Perched on the tip of the Baltic Sea, Saint Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city and is overflowing with history. From ‘Petrograd’ to ‘Leningrad’ to ‘the Venice of the North’, it has been home to Russian czars and czarinas, making it one of UNESCO’s famous World Heritage Sites. Saint Petersburg exudes a post-communistic culture with connecting canals and baroque bridges, undoubtedly one of Northern Europe’s most mysterious cities.
Founded over 300 years ago as the capital of Imperial Russia, it’s no wonder Saint Petersburg is rich with heritage and culture. In the middle of endless canals and bridges is the Hermitage Museum (also known as the Winter Palace). It features the works of famed artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt. One of the largest museums in the world, it is definitely Saint Petersburg’s prime attraction. Also, you must not miss the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. The Peter and Paul Fortress is not only a beautiful church, but it is where the Romanov royalty is buried. This includes Czar Nicholas and his family! Meanwhile, the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood (see first picture) epitomizes Russian architecture. It was built on the spot where Czar Alexander II was assassinated.
A few hours drive from the city proper and one can see so much more. The Catherine Palace in the town of Pushkin was the summer residence of the Russian czars. It displays breathtaking interior, especially in the world-class Amber Room. Peterhof, on the other hand, is the most spectacular Imperial estate I’ve ever seen. It is perhaps the Russian Versailles. The size of its French-style garden is indescribable and is filled with golden statues and fountains. It’s actually the world’s largest system of fountains.
Two unusual attractions I enjoyed in Russia were the orthodox churches and the subway system. The orthodox churches give off an eerie vibe to those visiting. A far stretch from the formality of Catholic churches, they are more of the worship-type churches, filled with gypsies and lot only by candles. The subway system also gives off the same Harry Potter-world kind of vibe. An underground of marble pillars, hanging chandeliers, and historical graffiti is a must-see in Saint Petersburg. Lastly, all tourists in the city must drop by as many souvenirs as they can. Not only do they sell souvenirs unique to Saint Petersburg, but most stores also provide free vodka!
Such a mysterious and socialistic experience I had in Saint Petersburg. Russia as a whole is a country everyone must visit.