Saint Petersburg


Winter Palace

Winter Palace, the former residence of Russian emperors, is naturally the most iconic landmark of Saint Petersburg. The palace is more than just a palace for tsars – it is also a museum. Catherine the Great renovated and expanded the palace into a great royal complex of six buildings. Apart from expanding the Russian empire, Catherine the Great was keen on collecting treasures. Famous paintings and art pieces were purchased from merchants from around the world and stored in the State Hermitage Museum of the Winter Palace. Eventually, rich collections were built up over the years. Now, the State Hermitage Museum is regarded as one of the four major museums in the world along with the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of New York. 

On the Palace Square parked with vintage carriages, you can see the bluish-green main entrance of the Winter Palace, opposite to the General Staff Building. Walking into the palace, you will marvel at the grandeur and extensive collections. Passing through the throne of the past, you can find art pieces from different countries. Western European artworks were garnered the most in the Winter Palace because the royal family admired Western European culture. Speaking French was even in vogue among Russian royalty. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the amount of art treasures from Western Europe top the royal collection. 

There is also a wide range of Russian and ancient Greek exhibits in the museum too. The cultural assets of significance of the Russian empire gather in this museum. Armaments and coins are, of course, indispensable elements in this palace museum. Apart from Russian weapons and coins, the museum also has a collection of Western European and Asian weapons and armours. There are also ancient coins from Europe, Asia and America as well as seals and medals. The total number of exhibits exceeds a million, meaning it can take years to finish seeing all displays in the Winter Palace. 

After spending the whole day on the phenomenal royal collections, you can take a vintage carriage like the royalty for a sightseeing tour of Saint Petersburg. 

Cruiser Aurora

The establishment of the Soviet Union started from the October Revolution, in which the most important scene was the Bolsheviks storming the Winter Palace and winning control over Russia. They were able to storm the palace because of a shot fired towards the Winter Palace by the cruiser “Aurora”. The shot signalled the Bolsheviks to attack.

The legend of Aurora began with its participation in the Russo-Japanese War and World War I. As the sailors of the cruiser participated in the February Revolution and the October Revolution later, Aurora was honoured and responsible for guarding Saint Petersburg. Regrettably, the cruiser was unable to bear the repeated shelling and bombing by Nazi Germany in the Siege of Leningrad (the name of Saint Petersburg in the Soviet era) in the World War II. They scuttled the ship eventually. Salvaged and repaired after World War II, the ship was later renovated to be a museum and is now the oldest ship owned by the Russian navy. You will get to know more about the past glories of Aurora as well as the modern military and revolutionary history of Russia on the cruiser.

Kazan Cathedral

Usual Orthodox churches are topped with onion domes, some built with red walls and colourful domes, or white walls and golden domes. As the cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church in Saint Petersburg, Kazan Cathedral, however, is full of Roman catholic styles which may cause confusion to tourists.

Kazan Cathedral was in fact modelled on St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. That is why the cathedral has a colonnade, ancient Greek-style main entrance and semi-dome like St. Peter’s Square. Inside, there is Our Lady of Kazan, the palladium of all of Russia. Although the original was believed to be lost, the copies are seen wonder-working. Praying sincerely in the cathedral, you may be blessed and your wishes answered.

Peter and Paul Fortress

The entire city of Saint Petersburg was first developed from a fortress. Once Peter the Great captured this ice-free port from Sweden, he immediately started building the Peter and Paul Fortress on the Hare Island (Zayachy Island) at the mouth of the Neva River. The fortress was built to prevent Swedish attacks. The construction of the Peter and Paul Fortress represented the establishment of Saint Petersburg. Developed later around the fortress, the city became the new capital eventually. 

Before getting on the Hare Island, you can see a unique golden spire piercing the sky like a needle. This spire is actually the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral’s bell tower. Being the first architecture built in Saint Petersburg, the cathedral is located at the centre of the fortress. The spire of the bell tower features a gilded angel at the top. The cathedral is surrounded by castles and solid walls. 

Since the fortress was highly defensive, it featured the Saint Petersburg Mint and a royal prison which was specifically for high-ranking officials, royal members and political prisoners – just like the Tower of London. That is why the prison is also known as the “Russian Bastille”. Not only can you find the scary prison cells, but also the stories of prisoners being set free after the prison was attacked during the February Revolution. The February Revolution was like the French Revolution in Russia. In the Peter and Paul Fortress, you can also see the tombs of almost all Russian tsars starting from Peter the Great. The royal members were buried in the first architecture built in this ancient capital of Russia, safeguarding the city of Peter the Great with the fortress.

Summer Palace of Peter the Great

If the Winter Palace is comparable to the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Summer Palace of Peter the Great is the Palace of Versailles. Located in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg, the Summer Palace, as its name suggests, was the palace for Peter the Great and tsars to reside in summer. The architectural style was influenced by the Palace of Versailles with its grandeur and splendour. The palace completely embodies the grace of the royal family.

You will be astonished at the ornate fountain before you step into the palace. The centre of the fountain features a statue of Samson tearing open the jaw of a lion. Its aesthetics is in the same league as Zodiac Fountain of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. After having a feast for your eyes with the sumptuous palace and royal jewels, you will arrive at the Versailles-like garden. The gracefully-mown plants and lawn are a refreshing treat to see. Taking a walk in the garden, you will be having leisure in luxury like the royal members in the olden days.