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St Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad and then St Petersburg again, was Peter the Great's 'window to the west' in 1703. Today it retains that European feel, coupled with a forward thinking outlook and a thriving cultural scene. Read more...
St Petersburg wears its European charm easily, weathering revolutions, name changes and sieges, to emerge as a cosmopolitan city with all the modern comforts of life couched in classical architecture. The best time to visit the city is during Midsummer, where the sun never quite sets during the White Nights of mid-June to mid-July. The city thrives day and night, with cafes and bars that feel distinctly European but with a Russian twist.
Dominating St Petersburg is the Hermitage Museum in Catherine the Great's Winter Palace. Founded in 1764, this museum is one of the largest in the world with over 2.7 million items including notable works of Da Vinci, Raphael, Rodin, Rembrandt and Rubens. A tour of this monument is essential given it's colossal collection of work!
Yusupov Palace is another beautiful palace, perched on the riverside and is where the 'Mad Monk' Grigori Rasputin was murdered in 1916. With a sweeping marble staircase, a Moorish-inspired billiard room, an art gallery and the White Columns room, this decadent palace offers a peek into Imperial Russia of the 19th century.
Catherine's summer palace is a short daytrip away in Pushkin, nearby to the Lyceum where the poet Pushkin studied. Famous for its ballroom and amber room, the palace has now been completely restored to its former glory.
An older but perhaps more impressive palace is the Peterhof Palace and grounds, located in St Petersburg. Inspired by France's Versailles, Peter the Great established this beautiful Palace and successive royalty improved and expanded it. Like much of St Petersburg post WWII, Peterhof suffered, however with the help of 1 000 volunteers and a team military engineers, the lower garden was reopened in 1945 and the Grand Palace was fully restored in 1952. Today, Peterhof draws crowds not only for the Grand Palace but for the amazing grounds, with the impressive system of fountains, in particular the spectacular Grand Cascade. Featuring 64 different fountains and over 200 bronze statues, this magnificent water feature is especially magically on the long midsummer days.
Discover all St Petersburg has to offer on Bentours' Russia's Two Capital Tour, Classical Russia or, try something a little different on a Volga Dream river cruise, connecting Russia's two most powerful cities. As a quick break, try our Visa-Free St Petersburg Tour, from Helsinki to St Petersburg with just enough time to see the highlights of this cosmopolitan city