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St Petersburg - City of the Russian Tsars

Built on a swamp as the new capital of Russia, St Petersburg is a grand 18th-century city where the tsars of Russia ruled for 200 years until their downfall in 1917.

The colourful baroque architecture and lazy canals have earned the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Dubbed the "Venice of the North", the city has a relaxing and enticing atmosphere.

Shopping ranges from the modern (and well hidden) malls to the traditional street markets and there is a wide range of options for eating out with some great restaurants right in the heart of the city.

Nevsky Prospect is the main avenue in St Petersburg and well worth exploring, especially if you like wandering in and out of old churches.

Slightly out-of-town, another worthwhile day trip would be to picturesque Catherine Palace, the summer residence of the late Russian tsars.

You can see the city for yourself with this St Petersburg webcam.

Top 5 things to do in St Petersburg

Palace Square

The Palace Square is located centrally in St Petersburg and is an ideal meeting place and starting point for seeing the sites in the city.

The square has seen its place in world history with events such as the Bloody Sunday (1905) and the October Revolution of 1917.

Thankfully today Palace Square is a quieter place to visit.

The vastness of the open area allows it to handle a large volume of people without giving the sense of being crowded.

The centre of the square is marked with the Alexander Column made entirely of red granite and the largest of its kind in the world. It pays homage to Emperor Alexander I and his role in the victory over Napoleon's France in 1812.

The square also serves as open-air venue for concerts by international acts.

Winter Palace and Hermitage

From the 1760s onwards the Winter Palace was the main residence of the Russian Tsars.

Located on the bank of the Neva River, this Baroque-style palace is perhaps St. Petersburg’s most impressive attraction.

Also known by visitors as the main building of the Hermitage Museum boasting over 2.7 million exhibits displaying a diverse range of art and artifacts from all over the world and from throughout history.

A guided tour is the best way to make sure you see all the most prominent works of art on display as well as hearing about the history of the palace.

Open from 10:30am until 5:30pm, closed Mondays. Entry is free but you will need to collect a ticket before being allowed inside.

Peterhof Palace

The Peterhof Palace is more a collection of palaces gardens and is commonly referred to as the "Russian Versailles".

Immaculate, ornate and opulent are words that spring to mind and that's just upon entering the main grounds with its many gold-plated statues and water fountains.

The centre piece of the complex is The Grand Cascade, a series of ascending fountains feeding into Sea Channel which runs down throughout the main gardens towards the sea.

The most amazing fact about the Grande Cascade is that all of the fountains are gravity fed, operating without the use of pumps.

The Grand Palace itself has around thirty rooms including The Chesma Hall decorated with twelve large paintings of the Battle of Chesma and other historic battle scenes.

Church of Saviour on the Blood

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881 and was dedicated in his memory.

Completed in 1907 the Church is prominently situated along the Griboedov Canal, with the opposite bank being one of the best places to take a full height photo of the building with its spectacular coloured onion domes.

The inside of the church contains over 7500m2 of mosaics, more than any church in the world. Most of the mosaics feature biblical scenes or figures.

After 27 years of restoration the church was reopened in 1977 but has never since been reconsecrated. As such the building does not function as a full-time place of worship. It is widely considered a Museum of Mosaic.

Russian Museum

The Russian Museum the largest depository of the Russian fine art in St Petersburg.

Established on April 13, 1895 its original collection was composed of artworks taken from the Hermitage Museum, Alexander Palace, and the Imperial Academy of Arts.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, many private collections were nationalized and relocated to the Russian Museum.

The main building of the museum is the Mikhailovsky Palace and some of the halls of the palace/museum retain the opulent interiors of the former imperial residence.

As well as the permanent collections, the museum also holds temporary exhibits and events. The website is the best place to see what's on and when.

The museum is open daily from 10am until 5pm, closed Tuesdays.

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