Architecture, Saint Petersburg
St. Petersburg has five main train stations: Vitebsky, Ladozhsky, Moskovskya, Baltiisky and Finlyandsky.
Eastern European train stations are often very beautiful and well worth seeing. So always when you come across a train station, take the chance to get a glimpse of the architecture both from the outside as well as from the inside.
Unfortunately, the area around the train stations is often a bit dodgy and full of beggars, thieves and drunks. Nevertheless, don't miss the chance to see some architectural gems.
My favourite train station in St.Petersburg is Vitebsky Station. For more info about Vitebsky Station, please have a look at my "Things to do Tips".
St. Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703, so it celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2003.
The tsars employed the best architects and artists from Western Europe to build St. Petersburg. Most of the Baroque or Classizism style buildings were worked out by Italian, French, Dutch or German people, therefore St. Petersburg is dominated by Western European Architecture.
Favorite thing: Soviet era art is still found in abundance throughout St. Petersburg. In a historical sense, I found it to be fascinating, it being one of those things that I have only seen in books. This art was, or course, used by the Soviet government to serve as a constant reminder to the people of who and what was important, though today it is largely ignored for the most part. I particularly liked the style of most of the work as it was done in the 1930's art-deco style which I love.
I always wanted to be an architect, but I was more suited for Medicine. So, I discovered I liked doing little model projects like the great Church of Spilt Blood in St. Petersburg. In the church itself, they do sell (for only about $20) a cardboard model kit for making a three-dimensional colorful model of this beautiful orthodox Russian church. While completing the structure, you do remember certain areas of the church. The finished product looked good on top of my kitchen cabinets and the twins enjoyed the project!
Fondest memory: Church of Spilt Blood
Many colourful and decorative Baroque buildings pepper the city ~ the Beloselskiy-Belozerskiy Palace is but one, easily located off of Nevsky Prospekt. The Winter Palace, Stroganov Palace and the Smolny Convent are also excellent examples of the art form.
Fondest memory: If the canals haven't yet convinced you that you are in a regal European capital, a good look around the architecture of the city might do the trick. . .
In haste and hurry to ensure that St. Petersburg was different from Moscow in every possible way, Peter the Great imported European architects and designers to build his city.
He whole-heartedly encouraged Baroque art and design ~ paying for Russian students to be sent to Europe to for training. He also brought numerous Dutch, Germans, Italians and French architects to St. Petersburg to try their hands at buildings and estates.
Fondest memory: The "birth" of the city is dated to May 27, 1703 (or May 16 by the old calendar), when the first stone of Peter & Paul Fortress was laid. . .but it's in admiring the Baroque buildings and palaces that you find Peter's true city.
When he moved the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg, the face of "Europe" seen in the facades of so many of the city's buildings was what he envisioned.
Examples of Style Moderne architecture can be found all over St. Petersburg ~ this type of art and decoration became popular in Europe in the late 1800's as "Art Nouveau."
The lines of this style are unmistakable ~ curved and rippling. The wall surfaces are smooth and rounded. . .you'll find lots of asymmetrical facades, large windows, iron and metal-work, tiles and mosaics. . .sometimes all of these items combined in a way that should work, but does.
The best way to appreciate it ~ keep your eyes open and explore the city by foot.
There is so much architectural interest in the city, that the best way of appreciating it is to simply get out of your hotel or apartment and walk.
Outside, at street level, you'll find unending doorways, carvings, atlantes and caryatids. . .bridges, statues, and more. . .all with appeal and character.
Fondest memory: As St. Petersburg was carefully modelled after European capitals, it shares this in common with them: leisurely (even aimless) walks are immensely rewarding.
Much of our appreciation for the city came from this approach.
For our first day in St. Petersburg, I had arranged a two-hour guided oriention (by car) to the city. In our jet-lagged state, it turned out to be a good introduction. . .but we quickly came to the conclusion that the best way to explore the city would be by foot.
Fondest memory: A tour by car, bus, or even one that relies heavily on the metro, would mean missing out on all the little details that can be found throughout St. Petersburg.
We found beauty and charm everywhere in the city ~ from grand palaces to scrolling woodwork in doorways. . .
The first architect to build St Petersburg was the Italian Domenico Tozzini, who stayed for 9 years. All the city was built almost exclusively by european architects, mainly italian and french, the most famous being Bartolomeo Rastrelli and Giacomo Quarenghi.
Since the celebration of 300 years of the founding of the city, the efforts of renovation continue on and on, so most of the center is in excellent shape (at least looking from the street)
Most of the palaces are situated either on Nevsky prospect or between Moika canal and Neva.
Fondest memory: The highest points in the city are the towers of the Petro Pavlovski Church and Admiralty tower, so all the city has a laid back, relaxed atmosphere with low buildings and large avenues and canals.
... due to the northern latitude, the sun stays rather low, so the low buildings have the advantage of blocking it less. And the sky always stays present in the city, either reflected in the canals or above the low rise buildings.
Favorite thing: Crossing the island, you'll see some funny scenes... Like this nice van rotting under a sign saying NO PARKING! in bright white letters. Yes, I do see why... You will also see typical narrow passages with walls falling apart and hordes of cats dwelling in the rubbish.
Fondest memory: Another mark of the XX century - this memorial pannel on the Winter Palace says: 'At night 25-26 of October (7-8 November), 1917, the Winter Palace - the residence of the russian Tsars, the residence of the last government of the capitalists - was attacked by the revolution army'.
Fondest memory: The centre of Saint Petersburg seen from the top of Isakievsky Cathedral. You can see the Admiralty buiding (in the centre), Zimniy Palace (green building on the right) and Peter and Paul Fortress (just behind the russian flag)
I had been living in S-Petersberg (SPb, an official abbreviation) for seven years. Here are some considerations about what you shouldn't miss there
-The Hermitage (Winter Palace). It is not only a large collection of different arts, but also the place where Russian emperors (tsars) used to live.
-Peter and Paul fortress.
-Isaakij Cathedral. Beautiful cathedral and the highest building in the city. You can observe the whole city from its top.
-Petergof(Petrodvorets). Former summer palace of tsar, nice parks with spectacular fountains. You should take a bus or train from Baltijskij railway station, the trip takes about 1 hour.
-Boat trip on rivers and channels of S-Petersburg. There are little boats waiting for tourists at the crossings of Moika river and Griboedov channel with Nevski prospect. It is worth to see the city from water.
-Opening the bridges. In summer time the bridges over Neva river are opened during the night to let big ships go up the river. And there is almost no night in SPb in summer, 'white nights' as we call them.
Those are the main sights to my opinion.If you had seen them I would say you saw the city.
If you have time for walking, I would recommend to walk along the whole Nevski prospectand in Petrogradski region (Petrogradskaia storona). Walking around Sennaya ploshchad (Hay square) would take you in Dostoevski's novels (if you like it, of course:).
Visit Vassily's Island and look at two famous marmor columns.
Fondest memory: The Neva River is the city's greatest beauty and the greatest danger at the same time. Water level in the river often rises for some meters. That day I took this picture, Neva was quiet and covered with ice.