Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site of St. Petersburg

A photo of the Palace Square in Saint Petersburg
Learn more about the beautiful city of
Saint Petersburg

As Russia’s embodied cultural capital, the city of Saint Petersburg, Russia attracts millions of tourists annually, with recent records tallying upwards of 15 million tourists.

Founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 and named after the apostle Saint Peter, St. Petersburg remains the cultural center of Russia. This city is also known as the birthplace of the Russian Empire and its entry into becoming a European great.

What attracts people towards Saint Petersburg is the retention of its classical architecture. A stroll through Saint Petersburg is essentially a stroll through time, back to the 17th to 19th centuries.

Aside from being an important cultural capital and a tourism center, the city is also an important economic, educational, scientific, and cultural center not just of Russia, but of the entirety of Europe as well.

Saint Petersburg is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list as an area with 36 historical architectural complexes and around 4000 outstanding individual monuments of architecture, history and culture. New tourist programs and sightseeing tours have been developed for those wishing to see Saint Petersburg's cultural heritage.

The city has 221 museums, 2000 libraries, more than 80 theatres, 100 concert organizations, 45 galleries and exhibition halls, 62 cinemas and around 80 other cultural establishments. Every year the city hosts around 100 festivals and various competitions of art and culture, including more than 50 international ones

Getting Around Saint Petersburg

In order to immerse yourself into the ambience of the city, it is important to know the basics of navigating the city.

1. Language

The official language of the city is Russian, however, due to the significant number of tourists annually, the city has made it easier for non-Russian speaking tourists.

English is incorporated in road signs and restaurant menus in modern establishments. Although the local government has made the effort to make the city more tourist friendly, some of the Russian folk still aren’t quite adept at the English language. English will get you to places, but it is the combination of English and Russian will get you in every nook and cranny.

2. Transportation

Saint Petersburg is a transportation hub. A majority of the tourist attractions in the city are centered around the Winter Palace, so they will be within walking distance.

However, if you want to explore more of the city, Saint Petersburg has a comprehensive Public Transport network.

The Metro Rail System will be the most affordable public transport you can find in the city. It’ll cost you around 45 RUB or $0.8. The buses are a little bit cheaper, but traffic congestion will come into play, so it would be best to stick with the rails.

There are cabs in the city, but the meters are known to be old and unreliable. Most of the fares are settled at the start of the ride instead of following a standardized meter system.

3. Daily Budget

Contrary to popular belief, the city of Saint Petersburg is not as expensive a city as others would think. The typical daily spending in the city would be around $35-$55. It’s not really cheap, but it won’t blow holes in your pockets.

Daily budgets will differ depending on the places you visit as well. Hotels, restaurants, souvenirs - all of these will all affect how much pocket money you should bring.

Cultural Sites of Saint Petersburg

A photo of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg
Winter Palace, once the residence of the
Russian monarchy from 1732 to 1917

The city of Saint Petersburg was built around a series of over 100 islands separated by canals and rivers. With over 300 major bridges and over 800 smaller bridges, the intricate canals of the city of Saint Petersburg is often called the Venice of the North

The city was built around 1703, however, due to the Siege of Leningrad (Leningrad was the former name of the city of Saint Petersburg) during World War II, a number of historical structures were destroyed and were thus replaced with more modern buildings.

1. Palaces of the Tsars

The City of Saint Petersburg is known as the City of Palaces. The most famous palace of them all is the Winter Palace, once the residence of the Russian monarchy from 1732 to 1917. Today the palace forms the Hermitage museum, a museum of art and culture in Russia and is the second largest museum in the world.

Other magnificent palaces in the city are the Stroganov Palace, Beloselsky- Belozersky Palace, and the Mikhailovsky Palace famed for its opulent interiors and named after its owner, Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich.

Today, all these major palaces are either part of cultural sites and museums or are used to house the different branches of the government.

2. Cathedrals

While most of the Cathedrals in the city of Saint Petersburg are still owned by the Russian government, due the seizure in 1917, some of these churches have been returned to congregations.

The Kazan Cathedral was modeled after the Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. This cathedral was built around 1811. Another famous church in the city is the Church of the Savior’s blood, which marks the location of Alexander II’s assassination.

A photo of the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg
The Kazan Cathedral, modeled after the
Saint Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican City

The Peter and Paul Cathedral is a long time symbol of the city as it contains the sepulchers of Peter the Great.

3. Monuments

The Alexander Column, also known as the Alexandrian Column, is the focal point of the Palace Square in Saint Petersburg. This monument is a remembrance of the Russian victory over Napoleon’s France.

The Bronze Horseman is also another famous sculpture in Saint Petersburg. The Bronze Horseman: A Petersburg tale is a narrative poem about the equestrian statue of Peter the Great

The public monuments of St Petersburg also include Mikeshin's circular statue of Catherine II on Nevsky Avenue, fine horse statues on the Anichkov Bridge, a Rodin-like equestrian statue of Alexander III by Paolo Troubetzkoy, and the Tercentenary monument presented by France in 2003 and installed on Sennaya Square.

A photo of the Alexandrian Column in Palace Square
The Alexandrian Column, the focal point of
the Palace Square

The city of Saint Petersburg has a long history. The best way to immerse yourself in the Russian culture is to walk the streets from where their history was written. The magnificent architecture of the city of Saint Petersburg, Russia is difficult to replicate. The long history of struggles and triumphs is what makes the city of Saint Petersburg so alluring.

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