Red House Hostel Nearby Sightseeing in Saint Petersburg

The State Red House Hostel Museum

Sightseeing in Saint PetersburgFrom the 1760s onwards the Winter Palace was the main residence of the Russian Tsars. Magnificently located on the bank of the Neva River, this Baroque-style palace is perhaps St. Petersburg’s most impressive attraction. Many visitors also know it as the main building of the Hermitage Museum. The green-and-white three-storey palace is a marvel of Baroque architecture and boasts 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows and 1,057 elegantly and lavishly decorated halls and rooms, many of which are open to the public.


The Winter Palace was built between 1754 and 1762 for Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died before the palace’s completion and only Catherine the Great and her successors were able to enjoy the sumptuous interiors of Elizabeth’s home. Many of the palace’s impressive interiors have been remodeled since then, particularly after 1837, when a huge fire destroyed most of the building. Today the Winter Palace, together with four more buildings arranged side by side along the river embankment, houses the extensive collections of the Hermitage. The Hermitage Museum is the largest art gallery in Russia and is among the largest and most respected art museums in the world.

The museum was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of 255 paintings from the German city of Berlin. Today, the Hermitage boasts over 2.7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art and artifacts from all over the world and from throughout history (from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century Europe). The Hermitage’s collections include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, a unique collection of Rembrandts and Rubens, many French Impressionist works by Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet and Pissarro, numerous canvasses by Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin and several sculptures by Rodin. The collection is both enormous and diverse and is an essential stop for all those interested in art and history. The experts say that if you were to spend a minute looking at each exhibit on display in the Hermitage, you would need 11 years before you’d seen them all. However, we recommend you opt for a guided tour instead!

Location: 32-38, Dvortsovaia Naberezhnaia (Embankment).
Open: 10:30 am to 5:30 pm, Sunday till 5 pm.
Closed: Mondays. Ticket-office closes 1 hour before closing time.
Entrance fee.

The Peter and Paul Fortress

Sightseeing in Saint Petersburg

When Peter the Great re-claimed the lands along the Neva River in 1703, he decided to build a fort to protect the area from possible attack by the Swedish army and navy. The fortress was founded on a small island in the Neva delta on May 27, 1703 (May 16 according to the old calendar) and that day became the birthday of the city of St Petersburg. The Swedes were defeated before the fortress was even completed. For that reason, from 1721 onwards the fortress housed part of the city’s garrison and rather notoriously served as a high security political jail. Among the first inmates was Peter’s own rebellious son Alexei. Later, the list of famous residents included Dostoyevsky, Gorkiy, Trotsky and Lenin’s older brother, Alexander. Parts of the former jail are now open to the public…


In the middle of the fortress stands the impressive Peter and Paul Cathedral, the burial place of all the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to Alexander III. The Cathedral was the first church in the city to be built of stone (between 1712-33) and its design is curiously unusual for a Russian Orthodox church. (Come over to St Petersburg and you can find out why!).

On top of the cathedrals’ gilded spire stands a magnificent golden angel holding a cross. This weathervane is one of the most prominent symbols of St Petersburg, and at 404 feet tall, the cathedral is the highest building in the city.

Other buildings in the fortress include the City History Museum and the Mint, one of only two places in Russia where coins and medals are minted.

Location: Zayachii Ostrov (Island). All buildings in the fortress complex are closed on Tuesdays. An admission fee is charged for the cathedral and the museum.

Peter the Great’s Summer Palace and Gardens

Sightseeing in Saint PetersburgAcross the river from the Peter and Paul Fortress and the wooden Cabin of Peter the Great you can visit the historical Summer Garden. Behind the beautiful wrought iron fence there is an old park that has witnessed some of the most spectacular moments in St. Petersburg’s early history.

Impressed by the royal parks that he had seen in Europe, Peter the Great was very keen to create something similar in his newly built “Venice of the North”. In Peter’s new park everything was created according to the latest fashions; the trees and bushes were trimmed in the most elaborate way and all the alleys were decorated with marble statues and fountains.

It is always a great pleasure to take a stroll down the alleys of the Summer Garden, passing by the palace, the marvelous marble statues and the pond. A pair of white swans returns every year to the Karpiev pond in the Summer Garden, even though the park is located in the middle of a bustling city…

Admission to the park is generally free (except on weekends in the summer). The palace is open 10:30 am to 5 pm. Closed on Tuesdays. A modest admission fee is charged).

