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A Short Break With A Difference - St. Petersburg
In times gone by many Brit's (James Bond aside) wouldn't give the idea of heading over to Russia for a holiday break a second thought. However, for the more progressive of travellers out there the magnificent city of St. Petersburg offers an abundance of rewards and will leave a lasting memory with anyone who chooses to visit.

St. Petersburg is quite simply a city steeped in history and culture. Built on the Gulf of Finland by Peter the Great, the city is the an imperial capital which has the distinct atmosphere of a city that time forgot. The enchanting architecture of its great palaces and crystalline squares all provide a real sense of Russia's imperial past.

Post communist Russia is becoming increasingly interested in its past as it copes with the confusion of social change – which means the historical gems which St. Petersburg are becoming more accessible than ever. Perhaps there has never been a better time to visit this great city.

In terms of site seeing, St. Petersburg will leave you spoilt for choice. However, there is an undisputed jewel in this cities crown - the Hermitage museum. While the museum lacks the international renown of the Louvre in Paris the collection on display is only narrowly behind in terms of size and quality. With over three million works within the museum, one could spend years exploring the abundance of breathtaking collections from the likes of Rembrandt, Picasso, and Matisse.

The museums extensive collection began with the cities founder Peter the Great who travelled extensively across Europe in his younger years building an enviable collection of art and items of historical significance. The collection was added to further by future generations of Russian monarchy before the Hermitage was first opened to the public after the Revolution in 1917. Trying to take in the wonders of the Hermitage is almost impossible in one visit and taking a number of trips across several days comes recommended.

In many ways St. Petersburg is a city best seen on foot for a number of reasons – not least that it is the best way to take in the wondrous architecture and give you a real feel for its imperial past. From the placid canals to the atmospheric Palace Square, one truly feels they are in a city from times past.

Providing a sharp contrast to the grand buildings throughout St. Petersburg is the humble wooden cottage that first housed Peter the Great while he supervised the cities construction. Although now covered from the outside world by a protective brick structure the cottage still remains in surprisingly good condition and provides a fascinating insight into the mind of Peter. Rumours that he spent much of his time in disguise working as a labourer during the cities construction were almost certainly true. Indeed unlike many Tsar's of the past Peter seemed to have a very keen awareness of the social divide and spent much of his time among his citizens hiding his wealth.

St. Petersburg is definitely a city one can visit during any part of the year – although peak season is from May until December, where hotel prices are at their most expensive. Good alternatives to this are in April and October when the weather is still fairly mild and the city is far less crowded. As long as you don't mind the cold weather it is also perfectly feasible to visit during the winter months and the city has a number of musical events and winter festivals on at the time. Finding knowledgeable travel agents in the UK to support you is becoming easier.

Overall St. Petersburg is undoubtedly one of Europe's most beautiful cities. While the tourist industry is starting to boom it is still some way from being a recognised holiday destination which make this an excellent time to visit the northern capital of Russia. While many of your friends may be aghast at the thought of a short break in Russia, we are sure it is a decision that you will certainly not regret in anyway.
About the Author
Author of this article is Robin Richmond. He is a freelance travel writer and webmaster of Travel Tips.
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