St Petersburg

This fascinating city of Peter the Great holds a wealth of history and beauty. Relatively new by European standards, the city celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2003. Founded in 1703, within ten years St Petersburg had become capital of the vast Russian Empire, and quickly gained a reputation as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Peter the Great, Russia’s best known ruler, had a passion for Europe and for the sea. Before he founded St Petersburg he had travelled incognito to Europe, and worked in her shipyards. Architects were invited from all over Europe to execute Peter’s plans and the city was to become Russia’s window onto Europe.

The Peter & Paul Fortress was built in 1703, and then after Poltava the development of the newly founded city began. This vital port now controlling the Baltic lay in Russian hands, and this once military base became a cosmopolitan capital.

In the 20th century it underwent three name changes, three revolutions and a 900 day siege. For a city just 300 years old it has an amazing history.

The Hermitage Museum. This is Russia’s largest museum with a collection in the region of 3 million items. The Hermitage itself dates back to 1764 when Catherine the Great acquired 225 Western European paintings. The displays are housed in a number of buildings created in the 18th & 19th centuries, The oldest part is the Winter Palace, built in 1754-62.

Take a visit to the Summer Palace at Peterhof, which lies west of the city on the Gulf of Finland. Built by Peter the Great in 1720 it became the Tsar’s formal summer residence. Combine this excursion with an afternoon at Tsarsksoe Selo, the lavish imperial palace designed by Rastrelli in 1752 for Tsarina Elizabeth. She named it Catherine Palace in honour of her mother. The Palace has now been refurbished since the Second world War and the Amber Room has been recreated. Experience a Russian Ballet at the Mariinksy Theatre, home to the Kirov Ballet company. Or take the opportunity to enjoy a symphony or opera in one of the many Concert Halls throughout the City.