One of the most beautiful cities of the world, Saint Petersburg is three centuries old. The founder of the city, Peter the Great, studied in Holland and was the most westward governor in Russian history. His pet city and new capital of the country was supposed to become the second Amsterdam. It was influenced by Italian and French architecture and is also often compared to Stockholm. 93 canals with 342 bridges give ground for unsurprising comparisons to Venice, and clearly make Saint Petersburg the most European city in Russia.
The historical center of Saint Petersburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Along with sophisticated architecture Saint Petersburg boasts an unrivalled collection of other arts. From hours spent in the Hermitage Museum to magical evenings enjoying opera and ballet in the Mariinsky theater; from classical music concerts to contemporary art galleries, Saint Petersburg has no lack of cultural entertainments.
Romantics will definitely appreciate a midnight sun and picturesque drawbridges. And shall you seek an unusual and authentic experience you are welcome to hike Saint Petersburg rooftops or visit the famous Degtyarnye Bani.
When to go
If you are travelling in summer, consider visiting Saint Petersburg from around June 10 to July 2. You will witness the famous White Nights reach their peak when the sun barely sets. At night there are more people in the streets than during the day, and the city is ruled by an unforgettable vibe and a unique atmosphere.
From the end of May to September, before and after the White Nights, there are significantly fewer tourists. Summers are rather cool but pleasant. Temperatures drop to 10°C, so be sure to pack accordingly.
Due to the proximity to the sea, Saint Petersburg’s climate is relatively warm, though winter there is not the best season for some. Days are short and temperatures dip below freezing. Those who venture upon a winter trip to Saint Petersburg will experience the real Russian winter, see snow drift across the parklands and feel like they have stepped into the pages of a Russian novel.
You have probably heard of the Russian emperor Peter the Great who was the most Europe oriented governor in Russian history. His city Saint Petersburg was meant to become a symbolic “window to the West” for Russians.
In 1703 Peter the Great, excited by his victory over Sweden, got down from his horse in the moor on the shore of the Neva River and announced that there would be a city. That was the beginning of the most outstanding building project of the 18th century.
250 000 serfs, soldiers and prisoners of war were brought to work on the new construction sight. Tons of timber were floated down the Neva, and stone work was prohibited anywhere else in the country so that the new city of Saint Petersburg could get the entire nation’s supplies. A thousand of Russia’s most noble families were forced to build their houses and palaces in Saint Petersburg. A legend appeared of Peter conceiving his city in heaven and then taking it down to earth.
It took Saint Petersburg 50 years to become one of the most refined and sumptuous cities in Europe. With its numerous palaces, cathedrals and government buildings, the city became the new capital and marked a new era in Russian history.
And though the Russian capital was moved back to Moscow after the Revolution of 1917, Saint Petersburg remains the imperial city that it used to be, frozen in time.