St Petersburg, top things to see - Nordictravelrussia
Rhythm of ancient and modern Russia
Discover & enjoy Russia with us!
White nights & happy days
Discover & enjoy Russia with us!
Golden Ring
Feel authentic Russia
Discover & enjoy Russia with us!
Lake Baikal
From Siberia with love
Discover & enjoy Russia with us!
Exotic Russian coctail
Discover & enjoy Russia with us!
Down the Volga river
Cruise impressions
Discover & enjoy Russia with us!

St Petersburg, top things to see

St Petersburg, top things to see


The Palace Square

The Palace Square is the main square of St. Petersburg, an architectural ensemble that arose in the second half of the 18th – first half of the 19th centuries.

The area is formed by the Winter Palace, the Headquarters Building of the Guards, the General Staff Building with the Arc de Triumph, the Alexander Column. Its size is about 5.4 hectares. As part of the historical development of the center of St. Petersburg, the square is included in the World Heritage List and is a pedestrian zone.

The name Palace Square has been known since 1766. It is given according to the nearby Winter Palace, the southern facade of which overlooks the square. The prehistory of the square is connected with the laying of the Admiralty shipyard on November 5, 1704. According to the requirements of wartime, the Admiralty was surrounded by ramparts and a moat. In front of him stretched a vast open space – a glacis necessary for the actions of fortress artillery in the event of an enemy attack from land. Shortly after its founding, the Admiralty lost the function of a military fortress and, along with it, the fortification significance of the glacis gradually became a thing of the past. At first, its territory was used for warehousing and storage of building ship timber, large anchors, and other Admiralty supplies. Approximately from 1712 to 1717, on the part of the former glacis there was the Sea Market, and the territory was overgrown with grass and turned into the Admiralty Meadow.

In 1753, Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli proposed to architecturally organize the spreading huge territory and to create the central square of the capital. Simultaneously with the final version of the Winter Palace, Rastrelli designed the square opposite it.

The earliest and most celebrated building on the square, the Baroque white-and-turquoise Winter Palace of the Russian tsars. Although the adjacent buildings are designed in the Neoclassical style, they perfectly match the palace in their scale, rhythm, and monumentality. The opposite, southern side of the square was designed in the shape of an arc by George von Velten in the late 18th century. These plans came to fruition half a century later, when Alexander I envisaged the square as a vast monument to the 1812–1814 Russian victories over Napoleon and commissioned Carlo Rossi to design the bow-shaped Empire-style Building of the General Staff, which centers on a double triumphal arch crowned with a Roman quadriga.

In the center of the square, the Alexander Column stands designed by the French Architect Auguste de Montferrand, the same who was in charge of St Isaac’s Cathedral construction. This red granite column (the tallest of its kind in the world at that time) is 47.5 metres high and weighs some 500 tons. It is set so well that it requires no attachment to the base.

The eastern side of the square comprises Alexander Brullov’s building of the Guards Corps Headquarters. The western side, however, opens towards Admiralty Square, thus making the Palace Square a vital part of the grand suite of St Petersburg squares.


The Alexander Column

The Alexander Column stands in the centre of the main city square, the Palace Square. The monument was raised after the Russian victory in the war with Napoleon. The column is named after Alexander I during whose reign the victorious campaign against France was conducted in 1812-1814. The Alexander Column was designed by the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand, built from 1830 till 1834 by the Swiss-born architect Antonio Adamini, and unveiled in August 1834.

The monument was claimed to be the tallest of its kind in the world at 47.5 m tall and is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross. The statue of the angel was designed by the Russian sculptor Boris Orlovsky. The face of the angel bears great similarity to the face of Alexander I. The column is a single piece of red granite, 25.45 m (83 ft 6 in) long and about 3.5 m in diameter. The granite monolith was obtained from Virolahti, Finland and in 1832 transported by sea to Saint Petersburg, on a barge specially designed for this purpose, where it underwent further working. Without the aid of modern cranes and engineering machines, the column, weighing 661 tonnes on 30 August 1832 was put by 3000 men under the guidance of William Handyside in less than 2 hours. It is set so neatly that no attachment to the base is needed and it is fixed in position by its own weight alone.

The pedestal of the Alexander Column is decorated with symbols of military glory, sculpted by Giovanni Battista Scotti.On the side of the pedestal facing the Winter Palace is a bas-relief depicting winged figures holding up a plaque bearing the words “To Alexander I from a grateful Russia”. The composition includes figures representing the Neman and Vistula rivers that were associated with the events of the Patriotic War.

The other three sides are decorated with bas-reliefs featuring allegorical figures of Wisdom and Abundance, Justice and Mercy, Peace and Victory.


The Nevsky Prospect

Nevsky Prospekt is the main street of St. Petersburg. It takes its name from the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, the monastery which stands at the eastern end of the street, and which in turn commemorates the Russian Duke, who later was canonized, Saint Alexander Nevsky (1221–1263). 

