Anyone interested in Russian culture and history needs to visit St. Petersburg. As the former Governor of Saint Petersburg, Valentina Matviyenko said, “Saint Petersburg is a gem of world culture and Russia’s most European city.” Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and embodies the contradictions that have always been at the heart of Russian identity.
Peter the Great founded Saint Petersburg in May of 1703, eager to showcase that Russia had, under his leadership, emerged from the dark ages and become a great eastern European power. As he had intended, the city’s architecture reflects the momentous cultural, economic, military, and political reforms his reign introduced to the Russian people. St. Petersburg was built from the ground up, in only 8 years and stands as testament to its acceptance as a cultural center. Thus, if you are lucky enough to travel to this city, you may feel as if you are visiting a European capital with a visible Russian influence and ‘flair’.
Without question, the first place to visit should be the State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace. The Hermitage ranks with the Louvre as one of the top art museums in the world. With over 3 million exhibits, this museum will keep visitors enthralled for much more than one day. Here you will be able to visit the famous Winter Palace, which used to be where Russian emperors would stay. The art collections are too numerous to list, as they range from Prehistoric and Egyptian art, all the way through the Italian Renaissance, to French Impressionism and beyond.
One of the most stunning churches in this city is the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. This church was built on the site where Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. It was at this very spot that Alexander II was fatally wounded by a bomb. The interesting thing about this church is that it was designed with references to traditional Russian medieval architecture. So, for a taste of some really stunning Russian Orthodox architecture, put this Cathedral on your ‘mustsee’ list as one of the places to be sure to visit.
On a lighter note, for those just looking for a great place to meet Russian girls and sample some of the finest Vodka in the world, Saint Petersburg is also a fantastic destination. The city is home to St. Petersburg State University, the oldest and largest University in Russia, so it attracts ladies from all across the country. Women also flock to this cultural hub for work, performing arts, night-life, sight-seeing and of course shopping. Russian ladies far outnumber men in this city, so if you are just looking for a good place to do some sight-seeing (‘girl-watching’) and/or partying, St. Petersburg will not disappoint.