Russia’s gateway to the West and the former imperial capital, St. Petersburg proudly displays its history. Peter the Great’s vision of opening his empire to the world transformed this marshland at the mouth of the Neva River into a sprawling metropolis and a celebrated center of arts and culture. The massive Hermitage is a must-see when you visit the “Paris of the North,” but these five museums also deserve a place on your St. Petersburg itinerary.
1. Peterhof State Museum Preserve
There are few places in the world where you can get closer to full royal splendor than at the Peterhof State Museum Preserve. This vast museum complex is composed of royal palaces, parks, and gardens, originally built by Peter the Great and then expanded by every subsequent emperor and empress. Use a trip planner to plan your visit. Here you’ll not only be able to admire the dazzling architecture and ornamentation, but you can also take a peek behind the scenes and see what the everyday life of the royals was like. Whether you’re an avid tsarist or just a hobbyist, the museum is a one-of-a-kind attraction that you definitely shouldn’t miss.
2. Faberge Museum
See an amazing collection of decorative items fit for kings and emperors at the Faberge Museum. Located inside the luxurious Shuvalov Palace in the city center, the museum displays the works of Peter Carl Faberge and other masters, which once decorated the wealthiest homes in Russia and Europe. The undisputed highlights of the collection are the world-famous Imperial Easter Eggs, items of unimaginable splendor. You can also admire the paintings, lavish furniture, jewelry, porcelain, and everyday items made of precious materials and adorned with colorful gemstones. If you don’t speak Russian, you can book a tour in English.
3. Pushkin Museum and Memorial Apartment
Imperial St. Petersburg was a renowned center of culture and the Pushkin Museum and Memorial Apartment celebrates this side of the city’s history. The museum is dedicated not only to the nation’s most beloved poet, but also an entire generation of artists behind the golden age of Russian literature. Spread over several locations throughout the city, the museum allows you to take a tour of the historical edifices and admire a great collection of artworks. A special treat is a visit to Pushkin’s own apartment, the place where he lived and died, and where you can see a selection of the poet’s personal items.
4. Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost)
While on a sightseeing tour of St. Petersburg make sure to stop by Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost), the city’s oldest structure. The imperial capital rose around the fortification, built by Peter the Great at the beginning of the 18th century. Use a vacation trip planner to plan a visit here which gives you the chance to explore various sides of the city’s and the nation’s past, from the cells that once held political prisoners, to the grand cathedral that houses the remains of the Russian monarchs. Just outside the fortress is one of the city’s most popular sandy beaches, a great hangout spot during a summer vacation.
5. Cruiser Aurora
A ship of outstanding historical importance, the Cruiser Aurora symbolizes the end of one era and the beginning of the next. Now permanently docked, in October 1917 the ship fired the first shot of the October Revolution – a turning point in the history of the entire 20th century that changed Russia forever. Climb aboard and learn the cruiser’s history, get to know about the battles it was involved in, and see what a sailor’s day-to-day routine looked like. As a symbol of the revolution, the oldest commissioned Russian ship, and a survivor of the famous Battle of Tsushima, the vessel is one of St. Petersburg’s most famous attractions and a must-see for any history enthusiast.
The jewel in the imperial crown
Even though St. Petersburg’s history might not be very long when compared to some other European cities, it’s a place of immense importance, grandeur, and cultural heritage. Touring St. Petersburg museums and immersing yourself in the spirit of bygone times will give you new insight into this regal metropolis.
By Nikola Mihaelj