The avenue runs from the Admiralty in the west to the Moscow Railway Station and, after veering slightly southwards at Vosstaniya Square, to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

On September 5, 1704, Admiralty of the Saint Petersburg was laid on the left bank of the Neva River. The area adjacent to the fortress began to be built up.  The area near the Admiralty became one of the most densely populated parts of the city. In the early 1710s, a monastery (the future Alexander Nevsky Lavra) appeared on the left bank of the Neva. 

Near the monastery there was a whole settlement with wooden houses for workers and servants, as well as a garden and a vegetable garden with numerous outbuildings: carpentry, blacksmith’s and cattle yards, a saw mill, a cellar, trade shops. It became necessary to connect the two city centers with the street called The Old Novgorod road. 

The first section of the road from Moika river to Fontanka river was laid from 1710 to 1715, then work continued on the section from Moika to the Admiralty. One way or another, Nevsky Prospect emerged in the second half of the 1710s. The glades from the Admiralty and from the Lavra together formed the future Nevsky Prospect.

The great prospect became the main road. Since 1723, the avenue was the first in Russia to receive street lighting: oil lanterns were installed, later benches for passers-by appeared under them.

The feverish life of the avenue was described by famous Russian writer Nikolai Gogol in his story The Nevsky Prospect. During the early Soviet years (1918-44) it was known as the Avenue of the Twenty-Fifth of October, alluding to the day of the October Revolution.

The Nevsky today functions as the main thoroughfare in Saint Petersburg. The majority of the city’s shopping and nightlife, as well as the most expensive apartments, are located on or right off of the Nevsky Prospekt.

The following landmarks of the city overlook the Nevsky prospect including the Stroganov Palace designed by Rastrelli, the huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, the main Book Store in Art Nouveau style (Dom Knigi), half a dozen 18th-century churches, a monument to Catherine the Great in front of the Alexander Drame Theatre, Gostiny Dvor, an enormous 18th-century shopping mall, Passage Department store,  luxurious shopping mall apppered here in the middle of the 19th-century, the Russian National Library, and the Anichkov Bridge with its  famous horse statues.

Take a walk or have a drive along Nevsky prospect and feel St Pete vibe!


The Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage is the most famous tourist destination in St. Petersburg, a museum that every person visiting St Petersburg can’t miss. The Hermitage is the most famous art museum in Russia and the third in the world after the British Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris in terms of the number of objects that make up its collections. 

There are few fine arts museums whose collections can compete in value, richness and diversity with the collections of the Hermitage. The museum has about three million paintings, sculptures, objects of applied art, coins and medals. It is estimated that if a person devote just one minute to examining each exhibit of the museum and spent 7 hours a day 6 days a week in the Hermitage, following this schedule, without stopping or eating, it would take him more than five years to see them all. The tour we offer is called a “sightseeing tour”, usually it lasts 2.5-3 hours, and since it is absolutely impossible to see everything, we focus on the most famous masterpieces and the most luxurious and beautiful halls.

The Hermitage is unique because in addition to the exhibited art collections you may feel how the Russian tsars were living here because the Winter Palace, now a part of the Hermitage museum was the main residence of the Russian emperors from 1762 till 1917. While enjoying art collections the visitors can admire magnificent palace interiors as well.

Currently, the main ensemble of the Hermitage consists of 5 buildings: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage and the Hermitage Theater. In addition to the masterpieces of European artists such as Leonardo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens anu El Greco, the halls where they are exhibited are very impressive.

The Hermitage was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, when the first collection of paintings was bought in Europe, which marked the beginning of the museum. The name comes from the French word “Hermitage”, which means “hermit’s house”. This was the name of the small palace, located next to the Winter Palace, the residence of the Russian tsars, where the first collection of paintings was exhibited, according to the French fashion. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Russian court continued to buy art collections, and the museum grew but for almost 100 years it functioned as a private museum for the Tsar family.

The most impressive of all the buildings of the Hermitage is undoubtedly the Winter Palace, built in the Baroque style for Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, by the famous Italian architect Francisco Bartholomew Rastrelli, which served as the residence of the Russian tsars. The luxurious state halls and private chambers of the Tsars, decorated with gold, malachite and lapis lazuli ornaments, will amaze you.

The architect himself said that his Winter Palace was built “… for the glory of Russia” and became a symbol of the power and significance of the Russian Empire, one of the most powerful countries of that time. For the most solemn official ceremonies, the St. George Hall or the Great Throne Room was intended, which features 48 monolithic columns of white Carrara marble, 18 thousand gilded bronze decorative elements on the ceiling and magnificent marquetry parquet floors. The hall of Shields is magnificent, for the decoration of which 13 kilograms of gold were used.

