I am only in St Petersburg for a month (2 weeks of which were taken up with university essays) so I wanted to make sure that I was well equipped for my tourist extravaganza in order to make the most of my time here. I invested in a Lonely Planet guide book for the city and it has turned in to my bible whilst I’ve been out here. I have mastered the art of sightseeing and my legs are reminding me of it every day what with all their aches and pains. I can put my hand on my heart and say that I have never done so many touristy things in my life and I am feeling like a more cultured and all together more knowledgeable human being as a result of this.
One of my first sightseeing adventures in St Petersburg took me some of the main sights: Kazan Cathedral, Church on the Spilled Blood and Peter and Paul Fortress. Not very original I know but you have to do these things! I would say that it is a very good place to start as they are located right in the heart of the city and give you a nice little taster of what is to come.
First stop – Church on the Spilled Blood. This is most definitely one of the most touristic spots in St Petersburg and therefore feels nothing like a church once you enter inside. Before doing so however make sure you take a look at the outside of it as it is fairly spectacular thanks to all the work it’s had done on it. The church gets its name from the fact that in 1881 Tsar Alexander II was attacked by a terrorist group on this same spot and then died a couple of days later from his injuries. His son decided that he wanted to build a church on the exact same spot where his father was attacked and the location is actually marked inside the church. I personally don’t think that I would want to be reminded of the spot where my dad had a bomb thrown at him but that is the difference between me and mini Alexander.
Kazan Cathedral is another tourist hot spot and rightly so. It is still a working church and therefore it costs you a grand total of zero pennies! It was built between 1801 and 1811 and is a strange mixture of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It is for this reason that is looks quite unlike any other church in St Petersburg that I have come across. Inside it is traditionally orthodox and still retains its peaceful and calm atmosphere. During the Soviet era Kazan Cathedral was shut and used as a storage facility and later on as an anti-religion museum. In fact, at one point half of the church was an anti-religion museum and the other half was used as a working church! Top marks for the person who came up with that idea. Opposite Kazan Cathedral there is the Singer building. The singer buildings stands out amongst all the other buildings on Nevsky Prospekt as it’s design was influenced by New York architecture. The building was home to the Singer sewing machine factory which is where it gets it’s name from. This building is now a bookshop and cafe among other things. Whilst the cafe is on the pricey side I would recommend going in even if just for an espresso and getting a table by the huge windows looking out on to Kazan Cathedral. I went for breakfast here and although the price made me want to cry, the view more than made up for it.
Peter and Paul Fortress was where St Petersburg was founded after this area of land was captured from the Swedes in 1703. Peter the Great captured this tiny island and decided to create a European style city. This little island is extremely interesting even just to walk around. It is surrounded by a red brick wall as it was created as a defence against the Swedes and inside it has a Cathedral, prison, a very famous statue of Peter the Great and several museums. I decided to go in to the Trubetskoy Bastion which is where political prisoners were held and where Peter the Great supervised the torture to death of his son (doesn’t sound so great right now). I would definitely recommend this as it is a fairly small museum with just enough information. The prison was home to many famous names at different times in its history such as Lenin’s brother Alexander Ulyanov and Dostoyevsky. Whilst this was very interesting I did get a bit confused when I went up to the 1st floor and realised I was reading pretty much exactly the same information all over again! By this time however my concentration levels were wavering so I decided it was no big loss and made my way to the nearest coffee spot!
Recommended cafe: Le Menu (pr Dobrolyubova 1) – Relatively inexpensive and extremely good value business lunch (soup, bread, salad, main meal, drink = 250 rubles)