St. Petersburg is just one of the Russian cities playing host to World Cup games and like Moscow has a lot to offer visiting fans. Located on the coast of the Baltic Sea, St. Petersburg is Russia’s second city and is considered its cultural capital.

Thanks to its elegant canals, striking plazas and Italianate mansions and palaces, the city has become known as Venice of the North and surprisingly, it can be just as romantic. There are a staggering 342 bridges in the city, many of which cross the Neva River which flows through the city, so you can zig-zag your way around and explore as you go.

St. Petersburg is a veritable playground of art, architecture and culture. Check out these highlights!

State Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage is a treasure trove of Western European art, boasting a collection of over three million items, only fraction of which are on display at one time. With over 360 rooms to explore, you could spend an entire day here and leave having only uncovered half of what’s on offer.

The collection was begun by Catherine the Great and later enriched by Nicholas I; however, it was the post-revolutionary period that saw the collection increase dramatically in size, owing to many private collections being seized by the state.

The museum spans five buildings along the Dvortsovaya nab embankment, so plan your trip carefully to get the most from each, particularly the stunning Winter Palace which we’ll visit in more detail.


The Winter Palace

Located on the south embankment of the Neva River, The Winter Palace is St. Petersburg’s most famous building, dominating Palace Square and having a pivotal role in the city’s history. The striking mint-green, white and gold façade is something to behold.

Commissioned by Empress Elizabeth in 1754 and designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the building’s interiors were reworked by Catherine the Great, however, the exterior remains to this day almost completely unchanged. The Winter Palace was last used as a full-time residence in 1881 by Alexander II and is now open for visitors to explore its grand reception halls and chambers, as well as the many galleries of European and Eastern artwork, and Eurasian and Asian antiquities.

Grand Palace

Sometimes referred to as “the Russian Versailles”, the Grand Palace is an imposing, yet moderately sized building, with only 30 rooms, set in spectacular grounds. Built for Peter the Great, the palace looks particularly spectacular when viewed from the gardens.

Visitors can take guided tours of the palace to admire the art-filled galleries and original features and furniture, however, tours are only open to foreign visitors between June and September and at set times, with the tours given solely in Russian at other times. You can find out more here.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral

It’s hard to miss St. Isaac’s Cathedral’s golden dome, which stands out against the St. Petersburg skyline. Adorned with large statues of angels, evangelists and apostles, it’s the largest Russian Orthodox church in the city and continues to be used for services, however, it’s also open to those wishing to just catch a glimpse of its lavish interior.

Visitors can climb the 262 steps to the colonnade surrounding the dome where they’ll find stunning views of the city. The dome itself is covered in more than 100kg of gold leaf, so you may want to don your sunglasses when up close!

Mariinsky Theatre

Built in 1859, The Mariinsky Theatre holds a pivotal place in the history of Russian ballet having hosted the premieres of many masterpieces by Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov and it’s where Petipa choreographed Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Today, the theatre is home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Opera and Orchestra, and it’s worth trying to get tickets to see a performance. Not only will you experience some great performance art, but the beautiful architecture is worth a visit in itself.

This is just a snippet of what St. Petersburg has to offer, so whether you’re going for the football or a well-earnt holiday, you certainly won’t be short of things to do. Whatever your reason for travel, book your St. Petersburg airport transfer with hoppa and arrive happy.

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