St. Petersburg’s charm is completely different from that of Moscow, and no wonder: there is a 600-year gap between their founding years. Moscow keeps the history of Russia’s medieval times and traditional lifestyle, while St. Petersburg from the very beginning has been the embodiment of Russia’s westernized culture and ideas. Its founder, Peter I the Great, was determined that 18th century Russia needed to borrow new ideas and material culture from the West, and was a big fan of maritime empires, such as Netherlands, so much that he used Amsterdam as architectural model for his new capital.
Looking at St. Petersburg today, it is hard to believe that the city rose from impassable northern marshes, but its ever-changing unpredictable weather gives you the chance to see all major landmarks in different light throughout your stay: from gloomy wet autumn days to summer weeks of white nights when the sun does not set at all.
1. The State Hermitage Museum
St. Petersburg’s main unmissable attraction is this magnificent museum, founded in the middle of 18th century by empress Catherine II. It houses around 3 million pieces of art depicting the development of human civilization from ancient times to our days, uniting cultures of Europe and Asia under the roof of Hermitage complex of baroque buildings. Read more at http://www.hermitagemuseum.org
2. Kunstkamera museum
Across the bridge from Hermitage, you will find the Kunstkamera museum, founded by Peter the Great as a science academy to study the world’s most bizarre and curious phenomenons. It was then most famous for the collection of odd natural deformities and mutations, but as Kunstkamera grew, it gathered a large variety of minerals, anthropological and ethnographical findings from across the world. http://www.kunstkamera.ru
3. Peter and Paul Fortress
The heart of St. Petersburg lies in this military bastion, Peter and Paul Fortress, that once also served as prison for most dangerous criminals of the state. Here you will find the tomb of Romanov dynasty (from Peter I to Nikolai II), Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul, and Museum of History of St. Petersburg. Do not miss your chance to navigate the narrow corridors within fortress walls and poke your head into different chambers and corners. http://www.spbmuseum.ru
4. St. Isaac’s Cathedral
Peter I, who was born on 30th of May, considered St Isaac his very own patron saint, and the cathedral was built in his honor. Its exterior is impressive enough, but anyone will be amazed at the luxurious interior decorations. Religious services are still held here, and the schedule can be found on the front door. http://eng.cathedral.ru
5. Kazan Cathedral
Kazanskiy Cathedral on Nevskiy Avenue, St. Petersburg’s major street, is hard to miss when you navigate through the city center. It still functions as Orthodox religious center and can be visited for free, including the evening service.