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Your Weekend Guide To Saint Petersburg

At present Saint Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city with over 5 million inhabitants. It is considered a very modern city and it has many important international businesses and banks. Saint Petersburg is also known as Russia’s cultural capital. The city has several amazing museums and UNESCO World Heritage buildings. Spending a couple of days in this metropolis will complete your journey to Russia!

History:

Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703. It quickly started to expand under his rule and became a cultural centre in Russia. Peter the Great was pro-European and with his new capital, Russia could join Europe in the modern ways of science and politics. This attracted new nobility, scientists and architects. Many of the buildings from this era therefore have a European outlook. Decedents of Peter the Great eventually made it Russia’s capital and it remained under their rule until the end of their empirical dynasty in 1917 when Moscow became the political centre.

Throughout these centuries, Saint Petersburg experienced periods of wealth and periods of decline under different emperors and empresses. This was partially caused by the fact that Russia had a unique position in the world- not being entirely European but not being entirely Asian either. Some monarchs wanted Russia to be more European, such as famous Empress Catharina the Great, but others preferred a more Asian ideology. Saint Petersburg also has had different names throughout history, such as Petrograd and Leningrad.

Sightseeing:

Because of its long and rich history, Saint Petersburg has a lot to offer to those who are interested in history and culture. The city is located around the delta of the river Neva that ends in the Gulf of Finland. Across the river are many monumental bridges. You can easily get around the city with the underground system which has over 2.3 million daily commuters! Some of the underground stations are really worth a visit because they are beautifully decorated.

One of Saint Petersburg’s most remarkable buildings is the Church of the Savoir on Blood, built between 1883 and 1907. It is was erected on the exact spot where Emperor Alexander II was attacked and fatally wounded by revolutionaries in 1881. The church was built in his memory.  Even though it is quite a modern building, it was built in medieval Russian style in the spirit of nationalism. The inside of the church is just as remarkable as the outside, where the walls are almost completely covered in mosaics of Christ, saints and other biblical figures. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Saint Petersburg.

Another interesting building is the Peter and Paul Fortress in the heart of the city. It was part of the original citadel of Saint Petersburg built during the rule of Peter the Great. It has had multiple functions throughout history, but today it is part of the State Museum of Saint Petersburg. The city also has gardens, two theatres and several buildings connected to Russian literature.

Culture:

The museum you absolutely must visit is the Hermitage Museum. It is one of the biggest and most diverse museums in the world! It was originally an art collection of the royal family, but was opened to the public in the 1850s. The collection consists of ancient and modern art, mostly from Europe and Asia. There really is something for everyone, whether you like Egyptian, classical, religious or contemporary art.

If you are visiting Saint Petersburg you have to try some Russian specialities. Ever heard of blinis? Blinis are the Russian version of pancakes and very delicious when served with fresh fruit or whipped cream. They are also often folded and filled with meat, rice or mushrooms.

Vodka is known as a traditional drink in Russia. It is not entirely certain which country or region vodka originated from, but it has become a very popular drink over the last century (which, sadly, has also causes many problems within society). It is a strong drink, created by the distillation from fermented potatoes or sugars, and can contain over 40% alcohol. Make sure you drink responsibly!

When and how?

You might be wondering what the best time is to visit Saint Petersburg. Russia is not known for its pleasant climate, but planning your trip carefully will definitely improve your chances of being able to enjoy the city without being caught in poor weather.

Climate data for Saint Petersburg show that April and May are your best options. Temperatures vary from 10 to 15 degrees Celsius and these months have the least rain or snow. In June and July, temperatures can reach 20 degrees Celsius, but these months are on average much wetter.  During the Winter months, temperatures drop below freezing point and you will most likely encounter snow.

Your decision on when to visit the beautiful Saint Petersburg will also affect how you get around. When it is colder, you might prefer travelling by bus or underground, while on a good day, you could explore the city on foot or maybe even by boat!

Have you been to Saint Petersburg or another Russian city that is worth a visit? Let us know in the comments!

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