The State Hermitage (Государственный Эрмитаж) is one of the largest and oldest art and cultural museums in the world. The museum was originally built privately under the orders of Catherine the Great, housing her ever-growing collection; however, in 1852, the doors were opened to the public, since acquiring enough art to fill its six magnificent buildings residing along the Neva embankment and near the Winter Palace.
The museum displays an array of work, with pieces that exhibit the development of world art from the beginning of recorded history through modern day. The museum shows perhaps the most impressive displays of primitive art, archaeology and cultural pieces, as well as work from the Soviet era.
There are also large Western European art exhibits that feature sculptures, applied arts and paintings from the 13th century onward, as well as Egyptian antiquities that bring the life and culture of ancient Mesopotamia to life.
In Moscow, grand boulevards and massive buildings that seem to stretch for miles are the norm, but some of the city’s most impressive sites are actually found below the streets, in the underground metro system used that transports millions of residents each day.
Moscow’s metro system is one of the busiest in the world and, at 190 miles (305kms) long with 185 stations, it’s also one of the largest. The stations aren’t just transit hubs – they’re a sort of free public art exhibit, and one that tells the history of the city in their design and decoration. The stations were designed so lavishly in the hopes that their beauty would inspire workers on their way to dreary jobs under Soviet rule. These ornate stations eventually became known as “the palaces of the people” for their extravagant architecture. Later, new stations were designed in a slightly more understated way, their appearance reflecting a more austere time in the city’s history.
One of the most iconic sights in all of Russia, Moscow’s Kremlin is a massive fortress sitting along the banks of the Moskva River. First the seat of the Russian Grand Dukes, then the residence of the Romanov tsars and later home to Soviet leaders like Lenin and Stalin, the Kremlin today serves as the official residence of the president of the Russian Federation. Despite that, much of the complex is open to the public on a daily basis, including the bell tower, several cathedrals, the Patriarch’s Palace and the famous Armoury.
Once the tallest building in Russia, the Ivan the Great Bell Tower offers great views around the city and the Assumption Cathedral, the Archangel’s Cathedral and the Annunciation Cathedral surrounding the Kremlin’s Cathedral Square offer visitors a glimpse into Russian religious life. The Armoury, though, is what will take your breath away, with its impressive collection of jewels, armor, weapons and ancient Russian relics.
One of the best known theaters in the world, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, traces its history back to 1776. This was when Empress Catherine the Great granted Prince Pyotr Urusov the privilege of maintaining theater performances of all kinds for a period of 10 years. The current Bolshoi building opened on the coronation day of Tsar Alexander II in 1856, and featured a six-tier auditorium decorated in crimson and gold that could seat up to 2,300 people.
The Bolshoi recently re-opened in October 2011 after being closed for a six-year renovation project. The reconstruction and refurbishment of the theater’s main stage employed over 3,000 specialists at the theater each day, as well as an additional 1,000 in restoration workshops outside of the theater. The project not only restored the historical appearance of the theater, inside and out, but it also restored its legendary acoustics while adding state-of-the-art machinery and stage equipment.
De Admiraliteit is een van de oudste gebouwen van Sint-Petersburg. Het werd gebouwd door Peter de Grote en deed in eerste instantie dienst als scheepswerf. Hier huisde ooit het Admiraliteitsbestuur, dat verantwoordelijk was voor de scheepsbouw en uiteindelijk onderdeel werd van het ministerie van marine. Sommige delen zijn gebouwd in de 18de eeuw, anderen in de eeuw erna.
Helaas kunnen bezoekers tegenwoordig het gebouw niet meer in originele staat zien. Er werden namelijk veel beelden verwoest in 1860, toen de orthodoxe kerk deze heidens verklaarde. Het gebouw werd ook beschadigd tijdens de blokkade van Leningrad en werd aangevallen door de Duitsers in de Tweede Wereldoorlog. De Admiraliteit heeft nog altijd veel beelden en reliëfs in de collectie. Ook staat er een gouden pilaar van ruim 70 meter met een weervaan in de top. Deze heeft de vorm van een klein schip en de pilaar is een van de meest toonaangevende bezienswaardigheden van de stad. Het origineel staat in het Maritieme Museum, dus wat u buiten ziet is een replica.
Catherine Palace (Екатеринский дворец) is one of Russia’s former imperial palaces and summer residence to its tsar’s built on the orders of Catherine I. Now a museum, the baroque style palace has a neoclassical interior that exemplifies Russian wealth and extravagance.
The palace is best known for the grand suit Golden Enfilade (анфилад), which was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, containing the ballroom known as the Grand Hall or Hall of Lights, and Art Galleries (Большому залу и Картинной галерее); with an immaculate ceiling painting, and sprawls out with distinctively decorated smaller rooms.
Outside the palace is the divine Catherine Park (Екатеринский парк), comprised of 2 parts including the old garden and English Park (Английского парка).
Designed by master Dutch gardeners Jan Roosen and Johan Vocht during the 18th century, the garden contains various elements including the Vangaza stream, which flows down to the Upper and Mill ponds.
Petrhof (Петерго́ф) or “Peter’s yard” is considered the fountain capital of the world and is in the eyes of any visitor, an absolute gem of environs in St. Petersburg. Consisting of 64 fountains, 255 sculptures not to mention the Grand Palace (Большой дворец), and other historic palaces Monplaisir (Монплезир) and Marly (Дворец Марли), as well as the pavilion known as Hermitage (Дворец Марли).
In the upper garden resides the Fountain of Neptune (Фонтан Нептун), cast in lead with a majestic portrait of Neptune on a pedestal as well as horses and dolphins.).
The lower park spans over 102 ha contains the famous monplaisir Palace located in the eastern part of the park, and was considered the favorite of Peter I. The lower park also houses Catherine’s body (Екатерининский корпус), built by Rastrelli and containing 2 buildings connected by a gallery.).
St Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in the 1700s to serve as a window to the west. With its imperial history and magnificent architecture, it is often considered one of the most beautiful cities in Russia. The Port of St Petersburg is the largest port in northwest Russia and serves as the primary gateway between Russia and the Baltic Sea. It is one of the world’s most popular cruise destinations. Ships docking in St Petersburg do so in the heart of the city, at Vasilevsky Island.
If you arrive in St. Petersburg on a cruise, you will likely head into the city center as part of an organized shore excursion and as part of a group visa. Once you are in the heart of St Petersburg, most major attractions are within walking distance of each other, but that doesn’t mean seeing everything will be easy – you will likely have to pick and choose based on your interests.