Introducing St Petersburg
It seemed like a lark. When Peter the Great built this city on a swamp, his subjects humoured the Emperor. When he declared it the new capital, they were less amused.
But history has shown that the forward-thinking, Westward-looking tsar was inspired. Gradually, St Petersburg evolved from a swampy backwater into a modern European city, Russia’s ‘window to the West’. Unlike Moscow’s red bricks and onion domes, St Petersburg’s network of canals and baroque and neoclassical architecture give the city a European flavour, no doubt because it was built by Italian architects. Even the residents of St Petersburg fancy themselves ‘European’ and somehow slightly more sophisticated than their more easterly compatriots.
St Petersburg has always been a city of ideas. Petersburgers incited the Russian Revolution, ushering in 70 years of communist rule. And it was St Petersburg that encouraged democracy when the tide began to change.
Nowadays, this city’s citizens are breaking down the barriers of generations past and exploring new ideas, investigating the possibilities of consumerism, creativity and career. It’s not only Rastrelli’s architecture and Tchaikovsky’s operas that entice visitors, but also beatnik bands, edgy art galleries, underground clubs and delectable dining. St Pete’s bohemian side gives a glimpse into the 21st century; and (to borrow a communist slogan) the future is bright!
St Petersburg is legendary for its White Nights: those long summer days when the sun barely dips below the horizon. Revels start in May, when the city finally succumbs to spring and the parks are filled with flowering trees. But even when the skies are grey and the ground is covered in snow, the rich culture of St Petersburg dazzles and delights.
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Best places to stay in St Petersburg
White Nights and warm days: summer in St Petersburg
Belye nochi, the Russians call them - White Nights. These are the incredible, luminous northern midsummer eves when the high latitudes are bathed in a pearlescent all-night glow. The few brief weeks of the white nights and sun-filled summer days in Russia’s northern city of St Petersburg are an intoxicating time.
St Petersburg destination guides
What an eyeful: the world's most beautiful buildings
Straight away we'll say that this isn't a top 10 list. There are just far too many styles of buildings, each worthy of a top 50: sacred buildings, homes, skyscrapers, theatres...
Come along on an awe-inspiring adventure traversing three great nations - Russia, Mongolia and China. From the opulence of Moscow and St Petersburg to the grace of imperial Beijing, travel along the most famous railway in the world through the heartland of Siberia and the vast grassy steppe of Mongolia - this trip showcases rail travel at its finest.
Taste mystery and intrigue on a revealing tour of Russia - a land that lay hidden behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Experience the grandeur of Moscow, the beauty of Russia's ancient capitals Suzdal and Novgorod, and the grace of St Petersburg.
The 7 wonders of winter
As temperatures plummet in the Northern Hemisphere, why not enjoy some of the great travel experiences that only a big chill can bring. We look at the world's top seven winterland marvels, as chosen by Lonely Planet authors: 1. The northern lights of Canada It’s the middle of night, in the middle of nowhere.