On eastern Aptekarsky (Apothecary) Island, this was once a garden of medicinal plants – founded by Peter the Great himself in 1714 – that gave the island its name. Today the botanical gardens contain 26 greenhouses on a 22-hectare site. It is a lovely place to stroll around, and a fascinating place to visit – and not just for botanists.
At the turn of the 20th century, these were the second-biggest botanical gardens in the world, behind London’s Kew Gardens. However, 90% of the plants died during WWII, which makes the present collection all the more impressive (you will recognise the ‘veterans’ by their war medals).
A highlight is the tsaritsa nochi (Selenicereus pteranthus), a flowering cactus that blossoms only one night a year, usually in mid-June. On this night, the gardens stay open until morning for visitors to gawk at the marvel and sip champagne.
Entry to the gardens is on the corner of Aptekarsky per and nab reki Karpovki. Although the grounds close from October to April, the greenhouses are open all year, with visits by guided tour (in Russian) only.