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Major sights

The Peter and Paul cathedral.

There is no single opinion on what should be considered as the only symbol of the city. Some people believe that it should be the “Bronze Horseman”, a monument to the city’s founder Peter the Great which stands on Senate Square. Others prefer the Alexander Pillar on Palace Square, built in honour of the victory over Napoleon Bonaparte in the War of 1812, or the spire with a golden ship which decorates the Admiralty Tower. Yet others name the rostral columns on the Vassilievsky island spit, St. Isaac’s Cathedral or building of the Mariinsky Theatre.

The Alexander Column.

The Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of Saint-Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great in 1703. The fortress contains several notable buildings clustered around the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which has a 123 meter bell-tower and a gilded angel-topped cupola. The cathedral is the burial place of the Russian emperors from Peter the Great to Alexander the Third. The sandy beaches underneath the fortress walls are among the most popular in St. Petersburg. At the Naryshkin Bastion of the fortress every noon the cannon shoots for the inhabitants to check their watches.

The Admiralty building is a marvelous example of the Russian Empire style, with rows of white columns, wonderful relief details and numerous statues, built between 1806 and 1823 by the architect Adrian Zakharov. The Admiralty tower, topped with its golden spire, is the focal point of three of the city’s main streets: Nevsky Propect, Gorokhovaya Street and Voznesensky Prospekt. The gilded spire of the Admiralty is one of the city’s famous landmarks.

The Alexander Column on the Palace Square was designed by the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand and built between 1830 and 1834. The monument is 47.5 meters high and is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross. The column, made of a single monolith of red granite and weighing 600 tons, was erected within a short time without the aid of modern cranes and engineering machines.

The Bronze Horseman.


The Bronze Horseman, an impressive monument to the founder of the city Peter the Great, was built by order of the Empress Catherine the Great as a tribute to her famous predecessor on the Russian throne. The monument was created by the famous French sculptor Etienne Maurice Falconet. The pedestal is made of a single piece of red granite molded into the shape of a cliff. From the top of this cliff Peter gallantly leads Russia forward, while his horse steps on a snake, which represents the enemies of Peter and his reforms.

The Rostral Column.

The Stock Exchange and the Rostral Columns
In the early 19th century one of the most elegant architectural ensembles of Saint-Petersburg emerged on the eastern edge of the Vassilievsky island. The imposing white colonnaded building of the Stock Exchange became its focal point, and was flanked by two Rostral Columns. The Stock Exchange, designed by the French architect Thomas de Tomon and built between 1805 and 1810, was inspired by the best examples of Ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The two Rostral Columns, studded with ships’ bows, served as oil-fired navigation beacons in the 1800s (on some public holidays gas torches are still lit on them).

The cruiser Aurora.

The cruiser Aurora has been turned into a ship museum. The Aurora stands today as the oldest commissioned ship of the Russian Navy. Aurora took an active part in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 and participated in the in October Revolution of 1917 by firing a blank shot to launch the Bolsheviks attack of the Winter Palace where the Provisional Government was situated. The ship is carefully restored and presently used as a museum and training ship for cadets from the nearby Nakhimov Navy School. From 1956 to the present day 28 million people have visited the Aurora.

Nevsky Prospect is city’s main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia. Cutting through the historical center of the city, it runs from the Admiralty through the Moscow Railway Station to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Nevsky Prospect is lined with city’s most impressive buildings: The Kazan Cathedral, the picturesque Russian-style Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, Gostiny Gvor, the Anichkov Bridge. Nevsky Prospect is also the city’s central shopping street and the hub of the city’s entertainment and nightlife.

Mariinsky Opera & Ballet Theater

Mariinsky Opera & Ballet Theater.

St. Isaac’s Cathedrals.
During Tzar Times the theater enjoyed royal patronage and has played host to some of Russia’s most celebrated classical performers. During Soviet period the theater has maintained its excellent reputation, particularly for classical ballet.The theater rose to the dizzying heights of international success under the leadership of the conductor Yuri Temirkanov and the current Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Valery Gergiev.

