Saint Petersburg is Russia's cultural capital and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Among its most well-known attractions are The Hermitage, the Russian Museum, Saint Isaac's and Kazan cathedrals, the Church of the Savior on Blood, Peter and Paul Fortress, Nevsky Prospect and the Summer Garden.

The heart of St. Petersburg is relatively small and located around the Hermitage and the Admiralty on a small strip of land between the Neva and Moika rivers. The entire area is filled palaces, embassies and government buildings. Nevsky Prospect, stretching east from the Admiralty, is the main street. Pedestrian only streets include Malaya Konnyushennaya and Malaya Sadovaya.Most places of interest to tourists are located within walking distance of one another and the whole area can be covered in an hour or two.

The colder months, when its nice to be indoors, are ideal for visiting St. Petersburg’s famous museums — the Hermitage, the State Russian Museum, and the Peter and Paul Fortress. Fall and spring — and winter too — is good time to indulge in ballet and theater performances and music concerts and festivals. The main tourist seasons are spring and summer when the flowers bloom, people get drunk on the embankments and visitors gather at fountains and drawbridges.

St. Petersburg Visitor Card is specifically designed for tourists. The card offers you an opportunity to visit 80 museums, go on tours, and get various discounts from partners. It also works as a public transport card. Card validity period ranges from two to seven days, the minimum price is RUB 3,990.

Churches in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg's Churches include the Nikolsky Morskoi Cathedral, a great five-domed church which held services consistently even during the Communist era; Chesme Church, is a charming little pink church with white candy stripes and pointy towers built for Catherine the Great and containing a diorama of a famous battle; and St. Nicholas Cathedral, known for its beautiful watchtower.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (near the Russian Museum) is a memorial church built on the spot where revolutionaries threw a bomb into the carriage carrying Alexander II in 1881, mortally wounding him.. Also known as the Cathedral of the Resurrection, it was built between 1887 and 1907 and is partly modeled on St. Basil's cathedral. It is a multi-domed churches filled with wonderful gilded ornaments and art-nouveau style mosaics hidden in the nooks and crannies of the towers. There are many mosaics centered around a marble monument of Alexander II. The church was an important meeting place for the Bolsheviks. It was closed to service by the Soviets in 1930 and restored and reopened in 1997 to visitors, who marvel at its multi-colored domes, decorated facade and mosaic interior.

Steve Dougherty wrote in the New York Times: “Continuing along the Griboyedov embankment road, we cross Nevsky and stop at the eye-popping Church on the Spilled Blood. Constructed as it was named, atop the cobblestones where Tsar Alexander II, the liberator of the serfs, was assassinated by revolutionists in 1881, the church is a dizzying phantasmagoria of candy-colored mosaics and towers topped by onion domes that spiral like Carvel frozen custard cones.” [Source: Steve Dougherty, New York Times, December 31, 2006]

Smolny Cathedral (three kilometers east of the Summer Gardens) is a wild blend of Baroque architecture and Russian onion domes and towers. Designed by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli, the Italian architect who designed the Winter Palace, and built between 1748 and 1757, it was originally a convent and now holds a concert hall and administrative offices.

Communist St. Petersburg

Smolny Institute (near Smolny Cathedral) is considered on one of the holiest shrines of Soviet Communism. Erected by Catherine the Great, the handsome neo-classical complex was used by Lenin and the Bolsheviks as their headquarters. It is regarded as the Soviet equivalent of Philadelphia's Independence Hall.

Steve Dougherty wrote in the New York Times:“The Bolshoi Dom was built on the site of a Tsarist court where revolutionaries, including Lenin's brother, were tried before being executed for an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Alexander III. It was later the headquarters of the Soviet secret police and the operational center of the bloody purges by Stalin that killed millions in the 1930s that are remembered now simply as the Terror. [Source: Steve Dougherty, New York Times, December 31, 2006]

“A chilling memorial to the victims of the purges — two sphinxes that look ordinary until you notice that their human faces have been gouged to reveal the empty eye sockets of their skulls — stands nearby on the banks of the Neva, where the embankment roadway has been appropriately renamed for Robespierre, architect of an earlier reign of terror elsewhere.

