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.
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
Best places to stay in St Petersburg
Trans-Siberian Railway travel guide
The Trans-Siberian routes are some of the greatest rail journeys of the world.
Absolutely Fabergé: Easter eggs with a difference
Chocolate isn't the only variety of egg attracting admiring glances this Easter - the world's second largest collection of Fabergé eggs has just gone on display at a new museum in St Petersburg, Russia...
St Petersburg city guide
Built on a swamp, the imperial capital is today a dazzling metropolis whose sheer grandeur never fails to amaze. Despite all that history has thrown at it, St Petersburg still feels every bit an imperial capital, a city largely frozen in time.
Russia beyond Sochi: 10 ways to explore the world's largest country
The hosting of the Winter Olympics (www.sochi2014.com) in the seaside city of Sochi and nearby Caucasus Mountains has been controversial, but there’s no doubt it has focused attention on the travel potential of the world’s largest country...
Scandinavia travel guide
Whether you dream of cruising through Norway's majestic fjords or floating in Iceland's Blue Lagoon, sampling Copenhagen's finest New Nordic cuisine or gazing at the Northern Lights in a snowy Swedish wonderland, this guide will make your...
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.
St Petersburg Airport Arrival Transfer
Travel from St Petersburg Airport to your St Petersburg City Hotel. Transfer services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is a private transfer service so the price is the same for groups of 1 - 3 transferred in a private car or 4 - 6 transferred in a private minibus.
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 - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to St Petersburg starts here. You'll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on the Hermitage museum.