The St. Isaac’s Cathedral is a true architectural marvel. Built by the Frenchborn architect Auguste Montferrand to be the main church of the Russian Empire, the cathedral was under construction for 40 years (1818-1858). It was decorated in the most elaborate way with various architectural details made of lapis lazuli, malachite and the best sorts of marble. The columns are made of single pieces of red granite. The Cathedral is 101.5 m high, it admits over 14 000 people.
Nowadays the Cathedral serves as a museum and church services are held only on significant ecclesiastical holidays. The dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg and its gilded cupola can be seen from all over the city.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, constructed between 1801 and 1811 by the Russian architect Andrei Voronikhin, was built to an enormous scale and boasts an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain. The Cathedral was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and was intended to be the country’s main Orthodox Church. After the war with Napoleon in 1812 the church became monument to Russian victory. The captured enemy banners were put in the cathedral and the famous Russian Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, who won the most important campaign of 1812, was buried inside the church.

The Cathedral of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood.

The Cathedral of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood is a marvelous Russian style church built in 1883 on the place where Emperor Alexander II was killed by a terrorist’s bomb. The construction of the church was almost entirely funded by the Imperial family and thousands of private donators. Both the interior and exterior of the church are decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists. The exterior of the Cathedral reminds the St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.

The Winter Palace.


Winter Palace & The Hermitage was the main residence of the Russian Emperors from the 1760s to February Revolution of 1917. Magnificently located on the bank of the Neva River, this Baroque-style palace is perhaps Saint-Petersburg’s most impressive attraction. Many visitors also know it as the main building of the Hermitage Museum, the largest art gallery in Russia and most respected art museum in the world. The museum was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of 255 paintings in Berlin. Today, the Hermitage boasts over 2.7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art from all over the world, including masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Impressionists, Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin, etc.

Peterhof (Petrodvorets) is one of Saint-Petersburg’s most famous and popular visitor attractions. Peter the Great desired to build an imperial palace in the suburbs of his new Russian capital. Peterhof — which means Peter’s Court in German — became the site for the Peter’s Monplaisir Palace, and then for the Grand Palace. The estate was equally popular with Peter’s granddaughter, Empress Elizabeth, who ordered the expansion of the Grand Palace and greatly extended the park and the famous system of fountains, including the truly spectacular Grand Cascade.


The most famous ensemble of fountains, the Grand Cascade, runs from the northern facade of the Grand Palace to the Marine Canal. It comprises 64 different fountains, and over 200 bronze statues, bas-reliefs, and other decorations. At the centre stands Rastrelli’s spectacular statue of Samson wrestling the jaws of a lion. The Grotto behind the Grand Cascade, which was once used for small parties, contains the enormous pipes, originally wooden, that feed the fountains.

The official opening of the fountains at Peterhof, which usually takes place at the end of May, is an all-day festival, with classical music, fireworks and other performances, as each section of the park’s fountains is turned on one by one.

A.S.Pushkin statue in The Tsarskoe Selo.

The Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin) is the second suburban estate of the Romanovs, after Peterhof. Tsarskoe Selo is famous for two grand palaces, surrounded by extensive landscaped gardens with diverse and fascinating decorative architecture referring to the French Versailles. Catherine’s Palace is Tsarskoe Selo’s top attraction, particularly renowned for the extraordinary Amber Room. Catherine Park is an important part of the ensemble of Tsarskoe Selo. The park is especially notable for the elegant pavilions of the 18th–19th centuries. The town of Pushkin, which surrounds the Tsarskoe Selo estates, is St. Petersburg’s most charming suburb. The town has numerous sights connected to Alexander Pushkin, including a museum in the former Imperial Lycee, where he was schooled.

Pavlovsk is the youngest of the grand Imperial estates around Saint-Petersburg. Pavlovsk is well known for the treasures in the elegant palace and for the charming, rambling park, which is one of the largest and finest English-style landscape gardens in Europe. The Pavlovsk Palace palace was founded in 1782. The palace was a royal residence till 1917; it was burnt down by German Nazi during the WW-2, but was fully restored by 1970s. Pavlovsk Park is one of the largest and finest English-style landscape gardens in Europe. In winter the park becomes one of the best places for sleighing, cross-country skiing and skating in the whole Saint-Petersburg area.

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