov in 1916. This event was one of the most well known stories of Russian history, and the recently opened exhibition shows the two rooms where it all happened.
Memorial House of Peter the Great
This small house is a precious relic of the past, the oldest building in the city. It was built of pine logs by a soldier-carpenter in 3 days in May 1703. The "palace" stood on the bank of Neva River, waves splashing not far from its basement. The building looks like a combination of a traditional Russian hut and Dutch house. In 1723 the house was protected by a brick layer. It feels more like a shrine than a museum.
Summer Garden and the Summer Palace of Peter the Great
Everything in the park was done according to the fashion of 18th century: trees and bushes were in the most elaborate way, alleys decorated with marble statues and fountains. The small palace which was built in the park had no heating and was intended for summer time, that's why it was called Summer Palace. It is one of the first brick buildings in St. Petersburg. Emperor Peter the Great's private palace was built by Domenico Trezini in 1710-1714. Since 1934 the Palace has become a museum. The interiors were restored and are carefully preserved. The exhibition tries to evoke the atmosphere of Peter's day and acquaints visitor with Peter the Great's deeds and way of life.
The Castle (also called Mikhailovsky Castle) was constructed between 1797 and 1801 as the residence of Russian emperor Paul I, the son of Catherine the Great. Paul hated his mother, the Empress, who had overthrown his father and ruined his life. This may explain Paul's decision to erect his new residence as a palace-castle with bastions, moats and drawbridges. The new St. Petersburg residence of Paul was hastily constructed at the beginning of 1801. Only 40 days later on the night of March 11th Paul was killed in his bedroom. Later the castle was used for the army engineers' school and was called the Engineer's Castle. Today the Engineers' Castle is a branch of Russian Museum.
Petrodvorets, formerly called Peterhof, one of the major palace and park complexes in the suburbs of St. Petersburg, was founded by Peter the Great. The stately parks, innumerable fountains, beautiful cascades, gilded and marble statues of gods and heroes, exuberant decoration of the palaces in Peterhof were meant to symbolize the grandeur of Russia, which "having cut a window to Europe" consolidated itself on the shores of the Baltic Sea. This "Russian Versailles" is probably the most impressive of St. Petersburg's suburban palaces, and certainly the most popular. It combines several ornate palaces, a number of beautifully landscaped parks and a dazzling array of magnificent statues and fountains.
There are a total of three cascades and 144 fountains in Peterhof's parks. The Grand Cascade flows spectacularly from beneath the palace towards the Baltic Sea and is one of the largest fountain ensembles of the world. From the Grand Cascade's largest fountain, decorated with a magnificent gold statue of Samson defeating the lion, a channel flows through the park to the pier, where hydrofoils and boats from St. Petersburg dock. The centerpiece of the Peterhof ensemble is the Great Palace which stands on a natural terrace facing the sea. The interiors of the palace - the Throne Hall, Peter the Great's oak-paneled study, the Chinese Lobbies, the Portrait Hall, the White Dining-Room, and others - are all masterpieces of decorative and applied art.
Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) has a marvelous ensemble of palaces and parks. It is especially famous for its impressive baroque Catherine Palace where Catherine the Great lived and died. The Great Hall of the palace and the Golden Enfilade of formal halls amaze with luxury of their decoration. When you enter the palace halls, you feel the spirit of the eras of Elizabeth and Catherine, and, to a certain extent, the age of Emperor Alexander I.
When Elizabeth gave her frequent fancy-balls in her summer residence, the guests arrived in coaches to the farthest end of the palace and were ushered lengthwise the whole building to anticipate its grandeur. Elizabeth's most favorite kind of masquerade was the one she invented herself, when women dressed like men and vice versa. The balls were full of fun and ended up in the famous parade ten-course dinners that lasted for 7-8 hours and only soups were served in no less than five various kinds.
Under Catherine II the Great Palace was enlarged and renovated once more. The true glory of the Palace is the Amber Room - a mystery among the world's works of art. The exquisite room made of several tons of golden tree resin - the lightest gem existing - is often referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". The estimated value of the Amber Room that vanished during the World War II is over $142 million. Reconstructed and reborn, Amber Room was opened on May 31st, 2003. The restoration works began in 1999 and cost about $3,5 million.
The town of Pavlovsk, which is famous for its palace and park ensemble, is located 26 kilometers to the south of St. Petersburg. It was founded in 1777, at the time when Empress Catherine II granted her son, Grand Prince Pavel Petrovich, court hunting grounds on the birthday of his first son, the future Emperor Alexander I. Later the picturesque landscape inspired Paul I to set up an imperial summer residence here. The construction of the palace and park ensemble was entrusted to Charles Cameron in 1777 and completed in late 1820s. Prominent architects, such as Cameron, Brenna, Quarenghi, Voronikhin, Rossi and Gonzago as well as hundreds of Russian craftsmen worked for decades to create this ensemble of parks and palaces.
The architectural center of the Pavlovsk ensemble is the Grand Pavlovsk Palace designed in the spirit of the Russian Classicism by Ch. Cameron. The interiors of the Palace are fabulous. The rooms are full of pieces of art that make up a fine collection of paintings, furniture, sculptures, bronze articles and china sets. The artworks were bought by the Emperor and his wife themselves when traveling to Europe. The private rooms have their original interior, and all the furniture and belongings of the Emperor and his wife remain untouched. The 1500-acre park is one of the largest landscape parks in Europe.