In this hall, the Emperor received representatives of the nobility of the regions of Russia, the hall’s square is about one thousand square meters. There you will see a double-headed eagle, which is the coat of arms of Russia, and the coats of arms of each of the provinces of the former Russian Empire. One of the halls of the greatest splendor is the Malachite Hall; columns, pilasters, fireplaces, floor lamps and bedside tables are decorated with malachite of the Ural Mountains. In total, the Hermitage has 450 halls, so for the first visit we recommend taking a guided tour, which will allow you to get acquainted with the most luxurious interiors of the Winter Palace and see the most important and famous works of the huge pinakothek, occupying the Small, Old and New Palaces of the Hermitage.

The second building of the architectural ensemble of the State Hermitage is called the Small Hermitage and was built for the private life of Catherine II. The Empress wanted to take a break from official life in a secluded place, cozy and filled with works of art. As for the interiors of the Small Hermitage, it is worth mentioning the Pavilion Hall, it is a wonderful hall decorated with galleries, gilded lattices, enameled mosaics, so-called “fountains of tears”, crystal chandeliers. A peacock clock, one of the gems of the museum’s collection, is also on display in the hall.

The palace called the Old Hermitage was built next to the Small One in the 1770s to establish Catherine II’s growing art collection, Now in this palace there are works by masters of the Italian Renaissance: Giorgione, Simone Martin, works by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Titian; The peaks of the Italian collection are two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci: the Benoit Madonna – corresponding to his early creative period and the number one work of the museum – the Litta Madonna, which, on the contrary, is a work of maturity depicting the ideal of physical and spiritual beauty in the image of the Madonna.

The building of the New Hermitage is the only palace of the ensemble that was built not under Catherine II, but by her grandson Nicholas I, and turned out to be the first museum that, albeit with many restrictions, opened its doors to the public 150 years ago. The works of Raphael Santi are on display here- the pride of the whole museum, and the “Raphael Bible” is kept there – this is the name of the copy of the gallery of the papal palace in the Vatican, built by architect Bramante and painted by Raphael and his students. Here you can also see the only work of Michelangelo, a Crouching boy, which was intended for the Medici Pantheon.

In the solemn and majestic halls, decorated with vessels, tables and decorative lamps made of malachite, agate and lapis lazuli, there are exhibitions of Italian painting and the entire collection of Spanish paintings, considered one of the best outside Spain and acquired by the Russian tsars in France (the collection of Josephine, Napoleon’s wife) and Spain (the collection of Manuel Godoy) after the Napoleonic Wars. There you can see the works of El Greco, Velasquez, Ribera, Surbaran, Murillo and Goya.

In addition to Spanish paintings, visitors will see paintings by masters from the Netherlands, where a rich collection of Rembrandt stands out. Rembrandt’s canvases occupy a large hall and give a clear idea of all his creative work: a youthful portrait of his wife Saskia, depicted by the goddess Flora, a tragic descent of the cross, a piercing portrait of an Elder in red… and finally, the pearl of the collection, the Return of the Prodigal son, the gospel scene in which the master was able to express his faith in goodness and human love.

The five halls of the New Hermitage appreciate the works of Rubens, from the earliest to the latest, the famous portraits of Van Dyck, hunting scenes by Paul de Vos and abundant still lifes by Frans Snyders.

In addition to the palaces of the main ensemble, since 2014 the Hermitage has at its disposal another building which is located on the other side of the Palace Square-a complex of the former Ministry of Defense of the Russian Empire, restored and organized to house the museum’s huge collections. This is called the Museum Complex of the former General Staff. Among the collections exhibited in its halls, the most famous French paintings of the XIX and XX centuries by famous Gallic artists of Impressionism and post-Impressionism (masterpieces by Renoir, Degas, Moneta, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, etc.), the collection is considered the greatest in the world outside France, has about 3,000 paintings.Visiting this part of the museum requires additional time and a special entrance.


The Spit of the Vasilevskiy Island

Spit (in Russian: Strelka or Arrow) of the Vasilievsky island is one of the oldest sights of Saint Petersburg. It was established in the times of Peter the Great as a business, educational and governmental center of the city. 

The architectural ensemble of the Spit is formed by several buildings, the Old St Petersburg Stock Exchange, two Rostral Columns, the embankment in front of the columns and the Kunstkamera Museum.  Each of them deserves special attention.

The Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns are significant examples of Greek Revival architecture. The French architect Thomas de Thomon was commisioned to built the Stock Exhange. He was inspired by the Greek Temple of Hera at Paestum and after 5 years of construction works in 1810 the first deals were done in the new building of Stock Exchange overlooking the Neva river. 

Following the Russian Revolution in 1917 the building ceased to function as a stock exchange. In 1939 it was assigned to house the growing collection of the Central Naval Museum, which traced its founding to Peter the Great’s creation of his “Model Chamber” in 1709. The Central Naval Museum was located here till 2014, now the former Stock Exchange building is used as an storage of the Hermitage heraldry collection.

