St. Petersburg ranks among the world’s greatest capitals. Founded by the will of Peter the Great in 1703, it has developed into a large European-type city known all over the world. The new city started as a fortress with the Peter and Paul Cathedral as its symbol. The Cathedral of Peter and Paul served as a burial place of the monarchs and members of the royal family since Peter’s reign. In 1725 the founder of St. Petersburg, Emperor Peter the Great, was buried there. The fortress on the Neva was not meant to play an active defensive role in the history of the city.
Soon after its construction it was gradually converted into a political prison. Now the Peter and Paul Fortress is a unique architectural complex that houses the Museum of the History of St. Petersburg. Peter the Great wanted his new capital to be as beautiful as any European city. That’s why he invited a lot of famous European architects who created real masterpieces of architecture. One of the most famous architectural ensembles, the Winter Palace, stands at the beginning of the Palace Embankment. The huge palace was designed and built by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli within eight years, between 1754 and 1762. Now this wonderful building houses the Hermitage, one of the greatest Russian museums, where you can enjoy wonderful collections of paintings, sculptures, furniture, gold and silverware, and textiles.
Another unique museum in St. Petersburg is the State Russian Museum. This treasure-house of Russian art is situated in Mikhailovsky Palace. The visitors to the Museum today can see the world-famous display of Russian paintings, sculptures and engravings in its exhibition halls. Each city has a favourite central place which attracts both its residents and visitors. The heart of St. Petersburg is Palace Square. The Alexander Column in the middle of the square commemorates the victory of Russia in the war against Napoleon.
Next to the square you can see the tower of the Admiralty which was founded in 1704 as a fortress and shipyard. The main street of the city, Nevsky Prospect, begins at the Admiralty and runs eastward. It is lined with palaces, churches, shops, restaurants, cafes and theatres. St. Petersburg is famous all over the world for its unique churches and cathedrals. The most wonderful of them is St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The interior of the cathedral is a real artistic treasury with lots of mosaic and painted decorations.
St. Petersburg attracts tourists from all over the world. The best time to visit it is in summer, during the season of White Nights. If the weather is fine, tourists can take a coach tour to the suburbs where they will enjoy Peterhoff with its famous fountains and Pushkin or Pavlovsk. They are former residences of the Russian Tsars, which have been turned into fine museums. The best way to spend time in the evening is to visit the Mariinsky Theatre. And the most enjoyable spectacle at night is the opening of bridges across the River Neva to let cargo ships pass through. In 2003 St. Petersburg marked its 300th anniversary and the renovated museums, palaces, cathedrals and churches are now waiting for new visitors.