5. St Petersburg Highlight Tour
Compared to the ancient cities of Europe or Russia, St Petersburg, which celebrated its 300 anniversary in 2003, is relatively young. This is not to say that the city lacks in historical or architectural beauty.
Built by the enlightened Tsar Peter the Great as his new capital, the city is considered Russia’s most European. It is a product of Peter’s attempts to make Russia as culturally important as other European states.
Designed and build in one go the city is triumph of architectural and organizational balance, seeing it often called the Paris of Russia.
A must-see of this beautiful city is the stunning Winter Palace. This magnificent green, white and gold building constructed in the Russian Baroque style was the official residence of the tsars from Catherine the Great onwards.
Catherine the Great later added the Small and Large Hermitages onto the palace as a sanctuary for herself and her private art collection.
The Hermitage Museum has grown from a small collection of paintings started by Catherine the Great in 1764, to a massive display of over three million exhibits. They are housed within the splendor of one of the world’s most spectacular palaces.
The three floors cover a full range of art from ancient times, to Russian works and 20th century Europe. It also includes a fabulous collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, set against the rich interior of white marble staircases, golden ceilings, crystal chandeliers and elaborate mosaics.
There is the amazing Nevsky Prospect, the city’s busiest street, running for 2.8 miles (4.5 km). Today you can find it lined with modern restaurants, movie theatres, restaurants, together with the splendid palaces of the Russian aristocracy.
Marvel at the beauty and immensity of St Isaac’s Cathedral, commissioned by Alexander I as the Imperial Cathedral, it took over 40 years to build and it’s easy to see why.
Look forward to see the cathedral covered and decorated in the most extravagant manner with the Russian classic style exterior. The splendid interior adorned with red granite columns, exquisite mosaics, painted ceilings, sculptures, frescoe, and a beautiful stained glass window will leave you impressed.
You will also have the chance to visit the Peter and Paul Fortres and the Cathedral of the same name that stands within its walls.
The fortress was the first built on a small island in the delta by Peter the Great to protect his new capital from the Swedes. However it was also used as a high security prison for political prisoners.
Among the first inmates was Peter's own rebellious son Alexei. The list of famous residents also later included Dostoyevsky, Gorkiy, Trotsky and Lenin's older brother Alexander.
While within the walls you will also see the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Begun in 1703 it became the burial place of the Russian emperors and members of the Imperial family.
The final place of interest is the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, a rare and stunning example of a traditional Orthodox Russian church. Both the interior and exterior of the church is decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists of the day.