With its gigantic golden dome coated with over 220 pounds of gold and an impressive red granite portico, St Isaac’s Cathedral looks more like a palace than a cathedral, and it’s no surprise that the eye-catching masterpiece is among St. Petersburg’s most visited attractions. Commissioned by Tsar Alexander I in 1818 to mark the defeat of Napoleon, the magnificent cathedral took over 40 years to build and still ranks among the largest domed cathedrals in the world, with a capacity for up to 14,000 worshippers.
Set on the banks of the Neva River, the cathedral’s extravagant design was the work of French architect Auguste de Montferrand, blending Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical elements, and sparing no expenses. The cathedral interiors are equally lavish, featuring painstakingly sculpted reliefs, grand bronze doors and a colonnaded iconostasis adorned with semiprecious gems.
Today, the cathedral is only occasionally used for worship, instead serving as a museum and housing an impressive collection of 19th-century fine art and mosaics. For many visitors, the highlight is climbing the 300 steps to the cathedral's colonnade, from where the views expand over the city.
St Isaac’s Cathedral is located on Isaakievskaya pl in central St. Petersburg and can be reached on foot from the Neva River waterfront. The cathedral is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. (except for the last Monday of the month), with last entry at 6 p.m. Admission to the colonnade and museum costs R300 for adults. The colonnade is also open until 11 p.m. during the summer months.