Opposite the Stock Exchange building, Thomas de Thomon designed a semicircular overlook with circular ramps descending to a jetty projecting into the river. This formal approach, is framed by two rostral columns centered on the portico of the Stock Exchange. The Doric columns sit on a granite plinth and are constructed of brick coated with a deep terra cotta red stucco and decorated with bronze anchors and four pairs of bronze ship prows (rostra). Seated marble figures decorate the base of each column each representing the major rivers of Russia: the Volga and Dnieper at the northern Rostral Column, Neva and Volkhov at the southern one. The Rostral Columns were originally intended to serve as beacons and originally were topped by a light in the form of a Greek brazier and lit by oil. The braziers have been removed and the tops of the columns refitted with gas torches that continue to be lit on ceremonial occasions.

The granite embankment at the Spit is one of the most popular photo stops in the city. A panorama opens for you from this point is breathtaking, a mighty Neva River, a magnificent Hermitage Museum on the opposite side of the embankment and the Golden Spire of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Don’t miss to take a picture from this view!

Another building close to the Spit is the Kunstkamera (German: Kunstkammer – a room of rarities) or the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography named after Peter the Great, a building in the style of Peter the Great Baroque on University Embankment was built in 1718-1734 according to the project of architect G. I. Mattarnovi and was intended for a library and a collection of “monsters and rarities”, collected by Peter I. The building consists of two buildings of the same type, united by a central volume with a multi-tiered tower. The tower housed the first observatory. 


Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral

The Peter and Paul Fortress is famous for being the first building of St. Petersburg. It was founded on May 16, 1703 as the citadel of St. Petersburg, and this date is considered the birthday of the city. The lands where Peter the Great began to build the new capital of the Russian Empire were recently recaptured from the Swedes in the Northern War, and the fortress was supposed to protect the new city from possible attacks. The fortress was designed by Swiss architect Domenico Tresini. The building is located on a small island in the Neva Delta, has 6 bastions connected by brick walls 20 meters thick, and these characteristics made it very advanced for that time. Currently, this fortification of the first half of the XVIII century is considered the best preserved in Europe. The lands where Peter the Great began to build the new capital of the Russian Empire were recently recaptured from the Swedes in the Northern War, and the fortress was supposed to protect the new city from possible attacks. But it never participated in any battles and soon became a prison for political prisoners.

For almost 300 years, Peter and Paul Cathedral standing in the center of the fortress was the highest building in the city with a 122-meter-high golden spire topped with an angel-shaped weathervane. It was the first cathedral of the new capital of Russia, and its interiors amazed people with the luxury of decoration, gilded wood carvings of the altar and crystal lamps, all this was very different from ancient Russian churches. 

In addition, the cathedral became the pantheon of all Russian tsars from Peter the Great to the last tsar Nicholas II, who was shot with his whole family by the Bolsheviks in July 1918. In 1998, his remains were moved from the place of execution and burial in the vicinity of Yekaterinburg and buried in the cathedral chapel.


The Palace embankment

The Palace Embankment is rightfully considered one of the main tourist “magnets” of St. Petersburg. 

The Palace Embankment is located on the left bank of the Neva River, where its closest neighbors are Kutuzov and Admiralteiskaya Streets, and directly opposite stands the spire of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. From here, not only the recognizable outlines of the ancient fortress on Zayachye island are perfectly visible, but also the picturesque Spit of the Vasilievsky Island. However, it is worth looking not only at the water, it is here you can see so  many iconic sights of the city, the Winter Palace with its garden, the Hermitage complex, the Marble and Novo-Mikhailovsky Palaces, the Summer Garden, the oldest stone bridges, mansions of the XVIII-XIX centuries.


Saint Isaac’s Cathedral 

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in St. Petersburg and the fourth largest cathedral in the world. The history of the architectural and engineering marvel goes back to 1710 when Peter the Great established a wooden church of St. Isaac, his patron saint, on whose day he was born. 

The cathedral that you will see now is the fourth structure redesigned and build by a French architect August Monferran on the base of the third church planned by Antonio Rinaldi. The construction of the cathedral lasted 40 years, from 1818 to 1848, and may be rightfully called one of the most ambitious projects of the Russian Empire from the point of view of its architectural scale, engineering challenge and tremendous construction costs. 

Here’s a brief history of the cathedral. It was the principal orthodox church of the Russian empire till 1917. Further in 1931 it became one of the first atheism museums in the Soviet Union. During the World War II the cathedral suffered from bombing, shelling, cold and damp; traces of shells are preserved on the walls and the columns. During the Siege of Leningrad, the cathedral housed exhibits of numerous museums from the suburbs of Leningrad. Since 1948, it has been functioning as the St. Isaac’s Cathedral Museum. In 1990, church services were resumed, and since 2017 they have been taking place daily. 

