In the course of its history, St Petersburg, the imperial city of the Russian tsars, was renamed three times and had just as many nicknames. The city known as the Venice of the North was first renamed Petrograd, then Leningrad before becoming St. Petersburg again in 1991. As for its nickname of Palmyra of the North, it refers to the ancient city of Palmyra and the discovery of its spectacular ruins.
"In St. Petersburg, architecture, like Russian temperament, knows no bounds."
The diplomat Vladimir Fedorovsky, who is an unconditional lover of the unusual city of St. Petersburg, never ceased to extol the charms of his country in his many novels. In his book "The Magic of Saint Petersburg" he paints a very romantic portrait of the city.
Created by the sole will of Peter the Great in 1703, Saint Petersburg was built on the banks of the Neva, at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea. Situated on a marshy delta, the city stretches out at the mouth of the river, on nearly 42 islands! Its ingenious architecture makes the cultural capital an unusual city, recognisable by its granite walls built to reinforce the river banks. Crossed by numerous rivers and streams, which together account for 7% of the city's territory, it has a multitude of bridges, 342 to be exact. The most famous ones link the main islands: Vasilievsky Island and its stock exchange palace; Petrogradsky Island where the major universities are located as well as the cruiser Aurora, the oldest ship in the Russian navy; Krestovsky Island, renowned for its sports events, and Elaguine Island and its eponymous palace.
St. Petersburg owes its name to the apostle St. Peter, guardian of the gates of heaven. For it was with this intention that the city and its fortress were founded - to become a new capital and the key to Russia's power. Today, this ambitious promise is reflected in the majesty of the monuments, the talent of the architects, and the reputation of the city's philosophers. St. Petersburg was built to match the dream of its founder, who could not have suffered from mediocrity.
Romantic walk in the Venice of the North
In fact, the plan of the "Venice of the North" was based on the model of the city of Amsterdam. It is a geometrical network of streets and avenues, with canals and bridges connecting the islands. During your trip you will certainly take Nevsky Prospect, the main artery of St Petersburg, on which many historic buildings were built, such as the Grand Hotel of Europe, the National Library and the Yusupov Palace.
Its core is the St Peter and Paul fortress and its cathedral, in which all the Russian emperors and empresses were buried, with the exception of Peter II and Ivan IV.
Along the Neva River is a string of magnificent facades, art nouveau buildings, neoclassical theatres and baroque palaces, mostly built by renowned Italian and French architects.
A window on Europe
"Nature here enjoins us to open a window on Europe". Extracted from Alexander Pushkin's poem "The Iron Horseman", the line refers to the figure of Peter I and the equestrian statue erected by Catherine II on Decembrists' Square. The favourite Russian poet puts himself in the shoes of the emperor, imagining his dreams of grandeur.
A city of parks and fountains, of churches and glittering palaces, of artists and poets, the beautiful city with a thousand faces was indeed created in splendour and majesty.
During your run through the heart of the city, don't miss some of the most beautiful monuments of Russia's cultural capital! The Mariinsky Theatre, for example, which housed the imperial troupe, or the Yusupov Palace of Moika, the main residence of one of the richest families of the Russian aristocracy, where the famous Rasputin was murdered.
The most important cultural venue is undoubtedly the Hermitage Museum, one of the three largest museums in the world. Here you will find the most remarkable masterpieces of the Western world, from Leonardo da Vinci to Rubens and Michelangelo.
St Isaac's Cathedral, one of the largest in Europe, stands out for the imposing size of its dome and its monumental columns. Built over almost 40 years by the French architect Auguste de Montferrand in the early 19th century, the Orthodox church was directly inspired by St Paul's Cathedral in London.
In the footsteps of the great writers
If Saint Petersburg holds a special place in the hearts of Russians, it is also because it has inspired some of the country's greatest authors and beyond. Pushkin, Dostoyevsky and Anna Akhmatova wrote their best works here. Their homes, transformed into museums, take us on a journey into their unique world. Who hasn't dreamed of visiting Pushkin's library or the office where The Brothers Karamazov was written?
While strolling through the Admiralty district, you can also admire the bust of Nicolas Gogol installed in the Alexander garden.
For the more passionate, go to the Tikhvin cemetery where many of these eminent artists are buried, including Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky!
Run with Runnin'City from Nevsky Prospect to the Yussupov Palace!