St Petersburg Weekend City Break Tours day trips

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With its jumbled skyline of needle thin spires and plump church domes St Petersburg is one of Europe’s truly great cities. Dubbed the ‘Venice of the North’ Russia’s cultural capital is criss crossed with an intricate system of canals, spanned by more than 500 bridges and fed by the River Neva. Not only is St Petersburg architecturally breathtaking, but the city oozes a heady romantic atmosphere that makes it one of Europe’s most talked about city breaks destinations.

Most of the credit goes to the city’s namesake; Peter the Great who began work on his ‘window on Europe’ in 1703. St Petersburg has a distinct baroque flavour and thanks to Peter the Great’s demand that every nobleman who lived in his city was to build a new palace; modern day St Petersburg is crammed with architectural gems.

Architectural highlights include the Peter and Paul Fortress (the city’s oldest building which served as a prison until the turn of the century, incarcerating the likes of Trotsky and Dostoevsky), Palace Square (a stunning wedding cake confection that corrals the city’s best museums) and the fabulous tsarist Church of the Bleeding Saviour. In fact, St Petersburg’s architectural heritage is so rich that it’s tempting to leave your guidebook in the hotel and see what you can ‘discover’ unaided.

In the unlikely event that your cultural appetite isn’t yet satisfied then St Petersburg’s collection of nearly 140 museums and 100 theatres should do the trick. Pride of place goes to the world famous Hermitage Museum which boasts some truly mind boggling statistics; inside the museum’s 350 halls you’ll find more than 15,000 paintings 12,000 sculptures and 600,000 drawings including important works by Leonard da Vinci, Titian and Rembrandt. If you’ve got any time left over there are a further 600,000 archaeological artefacts and one million coins and medals to browse.

However, far from being a dusty museum piece St Petersburg is a thriving modern city that really knows how to enjoy itself, and there’s nowhere better to take St Petersburg’s pulse than along Nevskiy Prospect. This handsome boulevard doubles as the city’s commercial aorta, and besides shopping opportunities it’s great place to hole up in a traditional tea house for a few hours and watch the world go by.