The cathedral is the highest building of the architectural complex, which includes four squares of the city (Admiralty, Palace, St. Isaac’s and Senate) and facing the Neva in the north. It rises framed by the Admiralty facade with a boulevard and the Senate and Synod buildings with an arch. St. Isaac’s serves as a background to the monument to Peter I called Mednyj Vsadnik, the Bronze Horseman.  The inner square of the cathedral is 4000 square meter (13123 ft) and can fit 10000 people at same time.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the world-known masterpiece of architecture, monumental painting, mosaic and sculpture. The cathedral will impress you with its decorations both outside and inside.  You will also enjoy a breathtaking view of the city from the upper colonnade.

Outside the building is decorated with 112 monolith granite columns of various sizes and around 350 statues. The walls are lined with light gray Ruskeal marble. The cathedral’s main dome rises up to 101.5 metres (333 ft) and is plated with pure gold. 

From the inside, the decoration of the cathedral can be compared to a large multicolored shimmering jewelry box, where precious stones collected by talented artist shine. The walls and floor of the cathedral are covered with marble of different colors: grey, yellow, white, red, pink, green; green and deep blue color of the columns made of malachite and lapis lazuli enhance the radiance of gilded iconostasis which is adorned with mosaic icons and a stained glass image of the Savior as if lit from within. The area of the ceiling of the main dome is adorned with monumental pictorial canvases and frescos, depicting Madonna, figures of saints and scenes from the Old and the New Testament, created by well-known painters of that period. Among them there were Fyodor Bruni, Karl Bryullov, bringing all their talent to create more than 800 square meters of painting and around 500 square meters of mosaic. 

After enjoying all the beauty, power and lavish decoration of the interior you may admire the panoramas of Saints Petersburg from the bird’s-eye view. At a height of 43 meters above the ground around the drum of the dome there is a colonnade consisting of 24 columns and an observation deck with a walkway accessible to tourists. Two spiral staircases of 200 steps lead to the colonnade and a breathtaking panorama of the city opens from there. 

You may see and take pictures of St. Isaac’s square with a view of Mariinskij palace and a monument to Nicolas the First, the Senate square with a monument to Peter the Great (“the Bronze Horseman”), the Neva river, the Winter Palace and the Palace Bridge, the Kunstkamera, –  the first Russian museum. The colors of St. Petersburg’s roofs will be not so shiny and sparkling as the colors of the cathedral interior decoration but will reflect the real pallete of the city. We hope that the emotions you will have after visiting St. Isaac’s cathedral will be really overwhelming!


The Bronze Horseman and the Senate Square

The Bronze Horseman is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great at the Senate Square (formerly the Decembrists Square) in Saint Petersburg. It was opened to the public in 1782. 

The monument’s building was initiated by Catherine II in 1766, 4 years after she was crowned as an Empress of the Russian Empire. Catherine or Ekaterina Alekseevna as she was named before she became an Empress was the German born princess. She married future Peter III, a grandson of Peter the Great in 1745. 

Her accession to the throne in 1762 is connected with a coup d’etat, as a result the legitimate emperor Peter III, her husband, lost power and was killed shortly after the coup. The circumstances of Peter III’s death have not yet been definitively clarified. The son of Catherine and Peter III, 8 year-old Paul was the legal heir of the throne but his ambitious mother was not willing to become the regent only. Being supported by the army Catherine declared herself an Empress and she burst into the Russian history under the name of Catherine II or Catherine the Great. 

Being very smart and far-sighted, Catherine could not help but understand that she is not the rightful heir to the throne and she was anxious to connect herself to Peter the Great to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Trying to solve this question an interesting plan has matured in Ekaterina’s head and she decided to build a monument to Peter I, thereby psychologically showing that she is his rightful heir. 

No wonder that 16 years after the monument was laid out she ordered to write on its piedestal  the phrases «Petro Primo Catharina Secunda MDCCLXXXII» in Latin  meaning “Catherine the Second to Peter the First, 1782”.

Catherine the Great was in correspondence with a french philosopher Denis Diderot who suggested a French sculptor Étienne Maurice Falconet, a friend of his, for the commission. An interesting fact, the tsar’s face was done by the young Marie-Anne Collot, she was only 18 years old then. She had accompanied Falconet as an apprentice on his trip to Russia. 

In 1775 the casting of the statue began, supervised by caster Emelyan Khailov. It took 12 years, from 1770 to 1782, to create the Bronze Horseman, including pedestal, horse and rider. On 7 August 1782 the finished statue was unveiled in a ceremony with thousands in attendance.

The statue portrays Peter the Great sitting heroically on his horse, his outstretched arm pointing towards the River Neva. The sculptor wished to capture the exact moment of his horse rearing at the edge of a dramatic cliff. His horse can be seen trampling a serpent, variously interpreted to represent treachery, evil, or the enemies of Peter and his reforms. The statue itself is about 6 m tall, while the pedestal is another 7 m tall, for a total of approximately 13 m.

