A few months ago, I was able to take a trip to Finland that extended to incorporate a day trip to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Known as ‘The Venice of the North’, St. Petersburg is filled with splendid palaces, impressive historical monuments, tree-lined avenues and beautiful bridges. It’s a city crammed with historical and cultural associations that creates a refined air of mystery.
I visited for just a day as part of a city-hopping trip from Helsinki in Finland via ferry crossing with St. Peters Line. They make roughly five crossings per week however visitors for less than 24 hours are expected to take a tour with the ferry company thus eliminating the need for a Russian visa.
The tour bus collects directly from the harbour and takes you around the city for a few hours before allowing visitors some free time before returning to the ferry.
The first stop on the tour was Smolny Cathedral, a stunning blue-and-white masterpiece of the Italian architect Rastrelli, built between 1748 and 1764. The building was only finished in 1835 with the addition of a neo-classical interior to suit more modern architecture of the day.
The Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood is built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. This church was the highlight of my trip and quite simply exceeded my expectations.
It’s a lively blend of brightly coloured domes, glittering spires and breathtaking detail.
If you’re a fan of military history then the Military Museum is the place for you. We passed the museum as part of the tour but it’s an eye-catching place, largely due to the strategically placed cannons facing the road. It seems to attract children and adults and I’d certainly explore it further on a return trip.
St Isaac’s Cathedral was built in the first half of the 19th century by Auguste Montferrand, a French architect. It’s an enormous cathedral that features impressive solid granite columns, mosaic detailing and a dominating gilded dome. Visitors do have the option to climb to the top of the Cathedral. Unfortunately I ran out of time for this, but I’ve heard that it offers the most impressive views of the city.
Overall, St.Petersburg is a visually stunning city. I simply couldn’t capture everything in this post but I think it would be impossible to not be impressed by the scenery.
I hadn’t expected to be so blown away by how attractive the city is. I can’t wait for a chance to return and explore the city and other areas of Russia in more detail.
If you’re contemplating a trip to the city of St. Petersburg but have any concerns around the visa, then I highly recommend a flight to Finland and the ferry crossing as an alternative way to access the city for a limited period of time.