Petrozavodsk, 420km northeast of St Peters- burg, is one of the Russia's loveliest cities, set on the shore of Lake Onega with countless green parks and pretty squares flanking its broad, tree-lined avenues. With two universities, the city has a large student population and its proximity to Finland lends a markedly European atmosphere. Petrozavodsk is a place to enjoy hanging out as well as a springboard for trips to Kizhi and Valaam and a starting point for journeys further north.
Known to Finns as Petroskoi, the city was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as an armaments plant to help his Great Northern War effort against Sweden. Its name means 'Peter's factory'. The town was subsequently used by both the tsars and the Bolsheviks as a place of exile for St Petersburg's troublemakers.