Image by Ksenia Elzes Lonely Planet
This vast expanse is simply one of the most striking squares in the world, still redolent of imperial grandeur almost a century after the end of the Romanov dynasty. For the most amazing first impression, walk from Nevsky pr, up Bolshaya Morskaya ul and under the triumphal arch.
In the centre of the square, the 47.5m Alexander Column was designed in 1834 by Montferrand. Named after Alexander I, it commemorates the 1812 victory over Napoleon.
The square’s northern end is capped by the Winter Palace (Zimny Dvorets), a rococo profusion of columns, windows and recesses, topped by rows of larger-than-life statues. A residence of tsars from 1762 to 1917, it’s now the largest part of the State Hermitage Museum.
Curving an incredible 580m around the south side of the square is the Carlo Rossi–designed General Staff Building completed in 1829. The east wing now houses a branch of the Hermitage while the west wing is the headquarters of the Western Military District. The two great blocks are joined by a triumphal arch over Bolshaya Morskaya ul, topped by the Chariot of Glory by sculptors Stepan Pimenov and Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky, another monument to the Napoleonic Wars.