For the pedestal, an enormous granite monolith boulder known as the Thunder Stone was found at Lakhta, 6 km inland from the Gulf of Finland in 1768. The Thunder Stone gained its name from a local legend that thunder split a piece off the stone. Falconet wanted to work on shaping the stone in its original location, but Catherine ordered it be moved before being cut.

It took 400 men nine months to move the stone of 1500 tonnes weight, during which time master stonecutters continuously shaped the enormous granite monolith. During the transportation to the destination the monolith was carved down to its current size and weight of 1,250 tons. Catherine periodically visited the effort to oversee their progress.

A 19th-century legend states that while the Bronze Horseman stands in the middle of Saint Petersburg, enemy forces will not be able to conquer the city. During the 900-day siege of Leningrad by the invading Germans during the Second World War (Leningrad being the city’s name from 1924 to 1991), the statue was covered with sandbags and a wooden shelter. Thus protected it survived 900 days of bombing and artillery virtually untouched. True to the legend, Leningrad was never taken.


Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood is both an Orthodox church and a memorial monument, reminiscent of one of the tragic pages in the history of Russia, the fatal wounding of the Tsar Alexander II in March 1881 done by terrorists. The regicide shocked the whole country and soon it was decided to build a church on that site.  The temple’s construction was started in 1883 and by 1907 it was completed. Despite the fact that the Savior on the Spilled Blood was built as a memorial temple in honor of the murdered tsar, its appearance is rather festive and bright and its architectural style can be called pseudo-Russian. To some extent, the temple resembles St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. The church is decorated with numerous figured platbands, kokoshniks, tiles, multi-colored tiles. The mosaic plays a special role inside the temple, occupying an area of 7065 square meters and this exhibition is one of the largest in Europe. It is not surprising that the Savior on the Spilled Blood is called the “mosaic museum”. Mosaic panels on evangelical subjects almost completely cover the walls, pylons, ceilings. The famous view of the temple opens from the Griboyedov Canal.


Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral, one of the largest churches in St. Petersburg, was built 1801-1811 by Russian architect Andrey Voronikhin and named after the icon of our Lady of Kazan displayed inside. It was the biggest church in the capital city till 1858 when St Isaac’s cathedral was finished.  After the victory over Napoleon in Patriotic War in 1812, Kazan Cathedral acquired the significance of a monument to Russian military glory and the trophies were brought here: French military banners and the keys of 8 fortresses and 17 cities liberated by the Russians from French troops in Europe. The cathedral impresses with its mighty beauty, the semicircular colonnade consists of 96 columns made of travertine placed in four rows is facing Nevsky prospect. In front of the cathedral Voronikhin decided to place two statues, one belongs to General Mikhail Kutuzov, the head of Russian army during campaign against Napoleon and the other to General Mikhail Barclay de Tolly. Mikhail Kutuzov died soon after the victory in 1813 leading the Russian army to Paris and Alexander I commemorating his great military achievement ordered to bury him inside of the cathedral. 



Peterhof is the first suburban Tsar residence built in the European style ever built in Russia. Today, it is one of the world’s most famous palaces and architectural and park ensembles with a unique fountain system. Peter the Great founded it in 1710 after the victory over the Swedes at Poltava anticipating getting an access to the Baltic Sea as a result of the Russian victory in the Northern war. Later Peterhof was loved and cherished by many Russian Emperors and Empresses. 

Nowadays Peterhof is the most popular museum in Russia due to a mix of diverse architectural styles represented by the Grand Palace, the smaller palaces like Monplaisir and Marli and all the entertainment and excitement that more than 150 fountains together with a magnificent Grand Cascade bring. The beauty of nature, the Upper and the Lower Parks, as well as the palace’s façade, which overlooks the Gulf of Finland reminding us of its founder’s strive for freedom, openness and drive, frames this manmade splendor and progress.


Tsarskoe selo (Pushkin)

The year 1710 was overall rather eventful for St. Petersburg and Russia, the trumpets had just sounded the Russian victory over the Swedes at Poltava To celebrate it Peter the Great laid the construction of / the Grand Palace of Peterhof as well as another summer residence, the future Tsarskoye Selo, a former Swedish Saarskaya Myza. After the Swedes had been forced to leave, Peter gave these lands together with a tiny estate to his wife, Ekaterina Alekseevna, the future Empress Catherine I. She ordered to build a two-storey stone palace, modest as they might say in those days, “of 16 small rooms” surrounded by a garden and two ponds. It was named after the Empress, Catherine’s palace.

The daughter of Peter and Catherine, the “merry Empress” Elizabeth, was not happy with 16 rooms only so from 1743 to 1756 the palace was rebuilt and expanded by a famous Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Finally it was turned into an impressive building 325 meters long in the Russian Baroque style, and Elizabeth spared no expense to acquire more than 100 kg of pure gold for the gilding of its sophisticated exterior decoration. By 1756 the palace interior decoration had also been finished and all its rooms were in Elizabeth’s possession among them the Big throne Hall, the Arabesque and the Chinese rooms, the Green and the Silver dining rooms and many other nicely decorated chambers.

