ST PETERSBURG – A GUIDE TO THE CITY

Not only is Summer the season where St Petersburg forgets about its six-month long winter, thick coats and ushankas, but it’s also a time to enjoy the White Nights. From the beginning of June till the middle of July, St Petersburg transforms into a city where the sun never fully sets. The nights are as bright as any early evening – the perfect winter antidote for the Northern capital of Russia.

The long-lasting daylight of the White Nights is accompanied by a buzzing night life and festivals, and it’s this time of year where thousands of people gather along the riverside to see how the massive bridges of the River Neva go up, letting the boat traffic through. It’s a truly amazing experience.

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Founded by Peter the Great, St Petersburg is built on more than thirty islands, and is known as the Venice of the North with its beautiful network of winding canals and ornate bridges. Perhaps the beauty of St Petersburg’s architecture is one of the main reasons as to why so many flock to this city. Grander than any European royal residence, the breathtaking palaces keep the spirit of pre-revolutionary times alive, celebrating the past centuries of luxury and opulence.

300 years ago, the French Versailles had been considered to be the most beautiful palace in the world. As the story goes, Peter the Great had decided to build a palace that would rival Versailles, and, according to many, he did. Peterhof is located in the suburbs of St Petersburg. The palace itself is a spectacular building with a honey-coloured and white baroque façade which is over 300 metres long.

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Aside from its richly decorated interior, the palace is also famous for the enchanting aquatic cascade at its front. This includes three waterfalls, 67 fountains and 37 statues covered in gold, gleaming in the sun. At the centre stands the the most impressive statue of Samson, ripping the jaws of the Swedish symbol of the lion. This represents Russia’s victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War, while other statues are depict the stories of Greek mythology. If you don’t feel like leaving the city, admire the architectural beauty of the Catherine Palace, located in the Pushkin district, it is as majestic as Peterhof.

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There are also two cathedrals that cannot be missed. The stunning Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood with its candy coloured domes, and the world’s largest orthodox basilica, St Isaac’s Cathedral, that provides the most amazing panoramic view of the city if you climb (and survive) the 300 steps to the observation walkway.

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Any art lover should also visit the State Hermitage Museum, the world famous art gallery located in the heart of St Petersburg, which is located within the former Winter Palace of the Tsars. It is home to more than 3 million works of art, and it’s said that if you take two minutes to gaze at each and every piece, the whole tour will take you 22 years to complete. Apart from local and indigenous art, the collection includes works by da Vinci, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and Monet.

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