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Saint Petersburg Travel Guide - Sights to See
Neva River: One of the shortest rivers in the world... less than 50 miles long. Because of St. Petersburg location on the river and the many bridges that cross over the water, the city is often referred to as "the Venice of the north".

Nevsky Prospekt: This is the city's main avenue with the most popular shops and cafes. Many buildings are associated with historical events.

Palace Square (Dvortsovaya): This is the historical, architectural, and heart of St. Petersburg. From the 18th century, Russia was governed from this spot. On this square is the Imperial Winter Palace, which was built between 1754 and 1762. This palace has 1047 rooms and 117 staircases. Later in the 18th century, other buildings were added, including the fantastic Hermitage Museum.

Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace): This is considered one of the world's great museums. Originally it was built to house the private collections of the Czars. Since the 1917 Revolution, the collection tripled and now contains over two million items, spread over 1000 rooms and halls. In the Malachite Hall are semi-precious stones. The St. George Hall has 48 marble columns. But most tourists come here for the paintings... from medieval times to Picasso. There are outstanding works by Da Vinci, Titian, El Greco, Caravaggio. Velasquez, and 42 Rubens and 21 Rembrandts. The French Impressionists are handsomely represented as well as outstanding paintings by Matisse and Picasso. Don't worry about trying to see those 1000 rooms. Many galleries of the museum will be closed during your visit. They are never all open at the same time. And some galleries seem to never be open... such as the Oriental sections. The lines to this museum will stretch around the block - all day long. Tour groups don't have to wait because they have a separate entrance. However they don't get much time in the museum. If you really want more time, try to arrange it with your guide, who can get you in with another group, leaving you to return to your hotel on your own. Don't miss this musuem!

General Staff Building: This structure is opposite the Winter Palace. It is a semi-circular building erected in 1819. The center of the building is a street, which is spanned by a Triumphal Arch commemorating the victory of 1812.

The Field of Mars: Between the Hermitage and the Summer Palace. This is the former parade ground and the site of the mass meetings and fireworks displays. It became a park in 1920.

Summer Palace and Summer Gardens: Founded more than 250 years ago by Peter the Great, this garden has ancient oaks, limes and elms. It is a popular place for recreation. The walkways of the park are decorated with marble statues dating from the 18th century. The Summer Palace was built in 1710 and was only occasionally used by Peter. Displayed in the halls are works of art and the clothes of Peter the Great.

The Lenin Museum: Located in the Field of Mars. The museum contains mementos of Lenin. The building is the marble palace that Catherine II built for her lover Count Orlov.

Vasilevsky Island: One of the largest islands... over 2000 acres. The upper tip is occupied mostly by public offices. Another tip is a park, which is a favorite spot for lovers. Two lighthouses stand in the square below the park. The main building here is the Central Navy Museum. On the opposite side of the island is the Zoological Museum. Also on the island is State University.

Peter and Paul Fortress: Peter the Great built this fortress on a small island on the Neva River. Begun in 1706, it was not completed until 1741. From the end of the 18th century, it was a prison for Political offenders. The dominant building here is the Cathedral of Peter and Paul, which was founded in 1712. All of the rulers of Russia, except Peter II are buried here. Their tombs are of white marble with gilded eagles at the corners. Impressive!

Decembrists Square (Ploshchad Dekabristov): Built in honor of the 1st Russian Revolution. In the center stands the monument to Peter the Great by the French sculptor Falconer. It is considered the finest sculpture in St. Petersburg. Most of the sculpture is dreadful "communist stuff".

St. Isaac's Cathedral: This is the largest Church... 2 1/2 acres, and is located on the south of Decembrists Square, Inside you'll see much granite and marble and beautiful Baroque decorations and mosaics. The church is built in the shape of a cross with an enormous gold dome - one of the world's largest.

Church of the Bleeding Savior: A rather recent church built in 1883-1906, but in the typical Russian style with ornate onion domes. It's gorgeous... and marks the spot where revolutionary terrorists assassinated Czar Alexander I. Tourist love this church.

Ploshchad Iskusstv (Square of the Arts): One of the largest and finest complexes in St. Petersburg. Its central building is the State Museum of Russian Art... formerly Michael Palace. Other buildings contain pre-revolutionary Russian art and temporary exhibits. Opposite, on the corner of Brodsky St. is Philharmonia, which was built in 1834 and is now home of the Symphony Orchestra.

Teatralnaya Square: This theatre, or conservatory, is the oldest musical academy in Russia. Tchaikovsky attended school here. The Kirov Ballet and Opera are also located here.

Lenin Park: Located at the beginning of Kirov Prospekt, this park is a favorite for strolling, and for courting couples.

Museum Lodge of Peter the Great: The only wooden structure that has lasted from the city's beginnings to the present day.

Excursion to Peterhof: 18 miles from St. Petersburg, The palace proper was built in 1704... was occupied by the Germans in WW2 when many of the surrounding buildings were destroyed by artillery. Everything has been lovingly and brilliantly restored. Your guide will take you through the palace or you can go through alone (booties required), at your own pace. Because you time is limited here, it is recommended that you go through alone. The palace is certainly grand, but what you most want to see are the gardens - particularly the fountains. If you take the guided tour and stop to listen to your guide, you will not have time for the grandeur of the gardens. There's really an upper and lower garden... both interesting and very photogenic. The lower garden is more interesting and included the spectacular gold fountains... going all the way to the sea. Don't miss this.

Excursion to Pushkin: 15 miles from St. Petersburg. This town was founded in 1708. The principle reason to visit is to see Yekaterininsky Palace, a magnificent specimen of Russian Baroque architecture of the 18th century. There's also a beautiful park named after Catherine and Alexander. Within the park is Alexander Palace, a work of great simplicity and perfect balance. In Pushkin, you can also see the Lyceum Building where Pushkin studied from 1811-17.
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Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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