St. Petersburg – City of Palaces
Founded by Czar Peter The Great in 1703, St. Petersburg is a beautiful, seductive city. While Moscow is pristine in every way, St. Petersburg – like a grand, aged member of aristocracy – wears her wrinkles with grace and elegance.
We stayed in hotel Domina Prestige, a boutique hotel housed in a historic refurbished building. The narrow, nondescript, entrance is deceptive. It leads to a circular art deco lobby, bathed in natural light filled with wonderful pieces of artwork and sculpture.
The hotel overlooks a narrow canal where small barges and ferries drift silently by, and it’s a ten minute walk to the must see St. Isaac’s Cathedral with its imposing domes, spectacular Russian Orthodox icons, and artwork.
The city has an extraordinary abundance of palaces which house museums, art galleries, hotels, university faculties, and stores. Most of the palaces are painted in the soft hues favored by the aristocracy of the Russian Empire – shades of gold, rose, and turquoise trimmed with white.
Adding to the beauty of the city, are the rivers and canals that wend their way around and through the city: The Neva, the Fontanka, The Moyka, The Griboedova and more.
On a sunny autumn afternoon, we hopped on a ferry boat for a narrated, leisurely tour along the canals. It took us under bridges of stone, adorned with iron work and sculpture, and past gardens aflame in gold, red, and amber.
A wonderful way to see this elegant city.
Joining the locals for a stroll along historic Nevsky Prospect, and exploring the side streets, is a treat. One comes across traditional tea shops, gourmet delicatessen stores; restaurants, bars, and cafés; trendy boutiques and an array of stores selling amber jewelry.
Make a detour along Kanal Griboedova to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Crowned by five onion domes, it’s interior is covered from floor to ceiling in vibrant mosaics.
The Winter Palace houses The Hermitage Museum. It demands at least a half day just to get a taste of its treasures. Curators say that if one were to spend one minute viewing each object, it would take eight years to see it all.
The General Staff Building – a branch of the Hermitage – has been brilliantly refurbished to provide the perfect home to its vast, world famous, art collection.
Also worth a visit is the Peter and Paul Fortress which sits on an island reached by a causeway. It was here that the city of St. Petersburg was first established. The Peter and Paul Cathedral holds the tombs of the Russian royal families beginning with Peter’s tomb to that of Czar Nikolai II, the last of the Romanov czars.