The Venice of the North, Saint Petersburg

Traveling to Russia


Due to the complication of getting Russia Visa to enter, it is not in many people’s mind that we can actually travel to Russia on a free and easy tour. Many would opt for a easier route by joining the tour package through their travel agent back in home country and the cost can be quite absurd.

It is true that many Russian don’t speak good English and when we first think of Russia, the first we think of is the unsafe country with high crime rate, filled with gangsters and illegal activities. What more to say when a solo female traveller like myself eager to visit. Well, Saint Petersburg is safe to travel.

By Russian law, traveler from all over the world can visit some Russian Harbour cities without visa with a stay within 72 hours. St Petersburg is one of them.

I booked my cruise from Helsinki to St. Petersburg through St. Peterline. The price is from 42 Euro price per person which includes city bus ticket, harbour and fuel fees.

Cruising to Saint Petersburg

I booked my ticket online from St Peterline website, and the departure is in June, 2016 from Helsinki port at the West terminal by AV Princess Maria. I got myself a bed in a 2 bed Cabin, which is clean and comfortable

As a condition of the visa, passengers on the St. Peter Line are required to purchase a tour which is a shuttle from the ferry terminal to St. Isaac’s Square. It is automatically included in your ferry ticket purchase as a separate 25 EUR charge.

The port St.-Petersburg is located on islands of Neva Delta, in Neva Bay in east part of gulf of Finland of Baltic sea. Big port St.-Petersburg includes moorings of sea trading, wood, fish and river ports, the oil terminal, shipbuilding, ship-repair and other factories, sea passenger station and river passenger port. The sky looks gloomy, and I was told that the sky is always gloomy. And this can be seen from many painting in the early days of the Russian painting.

I booked additional tour package to St Petersburg and Hermitage. I would recommend this tour as this will provide you the privilege to stand in the first batch of passengers to leave the vessel and proceed to the immigration counter with no one in line. Apart from this, you will be guided by a tour guide to the No-Queue lane towards the Hemitage entrance. When I arrived Hemitage, to my surprise to see the lanes were so long at the ticket purchase counter, not to mention to the entrance. There are just lines and lines of travellers wanted to visit the museum.

I stayed in the Sokos Hotel which I will strongly recommended. It is close to most of the tourist attraction, served great breakfast and very friendly hospitality.

Hermitage Museum

Hermitage Museum is a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The second-largest in the world It was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky.

It has a collection of over three million items including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collection occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors, the Menshikov Palace. Only Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre are open to the public.

One of the popular painting at the Hermitage is The Madonna Litta, which was made in the 15th century. It was believed to be painted by Leonardo da Vinci, but there is also a guess that the picture was made by his student.

Another popular painting is Conestabile Madonna, previously known as Madonna with a book, a Rafael`s miniature.

Some art critics suppose that the painting has not been finished. It is the last picture by Rafael which was painted before he moved to Florence at the age of 20. When the painting was transferring on canvas from a board, artists found out that firstly Madonna held a garnet in her arm instead of the Sacred Book. The garnet is a symbol of victim and spilled blood. This painting is the only Rafael`s creation available in Russia.

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Palace Square

Palace Square is connecting Nevsky Prospekt with Palace Bridge leading to Vasilievsky Island, is the central city square of St Petersburg and of the former Russian Empire. Many significant events took place there, including the Bloody Sunday massacre and parts of the October Revolution of 1917.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Construction began in 1883 during the reign of Alexander III. The church was dedicated to be a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Estimates suggest that the construction cost 4.5 million rubles. The construction was completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.

The church is prominently situated along the Griboedov Canal; paved roads run along both sides of the canal. On March 13, 1881, as Tsar Alexander’s carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar. The tsar, bleeding heavily, was taken back to the Winter Palace, where he died a few hours later.

A temporary shrine was erected on the site of the attack while plans and fundraising for a more permanent memorial were undertaken. In order to build a permanent shrine on the exact spot where the assassination took place, it was decided to narrow the canal so that the section of road on which the tsar had been driving could be included within the walls of the church. An elaborate shrine, in the form of a ciborium, was constructed at the end of the church opposite the altar, on the exact place of Alexander’s assassination. It is embellished with topaz, lazurite and other semi-precious stones, making a striking contrast with the simple cobblestones of the old road, which are exposed in the floor of the shrine.

St Isaac Cathedral

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city and the fourth largest cathedral in the world. It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint.

Peterhof Grand Palace, shore excursion

The Peterhof Grand Palace is actually a part of palaces and gardens, laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. These palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the “Russian Versailles”. The palace-ensemble along with the city center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Nevsky Prospekt

Nevsky Prospekt is the main street in the city of Saint Petersburg and one of the best know street in Russia.

Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns

The Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns, located in Saint Petersburg in the Russian Federation, are significant examples of Greek Revival architecture. Designed by French architect Thomas de Thomon, and inspired by the Greek Temple of Hera at Paestum.

Bronze Horseman, Monument to Peter I


The Bronze Horseman is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great in the Senate Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The statue is now one of the symbols of Saint Petersburg.

The statue’s pedestal is the enormous Thunder Stone, the largest stone ever moved by humans.

Besides the Bronze Horseman is Alexander Garden, and is worth visit. It is a small picturesque but quiet garden situated between Admiralty, Senate Square & St. Isaacs Cathedral.

Mariinsky Theatre

The Mariinsky Theatre is a historic theatre of opera and ballet in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Opened in 1860, it became the prominent music theatre of late 19th-century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres.  Today, the Mariinsky Theatre is home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Opera and Mariinsky Orchestra.

Russian ballet is considered the world best. I manage to get the ticket to the Swan Lake at Marrinsky Theatre. The ballet was sensational, terrific and remarkable along with the  Tchaikovsky orchestra music.

World premiere of Swan Lake took place at Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on 20 February 1877, the choreographer of the production was Julius Resinger. Despite the fact, his work was considered unsuccessful by the critics of the day, Resinger’s original production of Swan Lake was kept in the active repertoire of the Bolshoi Theatre for seven years and was performed over thirty times.

The second birth of the performance was on 15 January 1895 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St.Petersburg. The revival by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov is a basis for most ballet companies, staging Swan Lake nowadays.

The Swan Lake performance survived for more than a century without any significant changes since Maruis Petipa’s times and nowadays is being staged in more than 290 theatres all over the world.

The time spent in Saint Petersburg seem a little too short, I enjoy the Russian and Georgian cuisine during my stay here specially the pelmeni, zharkoye, blini with minced beef and last but not least the solyanka soup. I would certainly return again, however, will explore a different route.

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