St Isaac’s Cathedral

Sightseeing in Saint PetersburgThe dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg and its gilded cupola can be seen glistening from all over the city. You can climb up the 300 or so steps to the observation walkway at the base of the cathedral’s dome and enjoy the breathtaking views over the city.


The church itself is an architectural marvel. Built by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand to be the main church of the Russian Empire, the cathedral was under construction for 40 years (1818-1858), and was decorated in the most elaborate way possible. When you enter the cathedral you pass through one of the porticos – note that the columns are made of single pieces of red granite and weight 80 tons (about 177,770 pounds) each. Inside the church many of the icons were created using moaic techniques and the iconostasis (the icon wall that separates the altar from the rest of the church) is decorated with 8 malachite and 2 lapis lazuli columns. The cathedral, which can accommodate 14,000 worshipers, now serves as a museum and services are held only on significant ecclesiastical holidays.

Location: 1, Isaakievskaia Ploschad.
Open: 11 am to 7 pm.
Closed: Wednesdays.

Gostiny Dvor

Sightseeing in Saint PetersburgGostiny Dvor is a huge department store, which is being gradually turned into a shopping mall, since a significant part of its 164,690 sq. feet. of trading space is rented out to smaller shops. Constructed between 1757 and 1785, Gostiny Dvor has a reputation for being one of the world’s first shopping malls and occupies a whole city block on Nevsky Prospekt. Although it originally consisted of just 178 separate shops, Gostiny Dvor was severely damaged during the 900-days Siege of Leningrad and was subsequently renovated to vastly increase its trading space and become the largest store in St. Petersburg. A quarter of the expansive complex is currently under renovation but the store remains open for business.


Location: 35, Nevsky Prospekt.

Kazan Cathedral

Sightseeing in Saint Petersburg(The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan)Whilst taking a stroll along Nevsky rospekt you cannot fail to notice the impressive Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. Kazan Cathedral, constructed between 1801 and 1811 by the architect Andrei Voronikhin, was built to an enormous scale and boasts an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain. The cathedral was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and was intended to be the country’s main Orthodox Church. After the war of 1812 (during which Napoleon was defeated) the church became a monument to Russian victory. Captured enemy banners were put in the cathedral and the famous Russian Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, who won the most important campaign of 1812, was buried inside the church.

The cathedral was named after the “miracle-making” icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which the church housed till the early 1930s. The Bolsheviks closed the cathedral for services in 1929, and from 1932 it housed the collections of the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, which displayed numerous pieces of religious art and served anti-religious propaganda purposes. A couple of years ago regular services were resumed in the cathedral, though it still shares the premises with the museum, from whose name the word “atheism” has now been omitted.

Location: 2, Nevsky Prospekt, Kazanskaya Square.

Smolny Cathedral

Sightseeing in Saint PetersburgSmolny Cathedral was originally intended to be the central church of a monastery, built to house the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth, after she was disallowed to take the throne and opted instead to become a nun. However, as soon as her Imperial predecessor was overthrown during a coup, carried out by the royal guards, Elizabeth decided to forget the whole idea of a stern monastic life and happily accepted the offer of the Russian throne.


Though the age in which she lived was rather harsh, Elizabeth (especially in her younger days) was an amazingly joyful woman, who later displayed a passion for entertaining. As Empress she is notorious for never having worn the same ball dress twice, which has left us today with an enormous collection of mid-18th century dresses.

Smolny Cathedral’s stunning blue-and-white building is undoubtedly one of the architectural masterpieces of the Italian architect Rastrelli, who also created the Winter Palace, the Grand Catherine (Yekaterininsky) Palace in Pushkin, the Grand Palace in Peterhof and many other major St. Petersburg landmarks. The cathedral is the centerpiece of the convent, built by Rastrelli between 1748 and 1764. When Elizabeth stepped down from the throne the funding that had supported the constructed of the convent rapidly ran out and Rastrelli was unable to build the huge bell-tower he had planned or finish the interior of the cathedral. The building was only finished 1835 with the addition of a neo-classical interior to suit the changed architectural tastes of the day.

Today Smolny Cathedral is used primarily as a concert hall and the surrounding convent houses various offices and government institutions.

Location: Ploschad Rastrelli.

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