“There are two places in Russia that I will never go,” says Anna, whose family suffered in the purge years. “One is Lenin's tomb in Moscow. The other is the cruiser Aurora.” Preserved as a museum for its role in the revolution, the ship fired the shot that signaled the storming of the Winter Palace in the October 1917 putsch that toppled the nine-month-old revolutionary provisional government and put the Bolsheviks in power. “It was a blank shot,” Anna says, “but it caused 80 years of suffering. That was the end of democracy in Russia.”

Putin’s St. Petersburg

Putin was brought up in communal apartment on Baskow Lane. The apartment is still there. No plaque identifies it. Describing it in 2003 Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker, “ Like virtually all entryways in Russian apartment building, it was steeped in medieval gloom, probably owing to theft or breakage of entryway light bulbs. Faded graffiti and scratches defaced its crumbing two-tone walls. The steps to the first landing were as worn and chipped and old as stone steps in a cave, and were dotted with flattened cigarette butts.”

In the early 2000s, the 1,000-room 18th century Konstantinorsky Palace in Strelna, near Putin hometown of St. Petersburg, was given a multi-million dollar makeover so that Putin could use it as a retreat. It has own helipad, port for the presidential yacht, a network of canals, a man-made island, drawbridges, fountains, an arched entrance, a grand pavilion, 20 red brick cottages, an orchestral hall in a glass atrium and a veranda with a spectacular view of the water.

The Palace was started by Peter the Great but never finished. Putin hosted the G-8 leaders there and hoped it would serve as a center for international meetings and conferences. There were plans to turn an Arctic sailors college into a four star hotel A dacha once occupied by Mathilde Kschessinsk — a famous ballerina and mistress of Tsar Nicholas II — was slated to be turned into museum. By some estimated US$200million was spent on the project.

Marriage Registration Palace No1

Marriage Registration Palace No1 (Angliyskaya nab., 28 on Angliyskaya Embankment on the Neva River) is the most popular Marriage Registration Palace in Saint Petersburg. It boasts luxurious interiors in its numerous halls and a stunning grand staircase use for dramatic entrances and wedding photos shoot. The wedding palace on Angliyskaya embankment is the only marriage registration palace in Saint Petersburg with two registration halls: a large one and small one.

The Soviet-era Palace of Weddings (formerly the Palace of the Grand Duke Vladimir) should have been called the Factory of Weddings. In the 1990s assembly line marriages were performed there ten hours a day, seven days a week. The price with a photographer back then was about the same as a dinner at McDonald’s for a family of four.

The ceremonies began with Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto Number One and lasted about eight minutes. Wedding parties queued on a marble staircase until it is their turn. When the ceremony was over the newlywed couple climbed another flight of stairs and exited to the left.

The veiled bride usually wore a white dress and carried a bouquet. The groom usually wore a black suit. The ceremonies were performed by city officials and couples usually exchange rings, signed a registry and were pronounced man and wife, while tears were shed and cameras clicked.

Soviet-era wedding halls and palaces were often grand looking and contained a statue of Lenin. Many of the places are still functioning today. The bride and groom often laid bouquets at the base of Lenin statues for good luck. More and more churches are holding wedding ceremonies. Space is still a premium and money is tight, thus mass weddings are still held.

Nevsky Prospekt

Nevsky Prospekt (beginning near the Hermitage) is Russia's most famous street. Described by the poet Alexander Blok as the "most lyric street in the world," it is a broad six-lane avenue that extends for 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) from the golden spire of the Admiralty to the sprawling Alexander Nevsky Monastery with Kazan cathedral marking the halfway point.