Empress Elizabeth wanted to enjoy not only the lovely interiors of her actually not so modest palace but the outside landscape as well. Thus, an amazing Regular park was laid out in front of the place facade. Later on, the Landscape park was started, and numerous other pavilions were built, such as the Hermitage, the Agate Rooms, the Grotto and even two bath houses.

The famous Amber Room, a gift from Frederick I to Peter I, composed of amber panels with various ornaments, was placed in the Catherine Palace and was immediately considered the pearl of this summer residence.  Unfortunately, the interior of the Amber Room vanished without leaving a trace during the World War II and the Nazi invasion and was reconstructed and opened to the public only in 2003. 

It is impossible to tell the full story of Tsarskoe selo in brief but be sure that our guide will be able to share a lot of exciting stories about this fascinating place. As for the Catherine Palace and the times of the merry Empress Elizabeth, today we can only imagine how much they must have enjoyed dancing here on white nights so recently, only some 280 years ago!



Pavlovsk, a small town located 30 km away from St. Petersburg and just 5 km away from Tsarskoe selo (Pushkin) is well worth visiting both for the treasures of the palace, built in the neo-classical style, which looks more like an elegant Italian villa and a wonderful park, which is one of the largest in Europe. The History of Pavlovsk goes back to 1777 when Catherine II presented more than Х hectares to her son Pavel after the birth of her first-born grandson, the future Alexander I. 

The Tsar’s estate in Pavlovsk stands apart from the other royal residences both in terms of architectural style and interior decoration. Here you will not see such a pompous glow of gold as in Tsarskoye selo or Peterhof, but you can feel how a family lived here, albeit the most influencial and visible one in Russia. Here Paul I and his wife Maria Fedorovna had been able to create a very cozy space for themselves and their 10 children, filled with beauty, art, tranquility, surrounded by a garden and a huge park, which looks more like a forest. 

The basis of the palace’s collection consists of the items acquired by the couple during their trip to Europe under the name of Count and Countess Severnye (The Northern) in 1781-1782. Visiting the workshops of famous artists, they bought and ordered paintings, sculptures, furniture, bronze products, silk fabrics, porcelain sets and all this carefully and nicely presented in more than 40 rooms of the palace including, the Egyptian Vestibule, the Greek Hall, the Italian hall, the Throne Room, the Picture Gallery. The ceremonial halls off the Palace are neighboring with more cozy private rooms of the couple and their children.

Maria Fyodorovna lived in Pavlovsk until her death in 1828, continuing to decorate the palace and cultivate the garden, carefully preserving the love and memory of her husband who, alas, was not destined to be just a man, but the emperor of a Northern country, may be too large and cold for him to manage.


The Russian Museum

The State Russian Museum formerly the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III in St Petersburg, is the world’s largest depository of Russian fine art. It is also one of the largest art museums in the world with total area over 30 hectares.

The museum was established on April 13, 1895, upon enthronement of the emperor Nicholas II to commemorate his father, Alexander III. Its original collection was composed of artworks taken from the Hermitage Museum, Alexander Palace, and the Imperial Academy of Arts. The task to restructure the interiors according to the need of future exposition was imposed on Vasily Svinyin. The grand opening took place on the 17 of March, 1898.

The main building of the museum is the Mikhailovsky Palace, the Neoclassical former residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, built in 1819–25 by Italian architect Carlo Rossi on the Square of Arts. Upon the death of the Grand Duke the residence was named after his wife as the Palace of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, and became famous for its many theatre performances and balls. Some of the halls of the palace retain the Italianate opulent interiors of the former imperial residence.

Today the collection shows Russian art from the 10th century up to the 21st century, covering all genres from the old Russian icon painting to contemporary art: more than 390 000 items of art, among them 5000 icons. The museum also has a large collection of books, more than 170 000 items. 

The Russian Museum has several sections, including Russian and Soviet fine art, sculptures and graphics, folk arts and some others.

The most famous art objects that you can see in the Russian Museum are: The Last Day of Pompeii by Karl Brullov, The Ninth Wave by Ivan Aivazovsky, Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan by Ilya Repin, Black Circle and Red Square by Kazimir Malevich.

Among the variety of art works, there can be found the real chef-d’oeuvres of such well-known Russian artists, as Ivan Aivazovsky, Carl Bryullov, Nikolai Ge, Isaak Levitan, Mikhail Vrubel, Valentin Serov, Viktor Vasnetsov, Vasily Surikov, and many others.


Yusupoff Palace on Moika River

A building in the classical style facing the Moika river embankment is known as “the Yusupoff Palace”. It is a family estate of the princes Yusupoff, one of the most well-known and the richest aristocratic families in Russia at the time of the Russian Empire Just imagine that this is only one of more than 50 palaces in Russia that belonged to the family.

