It is considered that there are more than 200 museums in St Petersburg and of course hardly anyone has visited all of them. As a first-time visitor who has just a few days in the city, you need to know what the most important attractions of St Petersburg are. You can find our list of the top 10 below.
1. The Hermitage museum.
A #1 attraction in St Petersburg with more than 3 million items. The main complex of the Hermitage consists of 5 buildings that are connected together, the largest of them is the Winter palace – the former main residence of Russian tsars. Although the Hermitage is always described as an art museum (and you can find unbelievable masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Rembrandt and many other artists there) it’s more than that – all the interiors of the Hermitage are absolutely beautiful, so even if you are not a real art fan, you will find something that you will like there for sure. By the way, if you like impressionists and post-impressionists, the collection is now exhibited in the General Staff building – a separate structure of the museum complex that is situated right in front of the Winter palace on the Palace square.
2. St Isaac’s cathedral
Don’t be fooled by its strict appearence – it’s absolutely amazing inside, so it’s not a surprise that it took 40 years to build it. Mainly used as a museum now, it’s the largest cathedral in St Petersburg and the main masterpiece of a French architect Auguste Montferrand. Paintings, mosaics, semi-precious stones that decorate the interiors of the cathedral will leave you wondering how it was possible to create something like that in the middle of the XIX century. The scale, the might and the atmosphere of the building are just amazing. And yes, they used about 100 kilos of gold to guild the dome only, so the cathedral is really precious.
3. The Savior on the Spilled blood church
The favourite attraction of many tourists who come to St Petersburg, the Savior on the Spilled blood is mainly famous for its exotic look. The cathedral was built on the spot where Russian emperor Alexander II was mortally wounded by terrorists in 1881. Almost immediately after that the royal family took a decision to make a memorial church in his honour, and since the next emperor Alexander III was fond of ancient Russian style, the Savior on the Spilled blood was made to imitate it. Nevertheless, the cathedral is relatively new – it was finished in 1907. Nowadays the cathedral is mainly famous for its mosaics – all the walls and the celeing are covered with more than 7000 square meters of mosaic! In short, inside the church is even more special than it is outside!
My absolute #1. Peterhof is a former summer residense of Russian tsars famous for the Grand palace and the magnificent fountain park (so called Lower garden) with several dozens of fountains. The residense is situated in a suburb about 30 km from St Petersburg. It was founded by Peter I in 1720-s, the emperor wanted to have a summer residense with fountains just like Versailles, but in fact Peterhof became even more impressive because the fountains here are gravity-based and they are functioning all day long from May till mid-October. The Grand palace is impressive, but I don’t recommend to visit it unless you are coming in winter – it’s way too busy to be enjoyable during the high season. There are many amazing palaces in St Petersburg, but there is only one fountain park in Peterhof. You will never ever see anything like that anywhere in the world. I mean it.
5. The Catherine palace
Situated in a suburb of St Petersburg called Tsarskoe Selo, the Catherine palace is an extremely popular attraction famos for the extraordinary interiors and the Amber room. It also used to be a summer residense of Russian tsars. Since the palace was extremely badly damaged during the WWII (it was behind the front line), restauration works are still in progress there and not the whole palace is open to the public. It looks huge, but it can hold only a limited number of visitors at a time, so is you plan to go there, book a tour or the tickets as long in advance as possible. In summer we are happy if we get them a month in advance, otherwise you can spend several hours in a line to the ticket office. And even if you have a ticket or have booked a tour, be prepared to see a line of people who also have tickets, but it’s nothing compared to the main line to the ticket office. The Amber room is one of the rooms in the palace, so it’s always included and you don’t need any special ticket to see it.
6. the Peter and Paul fortress
The Peter and Paul fortress is simply a place where the city started, even now we celebrate the foundation of the fortress on May 27 1703 as a birthday of St Petersburg. The main attraction there is the Peter and Paul cathedral as it’s the burial place of almost all Russian tsars from Peter the Great to Nicholas II. If you are interested, you can also visit the former main political prison of Russia – Trubetskoy bastion prison – that was converted into a museum. And you can take very beautiful photos of St Petersburg from the fortress as it’s built on a small island .
The Nevsky prospect is the main street of St Petersburg (prospect means avenue in Russian). It’s a place where you can find lots of shops and restaurants, but the main reason to take a walk will be the atmosphere and beautiful architecture around you. The most interesting span is between the Palace square and the Eliseev food hall.
8. St Petersburg subway
It sounds a little bit strange, but subway is one of the attractions in St Petersburg. The first metro line was opened in 1955 and all the first metro stations were dedicated to some historical events or the famous personalities and were meant to glorify the achievements of Soviet people. Some of the metro stations are so beautiful that they are nicknamed “underground palaces” of St Petersburg. If you decide to explore the metro on your own, choose a span of the red line between Ploshad Vosstaniya metro station and Avtovo. Also the subway in our city is one of the deepest in the world – the average depth of a metro station is about 60 meters.
9. Faberge museum
It’s one of the newest museums in St Petersburg that was opened in 2013 only. The museum has the largest collection of Faberge eggs in Russia – 9 of those exhibited used to belong to Russian tsars. Besides Faberge eggs, the museum has a very valuable collection of juwelry that was created by Faberge company and some other companies that were working at the same time. The collection of Faberge museum can rival the collections of the Hermitage treasuries (that are very difficult to visit in contrast to Faberge museum) and I highly recomment it.
10. Eliseev food hall
When we walk along the Nevsky prospect, we always top at Eliseev food hall to look at the magnificent interiors and to enjoy the atmosphere of the beginning of the XX century. The shop is situated on the Nevsky prospect, 56. Inside you can find gourmet food from around the globe (and something Russian as well) and a nice cafe right in the center of the hall. Although it’s not a place where locals buy food in everyday life, come iside to have a look at the beautiful interiors and have a cup of coffee enjoying the magical atmosphere.