The section of Nevsky Prospect between the Admiralty and Moscow Station is the St. Petersburg's main thoroughfare, shopping district and entertainment and nightlife center. A cross between the Champs-Elyse and New Orleans's Bourbon Street, it is lined grandiose rococo mansions, statues of poets, shops, cafés and restaurants. At night it is lit up with old fashion street lamps.

In a short story about St. Petersburg, Gogol wrote that "is there anything more gay, more brilliant, more resplendent than this beautiful street of our capital? I am sure that not one of her anemic inhabitants, not one of her innumerable Civil Servants, would exchange Nevsky Prospect for all the avenues in the world." On July 4, 1917 Bolsheviks were dispersed under fire at Nevsky Prospect three month before they stormed the Winter Palace and seized control of the government.

Today, Nevsky Prospect has few traces of the Soviet era. Billboards and signs advertise products for Hugo Boss and Samsung. Shops sell perfumes, works of art, toys and electronic gadgets. The parade of humanity includes successful young Russians. tourist from all over the world, street people, buskers, and pickpockets.

Many of Nevsky Prospect's lovely old churches are coming back to life. The Armenian Church and Roman Catholic Church, both erected during the 18th century, have been remodeled after seven decades of Communist neglect. The ecclesiastical Peter and Paul Lutheran Church has been turned into a swimming pool and probably will remain as it is.

Places of Interest In and Around Nevesky Prospect

Admiralty End of Nevesky Prospect includes the building where Tchaikovsky died (ulitsa Gogolya 13); the Literatunya Café, where Pushkin and other poets hung out; and Rastrelli's green Strogonov Palace, the family home of the inventors of the famous beef dish. House No. 7 was modeled after the Doge Palace in Venice. On House No 14 there is an inscription that reads: “Citizens! This side of the street is most dangerous during artillery bombardment!” — a warning preserved from the Nazi blockade in 1942 and 1943.

Grand Hotel Europe (on Nevesky Prospect) lies in the heart of the busiest section of Nevesky Prospect. Completely renovated between 1989 and 1991, it is an obscenely lavish hotel with marble floors, gilt columns, grand staircases, and a restaurant with a caviar bar. The area around the house is called the Silver Stalls. It is one of the busiest part of the city and was once filled with peddlers selling dolls, fur hats, jeans, dogs and homemade vodka and almost anything else you can imagine. Rock bands blasted out music with amplifiers.

Gosptiny Dvor (near the Grand Hotel Europe on Nevesky Prospect) is regarded as one of the world's first indoor shopping centers. Built in the mid 1700s under Empress Elizabeth, it occupies an entire block, and is comprised of separate emporiums that are lined up on elegant yellow arcades with hanging lanterns. In the early 18th century after the city was founded caravans and merchants gathered here to sell their wares.

Nearby is the splendid Singer Sewing Machine building. Crowned with a revolving glass sphere, the building was built in 1902 and served as the company's Russian headquarters before the Bolsheviks took over. Also worth a look are the Armenian Church (1771-80), Voronstov Palace, the Pushkin Theater, and the Vaganova School of Choreography, where Pavlova, Nijinsky and Nureyev studied.

Ploschchad Iskusstv (Nevsky Prospekt Metro Station) is a square that lies in the middle of a group of concert halls, theaters and museums. The main attractions are the Russian Museum the Large Hall, home of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and the Maly Theater. The Ethnography Museum has an interesting displays on the Russia's 70 odd ethnic groups.

City Children Park (between the Summer Garden and Smolny Cathedral) is a good place to take young children. Also known as Tauride Palace, it features lots of children's rides. Northwest of the park is the Flower’s Exhibition Hall, an indoor complex.

Aleksandr Nevsky Monastery End of Nevesky Prospect is where you can find the Anichkov Bridge, with famous statues of rearing horses; the renovated Corinthia Nevsky Palace Hotel (formerly the Nevskij Palace Hotel); and Ploshchad Vostania, with its giant granite pillar. Make sure to check out the brilliant red baroque facade of the Beloselsky-Pelozersky Palace which is located about a block away from Nevsky Prospect and was built in the 1840s.

