St. Petersburg is a must-do for your Russia travel itinerary – for it’s a city framed in gold (you’ll see what I mean soon)! Between the authentic, delicious cuisine and palaces like you’ve never seen before, St. Petersburg is a city to remember.
St. Petersburg captured my heart on a trip with my family in 2013. Although only 15 at the time (and on my very first trip abroad), I was still mesmerized by the beauty of its gardens, cathedrals, corner markets, restaurants, and, of course, the culture. I realized that it was beneficial for me to get out of my typical Western patterns, as I explored the stunning scenery of a place that I’d return to in a heartbeat. St. Petersburg will surprise you, but in the best way possible. I hope this travel guide allows you to fall in love with this extraordinary city, just as I did four years ago.
As a little history note, Catherine’s Palace is named after Catherine I. Catherine’s Palace owes its gorgeous grandeur to their daughter who chose this travel favorite as the perfect summer stay. Who would blame her? Catherine’s Palace was one of the most memorable sights on my travel journey to St. Petersburg.
Its baby-blue, sky walls tinted with delicate streaks of gold makes it a truly remarkable attraction. The palace has a certain degree of charm coupled with a striking demand of royal respect. You will feel like royalty stepping through the palace doors to embark on a tour of pure gold (not kidding)! You will also come across its Amber Room, a world-famous chamber decorated in amber panels and mirrors. I guarantee that your jaw will hit the floor – a stop you can’t miss on your Russia travel. St. Petersburg is a mosaic of beauty and Catherine’s Palace is just our first stop!
Peterhof Grounds and Gardens
The Peterhof Palace is a series of palaces and gardens constructed by the orders of Peter the Great in 1703. Understandably, this stunning landscape is sometimes called the “Russian Versailles.” Through sprawling gardens of lush, green grass, flowers tucked in tended circles, and golden statues warmly guarding neighboring fountains, the Peterhof Palace and its grounds will blow you away.
Perched at the top overlooking descending steps leading toward even more beauty, you will be amazed at the powers of architecture and human artistic abilities transformed into city marvels. I absolutely adored this part of the trip with my family. I warned you that there’s a huge amount of gold, didn’t I? The Peterhof grounds and gardens comprise of a mere piece of the travel attractions of St. Petersburg. There’s still so much to see!
The Peterhof Gardens are so gracefully presented that you’ll want the same flower display in your backyard. Walking through these carefully trimmed plants certainly adds to the lovely character of the place as a whole. Do you ever have moments where the world seems to stop in its tracks, where the view is just too pristine to rush through? That’s Peterhof Palace (and St. Petersburg) in a nutshell. Even amid crowds of dozens of travel lovers, you’ll feel a sense of comfort in the grounds and gardens of Peterhof. It doesn’t matter if you can’t speak the language. The beauty of the world of St. Petersburg is universal and ever-lasting, as you’ll find on your Russia travel.
Smolny Convent’s stunning blue-and-white buildings are undoubtedly one of the architectural masterpieces of design. This gorgeous series of structures can be seen by the Neva River. It’s one of the most beautiful churches in Russia and mimics similar Baroque-style architecture as other monuments in St. Petersburg. With pleasant river views and extending gardens of pinks, reds, and blues, it’s not hard to adore the Smolny Convent at first sight.
Today, the cathedral is no longer a working monastery, but serves, now, as a space for concerts. You can climb up 277 steps to the top of the bell tower for an unrivaled view of St. Petersburg or go on a river cruise of the Neva to see this Russian city through a new lens.
Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo
Passed between Imperial Families, the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo was meant as seasonal residences for royalty. In late 2009, the palace became a museum once more (after WWII and changing hands). The first three state rooms–the Semi-Circular Hall, the Portrait Hall, and the Marble Drawing-Room–were the first that visitors saw.
This palace, unlike Catherine’s Palace that’s decorated in blue, is adorned in a blend of yellow and white and stone foundations along a backdrop of sky and manicured grounds. There are even stories about ghosts of the Romanov family haunting the halls of Alexander Palace! So, if you believe in that sort of thing, keep a watchful eye during the museum tour!
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral
St. Isaac’s Cathedral (another one of my favorite stops) is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in St. Petersburg. It’s also the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest cathedral in the entire world. St. Isaac’s is definitely a major Russian landmark in the city. With soaring pillars and statues resting on corners and stunning gold domes reflecting the light of sunsets, this cathedral is incomparable and remarkable in character. I was so amazed by the intricacy of its exterior design that it made the interior, museum tour that much more extraordinary. It’s like a five-course meal that keeps on getting better.
The exterior of St. Isaac’s Cathedral is amazing; but, its lavish decor inside is even better. One of my favorite things to see was the landscapes and figures painted and carved into its ceilings. Such precision in detail makes the interior of St. Isaac’s truly incredible. The way the sunlight gently kisses the walls diagonal, how rims of gold are accentuated in the same spotlight, and how stories are told through depictions of religious art all allow St. Isaac’s Cathedral to enrich the lives of those who visit here. It’s not everyday that we get to see the creations of artists and sculptors come to life. I highly recommend you make time in your Russia travel schedule to see this gorgeous piece of history!
As central St. Petersburg’s most lovely and oldest park, the Summer Garden is tucked away by the northern end of the Neva River. This beautiful stretch of garden follows geometric patterns of fountains and sculptures and pavilions peppering its picturesque grounds. Whether you come to St. Petersburg in autumn, spring, or summer, the colors of the gardens are beautiful regardless of season. The Summer Garden will give you some gorgeous promenades across its pristine landscapes. The gardens are among St. Petersburg’s finest cultural landmarks. A visit to the Summer Gardens is a must for all those wishing to absorb the city’s true atmosphere!
Many of the sculptures that now adorn the Summer Garden date to the early 18th century. You’ll get the chance to walk past unique structures of history, both scattered across the geometric lawns and all lined up for you to see! Be sure to check out the Summer Palace when you’re there. The Summer Garden is one of the most romantic places in the city, perfect to take your significant other. On your Russia travel, have a wonderful anniversary celebration or an exciting first date on the grounds of St. Petersburg’s Summer Garden!
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main tourist sights of St. Petersburg. You’ve probably seen this landmark in pictures or in movies, but it’s even more beautiful up close and personal. Its golden domes and infusion of color makes it so special among St. Petersburg’s city treasures. This church has an interior decorated with 7,000 square meters of stunning mosaics. Like St. Isaac’s Cathedral, it’s spectacular on the outside, but even more striking indoors. Whatever order you choose to explore St. Petersburg, I hope this travel guide gives you a better idea and a little glimpse into what it’s like in this beautiful Russian city!
And you might even get to see this little guy in Peterhof on your Russia travel…
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