Key AttractionsBuilt by Peter the Great to rival the beauty of Europe's grandest cities, St. Petersburg inspires visitors with its architectural splendors: regal palaces, opulent churches, ornate iron bridges and striking plazas. The best of imperial Russia-- art, literature, music and theater--is preserved in its museums. This glorious city has survived revolutions and wars, and, shedding its communist-imposed name Leningrad, St. Petersburg once again welcomes visitors as Russia's loveliest and most European city.
For a breathtaking view of the city, you can climb to the top of St. Isaac's Cathedral. From the colonnade of its huge gilded dome, you'll see a hundred islands connected by bridges and an intricate network of rivers and canals. This is St. Petersburg: a city of islands.
Well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century architecture dominates the center of St. Petersburg. The State Hermitage Museum is the jewel of the city's aristocratic past. The complex comprises the Winter Palace, a stunning example of Baroque architecture, and four adjacent buildings. Once the home of the imperial family, today it serves as a magnificent repository of art, where you can view masterpieces by Gainsborough, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Renoir and others. In the Gold Treasure Room, the exquisite jewels of Catherine the Great are on display. In addition to the Hermitage, St. Petersburg has a wealth of museums that cover everything from Russian art and literature to ethnography and military weapons.
Prominently positioned on an island in the Neva River is the Peter and Paul Fortress. Within its walls, you can visit the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul and the burial place of Romanov czars. Across the river is the Summer Garden. This park has 30 acres of open space dotted with classical sculptures. Peter the Great's summer palace, built in an unpretentious Dutch style, is located on the grounds.
In homage to Peter the Great, the Bronze Horseman statue was commissioned by his wife, Catherine the Great. The monument, located in Senate Square, features the czar astride a horse trampling a snake. It served as inspiration to the Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin, who wrote the famous poem The Bronze Horseman. You'll easily recognize the Palace Square by the red granite Alexander Column. The monument was erected in 1832 as a tribute to the victorious Russian forces, who in 1812--during the reign of Alexander I--defeated Napoleon. Major 20th-century political events also took place in the square, including Bloody Sunday, a massacre of workers that sparked the Revolution of 1905.
Great BuysIn St. Petersburg's department stores and souvenir shops and at the outdoor crafts market, you'll find a diverse selection of Russian souvenirs. The nesting dolls, wooden dolls that fit inside each other, are popular mementos. Well-designed wooden toys, painted wooden eggs, shawls, ceramics and lacquered boxes are other items that make fine souvenirs. Stores specializing in furs feature coats and accessories, including hats, muffs and pelts. And for your taste buds, you'll want to buy some of Russia's renowned vodka and caviar.
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