Strolling Around Nevesky Prospect

To get an instant feel for what St. Petersburg is all about many people recommend taking a stroll down Alexander Nevsky Along the way yo will see vendors hawking everything from souvenirs to paintings to cigarettes; Hare Krishnas, break dancers, children in formal wear doing ballroom dances, drawing crowds of curiosity seekers; and musicians playing Beatles and Bob Dylan song clustered around the Metro stations.

On a stroll down the street in the winter Steve Dougherty wrote in the New York Times: “Overcast skies dull the 10am dawn as I leave Palace Square and walk east down Nevsky Prospekt. St. Petersburg's central thoroughfare, Nevsky is a broad boulevard lined with department stores, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, office buildings and palaces. The roadway is crowded with compact automobiles so covered in grime it's obvious that workaday Russians have yet to attain the capitalist pleasures of big, shiny and new. When they do, some savvy entrepreneur will no doubt make a killing with a car wash. [Source: Steve Dougherty, New York Times, December 31, 2006]

“Crossing the Moyka, the first of the concentric rings of small rivers and canals that Nevsky Prospekt intersects, I pass the Baroque Stroganoff Palace, where a nameless palace chef invented the famous beef dish. Continuing east on Nevsky Prospekt, I look for faded remnants of signs stenciled on building facades during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad (the city's name was changed when the Bolsheviks moved the capital to Moscow) warning passers-by that they were more likely to be killed by artillery shells on the north side of the street.

“My stroll down the Nevsky is a walk through time and Russian culture. At the winding Griboyedov Canal, which snakes south through the heart of the old Haymarket District made famous by Dostoyevsky, is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. The city's holiest shrine, the church was mockingly called the Museum of Atheism during the Soviet era.

“Standing in front of the cathedral is a far-larger-than-life-size statue of General Mikhail Kutuzov, the Russian commander who defeated Napoleon. Depicted in “War and Peace” as a sleepy, sly, one-eyed old fox underestimated by friends and foe, here Kutuzov looks like a Roman emperor in heroic pose, his head wreathed in laurels and his unwavering gaze fixed on eternal glory.

A few blocks away is the Yusupov Palace, where Prince Felix Yusupov, heir to the greatest fortune in Russia, nearly botched the 1916 murder of Rasputin, who though poisoned with cyanide, shot five times and clubbed, somehow survived the onslaught only to die by drowning after the prince and his fellow conspirators dumped what they thought was his dead body in the Neva.

Back on Nevsky Prospekt, I pass the Grand Hotel Europe and, facing it, the Philharmonic Hall, where Dmitri Shostakovich, the great composer who remained in the city throughout the German blockade, conducted his new Symphony No. 7 (the “Leningrad”) to a packed house as the shells were still falling.

Passing the Russian National Library and the Aleksandrinsky Gardens with their sculpture of Catherine the Great and the Pushkin Theater, where the local playwright Anton Chekov's “Seagull” bombed at its 1896 premiere, I stop on the Anichkov Bridge. Below, the icy surface of the wide Fontanka River is littered with Champagne and beer bottles and the charred tubes of cardboard Roman candle tubes left by last weekend's New Year's Eve revelers. On the river's west bank is the enormous Anichkov Palace, once home to the Tsar's heir and successor. I try to pick out the palace balcony where the future Tsar Nicholas II habitually enjoyed an evening smoke while watching the promenading crowds pass below.

