St. Petersburg, Russia

About St. Petersburg

At the easternmost point of the Gulf of Finland lies St. Petersburg, Russia. Tsar Peter the Great established the city in the early 18th century after he recaptured this strategic expanse of land from Sweden in the Great Northern War.

Before envisioning his great metropolis, Peter had tried to transform Moscow into a more modern city, but the old guard of the Russian nobility discounted his radical ideas. Several attempts were made on his life as a result of his ambitions. So the Tsar moved his project northward, giving him the added benefit of quick access to the seas. He fashioned his grand capital after the greatest cities of Europe he had encountered on his travels and conscripted more than 40,000 peasants per year to build it. In addition, specialists of all types were brought in from throughout the European continent.

Today, St. Petersburg remains Russia’s most Western city and its cultural center. Home to more than a million people, it is often referred to as the “Venice of the North” for its many picturesque canals.

St. Petersburg Lifestyle and Culture

St. Petersburg has a rich tradition of classical music and ballet. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich called the city home and world-renowned dancers from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Rudolf Nureyev have performed here. The St. Petersburg Philharmonic is still known as one of the world’s finest orchestras. St. Petersburg also has a bustling film industry, with many studios making high quality movies that are showcased at several international film festivals here each year.

The people of St. Petersburg also cheer on several sporting organizations, including two professional football teams, several popular hockey teams, and a championship basketball team.

St. Petersburg Sights and Entertainment

Viking Cruises offers several itineraries that feature overnight stays in St. Petersburg. From its ornate, onion-domed cathedrals to its green spaces, the city is an enriching center of Russian culture.

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a masterpiece of classic Russian architecture, topped with onion-domes and adorned with stunningly ornate mosaics. A centerpiece of St. Petersburg, it is a highly decorative memorial to the assassinated Tsar Alexander II.

The glories of the Hermitage Museum are endless. Its vast collection of more than 3 million pieces—the legacy of art lover Catherine the Great—is spread over six buildings throughout St. Petersburg. Among its holdings are Peter the Great’s collection of Siberian gold, a diverse collection of works by the masters of Dutch, Italian, French and Spanish painting, and countless other priceless treasures.

The imposing Peter and Paul Fortress stands as St. Petersburg’s most historic site. This was the city’s original citadel and its first defense against the Swedish army that might have come calling to reclaim its land. The fortress was designed by architect Domenico Trezzini’s exacting standards, and completed in 1740.

St. Petersburg Shopping

Nevsky Prospekt is St. Petersburg’s wide, shop-lined boulevard where locals gather to browse the latest fashions and gossip at cozy cafés. It’s also one of the city’s most historic streets, framed with stunning architecture from centuries past. Here, you’ll find the city’s largest department stores, local boutiques, and a wide array of small tourist shops.

Though St. Petersburg is Russia’s cultural center, many of its residents have conservative dressing habits. You might not find international designers here, but the city has its own fashion scene whose top designers include Tatyana Parfinova, Sultanna Frantsuzova, and Leonid Alexeev.

Throughout the city, you’ll find shops with local souvenirs such as gzhel pottery, zhostovo metal trays, finely carved wooded goods, and Russian-made silverware and porcelain.

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