The tour we would like to recommend will show you not only a palace but a real home place with real interiors where 5 generations of the Yusopoffs lived from 1830 till 1919. The interiors of the palace strike you with their decorations, style and luxury; we will visit the gala rooms and the private halls of the Palace. Among them there is an oak dining room, a tapestry room, a ball room and the famous Moor (Arabesque) Room inspired by the rooms of the Alhambra palace in Spain.

But the most extraordinary thing you could ever imagine having at home even for the wealthiest nobility is a mini theatre in the Baroque style which was created for its last owner Zinaida Yusupoff where she could perform her soprano in front of the guests including the Tzar’s family. 

In 1914 a son of Zinaida, Felix Yusupoff became a relative of the Tzar getting married to Irina, a niece of Nikolas II. Two years later in 1916 Felix appeared in the newspapers’ headlines as an organizer of the murder of Grigoriy Rasputin, and part of the palace is linked to this story. 

Naturally, it is a dark and a tragic page of the palace life. However, let us not forget that in 1994 Queen Elizabeth II came to Russia and the only palace which had not belonged to the Tzar’s family and which she visited was that of the Yusupovffs. So don’t miss this opportunity, too!


Faberge Museum

Did the jeweler Gustav Faberge know, leaving a calm town of Pärnu for the capital city of St Petersburg towards his dream to establish a successful jewelry company, that 40 years later his son Karl, who would overtake the family business, would be granted the title of a Supplier to the Imperial Court, would open company branches in several cities, including Moscow and London, and would produce more than 300,000 pieces of jewelry from 1882 to 1918? Could he ever imagine such a great success?

The revolution of 1917 interrupted the history of the Faberge house in the most cruel way: after the establishment of the Soviet government, the Faberge factories and shops in Petrograd, Moscow and Kiev were nationalized. In Petrograd, the new name given to St Petersburg by the Bolsheviks in order to replace the old one, which reminded them of the Russian Empire, almost all of precious metal stocks, stones and ready-made jewelry items fell into the hands of the Bolsheviks, and no reward was paid to the owners. Masterpieces of high jewelry art of exquisite beauty, made by the highly skilled Russian craftsmen with great love for their handicraft, were subsequently sold off by the Soviet government for next to nothing, and only these days this great historical and artistic heritage has been gradually turning back to its homeland.

The Faberge Museum in Saint Petersburg was opened in 2013 in the Shuvaloff Palace when a Russian entrepreneur and philanthropist Viktor Vikselberg bought the Faberge collection from the heirs of Michael Forbes. The most famous 9 Easter eggs, commissioned to Carl Faberge by Alexander III and Nicholas II as the gifts for the most significant dates in Russian history, exhibited in the museum, are of an unprecedented value.

Nowadays the museum collection holds the objects of all types of the Faberge masterpieces, known for their versatility: the so-called fantasy objects of, jewelry and accessories, silverware, precious haberdashery and decorative interior items, all of which were performed at the highest level of craftsmanship. Many of them were unique and brought global fame to the Faberge house and, through it, to Russian jewelry art. Faberge’s clients were nearly all the crowned heads of Europe, their relatives, prominent politicians and entrepreneurs, as well as famous artists. 

Choosing this tour you may be sure that the thriftbox of your memories from your stay in St. Petersburg will be also replenished with impressions from the interiors of one more palace, the Shuvaloff palace. The Faberge Museum is also famous for organizing and hosting temporary art exhibitions. Since 2016 large-scale exhibitions of paintings by Amadeo Modigliani, Khaim Soutine, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Salvador Dali have been hold in the palace.

After more than a hundred years of winter outside the native land spring finally came to the Faberge House. The beauty has been restored to its original habitat to the utmost joy of true art-lovers. 

Faberge’s precious Easter has come true again.

Other tours & itineraries
View all tours →

Highlights of Moscow

Moscow, being the capital of Russia is one of the main world’s touristic destinations

of the Tsars,
St Petersburg

St Petersburg has been the capital city of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years.

Moscow &
St Petersburg, Two Russian Capitals

We invite you to feel what is Russia with this comprehensive tour of excellent quality.

Back to the USSR

I'm Back in the USSR... You don't know how lucky you are, boy

True Russia

The spirit of two Russian capitals and soul of small towns!

Soul of Russia, Moscow and the Golden Ring

Enjoy the contrast of Russia’s soul, feel the capital’s vibe and harmony of authentic «open-air museums» small towns!

Novgorod the Great,
St Petersburg

We recommend this tour especially for the lovers of history

Lake Baikal & Siberia tours

Find a miracle of Russia called by locals the Siberian Sea, the world's largest Lake Baikal.

Trans-Siberian rail tours

Russia through your train window

Down the Volga river

Experience one of our very popular programs in Moscow and towns down the Volga river