“Wandering north of the Nevsky, I quickly get lost in a maze of side streets marked by signs written in Cyrillic characters, rendering my map, which uses Roman letters, useless. English seems limited to the occasional Pizza Hut, Subway, KFC or CitiBank logo; signs for a handful of cafes catering to foreigners (the Republic of Coffee, Fashion Dolls) and a spa offering “erotic massage procedures”; and a bit of anti-globalization graffiti (“Destroy Capital” scrawled below a drawing of a bomb festooned with a burning fuse and sprouting American eagle wings). Thanks to the familiar faces on the jacket of a DVD sold by a street vendor, I'm able to add the words “tynok” and “tynee” to my Russian vocabulary — “Dumb and Dumber.”“

Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan

Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan (on Nevesky Prospect) is where Catherine the Great was married on August 21, 1745. Inspired by St. Peter's in Rome and designed by a former serf, it was built between 1801 and 1811 and is named after the Kazan icon it once held. The cathedral has massive columns and looks like an American state capital attached to 111-meter (364-foot) -long curving columned colonnade. In the Soviet era, it contained the Museum of Religion and Atheism. In the area around Kazan Cathedral you can find the immense Dom Knigi Book Store, the lovely Bankovy Bridge and the Central Art Salon

Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan — also known simply as Kazan Cathedral or Kazanskiy Kafedralniy Sobor is a Russian Orthodox cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most venerated icons in Russia. Construction of the cathedral began in 1801 and continued for ten years under the supervision of Alexander Sergeyevich Stroganov. Upon its completion in 1811, the new church replaced the Church of Nativity of the Theotokos, which was disassembled when the Kazan Cathedral was consecrated. Kazan cathedral was Designed by Andrey Voronikhin, a Russian architect and painter,

After Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, the Russian general Mikhail Kutuzov asked Our Lady of Kazan for help. After the war was over, Russians viewed the cathedral primarily as a memorial to their victory over Napoleon. Kutuzov was interred in the cathedral in 1813; and Alexander Pushkin wrote a celebrated poem about meditating over his sepulchre. In 1815 keys to seventeen cities and eight fortresses were brought by the victorious Russian army from Europe and placed in the cathedral's sacristy. In 1837, Boris Orlovsky designed two bronze statues of Kutuzov and of Barclay de Tolly which stand in front of the cathedral.

Aleksandr Nevsky Monastery

Aleksandr Nevsky Monastery(eastern end of Nevsky Prospekt) was founded in 1713 by Peter the Great in the place he thought Aleksandr Nevsky defeated the Swedes in the Battle of the Neva in 1240. (he was wrong it was somewhere else). A working monastery, it sprawls over a large area and contains some 18th century churches and religious buildings. It is most famous for its cemetery, where Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Dostoevsky and other Russian luminaries — as well as members of the royal family, government and public figures, representatives of culture and art — s are buried.

Alexander Nevsky Laura is the first and largest monastery in St. Petersburg. In 1713 the first wooden church of the future monastery — the Annunciation church — was built. The church as designed by the Swiss-Italian architect Domenico Trezzini. In 1723 Peter the Great ordered the relics of Prince Alexander Nevsky to be moved from Vladimir to the new monastery. They arrived in St. Petersburg in 1724, and a new holiday — the Tranfer of the Relics of Prince Alexander — was added to the calendar of the Russian Church. St. Alexander Nevsky, along with Peter the Great, is a patron of St. Petersburg.

The monastery grounds contain two baroque churches, the Annunciation Church (1717–1722) and the Feodorovskaya Church (1742–1750), designed by Trezzini’s son. The Neoclassical Holy Trinity Cathedral, was built in 1778–1790 and designed by Ivan Starov. There are a number of other structures. Among those buried in ornate tombs in the Lazarevskoe, Tikhvin, Nikolskoe, and Kazachye Cemeteries are Leonhard Euler, Mikhail Lomonosov, Alexander Suvorov, Nikolay Karamzin, Modest Mussorgsky, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Karl Ivanovich Rossi, Prince Garsevan Chavchavadze, a Georgian aristocrat, and Sergei Witte. During the Russian Revolution in 1917-1918, People's Commissar of Social Welfare Kollontai wanted to convert the monastery into a 'sanctuary for war invalids'; she sent a group of sailors in January 1918, who were met by an angry crowd of worshipers. After some fighting a priest was shot and killed. [Source: Wikipedia]

