Going to St. Petersburg is like stepping into a time machine, then having it crash somewhere between the historical and modern worlds. The grand palaces and lavish gardens are interspersed with neon lights and fast cars.
What I Saw
Created by Catherine the Great as a means to store her growing art collection, the Hermitage is now one of the largest art museums in the world. Comprised of five different buildings, the Hermitage publicly displays only a small portion of it’s three million plus item collection. The largest building is the Winter Palace, once the winter residence to Russian nobility. Highlights of the collection include works by three of the four ninja turtles – primarily 2 paintings by Da Vinci and an unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo.
Though technically this falls under a “what I did” category, a canal cruise through St. Petersburg is a great way to absorb all of the city’s sites. The big city is made small when cruising through the famed canals. Reserve a boat in advance or flag one down on the spot. There a lots of independent operators throughout the city ready and willing to give you a once in a lifetime ride.
Officially known as the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, the church was built on the spot where Czar Alexander II was assassinated. The actual spot where he was attacked remains preserved inside, though that’s not the primary draw. Once inside, tourists are bathed in mosaics. All artwork that adorns the ceilings and walls are mosaics depicting various Bible passages and saints. Looted during the Russian revolution, the church also served as a morgue during WWII and a vegetable warehouse.
- Peterhof Palace and Garden. Sometimes called the Russian Versailles, these landmarks are another lesson in Russian opulence. Fountains are scattered throughout the lush gardens and some were constructed with the purpose of sprinkling guests.
- Return to Hermitage. Like the Louvre, it’s impossible to take in all the artworks at the Hermitage in a day, let alone a 2 hour guided tour. If possible, try and come on an off day to avoid the crowds.