If any of you have been sitting at home wondering, “why visit St. Petersburg
, surely all it’s got going for it is the FIFA World Cup 2018?” Then, stop! St. Petersburg is the second most visited city in Russia after Moscow. It was once Russia’s imperial capital and now, is a breathtaking metropolis whose white nights and history never cease to amaze. Here are 7 reasons that’ll tell you why visit St. Petersburg
Reason 1: History
Founded in 1703, St. Petersburg is Russia’s “Window to the West.” By comparison to many of Russia’s other cities, St Petersburg is young. The boggy marshlands upon which the city would eventually be built were seized by Peter the Great from Sweden. And, with direct access to the Baltic Sea, St. Petersburg strategic location would slowly give rise to the country’s political power and project Russia onto the European stage. Over the course of the 300 years since, St Petersburg’s rich history, literature, art and architecture has woven itself into the fabric of the city. And, the result is a beautifully unique, vibrant place worth seeking out.
Reason 2: The Hermitage Museum
At the upper end of Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg's main thoroughfare, is the Hermitage Museum. And, if you're wondering what to do in St Petersburg for an afternoon head here. Behind the walls of this most opulent of structures is one of the greatest and largest art collections in the world. People say, that to see every piece housed here would take some 11 years. With exhibits and displays that include works that date as far back as Ancient Mesopotamia, The Hermitage also houses works from the greats, Rembrandt, Picasso and Michelangelo to name, but a few. The first Thursday of every month is free to visitors. But, fair warning, it packs out on this day. So, best to book tickets in advance for another day. Aim for times early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
Reason 3: White Nights Festival
From May to July the city of St. Petersburg does not go dark. No, the strikingly beautiful sky instead turns celestial shades of blue and purple. This is a white night. As a result of this phenomenon which occurs in many northern cities, St. Petersburg throws the White Nights Festival. Every day throughout the summer you can attend ballets and operas at the Mariinsky Theatre. In different neighborhoods, carnivals pop up with actors recreating scenes from St. Petersburg’s history, doing literature reads and live music performances. But, the biggest celebration is that of the Scarlett Sails, which marks the end of the school year. There’s a concert, a water show, an amazing fireworks display and, of course, a ship with scarlet sails floats down the river. It’s an extraordinary affair.
Reason 4: St. Isaac’s Cathedral
Why visit St. Petersburg? This is why. Dominating this dazzling city’s skyline is the magnificent, golden, gilded dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Climb to the top and forget about things to see in St. Petersburg, because from here you can see it all. Built by French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, St. Isaac’s Cathedral was once the largest in the country. And, while it may now lose out in size to Moscow’s Church of Christ the Saviour, it still boasts the better facade and interior. The church, which at one time could accommodate up to 14,000 standing worshippers, reopened in 1930 as a museum. And, standing front and center, behind the main altar is the lavishly colored stained glass window, “Resurrected Christ.”
Reason 5: Russian Vodka Museum
I mean, do you really need any more convincing than that? Okay, fine. The Russian Vodka Museum tracks the roots of the drink and the history of its production and consumption. It displays bottles, stoppers, and other vodka related ephemera which all help to explain the importance of vodka to Russian identity. But, the best part of the tour is that it culminates in a tasting, of course! You can sample various types of real Russian vodka, and afterward, you can stagger into the attached gift shop and buy some to take home with you.
Reason 6: Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood
Quite a mouthful isn’t it. Well, then, wait until you see it. The Church of the Saviour on the Spilled blood is another church museum. And, thusly named as it is the site where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded. Although the church incorporates Russian architectural elements from the 18th century, it was actually built in the 19th. Five beautifully ornate onion-shaped domes give way to a 7000 square meters of a mosaiced interior that is almost obscene in its beauty.
Reason 7: Nevsky Prospekt
A walk down St Petersburg main thoroughfare, Nevsky Prospekt, is a sure fire way to take in some of the most iconic things to see in St. Petersburg. Along Nevsky Prospekt, you will find the Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral
and Eliseyev Emporium
selling traditional Russian foods
and candy. There’s also the Stroganov Palace, yes that Stroganov
. And, you can round off your walk with a spot of shopping at St. Petersburg’s largest department store Gostiny Dvor.
So there you have it, 7 reasons that make it clear why visit St. Petersburg after the FIFA World Cup 2018. Once you’re there, I’m sure you’ll discover hundreds more.