When St Petersburg was first pronounced the capital at the start of the 18th century, the relics of Alexander Nevsky were brought over and the Alexandra Nevsky Lavra built to house them. During the turbulent times of the Russian Revolution, the relics of Alexander Nevsky were looted. The massive silver sarcophagus, weighing 1.6 tonnes, was taken apart and moved to the Hermitage Museum where it can be seen today.

Between Nevesky Prospekt and River Neva

Between Nevesky Prospekt and the River Neva, north of Nevsky Prospekt and east of the Hermitage, is an area that has pleasant gardens, waterways and old buildings. It is a nice place for walking around. Palace Embankment (between the Hermitage and the Summer Gardens) is a promenade along the Neva River that is a pleasant place to take a stroll. The wide pedestrian thoroughfare passes many old 18th and 19th century palaces and leads to the Summer Gardens.

Mikaihulovosky Manege a former horse riding academy where one of the pivotal events of the October Revolution took place. A plaque outside reads: “Here, in the former manege at a meeting on 15 April 1917 before soldiers of the Armored Car division, and at a gathering on 1 January 1918 of a regiment of Red Army troops about to set out for the Western Front, V. I. LENIN made a speech.” See History

Engineer's Castle (just south of the Summer Garden) is a heavy, baroque mansion built by the weak and paranoid Paul I, Catherine the Great's son, to protect himself from his enemies. Little good it did him, a few days after her became tsar he was suffocated to death in his bedroom in a palace coup in 1801. In the Soviet Union era, the castle — also known as Mikhailovsky Palace and Saint Michael's Castle — was used as an office building for 12 different agencies and is now part of the Russian Art Museum complex. The tours of the castle include a stop at the oak-paneled second story chamber where the tsar was killed. There are also portraits of a dozen or so tsars.

Summer Garden and Summer Palace

Summer Garden (on the Neva River west if near the Hermitage) is regarded as St. Petersburg's most beautiful park. Modeled after the park in Versailles and used by Pushkin to woo the ladies, it boasts fountains, pavilions, geometric gardens, 3000 lime trees and a fine collection of statues honoring famous Russian writers and poets. Landscaped in the reign of Peter the Great, it has a large stand of fir and birch surrounded by a a narrow moat and a tall, wrought-iron fence.. Children often gravitate to the unpredictable carousel-like trick fountain.

The Summer Garden occupies an island between the Fontanka, Moika, and the Swan Canal and shares its name with the adjacent Summer Palace, a small two-story palace used by Peter the Great. It was St. Petersburg' first palaces. It is largely intact and features paintings of naval scenes on the interior.

The park was personally designed by Tsar Peter in 1704 with the help of Dutch gardeners and French architects and largely completed in 1719. The walks were lined with a hundred allegorical marble sculptures, executed by Francesco Penso, Pietro Baratta, Marino Gropelli, Alvise Tagliapietra, Bartolomeo Modulo and other Venetian sculptors that were acquired by Sava Vladislavich. In the late 20th century, 90 surviving statues were moved indoors, while modern replicas took their place in the park.

The sequence of patterned parterres, originally more formal than the current landscape, were the site of Imperial assemblies, or lavish parties which often included balls, feasts, and fireworks. Apart from the statuary, a major park attraction were the fountains, the oldest in Russia, representing scenes from Aesop's fables. Some of these fell out of use and were demolished after a flood in 1777 destroyed the fountain machinery.

