The pond on New Holland island in St Petersburg.

©Kira Tverskaya/Lonely Planet

New Holland

Top choice in St Petersburg

This triangular island was closed for the most part of the last three centuries, and has opened to the public in dazzling fashion. There's plenty going on here, with hundreds of events happening throughout the year. There are summertime concerts, art exhibitions, yoga classes and film screenings, plus restaurants, cafes and shops. You can also come to enjoy a bit of quiet on the grass – or on one of the pontoons floating in the pond.

In Peter’s time, the complex was used for ship-building (its name refers to the place where he learned the trade). The impressive red-brick-and-granite arch, designed by Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe in the late 18th century, is one of the city’s best examples of Russian classicism. In the 19th century, a large basin was built in the middle of the island and experiments were conducted by scientist Alexey Krylov in an attempt to build a boat that couldn’t be capsized. In 1915 the navy built a radio transmitter here – the most powerful in Russia at the time.