While visiting friends in Moscow, we all decided to take a weekend trip to St. Petersburg. I am so glad that we made this trip, because St. Petersburg turned out to be one of my favorite cities in the world to this day. One long weekend is not long enough to see all the wonderful things that St. Petersburg has to offer. You could spend one full day just at the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum, and that is where I will begin my description of some of the sights I experienced in St. Petersburg.
The Winter Palace – The Hermitage Museum
The Winter Palace is a massive, ornate building, located on Palace Square. While we were there, there was a unique display of Russian armament in the square in front of the Winter Palace. This included tanks and anti-aircraft missiles. Not something you see everyday in other parts of the world. I felt a bit uneasy about this display, but mostly I was uncomfortable seeing kids climbing on the tanks and missiles.
Beyond this display though is an amazing palace. You must walk through the many rooms within the palace. Formally, the home of such leaders as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, the palace includes rooms of such grandeur. It is simply breathtaking. The grand staircases and elegant chandeliers continue in the Hermitage Museum.
I’ve been to a lot of museums and art galleries in my life, and each one is unique and special. However, I absolutely adore the Hermitage Museum, and as unpopular as I am going to be for saying this, I loved it more than the Louvre in Paris. You could spend a full day wandering the halls of ancient relics, sculptures, and paintings. I was amazed at the large collection of paintings by the most famous painters in the world, including Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Gaugin, and so many others. At one point, I turned the corner into a room that was void of people but filled with numerous Picasso paintings. I was simply in heaven. It was just me and Picasso’s art. I also really enjoyed viewing DaVinci’s Madonna Litta. To make myself even more unpopular, I will also say that I think this DaVinci painting is better and more stunning than the Mona Lisa.
I realize that after a full day of wandering through the Winter Palace, you may not want to visit another palace, but Peterhof Palace is worth it. Peterhof Palace is located on the Gulf of Finland. To get there, you can take the Peterhof Express (hydrofoil) from the mainland. Try to pick a nice day to visit Peterhof, so you can enjoy a nice cruise to the palace. Plus, the palace is surrounded by a park and gardens that you will want to walk around. While taking a stroll, we stumbled upon an area that gave some information on the Peterhof Palace during WWII. The palace was severely damaged, and at one point during the war, it was used by the Nazis. We found a nice restaurant with outdoor seating for lunch before continuing on to get a better view of the palace.
Peterhof Palace was modeled after Versailles in France. Many years ago I visited one of King Ludwig’s castles in Bavaria, Germany called Linderhof. Linderhof looks very similar to Peterhof, so I guess many leaders tried to create their own Versailles. Like the others, at Peterhof Palace you will find an ornate fountain with a gold statue. Here it is called the Samson Fountain and is my favorite feature of this palace’s decorations. Just like the Winter Palace, you could spend a full day wandering around the inside and outside of Peterhof Palace.
The World of Russian Literature
As a huge fan of literature, I adore Russian authors. It would be hard to be in St. Petersburg and not dive into the lives of such notable authors, including Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment), Pushkin (Eugene Onegin), Gogol (Dead Souls), and Nabokov (Lolita). Many people visit Dostoevsky’s house and museum. I did not get a chance to do this, but I am sure I would have loved it had I had time. Before this trip, I knew very little about Alexander Pushkin. On this visit, I quickly became a Pushkin fan. I purchased one of his stories at the Dom Knigi bookstore and in the evening had a drink at the Literary Cafe. This is the location where it is believe that Pushkin had his last moments before meeting his death in a duel.
The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood
The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood is another famous site in St. Petersburg. This ornate and colorful church is located on the Griboedov Canal. I highly recommend going inside and taking a look around. Not one surface appears to be free of religious artwork. It is very impressive and also has an interesting history.
The Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad
During WWII, Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg) was attacked by the Nazis. The people of Leningrad defended themselves heroically and eventually were victorious at the cost of many casualties. If this historical event interests you at all, do not miss a visit to the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, accessible by metro train. This monument also includes an exhibit that walks you through each stage of the devastating siege that lasted years before the people prevailed and defeated the Nazis. The exhibit is very informative and heart-wrenching.
It is hard to believe that we discovered all these beautiful gems in St Petersburg in one weekend. It is an amazing and beautiful city.