In the 1820s, a grotto pavilion, attributed to Andreas Schlüter and Georg Johann Mattarnovy, was rebuilt into a coffee house. On the bank of the Carp Pond, a magnificent porphyry vase, a gift of Charles XIV of Sweden to the tsar, was installed in 1839. In April 1866, the first attempt to assassinate a tsar occurred as he walked out of the gates of the Summer Garden. In April 1866, Dmitry Karakozov made an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Tsar Alexander II. As the Tsar was leaving, Dmitry rushed forward to fire a shot from a gun. The attempt was thwarted by Ossip Komissarov, a peasant-born hatter's apprentice, who jostled Karakozov's elbow just before the shot was fired The park was chosen by Alexander Pushkin as a setting for childhood walks of the fictional character Eugene Onegin.

Marble Palace

Marble Palace (between the Hermitage and the Summer Gardens) is a 18th-century aristocratic residence given by Catherine the Great to her lover Grigory Orlov. Occupied during the Soviet Union era by the little known Lenin museum and now run by the Russian Museum, it is used for rotating exhibits.

The Marble Palace also functions as a banquet room for foreign guests, who are served fine Russia food by actors dressed up in period costumes as soldiers and ballerinas. Chamber music is performed in the salon and portraits of the tsars grace the Gallery. During a News Year dinner guest were served Caspian Sea caviar, French wines and Russian blini in a room decorated with crystal and gold.

The Marble Palace constructed between palace in 1768 and 1785, thus taking 17 years to build. and was completed in 1785. The main construction materials for both the exterior and interior decorations was granite and different colored marble. The Marble Palace amazed contemporaries with its luxury, magnificent interiors, and beautiful sculptures and painting. However, the first owner of the palace Grigory Orlov did not live to see its completion. He died in 1783 and Catherine the Great the palace from Grigory Orlov's heirs and gave it as a wedding present to her grandson Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich when he married Princess Julianna Henrietta of Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (Anna Fyodorovna).

The Main Staircase is decorated with grey Ural marble. The stairs are made of dark grey sandstone. Paris’s Judgement by the 18th century German painter J. Krist is graces the celing over the center of the Main Staircase ceiling. Stone decoration in of the Marble Room — with their the variety of colours, elegance, richness, perfection of marble's processing, excellent style of its selection, and overall arrangement — are truly something to behold. Seven marble types — including Greek, Italian, Ural, Karel, and Siberian — were used. Some rooms are adorned with bas-reliefs by F. Shubin and M. Kozlovsky and Venus's Triumph plafond by S. Torelli. In 1992, the building was rendered to the Russian Museum.

Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace

Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace (a block away from the Aleksandr Nevsky Monastery end of Nevesky Prospect) belonged to the Beloselskiy Princes, a family who claimed descent from Yuri Dolgorukiy, the founder of Moscow. Their first palace was built on the same site by the Fontanka River in 1747, but it was a much more modest affair. The family's fortunes increased thanks to the close relationship between Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Beloselskiy-Belozerskiy and Emperor Paul I, and through marriage to two heiresses to Urals mining fortunes. It was one of those heiresses, the widowed Princess Elena Pavlovna Beloselskaya-Belozerskaya, who commissioned the present palace, petitioning Emperor Nicholas I to allow his court architect, Andrey Stackensneider, to design the building (his only civil commission in the city).

The palace was built 1847-1848, and became renowned for the lavish parties thrown there by Elena Pavlovna. A few decades later, however, the family found the palace too expensive to maintain, and it was sold to Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich, brother of Emperor Alexander III, in 1884. He had part of the interiors redesigned in 1888, and in 1897 the facades were restored and first painted in the deep pink that can be seen today.

Nationalised after the October Revolution, the Beloselskiy-Belozerskiy Palace became the headquarters of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party for the centre of Leningrad. In this role, its historic interiors were carefully maintained during the 20th century, despite significant damage in the Second World War, and the original rococo decorations have largely survived intact. The building is now home to a Municipal Cultural Centre (along with several smaller institutions), and hosts regular concerts of chamber music as well as offering occasional guided tours of the state rooms (three or four times per month or by appointment).

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

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